Posted by Brad @ 9:40 pm on July 31st 2008

The Dueling Celebrity Narratives of McCain and Obama

Speaking of Sullivan’s site, Chris Bodenner just posted a great article contrasting the two competing celebrities—Obama and McCain—and what the symbolism of their narratives might mean. I’ll let you find out for yourself what his conclusions are, and they are many, but what Bodenner is trying to get at is yes, Obama is a self-aggrandizing celebrity pushing a certain narrative and symbolism, as McCain constantly charges. But how is that any different from McCain?

“McCain has not predicated his campaign on his identity or personal story”?! That’s not just generally wrong, it’s literally wrong; McCain’s first campaign ad was titled “624787,” and it featured grainy, B&W footage of McCain as a POW. (The ad was so overt, my colleague Jenn Skalka unveiled it with: “John McCain. … American hero. Let the branding begin.”) And McCain’s first act of the campaign was a biographical, cross-country tour of McCain’s old stomping grounds.

Also, for the record, McCain has authored five McCain-centered books over the past nine years (plus a made-for-TV movie). And he seems to have been even more MIA than Obama in the Senate (which says a lot). But beyond those quibbles, the point remains: Mr. HopeChange and the Mr. Straight-Talk Maverick Express are both self-aggrandizing political brands.

That’s pretty fundamental and may seem pretty obvious, but worth reiterating in light of McCain’s jabs on the celebrity and self-important narrative angle.

But Bodenner goes on to make a point that’s not really talked about all that much: symbolism and narrative do matter, and while McCain’s might make him the better person, Obama’s make him the better candidate and, possibly, the better President. This is a point I want to explore more in depth in a later post, possibly when we get around to the Fall when, I’m sure, we’ll be posting more in-depth and (hopefully) thoughtful cases for the various candidates (rather than the ankle-biting we’re presently engaged in), but I think it’s wrong to discount the more ethereal and abstract impacts of Presidencies. National identity is something that may be abstract and mushy, but that’s not to say it doesn’t matter. A large part of what great Presidents accomplish (or at least ones traditionally associated with greatness—Reagan, JFK, FDR, whatever) isn’t in the policy realm, but rather comes with moving America’s self-image forward in some way. Selling Americans on seeing themselves, their country, American-ness in general, in a new, progressive way. We can get lost in the wonkery, and that’s well and good and certainly important, but in some ways you’re also electing a representative in the most ephemeral—but no less central—sense of it. That matters. Hell, I’d argue that about half of policy is borne of nationalistic memes of some fashion or another (national greatness conservatism, xenophobic protectionism, Toby Keith boot-in-the-ass and Jack Bauer at-all-costs war heroing, Ronald Reagan shining-city-on-the-hill, JFK’s “ask not what your country can do for you” liberalism, FDR’s “chicken in every pot” entitlement mentality, on and on and on). One might want to be dispassionate and judge every election as a tick-sheet of competing policy proposals, but most Americans intuitively understand that you’re not just electing a platform, you’re electing a President.

Now, I think it’s clear at this point that I favor Obama in this regards, but there’s a case to be made for McCain here too, certainly. What I mean to get across is not specific candidate advocacy, but rather at least some conscious attunement to the cultural and psychological realm. George W. Bush has wrecked us, policy-wise, but even worse, he’s done horrors to the idea of America, not just in how it’s viewed around the world but in how we view ourselves and our country. I think it’s a valid line of thought to wonder how, moving forward, we want to get that back, how we want to move the national idea forward. What we want our President to say about us as a nation, as a culture, as an idea.

What McCain is doing in his Britney Spears line of attack isn’t just a bit desperate and petty (if understandable), but it also represents, I think, a tone deafness that’s certainly not restricted to him alone. It’s sometimes characteristic of people who live and breath the ins and outs of politics for a living (I include us there). It’s a generalized condescending sneer at the idea of inspiring people, or the country (or the world). It’s worth reiterating, I think, that not only is there nothing wrong with that, but in many ways, at least for me, it’s one of the most compelling things about the Obama campaign. Bodenner goes a bit further than I might in calling McCain to the mat on that (it’s certainly understandable why Obama’s cult of celebrity might be frustrating or lampoonable, and it’s certainly not out of bounds to try to send it up and seed whatever distrust you can out of it), but he does, I think, appropriately make the case that instead of snidely mocking the cult of celebrity surrounding Presidencies (or potential ones), McCain—an acolyte of Reagan himself—might do well to pay a little bit more attention, and respect, to that broader idea. Because in some ways, his tone deafness on the matter are a potentially critical mistake. While McCain sells himself (his own great narrative and biography), Obama is doing a pretty good idea of selling himself and his Presidency. McCain’s missing the forest for the trees by not intuiting that distinction, and doing a bit better to compensate himself.

To put that another way, McCain’s cult of celebrity is focused on McCain the Man, Obama’s is focused on Obama the President, and all that entails. McCain’s is focused on McCain, Obama’s is focused on Obama the idea, and in many significant ways, that’s entirely appropriate, even central. It’s worth looking at from all angles, of course, and certainly the notion that Obama himself won’t live up to the ideal (or we’re sacrificing too much in terms of policy to get it) are worthy lines of thought. But before deriding the whole concept out of hand, it might behoove the McCain people to take it more seriously. I know I am.

Posted by Brad @ 9:10 pm on July 31st 2008

Well Hey There, Good Kind of Republican

After posting about Ted Stevens’ imbroglio, I went hunting to find out a bit about his opponent in the Republican primary. I see that this just got posted to Sullivan’s site, but it’s worth reiterating.

Ted Stevens, it goes without saying, is in dire straights, but even more so are Alaska Republicans. The filing deadline to challenge him in the primary is passed, so the only candidates that have a chance of usurping Stevens and providing the Republicans a clean candidate for the seat have to already be on the ballot (unless, as mentioned, Stevens wins the primary and then resigns after mid-September (or if his trial in late September goes badly)—a distinct possibility—when the state GOP can hand-pick a successor). Almost no Senator goes unopposed (there’s almost always somebody on the ballot), but a guy like Stevens doesn’t exactly draw serious primary challengers from well-established state politicians.

However, I did note in my last story that there is a guy who, although running 30 points behind Stevens at present, is pledging $750,000 of his own money, of which he just this week plopped down 400k in ad buys (and in Alaska, you get a lot of bang for your buck—you can reach every TV in the state on primetime for about 35k (I totally just made that up, but you get the idea)). So, I figured I’d look into the guy and see if he’s just a random kook or if he could mount a serious challenge.

I don’t know that I’ve answered that, but I have discovered something…the dude’s alright.

The best hope the GOP has in Alaska is for a fresh face to knock off Stevens in the August 26 primary, allowing Republicans to approach the general election from higher ground. Well — Vickers is nothing if not fresh. “As an American historian, Iíve studied every president,” he told me over the phone today from Anchorage, “and I can say with authority that George Bush is the worst president in American history.”

Oh, yes. Vic Vickers is a George-W.-Bush-hating, Exxon-despising, Iraq-War-loathing Republican who wants to “put an end to the stranglehold that Big Oil” has on Alaska and has an Iraq withdrawal plan — if the Jordanians and Saudis don’t start cutting big checks, you just pack everyone up and come right home — that would make even Eli Pariser queasy.

It gets worse. Pressed to identify a Republican he admires in Alaska besides himself, Vickers could not come up with a single one. He is contributing $500 to Tim June, a Democrat running for the state Senate whom he describes as his “comrade in arms” in the cause of political reform. But he is a real Republican, Vickers insists — just of an older vintage. “I’m running … as a Bull Moose, a Teddy Roosevelt Republican,” he explains. “The spirit of Alaska is embodied in the Bull Moose Party. [Roosevelt] was all about breaking with Standard Oil.”

To establishment Alaska Republicans, Vickers might seem like a peculiarly bad headache, but he’s really only part of a larger phenomenon this year: candidates signing up to run on the state or local GOP ticket who then publicly deride the party.

Hrm. Should I?


More from the article here. This profile goes into a bit more specifics, and Vickers does indeed sound like, if not a kook, then certainly an eccentric self-aggrandizing guy.

Still, Alaska—the one state that ever boasted a poll showing Ron Paul in the lead—is fertile ground for these kinds of Republican (the “fed up with Republicanism” kind). Barr’s staff have already promised it’ll be a target for their campaign, Paul did quite well there, Palin drew a lot of national Libertarian support in the beginnings of her career, and historically, though it is a “red state”, it’s brand of Republicanism is a lot more the “don’t tread on me” individualistic type. In other words, it’s a good place to keep an eye on if, like me, you want more Ron Paul style Republicans kicking around.

Posted by Brad @ 7:20 pm on July 31st 2008

Sign O the Times

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The United States is losing access to one of its three counternarcotics bases in Latin America, U.S. military officials said Wednesday.

The Ecuadorian government has told the Bush administration it will not renew a 10-year agreement letting U.S. troops conduct anti-drug operations from Manta Air Base, an Ecuadorian Air Force installation, military officials said.

The United States has used Manta Air Base since 1999 to run aerial surveillance of the eastern Pacific Ocean, looking for drug runners on the high seas as well as illicit flights.

Ecuador notified the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday that it will not renew the agreement after it expires in November 2009, the U.S. military officials said.

“The Ecuadorian people do not want foreign troops on our soil, and the government has to follow the mandate of its people,” Luis Gallegos, Ecuador’s ambassador to the United States, said Wednesday.

Posted by Brad @ 9:27 pm on July 30th 2008

Ron Fournier

Let it be known that I have a long-standing grudge against AP’s Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier. To be perfectly honest, I can’t even recall the specific incident that set me off, but I do know that it had to do with what I perceived as bizarrely biased “neutral” reporting in the 2004 election (he was just a random AP hack then), followed by an email exchange with him that basically amounted to him telling me to f*#k off. Now, I am not the type that shoots off emails to every random reporter that covers something in a way I don’t like. Honestly, I think I’ve done that maybe three times in my life (once was to the WaPo’s Jose Antonio Vargas, who thought enough of me to use me as a source in his follow-up story). So for me to take time out to actually send a message to a random reporter complaining about bias is pretty unprecedented.

Apparently though, I’m not the only one with Fournier on their sh$tlist, or the only one who has noticed enough bias to actually turn their journalistic guns on the reporter himself. To wit: yesterday, Politico’s Michael Calderone published a story proving that Fournier was directly offered a job with the McCain campaign in 2006. He ultimately turned it down, but only after months of negotiations. The job discussion was held between Fournier and the highest level of McCain inner circle types.

Fournier, for his part, never thought to mention this, despite working for the news agency for whom neutrality and dispassionate fact-relaying is the hallmark. Fournier has long been a target for criticism that he has damaged the AP brand and made sweeping changes in agency policy (towards “a freer expression of opinion”). His predecessor as Bureau Chief, Sandy Johnson, openly worried that Fournier was destroying the agency. And, in particular, there are a fair few (pretty well supported) claims that Fournier has been operating as a sort of shadow shill for GOP heavy hitters. One emblematic example concerns his dealings with Karl Rove on the Pat Tillman affair, which we now know to have been an outrageously cynical ploy, a flagrant example of the administration and the military using the media to push a propaganda piece and a cover up at the same time.

Karl Rove exchanged e-mails about Pat Tillman with Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier, under the subject line “H-E-R-O.” In response to Mr. Fournier’s e-mail, Mr. Rove asked, “How does our country continue to produce men and women like this,” to which Mr. Fournier replied, “The Lord creates men and women like this all over the world. But only the great and free countries allow them to flourish. Keep up the fight.”

Lots more Fournier criticism here.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with what Fournier calls “the accountability model” of journalism. In fact, I’m all for it.

But if you’re going to take the position that AP reporters ought to take positions, you have to work extra hard at maintaining an appearance of objectivity. You have to give the unquestionable appearance that your accountability is solely based on facts, not based on chummy political relationships, of the kind that have ruined far better and more well known reporters than your generic AP hack. To that end, things like being offered a senior adviser position in a live Presidential campaign should be a no-brainer, both in terms of turning down the job, and writing a dispatch relating the offer (and refusal). So too should you not have to suck up to sources (and we’ll give Fournier the benefit of the doubt on the Rove thing and assume that’s what he was doing). It’s one thing if you’re a Wall Street Journal editorialist. But when you’re the Washington Bureau Chief for the Associated Press, transparency and neutrality are pretty keystone.

Given the massive soup of allegations here, many of which are undenied and substantiated, I think Fournier would probably do right by the AP by stepping down.

Posted by Brad @ 5:49 pm on July 30th 2008

What a Real Conservative Sounds Like

Liberty grows from the ground – it cannot be dropped from the air by an unmanned drone.

David Cameron, September 11th, 2006.

H/t: Freedom Democrats.

Posted by Brad @ 5:45 pm on July 30th 2008

Media Support For McCain and Obama: a Fair Fight

We’ve argued amongst ourselves here for awhile about the love affair that the press has with Obama. James has even gone so far as to say this is the first election in which the media is selecting a President for us (I can’t find that thread now; feel free to link it). Anyway, I think Adam, James and I have pretty much staked out our respective positions on this (with mine being right, Adam’s being mostly right, and James’ being terribly wrong but with some truth to it), but I thought I would pass along David Weigel’s analysis, because it pretty fairly mirrors my own. Speaking of McCain’s new strategy of media-bashing, Weigel sez:

Has McCain run the sloppiest Republican campaign since Dole ’96? Sure; I don’t think you can look at how he wasted his four-month honeymoon during the Clinton-Obama fight and conclude otherwise. But convincing voters that the media is unfair to him is the most impressive trick McCain has pulled. This is a campaign that, seven months ago, was rebroadcasting Tim Russert’s description of McCain’s heroism in its TV ads.

I don’t think McCain’s comeback would have been possible had the political press not been scoring points for him all throughout 2007. His comeback was willed into existence by reporters; you could find helpful analyses of what he could do to win as early as July last year. It’s part of what makes the Obama-McCain battle a fair fight, not a hopelessly lopsided fight: Both men are beloved by the press in a way no one’s been since, arguably, Carter in 1976. Seriously, look at the way the ridiculous Wesley Clark story was covered this month and try to argue that the media’s being unfair to McCain.

And Joe Scarborough also mirrors a point I’ve been making:

The great irony of it coming from the McCain camp is that no candidate in modern American politics got more favorable treatment from the press than John McCain in 2000. I would suggest he received more positive press in 2000 than his nearest competitor, Barack Obama, in 2008. For McCain to now cry foul because the media is intrigued by a new exciting candidate is humorous.

I don’t know that I agree with the 2000-2008 weighing, but the gist is pretty much exactly the way I see it.

McCain’s not wrong, by the way—clearly, the media are covering Obama more than they are covering McCain (although, as I’ve also said, that’s a double edged sword)—but the same principle that has caused Obama to have the edge there—that he is exciting, new, has a great story, and the members of the media are personally fond of him—is the exact same principle that essentially made McCain. Make no mistake, he would not be the nominee today were it not for the exact same phenomenon that he is currently bemoaning.

In my book, the most media-fawned over Republican in a generation is facing off against the most media-fawned over Democrat in a generation. One is fresher, more history making, and more likely to win—and big surprise, he’s the one with the edge—and it surely sucks to be on the wrong end of that, but it also makes it a little hard for me to take seriously criticism of media fawnage generally.

Posted by Brad @ 2:07 pm on July 30th 2008

Joseph Biden for VP

I’ve been touting Sarah Palin as my favorite candidate for the VP slot on McCain’s ticket, and have been persistently making the case that she represents the strongest choice for McCain out of the pool of likely potential candidates. It only seems fair that I make a pick for Obama as well.

First, my premises.

In a lot of ways, Obama’s choices are less clear, but, I think, less important (some argue otherwise, that Obama has a lot more to lose with a VP pick than McCain, but I donít really see the reasoning behind that). There is no obvious weakness that Obama desperately needs to redress, no must-win state in the same way that McCain has them, and no demographic that he has particular problems with (there are some demographics where he’s weaker than he is with others, of course, but not really any that a VP pick is going to make or potentially break). He can afford, in other words, to bypass the regular “popular minority from a must-carry state” thing, I think, and simultaneously doesn’t need to play it safe, but doesn’t need to get cute or bold either (McCain, I argue, is starting from behind so he needs to squeeze as much immediate and ephemeral advantage from his VP candidate as possible). In that respect, I agree, more or less, with Trapper John:

I start from the premise that Barack Obama doesn’t need anyone to make his candidacy complete. He’s already up in the polls, both nationally and in key states. Intrade has him at a 63% likelihood of winning, and Nate Silver has him at 67%. But more importantly, he knows that he’s a bona fide, no-joke rock star. He doesn’t need a charismatic running mate. He doesn’t need a missing piece, someone who implies that Barack Obama is something other than all that and a bag of chips. Hell, I think he’d run solo, if the Constitution and practicality allowed him to do so. The Obama campaign is all about Barack Obama — it simply doesn’t need that brand altered in any way.

Trapper John goes on to say that, due to that, the #1 consideration for Obama must be a Hippocratic one: do no harm. I think John overstates that, in that I donít think Obama needs to play it overly safe. He can afford a little risk for the sake of a little added zing.


Posted by Adam @ 12:52 pm on July 30th 2008

Freddoso on Obama, in print

David Freddoso is one of the best posters at the Corner and, even though his book, the subtly-titled “The Case Against Barack Obama”, is published by Regnery, I am confident that it’ll be good. Which is why I’m flacking it. Anyhow, you can buy it from Amazon (I am going to) — it is released August 4th — or even pre-order to get it some additional attention.

David Freddoso\'s new book

Posted by Brad @ 11:24 am on July 30th 2008

The Definitive McCain on Iraq Timeline

Greg Sargent of TPM Election Central, determined to put fact to rhetoric in terms of McCain’s much vaunted record of Iraq War criticism, creates a timeline of McCain’s statements on Iraq. You can view it here.

First thought: it’s pretty clear to me that the rubber-to-the-road here doesn’t meet Sargent’s agenda of trying to show that McCain has in fact been a generic warmongering Republican, or that his present characterization of his record on Iraq doesn’t match reality. I agree with Jim Henley at the Art of the Possible that any fair reading shows McCain was in fact an early and persistent critic of the Bush Administrationís handling of the war, though perhaps not as early as he would like to argue. His criticisms about the size of the attacking force didn’t kick in until hindsight; it’s unclear that he would indeed have done anything differently in the beginning. Though we can probably say he would have been far more flexible and likely to adjust course when it became apparent that the initial model was fatally flawed, it’s unclear to me that he had any better idea at the time or that, if his cabinet had been pushing the Rumsfeld model in the same way they did with Bush, that he would have been any less likely to chart the same course that Bush did. Second thought: his criticisms of the war are entirely limited to troop size, meaning it is only on that one point where he diverges. That’s a pretty damn major point, granted, but anybody who might try to use his criticism on that point as evidence that he is not a neoconservative and not totally inline with the Bush Doctrine of foreign policy—and indeed one of it’s biggest, most visible, and most tireless advocates—are overreaching. The best that can be said is he is a neoconservative more flexible in making tactical readjustments. I don’t mean that to be a straw man, but it is worth reiterating. McCain’s conception of Iraq is fundamentally identical to Cheney and Bush’s, right down to “they’ll greet us as liberators”, the keystone mistake in my view). He no more predicted the kind of problems that we would face in the post-invasion period than Rumsfeld did (and, incidentally, those predictions were widely of concern to the anti-war crowd and serious analysis, so it’s not like it hadn’t occurred to people). Indeed, McCain largely pish-poshed thinking along those lines, in the same way Bush and Cheney did. He was, I believe, as honestly surprised as anybody in the administration that Iraq turned out to be a tough slog (compared to, say, Obama, who used it as a principle concern of his in not supporting the war back in 2002).

But all that said, McCain can boast one primary distinction from the Bush administration: he was not as stupidly stubborn, and he was willing to change course very quickly, and correctly identified the most sensible and correct (and fundamental) change that needed to occur.

All of this leads me to this: if McCain continues on his course of pushing the withdraw emphasis, he may well neutralize the Iraqi issue for this undecided voter. Obama, to my mind, has shown the better judgment on Iraq—his initial misgivings were not as politically easy as some would suggest, not knee-jerk, and were thoughtful, ahead of the curve, and, ultimately, entirely accurate. His opposition to the surge looks bad for superficial reasons, but was entirely warranted and well predicated, and may well still be (“violence down” is not nearly the same thing as “we’re winning”, or even indicative of any real progress, and pro-war advocates are coming perilously close to massively overstating things in their crowing on the surge). And Obama’s promise of beginning the process of setting timetables for withdraw are, to me, unquestioningly the right way to go (whereas McCain’s strategy of letting us stay in Iraq indefinitely and not have any concrete goals and timelines or really anything that our presence is contingent on is, to me, a little bullheaded for the sake of keeping a political distinction). McCain’s conception of Iraq, how it works, what it means, is, to me, as neoconservative as anything, and it’s entirely unclear to me that a McCain administration would deal with the world any differently, fundamentally, than a Bush/Cheney continuation would (save, perhaps, that he would be more responsive to concerns within the military). All that said, I’m willing to more or less not hang Iraq on McCain, and I think his strengths on the issue on balance even out the critical distinction between Obama and he on Iraq (that one was right in the beginning and is right on where to go from here, but the other was stronger on the stuff in between). Presuming that McCain more or less abandons his “we need to stay forever” stuff and begins making signals that he’s willing to be responsive to American and Iraqi public opinion on the matter, and not demand that we stay until Iraq becomes a fully functioning non-violent pro-West liberal democracy (“probably currently stable” is about the best, I think, we can reasonably ask for), I’m more or less willing to take Iraq specifically off the table for me as a voting issue. Although that last point is a big if.

Posted by Brad @ 10:22 am on July 30th 2008

Meanwhile, Across The Pond…

Labour remains in dire straights. Even dumping Brown (as Dizzy seems to think is a distinct possibility) wouldn’t help.

Voters are increasingly writing off Labour as fewer people believe that a change of leader or policy would help the party to win the next general election.

A Populus poll for The Times, undertaken over the weekend after Labourís defeat in Glasgow East, suggests that its dramatic slide in popularity is being driven by a collapse in economic confidence.

Labour is on 27 per cent, down one point on the last Populus poll three weeks ago, and about the level it has been for the past three months. This is the lowest since the early 1980s.

The Conservatives are on 43 per cent ó up two points ó with the Liberal Democrats down one point at 18 per cent. Other parties are unchanged on 12 per cent.

Ministers plotting to remove Gordon Brown receive a warning that barely half the electorate (52 per cent) believe that it would improve the partyís fortunes. This is roughly the same as when the question was asked last in May, despite increased speculation about his future. There has been a three-point rise, to 44 per cent, in the number saying that even replacing him with ďa younger, fresher, more charismatic alternativeĒ would not make Labour more likely to win.

It’s still unclear to me how much of a role Brown has played in the widespread disaffection, but my impression is “not much”. He certainly hasn’t done Labour any favors, but it seems to me that what we’re seeing in Britain is less a battle of personalities than generalized liberal fatigue, coupled with a Tory Party 2.0 that is looking more bold and dynamic every day. It’s as much a matter of the pendulum naturally swinging as anything; any governing coalition that’s been in power as long as Labour has a shelf-life, as grievances and grudges get racked up over the years, and what we’re seeing now strikes me as being as much about the natural lifespan of one-party rule as anything.

Which isn’t to divert blame (or whatever) from Brown and Labour, or credit from Cameron and conservatives, but it is to say I don’t think the conditions that have spurred the Tory resurgence and the Labour fall from grace are conditions which can be assuaged by rearranging deck chairs, throwing Brown overboard, adopting new policy stances, or really much of anything. Their time’s just come.

Posted by Brad @ 10:12 am on July 30th 2008

Professor Obama

We forget sometimes that, unlike some politicians, Barack Obama has spent a great many years with a quote-unquote “real job”. Many politicians (Al Gore, John McCain) are pretty much lifers, having spent very little of their adult lives in unrelated pursuits before jumping into the political world and staying there, and even before their first run were more or less on the running for office track. Obama, however, was 35 before the possibility of a real career in politics became a tangible vision and real possibility. Prior to that, he had other pursuits, the legal world being chief among them.

I do believe that jobs rub off on people after awhile, either people are drawn to career tracks that suit their personalities and ideals, or the career track they’ve been on (for whatever reason) begin to shape them. A teacher will interact with the world differently than a salesman, for instance, as will a lawyer versus a cop. I won’t overstate that, but it is one avenue by which to explore a person. And the way that a person goes about their particularly job can say even more.

So, it’s interesting to peek into the world of Professor Obama at Chicago Law. The New York Times does just that in a neat blog-spread. They’ve taken a collection of some of Obama’s professorial flotsam (sylabii, final exams, notes, etc), thrown them into PDFs, and passed them along, asking a number of law professors to comment on what kind of a professor Obama was, and what his approach might say about him in general, and as President.

The documents let us hear his voice as a professor, asking students to wrestle with hot-button topics like cloning and reparations. He tells students what he wants and interrogates them on what they have learned. In his little asides about gym visits and his wife, Michelle, we hear hints of his professorial style.

But the documents also offer clues about his thinking. They show us whose writings he wanted students to explore, from Malcolm X to Robert Bork. He framed complex legal, moral and political issues for his students, and in the case of post-exam memos, answered a few problems for them. Those memos also contain a few references to still-sitting Supreme Court justices.

Much of it is pretty close to the bone, but being that his specialty is constitutional law, much of it is also on very politics. His role is professor, so he isn’t engaging in advocacy, but the thoughtful way that he probes various issues, and the ways he chooses to engage them, is pretty revealing. Of particular interest to Obama are due process, equal protection, and voting rights (redistricting, campaign finance, etc), and in his exam answers particularly he takes an intellectual tour through those particular battlefields. Also, University of Chicago was one of the more right-leaning law schools in the country, and he was one of the very identifiable liberal blacks on the faculty (I hesitate to append “token” to that, but that was sort of the situation), so the way that plays to the fact that he’s at least subtly expected to represent a classic black liberal standpoint is fascinating. He both draws in students expecting a liberal perspective, and challenges them (and it) at the same time. He is the opposite of dogmatic, and appears disinterested in indoctrinating. He appears to get a kick out of playing against type, and being harder on the perspectives that he (we would assume) is most sympathetic towards. Some might gloss over that and assume it’s a given with teachers, but believe me it’s not.

Here is one attempt at analyzing the material and coming to some conclusions about Obama from that. It’s promised that more professors will comment for their blog-spread.

Interesting stuff, if you have some time to kill. Obama’s a fascinating, thoughtful, and enigmatic guy, is one of the take-aways. People are trying real hard right now to define Obama (either negatively or positively), but the truth in general, but even more so with him in particular, lives in a much greyer and more interesting area.

Posted by Brad @ 8:59 am on July 30th 2008

It’s a Disease

Can mental illness be contagious?


Ivor E. Tower, M.D.
Journal of Clinical Psychiatry
Volume 11, series 3, pages 4-5


This study conclusively demonstrates that unfounded fear of government is a recognizable mental illness, closely related to paranoid schizophrenia. Anti-Government Phobia (AGP) differs from most mental illnesses, however, in that it is highly infectious and has an acute onset. Symptoms include extreme suspiciousness, conspiracy-mongering, delusional thought patterns, staunch “us against them” mentality, withdrawal from reality, and often religious fanaticism. Having the patient committed to a qualified mental health institution is the best option for family and loved ones. For this reason, all psychiatrists and family physicians should be provided with educational materials which will help them recognize the various symptoms and warning signs accompanying onset. Since comparatively little is known about Anti-Government Phobia at the present time, a government-funded health commission should be set up to oversee, and help focus, future research.

I’m positive it’s a spoof, but it’s tough to say who the target is.

Posted by Brad @ 8:15 am on July 30th 2008

The Libertarian Party Won’t Have Sonny Landham To Kick Around Anymore

Question, how does one get kicked off the Libertarian ticket?

Well, this will do it, apparently.

The Kentucky LP have removed themselves from the former Predator star’s Senatorial run. He will now be running as an independent.

A rare sign of maturity from the LP?

Update. Anthony Gregory at hails the Kentucky LP for their good sense, but also notes that the case isn’t clear and how exactly the LP and Landham and the KY Secretary of State proceed is up in the air right now. Might mean Landham stays on the ballot as an independent, might mean he’s taken off the ballot entirely, might mean the LP get to field a different candidate, might mean not. Nobody seems sure at this point.

Posted by Adam @ 7:23 pm on July 29th 2008

Veepstakes: another non-exciting non-story

Another non-story amidst more veepstakes utter non-excitement as CNN report that Tim Kaine has refused to say whether or not he’s going to be Obama’s VP choice. This is news in the same way as it is news when non-candidates rule themselves out, apparently.

Apparently the trick is to run stories naming every conceivable candidate in order, after the fact, to point to the story naming the correct one and, thus, one of the most over-rated episodes in politics (VP picks) trundles on like a tedious steamroller.

Posted by Brad @ 6:46 pm on July 29th 2008

Blue Alaska? Bye Bye Ted Stevens?

Senator Ted Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, has been indicted.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Veteran Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens was charged on Tuesday with concealing more than $250,000 worth of gifts, including home renovations, that he received from an Alaska oil services company, the Justice Department said.

The Alaska politician, who has served 40 years in the Senate, was charged in a federal grand jury indictment with seven counts of making false statements on his Senate financial disclosure forms from 2001 to 2006, the department said.

Stevens denied the charges but said he was stepping down as required by party rules as the top Republican on the Democratic-led Commerce Committee and the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense. He gave no indication that he planned to resign from the Senate.

“I am innocent of these charges and intend to prove that,” he said in a statement. “I have never knowingly submitted a false disclosure form required by law as a U.S. senator.”

Stevens is accused of receiving substantial improvements to his Alaska home that included a new first floor, a finished full basement, a wraparound deck, and plumbing, electrical and heating work.

The indictment also charged that he received a new vehicle in exchange for an older one worth far less, and household goods such as furniture and a new gas range, the Justice Department said.

This marks trouble beyond just Stevens’ good name. As I reported last week, his Senate seat has become a legitimate lean Dem, with Stevens already down by 5-8 points against his presumed challenger, Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. One would presume that being under indictment would worsen prospects.

In fact, it’s bad enough that now people are openly wondering if Stevens will be able to win the Republican primary for the seat he’s held for almost 40 years. His nearest challenger would have to gain about 50 points in the next month, but he might just. On the heels of this news, he’s decided to plop down 400k in negative ads against Stevens with the promise of more to come. And of course people have to wonder if Stevens might step down, though there’s never been any indication that he would. So, either it’s a heavily damaged Stevens, or suddenly a totally open seat against a very not-well-known challenger.

OR…maybe not. Governor Sarah Palin has long been held as a possible replacement for Stevens. There’s some rumbling that he might be replaced by the state GOP. But I’m having a hard time seeing that. Filing deadlines have come and gone for the Republican primary, so she can’t bow in to that. The only possibility is if Stevens wins the primary, and then resigns after September 17th. And Stevens isn’t exactly known for his flexibility, so getting him to resign, particularly after a primary victory, would be tough, and I’ve no idea if Palin would even go for it or not.

This is increasingly looking like a Senate seat that the GOP may have just dropped into the laps of the opposition. I mean, another one. In any case, it’s now up there with New Hampshire and Virginia as a very, very likely flip.

Also worth noting: Obama is within five points of McCain here, so this might have some (admittedly small) Presidential level consequences as well.

Posted by Brad @ 2:39 am on July 29th 2008

Super Sirius

I haven’t written about this in a good long while (here and here are my takes), but the long-postponed merger between satellite radio companies XM and Sirius has finally been approved.

For awhile, it was looking like this might be a test case as to whether old business laws apply to the new technological markets. This specific merger raised a lot of interesting questions about monopoly laws—for instance, whether two companies that, together, would obviously dominate one market but might still fall flat as other markets compete against them, should be allowed to join forces in such a way as to allow them to dominate their market but, in so doing, allow that market to compete against other markets. It not only pushes the question of mergers and monopolies in the new technological frontier, but in the best kind of way, pushes some inherent contradictions in the old definitions.

Interesting stuff, in any case. Worth reading up on, if you haven’t.

Posted by Brad @ 12:05 am on July 29th 2008

China Opens the Door to The Mob

Rojas has been quite eloquent in support of a boycott for the Beijing Olympics. However, as he notes, that ship has now sailed. There is really nobody left who can take a meaningful stand…save the athletes.

Or, perhaps, the press?

There will be 22,000 journalists in Beijing next week. There is no way to shut up a journalistic mob of that size, each clambering over the next to get the story. China decided to invite the world in, to host the Olympics, in the expectation that it would receive a big boost in global respect and affection. It is about to find out what happens when you invite the world in. If Chinese donít want foreigners viewing their country with a critical eye, they should kick the foreigners out. But you canít throw an event to win the worldís respect and affection, screw up the event, and then complain that the world is biased against you.

That’s a fair, and easily overlooked, point.

It will be somewhat maddening to watch the Olympic coverage and note the glossy, travel brochure treatment that I expect China will largely receive. However, it is at least holding out some hope that, already, China has been put under the microscope, and pretty soon, a horde of journalist from all over the world will be descending upon the country en masse.

Letís say the air quality index is consistently over 100, unacceptable. Should athletes muzzle their complaints? Should Western commentators keep it quiet? What if China pressures Western networks to shut up about the smog, lest they be summarily kicked out of the Games or suffer unnamed future retaliation in the Chinese market. Is this acceptable, in the name of preserving Chinese popular good will towards foreigners? What about internet firewall problems? If journalists cannot access the website of the BBC or other critical media while working, should they keep quiet about it? If foreigners find they are hassled by police for their papers and visas, should they suppress this news? In the name of international harmony?

The answer to that question (whether they should, or should not) is almost irrelevant, because they won’t, or at least a great many of them won’t. And that works two ways. One can hope that enough journalists (even sports journalists) can’t help but take note of political realities in the country that directly effect them, but one can also hope that the critical eye of the West bearing down on China—and China having a direct and sizable stake in trying to appease and look attractive—might internalize to some degree, or at the very least remain on their minds. China may well get a taste for what prominence brings…scrutiny. And these Olympics may well be the beginning of bringing home to them what, entirely, that entails.

Posted by Brad @ 11:43 pm on July 28th 2008

No Such Thing as the Bradley Effect?

For those that don’t know, The Bradley Effect (sometimes called The Wilder Effect) is named for Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, a black man, who in 1982 was favored to win the race for Governor of California against a white Republican. Even the exit polls led to projections that Bradley had taken it, but it turned out that there was a significant disparity between the number of whites who said they were going to vote for Bradley and those that actually did. Bradley narrowly lost that race. It popped up again in the 1989 Virginia Governor’s race, where L. Douglas Wilder was polling 9 points up on his white opponent the day before the election, but ultimately only eeked out a victory by 6700 votes. In both cases, the number of undecideds who broke for the white challenger was also significantly statistically anomalous.

The implication being that while a certain amount of white voters may say they’re going to vote for a black candidate, some are only saying that to appease the interviewer, or because it sounds like the open-minded thing to say. This led to the coinage of the effect, and its almost mythological status in political operative circles throughout the 90s, to the point where some election watchers have taken it as almost a rule of thumb (automatically subtract a certain amount of a black candidate’s support, say 2%, due to the Bradley Effect). And yet, a few striking examples aside, it’s never been systemically proven.

This of course has a direct bearing on our current Presidential race. So, it’s worth looking into.

For his part, Nate at our newly blogrolled site, has looked into it specifically in regards to Obama’s performance in the primaries. Remember, it’s not enough to just find states where polls had Obama up, and he ended up with less votes than predicated. That happens in every cycle, to candidates of all stripes, and is not in itself proof of anything besides the fact that polls get things wrong sometimes. But, one of the more interesting findings: there is a strong correlation between Obama’s polling gap and the relative size of African American populations in any given states. States with small African American populations tend to overestimate Obama’s support, but states with large African American populations tend to underestimate Obama’s support. Ironically, this plays huge in the South, where one might expect racial hurdles to be much larger for a black Democrat, but which also boasts large African American populations. In the primaries, polling averages consistently underestimated Obama’s performance in the South, by 3 points in Tennessee, 5 in Florida, 6 in Missouri, 9 in Mississippi, 11 in Virginia, 15 in Alabama, 18 in South Carolina, and 22 in Georgia. If you want a real in depth look at this whole phenomenon as it played out in the primaries, start here.

But back to the systemically proven thing.

A post-doc political scientist at Harvard engaged a study attempting to do just that. You can find his results here (PDF). The conclusion?

The Wilder effect occupies an unusual position in our thinking about American elections, as it is often invoked (e.g. Elder, 2007; Lanning, 2005) but rarely scrutinized. By analyzing Senate and gubernatorial elections between 1989 and 2006, this paper has provided the first large-sample test of the Wilder effect. In the early 1990s, there was a pronounced gap between polling and performance for black candidates of about 2.3 percentage points. But in the mid-1990s, that upward bias in telephone surveys disappeared.

This is not all good news for Obama, however. The study does note that what’s sometimes taken for Bradley Effect is simply polling that winds up overestimating the front-runner generally (an effect that may be heightened when the frontrunner is black, as in the cases of both Bradley, Wilder, Dinkens, and, one presumes, Obama). He also supposes that in eras where racialized issues are in play nationally, that might bleed down to a localized Bradley Effect in some specific electoral contests (i.e. if affirmative action is a marquee national issue that year, that might make translate some to a heightened disparity between polling and performance for black candidates in, say, a South Carolina Senate race). Tough to say how that plays this year, where there aren’t really any big racial issues, but which can be construed in some quarters (from Southern Republicans to New England Democrats) as being a referendum on the idea of a black President.

Still, the study does provide decent evidence that The Bradley Effect is not to be overstated (if bought into at all). It might be in play in some very specific instances, for reasons that are entirely unclear, but if you’re using it as a rule of thumb, you’re going to be wrong more often than you’re right.

Posted by James @ 10:52 pm on July 28th 2008

Pond Scum

Pond Scum 7/28/08

Posted by Rojas @ 9:03 pm on July 28th 2008

Described in the ad as “Perfect for Dr. Ron Paul”

Buy yours here.

Posted by Adam @ 3:20 pm on July 28th 2008

The US for Limeys, Part 9: Driving, Part I

Full speed ahead in our sporadic, but ever informative, Limey Guide to America.

Driving is the real American Dream. In our next Guide we will consider the American Rite Of Passage, the gastric bypass Road Trip, but firstly, a primer on driving in the US, essential reading before you set your pedal to the metal, lay your rubber on the road and, unless you paid extra for deluxe seat coverings, stick your ass to the vinyl.

As you have demonstrated your driving competence to the DMV, you will know that Americans drive on the other side of the road, like the French (it is always worth pointing this out). It is wise to remember this, at least until after the bars begin to shut, by which time your fellow roadusers will themselves appear to have forgotten it. Also, again like the French, they will view pedestrians with the same enthusiasm that traditionally greeted wandering lepers looking to offload a year’s supply of Watchtower magazine. The pavement is called the sidewalk and the road is called pavement; whilst this may seem confusing at first, in most places there is no sidewalk and, thus, what you’ll end up walking on will, in fact, be the pavement, which you will share with cars in much the same way that the early Christians shared the Arena, and lunch, with the lions.

Americans roads don’t generally have speed cameras. They do, instead, have an army of policemen, hiding behind bushes and local geographical features like fun-hating versions of the sexual predators your mother warned you about, steely-eyed and implacable dealers of tickets with hearts of stone and, one is often told in dark tones, quotas to meet before they dare waste time on less important matters such as locating the perpetrators of crimes which result in no net financial benefit to their local police force. You will hear many rumours of how to escape ticketing with an appropriate sob story, reference to military service or a prominently displayed sticker avowing your generous donations to police organizations. Ignore these rumours; if they worked, no one would ever get a ticket and traffic police would be forced into a life of prostitution or even be driven to the investigation of crimes of theft and violence. You can, it turns out, avoid speeding tickets by not speeding (which is unAmerican) or else throw the dice like a chain-smoking Vegas visitor from the upper Midwest wearing a wrinkled nylon loungesuit that perfectly matches the greying nicotine-stained moustache which has long since seamlessly merged with a riotous outgrowth of nasal hair. Sure, sometimes you’ll lose, but it’s worth it to look so damn cool.

Petrol will seem laughably cheap, regardless of how much it costs. It will be years before you learn to adopt the correctly agonised expression when petrol rises to half of the price that you paid for it in the UK ten years ago; imagine your fourth-level magic-user walking unknowingly 5 feet into a Gray Ooze before experiencing the dawning recognition that you’re going to need a new pair of boots, ones that come with a replacement pair of feet and you just spent all your money on scrolls of Magic Missile with a caster level of 3 for the benefit of the rest of the party, yes, those guys that are laughing at you now and miming being broke as you wonder about the costs of a Resurrection spell as you further dissolve up to your knees. That’s the expression. Fortunately, unless you are filling up in New Jersey (where the beneficent government have wisely decided that you yourself are not to be trusted with the task of safely filling your petrol tank with petrol so that you have to seek the assistance of the highly trained gas pump specialists to do it) you are not likely to have to interact with human beings; you just swipe your card and pump away*.

Your car will seem big. Americans will tell you of how they bought a smaller car because of the better fuel economy and will show you something that ought to have Kate Winslet on the bonnet while Celine Dion impersonates the production of catgut violin strings in circumstances where nobody remembered to first kill the cat as you consider that hitting an iceberg and dying in the freezing water might not be entirely the worst outcome. Whilst cars are often compared to penises, for Americans, they are actually always bigger than their owners think they are. Like penises, however, it’s the hidden costs of ownership that kill you.

In order to drive a car you will have to own or borrow one. Car salesmen in the US are so similar to those in the UK that one can only assume that they were all descended from the same primeval proto-salesman, a lonely figure cast out by his fellow cavemen for an epic lack of sincerity and an irritating tendency to collect a bunch of inferior rocks for barter simply to drive up the perceived value of the acceptably-formed rocks, a creature whose reproduction in the face of evolutionary selection would serve as supporting evidence for Intelligent Design if only its proponents held that God Hates Us All. Once you have bought a car it is, of course, essential that you tell all your friends how you suckered your opponent into giving you a great deal, stories which will be remarkably similar in tone to the stories the salesman tells as soon as you have left the showroom, except his stories are true.

Now you have secured a vehicle, your next mission is to drive it a long way (possibly to the tune of Celine Dion’s appalling cover of “I drove all night”, which if nothing else will create a same sense of fear and pressing urgency that will, in fact, keep you driving all night). That’s for next time.

*Insert joke about futuristic Japanese brothel here.

Posted by Brad @ 12:57 pm on July 28th 2008

Veep Watch

At this point, media speculation about the VP short lists pretty much amount to a reporter talking to some campaign flak who rattles off some names of potentials, and that getting widely passed on as some kind of “official short list”. But for what it’s worth, this one claims the search for McCain is down to six:

* Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty;
* Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell;
* Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney;
* Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin;
* U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn; and
* Former Pennsylvania governor Tom Ridge.

With the addendum that Pawlenty and Romney are the odds on favorites.

I think we can strike Powell off the list. Note, he’s on a fair few Obama short lists as well, and I think is more the “dream pick” than somebody they’ve actually been in serious talks with. If McCain were to get him, that would be huge, of course, but I don’t know how likely that actually is. Worth noting that Powell has been mentioned on the VP shortlists of every Presidential candidate Republican or Democrat since 1996.

So too with Lieberman. A good name to float, one that would shake things up significantly, and frankly I buy that McCain would personally consider that as an ideal pairing for him (both in terms of the campaign and in terms of an actual McCain Presidency). I also think Lieberman would take it (in a heartbeat). But frankly, I just don’t know that McCain has the balls.

That leaves Ridge, Palin, Pawlenty, and Romney.

Romney we discussed here. Ridge and Pawlenty would both be pretty milquetoast by-the-books choices. Of all of them, only Palin would qualify for my “Go Big or Go Home” strategy (Powell and Lieberman certainly would). And if it’s not clear by now, she’s far and away my preferred candidate. I’m a little surprised, frankly, to see her hanging on the shortlist this deep, and the fact that she is indicates to me that the McCain campaign are really giving that one serious consideration, moreso than just her being on a list of names being spitballed.

Finally, three names are conspicuous for their absence. Bobby Jindal, Charlie Crist, and Carly Fiorina.

Fiorina has been a real possibility, I think, as sort of a settling point (in the way Cheney was). I still think she’s a real threat for a cabinet post. But, once her name started getting regularly bandied around, I think enough of the real analysts came to the conclusion (for good reasons) that she wouldn’t fly well that McCain’s team may have been convinced. She’s still a surprisingly powerful insider, and is more or less permanently on McCain’s Cool List, which bodes well for her future if he wins. But I buy she’s more or less been passed over for VP. Palin appears to have usurped her in this niche (little-known-but-highly-impressive-woman).

Crist is interesting, because while I still contend that he’s more or less unpickable (for reasons outlined in the hyperlink on his name above), I would have thought that, with his recent surprise marriage and the fact that Florida appears to be precariously close to a total tossup (something that McCain cannot afford to have happen), that he’d have been shuffled back into the deck, persistent sexuality rumors and weirdo fake tan be damned.

Jindal, as I’ve outlined, looks to have been passed over. He would have been a real real interesting choice, but frankly I’m not sorry to see him go, and I also think the “don’t rob us of our next generation star; let him stay on the vine” talk from the chattering NRO-ish class may have been a factor.

My own guess? I don’t trust that particular shortlist any more than I trust others, but I think the Top Three appears to be shaping up as Romney, Pawlenty, and Palin. Three choices that fill very different niches, and what it comes down to may well be what kind of campaign McCain wants to run.

If a potentially winning campaign is something he’s at all interested in, I’ve put in my vote. And for the record, of the three, Palin is the only one that would make me take a serious second look at the possibility of voting for McCain.

Posted by Brad @ 12:29 pm on July 28th 2008

Being Barack

What was it like to stand front and center at Obama’s Berlin rally?

Now you know.

Posted by Brad @ 12:26 pm on July 28th 2008

The Media and Obama

James talks a lot about the obvious media favoritism for Obama. This study suggests that’s a double edged sword.

The Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, where researchers have tracked network news content for two decades, found that ABC, NBC and CBS were tougher on Obama than on Republican John McCain during the first six weeks of the general-election campaign.

You read it right: tougher on the Democrat.

During the evening news, the majority of statements from reporters and anchors on all three networks are neutral, the center found. And when network news people ventured opinions in recent weeks, 28% of the statements were positive for Obama and 72% negative.

Network reporting also tilted against McCain, but far less dramatically, with 43% of the statements positive and 57% negative, according to the Washington-based media center.

Of course, the sheer bulk of coverage in general is tilted way towards Obama, which means that Obama gets more positive press coverage than McCain (he gets more of all kind of coverage), but looking at it relatively in that way is, I think, a helpful thing to keep in mind. Obama is largely a cultural icon at this point, but being such the center of attention is not without its significant risks as well.

There is also another point to make in regards to the media coverage of this race. It may be in large part John McCain who is being kept in the race on the strength of inflated media narrative. Alan Abramowitz, Thomas E. Mann, and Larry J. Sabato explore that in “The Myth of a Tossup Election”.

Given also that McCain’s career and political strength was largely made by the media shine on him in 2000, I don’t find claims of media bias in this race particularly moving.

Posted by James @ 10:27 pm on July 27th 2008


A moment…

Moments are fleeting…


Posted by Rojas @ 5:37 pm on July 26th 2008

The pledge

Our friend Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty is inviting supporters to pledge the following:

I solemnly swear that I will never take part in any involuntary civilian service at the behest of the federal government, regardless of the consequences.

Weirdly, although this is the sort of bandwagon I normally climb aboard at first sight, I can’t bring myself to take the plunge. I agree with the principles expressed, but in this instance, my pure selfishness simply outweighs them.

I oppose involuntary servitude in all of its forms, not least the Obama plan which Jason highlights in his post. One frustrating example concerns the school at which I teach prides itself on having won numerous awards based on the number of hours of service students have contributed annually (every student is required to complete 15 hours per semester). I do not understand why forcing students to perform community service makes the school honorable; no more than I understand how spending taxpayer money on services to the poor makes a politician “compassionate”. I am particularly aghast at this aspect of our profile given the annual end-of-semester rush to claim service hours, in which students used to descend like locust on faculty members in order to get forms signed indicating that they’d fulfilled their requirement–needless to say, in many cases, we were being asked to abet fraud. This process was substantially remedied by a change in policy wherein students were required to obtain signatures from members of approved community service organizations; this has eliminated the abetting of fraud in that many of the students simply forge the signatures outright.

The politics of national service are strange indeed, placing libertarians in common cause with public employees’ unions, which rightly fear that these armies of civilian volunteers would be used in projects previously handled by paid professionals. Naturally, service advocates indicate that this would not be the case; the question then becomes, where are we to find millions of hours of work that needs to be done, but which is not important enough that we are willing to pay anyone to do it? Compulsory military service during wartime, which is often cited as the model for the “ethic of service” that this project is intended to foster, was many things, but it cannot be said to have been make-work.

I think that history has validated the courageous (yes, I said it) actions of draft-dodgers, who were willing in many cases to abandon their entire lives in order to avoid subjecting themselves to the anti-libertarian mechanisms of the draft.

Unfortunately, I know myself too well to suspect that I have the courage of those individuals, or indeed to imagine that I would be willing to undergo any meaningful penalty for the sake of protesting compulsory service. Case in point: I am writing this blog under a pseudonym for fear of the employment consequences were my writings to be publicly attributed to me. Such is not the stuff of the national service martyr. The inconvenience and the violation of principles incumbent in compulsory national service simply would not weigh as heavily on me as the probable consequences of civil disobedience.

Perhaps if I am lucky, enough of you will be willing to stand in front of the tanks that I won’t have to. So…any pledge-takers here?

Posted by James @ 1:53 pm on July 26th 2008

Pond Scum

Pond Scum 7-26-08

Posted by Rojas @ 11:52 am on July 26th 2008

Fannie, Freddie, and fiscal sanity

There has been discussion at this blog and elsewhere about whether McCain’s opposition to federal earmarks, agricultural subsidies and the like is sufficient to make him a true fiscal conservative.

The matter is, of course, debatable. But what about his opposition to the $300 billion federal mortgage bailout?

Posted by Rojas @ 11:44 am on July 26th 2008

Sacre Bleu!

The Washington Post’s headline:

Obama gets royal treatment in France

Does this mean they guillotined him?

Posted by Brad @ 12:14 pm on July 25th 2008

Detroit’s Walking Sideshow

Or, as he likes to be known, Mister Mayor:

DETROIT — Michigan State Police troopers are investigating a possible assault by Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on a deputy accompanying an investigator for the Wayne County prosecutor Thursday at the home of the mayor’s sister, Sheriff Warren Evans said.

Evans said the 6-foot-4 mayor, a former star football player at Florida A&M University, allegedly pushed a sheriff’s deputy and knocked him into the female investigator, who was working for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy. The officers were attempting to serve a subpoena on Bobby Ferguson, a city contractor and close friend of Kilpatrick.

Previous Kilpatrick shenanigans here, here, here…aw hell, just do a google search. The man’s a catastrophe of awesomeness.

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