Wednesday, May 10, 2006

School's Out Blogging

JUST A RANDOM THOUGHT: I'm not a professional political analyst or anything, but I honestly cannot figure this one out. Why is it that both the Democratic and Republican frontrunners for the 2008 presidential primaries are heaping love onto Bush, even though his approval ratings should make him radioactive? And why are they both huge war hawks, even as the war reaches Vietnam levels of support?

Hillary just offered some warm praise for Bush. And if there was a way to distinguish her stance on Iraq from Bush's, I'd like to know about it.

McCain has been eagerly casting himself as a Bush cultist, even making a pathetic little speech at the Southern Republican Conference a few months ago extolling the wonders of W. He's also arguably the most hawkish man in Congress when it comes to the war, pushing for even more troops and staking out the extreme-right position.

Now I understand that a lot of political positioning goes into running to running for President, and that Hillary wants to appeal to moderates while McCain just wants Jerry Falwell to give him an affectionate pat on the head. But I can't understand for the life of me why the two of them choose to demonstrate their conservative cred by backing Bush and his war. It's like someone wanting to run for president in 1976 spending 1974 defending Nixon and Vietnam. Isn't there a better way for Hillary to pander to moderates and for McCain to pander to right-wing crazies?

UNBELIEVABLE: Conservatives are throwing a fit over the possibility that Yale will hire University of Michigan professor Juan Cole, a brilliant and esteemed Middle East analyst (and expert blogger). I've been throwing a fit, too, but that's just because I have a better chance to get into grad school at Michigan than I do at Yale, so the odds of my taking classes with Prof. Cole would significantly decrease if Yale hired him.

Neo-cons mostly hate him because he (gasp) opposes the Iraq war and because he (deeper gasp) occasionally suggests that Palestinians are not animals and are, in fact, human beings. Their new criticism of him? He's not qualified to write about Iraq because he's never been there.

Cole has spent numerous years in the Middle East, conducting research and learning Arabic and Persian. Why hasn't he been to Iraq? Well, gee, I suspect it has something to do with the fact that it wasn't exactly easy for Western researchers to enter Ba'athist Iraq, and it's impossible for them to get any research done in US-occupied anarchic Iraq.

I'VE BEEN TRYING to write this op-ed for about three weeks now. HuffPo's Philip Slater took advantage of my procrastination and wrote it for me:

Have you ever noticed how frantically eager some people are to tell you how hopeless the state of the world is? Point to any tiny progressive victory or corporate concession and they'll rush in to smother your tiny ray of light in dreary counter-examples, as if it were an outbreak of crabgrass threatening their carefully manicured lawn of misery.

Perhaps they think being a wet-blanket demonstrates superior radical understanding--a better analysis. But depression is not intelligence, and hopelessness leads to paralysis. It's the small immediate victories that motivate people to get started and keep going--not distant grandiose fantasies.

...

This addiction to tragedy sabotages people working to create positive changes in the world.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, specifically in the context of people going off the deep end about Iran. In a larger sense, it amazes how addicted liberals are to doom and gloom. I read numerous liberal blogs every day, and hardly a day passes without a few of them declaring the world is collapsing around us. Don't get me wrong; things are bad under Bush. But the state of the world is quite good now when you compare it to just about any other era, and people generally get more secular and more tolerant all the time and have more opportunities than they ever had before.

So chill. And while you're at it, read the whole op-ed.

ENCOURAGING DEMOCRACY IN THE MIDDLE EAST: "(Palestinian) Patients die as doctors run out of drugs to treat them."

Israel's recent actions (and US support for them) sends quite a message to Arabs. If you vote for who you like, we will take your money, close the walls around you, and prevent you from having medicine or gasoline. When are people going to realize that the only way to stop terrorism is by drawing Islamists into the political process, so that they don't revert to arms?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Unbefrickinlievable

What is it that Atrios calls them? The 101st fighting keyboardists?

A right-winger blogger (linked to by Instapundit) claims that not only is al-Qaeda "retreating from Iraq," but also that the terrorists are losing because they have been defeated in the "media war." Needless to say, he goes on to credit right-wing blogs (what else?) for bringing about the defeat of al-Qaeda.
Also on the media front, the Internet was already becoming a major player. In 1998, Matt Drudge was showing that one person with a web site could break a major story. In 2004, a few bloggers were able to start the chain of events that led to Dan Rather's retirement from CBS. In 2006, bloggers are now an acknowledged player on the media battlefield. These efforts were dismissed by al Qaeda, and as a result, while al Qaeda hit its target, the effect was grossly minimized due to the fact that the "silent majority" now had tools by which they could be heard. The media created a false picture after the 1968 Tet Offensive, but was unable to do the same in Iraq.

Silly al-Qaeda. They underestimated the power of America's right-wing bloggers. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds, Jonah Goldberg, and John Hinderaker, our civilization is safe from the scourge of the dreaded Islamofascism.

Old 97's Blogging

(Title inserted at roommate's suggestion, who noted that listening to "Alive and Wired" makes all the problems in the world seem more manageable)

MORE BRILLIANT ANALYSIS from the National Review Online:
THE TERRORISTS ARE WINNING [by Cliff May] In Iraq? Maybe. In Europe?Almost certainly.

Now I know being a math expert isn't required for a political blogging gig ('cause Allah knows I'd be disqualified if it were), but let's review the numbers quickly:

1- Number of terrorist attacks in Europe in 2005 (the bombings in London.)

34,131- Number of insurgent attacks in Iraq in 2005. About 8,000 more than the 26,496 attacks the year before.

But clearly, we can see that Europe is on the verge of falling into the hands of radical Islamists while Iraq makes its historic shift to a peaceful, secular and democratic country. I've really got to stop reading right-wing blogs...

DESPITE ALL THE APOCALYPTIC chatter in the pundit and blogger class, both on the left and the right, we are not headed to war with Iran. I'm getting pretty fed up with it. It's not gonna happen, and you all know it. Everyone just chill out.

Problem is, I think people on both sides just like chattering about it a lot. For liberals, "proving" that Bush is about to attack Iran backs up their worldview that Bush is crazy (as if we needed more evidence). For conservatives, arguing that we should gear up for war with Iran backs up their, well, crazy worldview. For both sides, just discussing the topic generates welcome attention. But it seems pretty clear that Bush has neither the capability nor the will to pull off an attack, which is good because the situation surely does not warrant one.

As liberal pundits and bloggers struggle to outdo one another to find the smoking gun that Bush is about to attack Iran (remember, for chrissakes, that Seymour Hersh is not God and has been wrong before), the arguments get increasingly sillier. Consider this argument today from Hooman Majd on the Huffington Post: he writes that since Bush "has formulated his foreign policy (and he hopes his legacy) largely in terms of bringing American-style democracy to the Middle East, it is difficult to imagine President Bush willing to leave office with a far more powerful and stable Islamic Republic."

Puh-leeze. To support such an argument, you have to believe in two of the most ridiculous myths about why Bush invaded Iraq. First, no matter what Bush says, he didn't do it for democracy, so don't give him the courtesy of repeating his lie as fact. You're working for the Huffington Post, not CNN, ABC, Fox, CBS, NBC, CNN, etc. Second, no matter what Maureen Dowd says, he didn't do it as an egotistical thing, some sort of macho showdown with Saddam. So needless to say, he won't invade Iran for democracy or to safegaurd his ego, either.

ON MONDAY, I apparently missed a event in Philadelphia honoring right-wing Middle East historian Bernard Lewis, with speeches delivered by Dick Cheney and Joe Biden. In other news, I did not rip out my right eye with a spoon yesterday.

WHEN YOU KEEP rattlesnakes in your room, sometimes they keep your enemies out. Sometimes, if you're not careful, they bite you.

"Romney’s candidacy may face an unfair religious test."

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Seriously Flawed Commencement Choice

Sorry for the lack of posting lately. Finals seasons is upon us, so papers and exams are currently demanding most of my time. The following is an op-ed I wrote slated to be published in The Justice student newspaper on Tuesday:

Last year, the Class of 2005 had the opportunity to listen to Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Justice Margaret Marshall deliver the keynote address at its commencement. A South Africa native, Marshall was an outspoken opponent of apartheid while growing up. In 2003, Marshall wrote the majority opinion in the court case that mandated equal marriage rights for same-sex couples in Massachusetts.

This year, however, the Brandeis administration has apparently decided to reverse course. After choosing a woman who has devoted her life to furthering civil rights, the University has now chosen a man who has spent his life denying people’s rights. Addressing the Class of 2006 will be Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, a major power in that country’s monarchy. Prince El Hassan has been a leading deputy to the Jordanian throne since the 1960s, and was the heir apparent to former King Hussein until 1999 when Talal’s nephew King Abdullah II assumed the crown. With his longtime role as a prominent voice in the king’s inner circle, Prince El Hassan is inextricably involved in the Jordanian government’s questionable human rights record and suppression of political opponents.

During Prince El Hassan’s long tenure as a leader in the Jordan, the kingdom has been consistent in repressing political opposition, censoring newspapers and swiftly punishing dissenters of all stripes. Criticizing the royal family (Prince El Hassan included) is a serious crime that will likely land the offender in jail and at the mercy of the regime’s torturous intelligence services.

Moreover, despite claims of liberalization by the Jordanian royal family, Human Rights Watch notes the existence of “continuing serious rights abuses in Jordan.” According to an Amnesty International report, the monarchy can freely detain its citizens without charges, and suspects in state custody are often tortured. The report also notes that so-called “honor killings” of women persist in Jordan, and the government has largely condoned the practice, treating male murderers with only a slap on the hand.

If you were to read the fawning description of Prince El Hassan on the Brandeis website, however, you would not know any of this. In the press release announcing the prince as a speaker and recipient of an honorary degree (just like the one the Dalai Lama was given in 1998), the prince is portrayed as a progressive intellectual, not as a man who has played an instrumental role in shaping the policies of a repressive government. The Brandeis press release dwells mostly upon the work he has supposedly done to advance religious freedom, lauding him as “a leading international advocate of interfaith dialogue and understanding.”

Indeed, Prince El Hassan has spoken frequently of religious tolerance, but the record of his government belies this.

The 2002 International Religious Freedom Report issued by the U.S. State Department reveals a number of alarming things. In Jordan, as in Afghanistan where the prosecution of Christian convert Abdul Rahman generated international outrage a few weeks ago, Muslims are forbidden from converting to other faiths. The government appoints imams and forbids them from preaching anything inconsistent with the views of the government. Muslim opponents of the regime are frequently detained with baseless accusations of terrorism. Furthermore, members of the Druze and Baha’i minority faiths in Jordan routinely face discrimination, with the government embarking on a vicious campaign to officially deny and suppress the religions. I wonder how Prince El Hassan explains that when he attends his international conferences on religious understanding.

Although Jordan is considered a “moderate” government by Middle East standards—meaning that it looks good in comparison to Syrian Ba’athists or Saudi Islamists, which isn’t that difficult—it is a reactionary, repressive state in regards to political freedom, human rights and women’s rights. By inviting a prominent Jordanian government figure, Brandeis is engaging in an unfortunate but all too typical form of condescension toward Arabs. Put another way, if the British or French governments were as repressive and undemocratic as Jordan’s, Brandeis would certainly not be interested in inviting a British or French leader. The Arab world, however, is held to a different standard, one that acts as though universal human rights mean a different thing to people in the Middle East. Thus, Arab regimes such as Jordan’s are given a pat on the head as long as they make show reforms while running closed autocratic states.

Brandeis would be well-advised to reverse its decision to welcome Prince El Hassan as a commencement speaker. For a university founded upon the principles of justice and tolerance, and with a proud history of human rights activism and social conscience, this choice is odd at best and offensive at worst. Both the Class of 2006 and the entire University deserve better.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Much Ado About Rummy

It’s clear that Donald Rumsfeld needs to be replaced as Secretary of Defense. Nonetheless, I find his critics just as annoying as I find him.

As many have pointed out recently, the retired generals calling for his head have little credibility. Even though we live in a bizarre age in which civilian Pentagon leaders are more hawkish and even nuttier than the generals, civilians still control the military. This is the law of the land, and rightfully so. Generals therefore serve at the will of civilians and have no say over who their civilian bosses are. Moreover, if the generals really wanted to change the policies, they should have pushed for change while they were still serving. True, they probably would have been punished for speaking out, but if they really feel the way they do, they should have put their country before their jobs.

Even more frustrating than the retired generals are the war hawk pundits who are out to cover their own asses by pretending that Rumsfeld messed the war up, as though the whole thing wasn’t inherently messy. The war these pundits support is a fictional one in which nothing goes wrong. The fact that things did not go as well as planned reflects more on the nature of war as an ugly, uncontrollable beast and less on the planners of the war themselves. Yes, Rumsfeld and Co. made errors in carrying out the war, but no one could have won this war. In case no one remembers Vietnam, one of the lessons of it was that you can’t defeat a million angry peasants with small arms. It doesn’t matter how technologically advanced your army is if you are trying to illegally occupy a hostile land.

A perfect example of this kind of silly “The war was brilliant in my head but Rumsfeld botched it” argument comes from the Washington Post’s David Ignatius, whose support for the war has been unwavering from the start. In an op-ed called “Replace Rumsfeld,” Ignatius rehashes typical criticisms of Rumsfeld’s war planning – that we didn’t have enough troops and that we shouldn’t have disbanded Saddam’s army.

Ignatius is right in that Rumsfeld’s strategy of a light force did not work. But would more troops have made a difference? I think the answer is clearly no. Escalation did not work in Vietnam, and it wouldn’t have worked in Iraq. Again, it doesn’t matter how big and mighty your force is if the locals don’t want you there. More troops would just mean more targets for insurgents and more difficulty in eventually pulling them out.

Ignatius is also right that disbanding the Iraqi army angered Sunnis and left a lot of ex-soldiers angry and vulnerable for recruitment by insurgents. But c’mon, let’s have a little historical perspective. When we invaded in 2003, we were much more worried about inflaming the Shi’ites, and rightly so. They are the larger religious sect and are a potent and well-organized force, one that will clearly dictate the future of Iraq. Saddam’s army had been brutalizing the Shi’ites for years, and by leaving it intact we would have set off an immediate Shi’ite insurgency. We would also have lost all credibility in our de-Ba’athification campaign, because how can you try to hold the old regime to account when you’ve re-hired all their old generals and head torturers?

Finally, as though he was just relishing for a chance to prove his own incompetence, Ignatius concludes by suggesting that Joe Lieberman would make a good replacement for Rumsfeld. The apparent reasoning is that Rumsfeld’s act can only be followed by the one man in the country more out of touch on the war than Rumsfeld himself.

Make no mistake – Iraq was a failed war from the beginning, and changing tactics would have just led to different kinds of failures. It doesn’t matter how much hawkish pundits complain; their support for the war led us to where we are. And it doesn’t matter what retired generals have to say, either, because they don’t control the military, and they passed their chance to try to change its direction.

Furthermore, the criticism of Rumsfeld for his war planning grossly overlooks his real crime, the normalization of abuse and torture. In just five years, he turned the US into a torture empire, one with a human rights record rivaling third-world dictatorships.

Stepping down as Defense Secretary is just the first step. Rumsfeld needs to stand before The Hague and face trial for overseeing the creation of a network of prisons where evidence, charges, trials and lawyers have been replaced with torture. Rumsfeld deserves the kind of just legal proceeding that he would not grant his prisoners all over world.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Today's Journey into the Bizarre

VIRGINIA SENATOR and likely Republican presidential candidate George Allen is such a man of the people, he emphasizes that he cuts his own grass. Moreover, he says "uses a John Deere 155 lawn tractor on his acre while listening to NASCAR with earphones."

I'm sorry, but anyone who can find a car race on the radio interesting lacks the intellectual capacity to be president. It's boring enough on TV. Next time the Senator needs entertainment, I suggest a nice ball of yarn. I also hear that repeatedly zipping and unzipping one's jacket is fun.

MY VOYEURISTIC TENDENCIES cause me to explore the right-wing blogosphere every now and then. I usually discover some pretty weird stuff, and today's journey to the National Review's blog, the Corner, was no exception.

The Corner's John Derbyshire, a man best known for open hatred of gays and public announcements that he doesn't care about foreign lives, wrote an interesting little post today. Challenging the critics who charge that border enforcement is too difficult, he reminds us that we're a "can-do nation" that achieves such tasks as "bringing democracy to the Middle East." Oh yeah, how's that working out?

On a similar note, Andrew Sullivan (who is actually quite interesting and worth reading, even if his neo-con views drive me nuts) fought off war critics today and said that the simple explanation for the war in Iraq is 9/11.

That sound you hear is me banging my head on my desk. Hard.

DOES CNN NOT REALIZE that somewhere in Pakistan this year, a school was painted? But they don't tell those stories, no, because they're lazy and biased.

AND WHY DOES MSNBC only talk about divisions in French society? Why don't they talk about how many people voted in elections there? I demand pictures of French women with purple fingers!

TOM DeLAY is not just Jesus; he is also Martin Luther King Jr. Tomorrow he will claim that he is Gandhi.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

(Almost) Spring Break Blogging

TOM DeLAY is being persecuted because he loves Jesus. Cynthia McKinney was racially profiled, and singled out for her hairstyle and liberal views. As for me, I only got an F in Algebra 2 in 10th grade because I had a lot of pimples and because I'm one-sixteenth Chilean. The reasons my teacher gave for grading me the way she did -- that I “did zero homework assignments,” “turned in blank tests,” and “often disrupted class with loud snoring”-- were nothing but a thinly-veiled disguise for her rabid bigotry.

THE U.S. IS BUILDING 125 new nuclear weapons. Remind me again why we’re angry at Iran?

…AND THE U.S. continues to have by far the world’s highest incarceration rate. Remind me again why non-violent drug offenders go to prison?

IN A MUST-READ Washington Monthly article entitled “Not as Lame as You Think,” the indispensable Amy Sullivan raises a lot of good points.

First, she points out that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are actually doing a much better job as opposition leaders than liberal critics (especially bloggers) have given them credit for. This is a point I’ve tried to make a few times before. While there have no doubt been occasions over the last two years when Democrats could have and should have put up more of a fight, they’ve actually been quite successful in blocking most of Bush’s atrocious agenda. Don’t believe me? Then let me know what major new policy initiatives Bush has been able to pass since his re-election. To me, it’s clear that his agenda has basically been derailed.

Second, she correctly notes that it has become a media narrative that Democrats are weak and divided. In truth, congressional Democrats are relatively united and fighting harder that it appears, and have actually voted in unison more often than the Republican caucus. She also argues correctly that the media often credits “moderate” Republican defectors for derailing Bush’s agenda, instead of the united and on-message Democratic caucus that has forced Republicans to defect for fear of the political consequences.

I personally recoil frequently when I read the many invectives on liberal blogs trashing Democratic leaders. And sadly, such criticisms are all over. When Nancy Pelosi posted on Daily Kos a few weeks ago, she was flooded with angry, general comments questioning her will to fight. (Sorry--can't find link).

I think liberals tend to do this because they’re in a pre-2004 mindset, if you will. After September 11 and until Bush’s re-election, it’s true that congressional Democrats just gave up any idea of resistance and let Bush get away with some of the most awful governance in this country’s history. That’s why I still think the best thing that happened in the 2004 elections was the defeat of Tom Daschle, whose legacy is one of incompetence and submission. Democrats, I think, were still so angry about the Daschle Democrats that they never gave Reid a chance. So far, he’s done a pretty damn good job, and his biggest test will be the midterm elections. Give him a chance to succeed before criticizing him; he’s earned it.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Stating the Obvious

BILL FRIST, man of curiosity: "There are 3 million people every year coming across our borders illegally. We don't know who they are; we don't know what their intentions are."

In case no one else has yet informed him, let me be the first: the answers to his questions are a) they're Mexicans, and b) they're coming here to work.

I DON'T UNDERSTAND why they only report the bad news in Canada. Why is it that we hear about every bombing, but we don't hear stories about schools being built and people with purple fingers?

Friday, March 31, 2006

The Media's Focus on the Negative

If we lose the war against kidnappers and sexual predators, we’ll have the media to blame. Every day, literally thousands of young white women and girls in quiet suburban and exurban towns attend school, soccer practice, and church and nothing bad happens to them. Nonetheless, the media only pays attention to the white girls who go missing. This not only paints an inaccurate picture of the situation facing white girls, but it also causes Americans to become needlessly pessimistic and prone to cutting and running, undermining our fight against those who prey upon our nation’s females of good, Aryan stock.

When Natalee Holloway, a young white girl from the real-America state of Alabama, went missing in Aruba last summer, the media storm was massive. Cable news channels gave round-the-clock coverage of the affair, with both CNN and Fox routinely overemphasizing the tragedy. Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity were the worst, consistently leading with the story and focusing on it relentlessly. What pundits such as O’Reilly and Hannity did not do, however, was report just how many white girls from Alabama did not go missing in Aruba that summer.

Indeed, many other young women from Natalee’s graduating class spent the summer engaged in wholesome Christian activities, doing so in complete safety. Many of these girls were just as young and Caucasian as Natalee, but the media completely ignored their stories. These girls not only attended freshly re-built and painted schools, but also attended them unveiled. Some even turned 18 that year, and gained the opportunity to ritualistically color their fingers purple. But what did Sean Hannity have to say about this? Not a single peep. The media is simply unwilling to dig up positive stories about unharmed white women.

Sadly, the Holloway case is not the only one the media has obsessed over. The media’s negative reporting on the conditions of young white women was seen when similarly well-bred white women and girls such as Laci Peterson, Jennifer Wilbanks, and Elizabeth Smart went missing, to name just a few. Despite the high-profile coverage of the suffering faced by such suburban lasses, I can assure you that the majority of white women were not, in fact, kidnapped and harmed during the same time frame.

The fact that media figures such as Bill O’Reilly give such prominent, negative coverage to the few white women who go missing seriously weakens our fight against predators. There is little to explain this kind of biased coverage, other than pure, simple hatred of young white women. If only Bill O’Reilly would report that over half of our nation’s white girls were not abducted in the past few years, we would not be facing such out-of-control kidnappings. History will record that the war against abductors of young women was not lost by those on the ground fighting it, but rather by a hateful media that secretly rooted for their failure.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Wednesday Roundup

ABSOLUTELY HILARIOUS: A Washington Post reporter braves the frontlines of the “War on Christians” to update us on the progress of the conference:

Another Jewish speaker, Michael Horowitz, told the conference that the "Christian decency of this country" saved him from becoming "a bar of soap" in Nazi Germany.
"You guys have become the Jews of the 21st century," said Horowitz, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, just before a false alarm interrupted his speech. Several attendees called the fire alarm suspicious, though a hotel spokesman said it resulted from a mechanical problem in a distant location.

Then the black helicopters came -- black helicopters filled with transgendered, Bible-burning, Hollywood Jews. And all the Christians were rounded up, and given the choice of renouncing Jesus or being tossed into a meat grinder.

It’s hard out there for a paranoid Jesus freak.

BEFORE LONG, when Republicans wish to declare their candidacy for higher office, they will forgo a rally and a speech. Instead, they will invite the media to a small farm field where they keep a gay person tied to a post, and with cameras rolling, hit the poor bastard repeatedly with a baseball bat.

AN INTERVIEW with reformed neo-con Francis Fukuyama:
DER SPIEGEL ONLINE: How is the United States doing in the battle for hearts and minds?

FUKUYAMA: Not well.

Only Thomas Friedman’s mustache can save us now.

AN INTERESTING peek into the bizzarre world of Bill O'Reilly.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Vacation's Over

A UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA study shows atheists to be America’s least-liked and least-trusted minority:
American’s increasing acceptance of religious diversity doesn’t extend to those who don’t believe in a god, according to a national survey by researchers in the University of Minnesota’s department of sociology.

From a telephone sampling of more than 2,000 households, university researchers found that Americans rate atheists below Muslims, recent immigrants, gays and lesbians and other minority groups in “sharing their vision of American society.” Atheists are also the minority group most Americans are least willing to allow their children to marry.

Even though atheists are few in number, not formally organized and relatively hard to publicly identify, they are seen as a threat to the American way of life by a large portion of the American public. “Atheists, who account for about 3 percent of the U.S. population, offer a glaring exception to the rule of increasing social tolerance over the last 30 years,” says Penny Edgell, associate sociology professor and the study’s lead researcher.

Oddly enough, though, we’re not the ones holding conferences to whine about how we’re under attack. From Christianity Today:

The War On Christians And The Values Voter in 2006 Conference will be held March 27-28 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.
...

Keynote speakers at the conference include: Sen. John Cornyn, Sen. Sam Brownback, Alan Keyes, Gary Bauer, Rep. Tom DeLay, Phyllis Schlafly and Vision America President Dr. Rick Scarborough.

A SEPARATE STUDY, conducted by the Pew Research Center, found that both Catholics and evangelicals are more likely than “secular” Americans to justify and condone torture by the U.S. in its Endless War against an Abstract Concept (EWAC).

Yet we non-believers are the mistrusted ones. We’re supposed to be the ones without morals.

DONALD RUMSFELD says the U.S. deserves a D or D+ grade for its performance in the fabled “War of Ideas” in the Islamic world.

As far as I can see, there is only one solution to this problem: We must deploy Thomas Friedman’s mustache to the Middle East. The longer we wait to do this, the more perilous the situation will become.

SOMEONE once said something about those with a plank in their eye and those with speck in their eye, and criticism thereof. I can’t remember who said it, or the details. But anyway…

Tennessee State Rep. Debra Maggart justifies her opposition to gay adoption, saying:
We also have seen evidence that homosexual couples prey on young males and have, in some instances, adopted them in order to have unfretted (sic) access to subject them to a life of molestation and sexual abuse.
On a related note, Catholic Charities in Boston recently announced it would no longer participate in adoption services because the state will not allow them to discriminate against potential adoptive parents for their sexual orientation.

Yes, this is a debate I’d like to have. Where is a child more likely to be molested? With gay adoptive parents or with the Catholic Church in Boston?

THE NATIONAL DEBT CLOCK in Times Square, lacking the requisite amount of space to hold the fourteen digits needed to display tens of trillions, is on pace to be maxed out within two years.

How convenient that it will happen in early 2008, when those responsible for such a fiscal atrocity will all be busy campaigning for the Republican nomination for President, probably on platforms of deficit reduction. Oh my, won’t that be awkward.

CASPAR WEINBERGER is dead. Thousands of Nicaraguans are still dead.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Blogged Out

When I started this blog (a little over a year ago now), it was largely for both the outlet and the space it provided me to sound off and explore different ideas that I couldn't explore by writing op-eds for the campus paper. More than that, though, it was also because I was looking for something productive to do with the long hours that I was spending doing little but reading newspapers and blogs and getting my blood pressure up.

Long story short, the last few weeks have been perhaps the busiest of my life, so time to read and write about politics has been hard to come by. Thanks to all who check my site sporadically, anyway. All I can say is that more posts will come soon, as things should slow down a bit in April.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Howard Dean, Meet Jane Roe

There's been a rash of stories lately about Democratic disarray and the party's fruitless search for unity and a message in the run-up to the midterm elections this November. For certain New York Times and Washington Post reporters, it has become something of a cottage industry. This type of media coverage, rife with dubious conventional wisdom, clichés, and quotes from anonymous D.C. insider sources, is as irritating as is it typical. Nonetheless (and perhaps most irritating of all), the reports that Democrats lack clarity and focus are generally true.

What was once a proud party that unabashedly advanced environmentalism, the anti-poverty programs of the New Deal and Great Society, and a woman's right to choose is now stuck cowering in fear of the Karl Rove machine. As Iraq so plainly demonstrates, Democrats are uncomfortable taking a firm stand on just about anything, no matter how much the public agrees with them.

But you've all heard this criticism before. If you're reading this, it means that you read blogs, so chances are high that you've read many an exhortation for Democratic spinal fortitude. So why is this relevant now, you ask? Just look at South Dakota, where abortion was declared illegal on Monday.

Poll after poll after poll has shown that vast majorities of Americans support Roe vs. Wade. Less than two months ago, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll found that 66% of Americans want to uphold the landmark 1973 ruling, while just 25% would like to see it overturned. No matter how anti-choice activists spin it, there's a consensus in this country that safe and legal abortion should be defended and preserved. Despite this, Democrats have treated abortion rights as a losing political issue, internalizing the criticism of the radical right-wing lobby.

After the passage of the South Dakota law, Republicans with presidential ambitions, including supposed moderates like John McCain and Mitt Romney, have been falling all over themselves to endorse it. Democrats, meanwhile, seem caught off guard and afraid to talk about it until James Carville sends them their weekly, centrist talking points. While Republicans wear their opposition to abortion on their sleeves, Democrats often seem uncomfortable discussing the issue. Furthermore, when they do discuss it, they stray away from firm language in favor of nuance; much like John Kerry did in 2004. Nuanced views, however, not only leave pro-choice voters unsure and unenthused but also fail to win over any anti-choicers, who see little grey area when it comes to fetuses.

Sadly, the Democrats feel they have reason to fear, no matter what the polling numbers are. After all, the anti-choice crowd has proven time and time again that they are organized, single-minded, and devoted to criminalizing abortion. Backers of a woman's right to choose, however, have been taking Roe vs. Wade for granted. With a majority of Americans voting for George W. Bush in 2004, one can only conclude that a large number of pro-choicers cast a ballot for a man who would make a coat hanger a gynecological instrument. Anti-choicers, meanwhile, will almost unanimously back anti-abortion politicians even if costs them their Social Security checks.

History provides us with numerous examples in which a radical, zealous minority has been able to achieve its aims despite its numbers. These minorities win not because of public support, but because the opposition is lackadaisical, inattentive, and insufficiently committed to defending its values.

Although I doubt it, such a scenario could play out in America, whereby a motivated and organized quarter of the population forces its warped concept of morality on the masses. For the majority to prevail, it will take a renewed commitment to Roe created by a climate of insecurity that forces voters to take their pro-choice stances more seriously. That's where the Democrats come in.

The conventional wisdom on Bill Clinton's victory in 1992 holds that economic uncertainty and the candidacy of Ross Perot propelled the Arkansas Democrat into the Oval Office. While I do not disagree with this analysis, I think that the role of abortion in the election must be seriously considered. In the backdrop of the election was a Supreme Court in a defining transitional period, grassroots anti-choice activism that climaxed with 1991's "Summer of Mercy," and a Republican base that was itching badly to see serious abortion restrictions after twelve years of Republican control of the executive. All over our culture, abortion seemed at the forefront of the political debate. These factors resulted in a revived pro-choice movement, one that suddenly saw its greatest surge in activism since the 1970's. Entertainers and media figures spoke out on the issue frequently, and an abortion rights rally in 1992 drew nearly one million people to the National Mall in D.C.

Guess what the result at the ballot box was? Women voters and candidates were so mobilized in 1992 that the election was dubbed the "Year of the Woman" in politics. With his huge victory, Bill Clinton was no doubt a beneficiary of this, winning a large majority of women with his pro-choice stance. As Democrats focus on 1994 as a precedent for taking over Congress, perhaps they should also examine the lessons of 1992.

With the mobilization of pro-choice voters in 1992 in mind, Democrats must not hesitate to make support for abortion rights central to their campaigns. The problem in the past has not been that Democrats have been too loud in their support for abortion rights-- it's that they've been too quiet. When abortion is a major issue in a campaign, one that energizes and engages voters, Democrats will benefit. Anti-choice voters are always energized over abortion, so whipping up pro-choice sentiment will not cause any more of them to turnout.

Instead of talking meekly about supporting abortion rights although personally opposing the procedure, instead of talking about wanting to find common ground and reduce the number of abortions, Democrats should be stridently and unapologetically pro-choice. No matter how well-intentioned such language is, it's unnecessary. Democrats should use the rhetoric of coat hangers and back alleys, and talk about not wanting the female genitalia to become the property of state, overseen by Dick Cheney and James Dobson. And they should talk about abortion all the time.

The events that have transpired in the past week in the Great Plains should cause Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Rahm Emmanuel to drop to their knees and thank Gawd. They've been searching for winning issues for months, and the South Dakota legislature and Gov. Mike Rounds just dropped one on their laps. By banning abortion, South Dakotans have created a great political opportunity both for Democrats and for defenders of a woman's right to choose. This is not just an opportunity to build the Democratic Party, but also an opportunity to further the pro-choice movement in general, which will always win when it can mobilize voters. It's a win-win situation for Democrats and women alike. The South Dakota GOP has decided to bring the abortion battle to the forefront of media and society, and now is the time for pro-choice Americans to hunker down in the trenches and fight back-- hard.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Black Coffee Blogging

HILARIOUS UPDATE: That thing I posted on Thursday about Jerry Falwell saying Jews can go to Heaven? Oops. Falwell says a Jerusalem Post reporter made the whole thing up, that he's still firm in his belief that the Chosen people will burn in hellfires for eternity. Do you hear that Paul Wolfowitz? He means you.

God, of course, is still firm in his belief that Jerry is going to hell.

I'M A BIG FAN of Chris Cillizza's poltical news blog, The Fix at washingtonpost.com. But when he calls Joe Biden "an articulate spokesman for the party especially on foreign policy," I wonder just how many days he's been awake taking hallucinogenic drugs. Joe Biden is articulate in the same way that Jerry Falwell is sane.

Very busy with real-life duties n' whatnot. Hopefully, more posts soon.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Red Pepper Blogging

Couldn't think of a good title, so I decided to name it after what I was eating while working on the post. Perhaps a new tradition has been born.

THE SPRING CANVASS for MassEquality begins next week, so it's back to work I go. The Massachusetts Family Institute can kiss my ass and/or relocate to Kansas. Our state will have a discrimination-free constitution, thankyouverymuch.

HOW CUTE. They learn so fast.

Kerry Healey, Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts and Republican candidate for governor in 2006, is getting the hang of running for office as a Republican in Massacusetts. Just tell the people you're a social liberal, whether that's the truth or not.

On Monday, she issued a statement backing stem-cell research, breaking from Romney's position. (And when I say Romney's position, I mean the one he's using now that he's running for President). On Wednesday, she attacked South Dakota's abortion ban and described herself to an audience as "extremely pro-choice." Next week, she will declare herself a proud member of the ACLU and People for the American Way, and two months from now she will be seeking the endorsement of NAMBLA.

AND NOW for a preview of what Healey will be like after she decides to run for President following a few years of being governor:

Joan Venocchi has a great op-ed in the Globe about the Mitt-ster's flip-flopping ways. To paraphrase:

1994, while running for against Ted Kennedy for Senator in Massachusetts:

"I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country."

A few years later, after moving back to Utah:

''I do not wish to be labeled prochoice."

2002, while running for governor of Massachusetts:

''I believe women should have the right to make their own choice."

And he's not talking about choosing car insurance.

2006, while unofficially running for President:

"This week, Romney spokesman Julie Teer told the Boston Herald that if Romney were governor of South Dakota, he would sign a bill that outlaws abortion even in cases of rape or incest."

Can South Dakota take him? Please?

And that exhausts my Mitt Romney and Kerry Healey-bashing for the day. Be sure to tune in tomorrow, when I quote Calvin and Hobbes to call them "a pair of pathetic peripatetics."

JERRY FALWELL has changed his mind and decided that Jews can, in fact, go to Heaven.

God has not changed his mind; He stills plans to send ol’ Jerry to Hell.

And that concludes my Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell-bashing until the next time one of them says something stupid or tries to interpret the will of the gods. Be sure to tune in two minutes from now, when Pat Robertson next opens his mouth.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Another Day, Another Dose of Cynicism

SHOCKING HEADLINE of the day:

"Romney shifts on adoption by gays"

If Mitt Romney thought that publicly sacrificing a puppy would make him more appealing to the GOP's Christian bigot base, Boston-area animal shelters would have to deadbolt their doors and board up their windows. And you could forget about taking Snoopy for a walk on Boston Common, given its proximity to the Statehouse.

THE NEW REPUBLIC'S circulation has dropped by 40 percent in the past four years, while The Nation's circulation has rapidly climbed and surpassed it. This may be the one casualty of the Iraq War worth celebrating.

It's no doubt a good sign that liberals are shifting their reading prefernces in this way. TNR is so hopelessly out of touch, it endorsed Joe Lieberman in the 2004 Democratic primary. I don't know if Joe Lieberman's wife even endorsed him. If Franklin Foer, the new TNR editor, continues his magazine's support for Mess-O-Potamia, then no one should ever buy it again. Hell, I don't think anyone should buy it no matter what it does. I'd rather read The Weekly Standard or The National Review and get my conservative news & opinion from a source that doesn't try to pass itself off as a liberal one.

A NEW SurveyUSA POLL shows the approval ratings of every Senator. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza, analyzing the polls, calculates that the average Senator has a 52% approval vs. 36% disapproval rating. I fail to understand how Senators in general could have such high ratings. I personally approve of only a dozen or so Senators, and I don't see what makes a majority of people in most states like their leaders so much. Congress as a monolith continues to have terrible ratings (I think 28% percent approval last I saw), but individual legislators seem to be doing fine. And what's up with McCain and Obama being the two most popular statistically? I fail to see what makes these two so special.

OUR DEAR LEADER told Hamid Karzai that the progress of Afghanistan is "inspiring others." I agree. He is clearly referring to those who have been inspired to invest in the opium trade in the past few years.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

More Miscellany

MITT ROMNEY has been unofficially campaigning for President a lot lately, and recently spoke to a group of Republicans in South Carolina. He told the crowd that he was completely anti-abortion, made his typical derisive remarks about Massachusetts, and used the phrase "thanks, ya'll" after receiving a gift. All this after years of campaigning in Massachusetts as a pro-choice, socially liberal Republican. If Romney was running for elected office in Saudi Arabia, he would make jokes about Israel and the US and state that he unequivocally opposed a woman's right to drive. Whatever the electorate wants to hear, Mitt's ready to say it.

WHENEVER anyone suggests that we should pull out of Iraq, a right-winger will inevitably accuse them of undermining our troops. So why do our troops want so badly to undermine themselves?

"Most Troops Think They Should Leave Iraq"

MY COMPADRE JOSH emailed me an op-ed about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that Henry Kissinger had written for the Washington Post. Much debate ensued, little of which was related to the op-ed itself. My point is how can I take anything that a war criminal like Henry Kissinger writes seriously? Who cares what he thinks about anything when he's nothing but a thug who contributed to the destruction of Vietnam and basically killed Salvador Allende and other democratic leaders in Chile? His point is who cares about the author of the article if the case it makes is interesting and valid. This raises a larger question, one that has no doubt been debated before: Can an argument still be worth listening to despite its source? I'm divided.

1,300 DEAD in a week in Iraq.

That would be as though roughly 15,000 Americans died in a week, when adjusted for population size. I just feel bad for Dick Cheney; he wanted so badly to rescue the Iraqi people, and his humanitarian mission is deteriorating. He must lose sleep thinking of all the poor, dying Iraqis he tried so nobly to help.

Monday, February 27, 2006

More Monday Morning Moaning

LOVELY:

From Newsday:

Citing new safety assurances, the Environmental Protection Agency has dropped its objections to a plan to treat and dispose of chemical weapon wastewater at a DuPont Co. plant along the Delaware River.

[...]

DuPont has been seeking a lucrative Army contract to treat 2 million to 4 million gallons of chemicals left over from an operating VX nerve agent disposal operation in Newport, Ind. VX is a deadly military nerve agent, capable of quickly killing an adult after exposure to a pinhead-size droplet.

Delaware and New Jersey opposed an earlier version of the plan. Officials expressed concerns that traces of VX, other toxic byproducts and basic pollutants would reach the river even after treatment in DuPont's commercial wastewater operation at its plant near the foot of the Delaware Memorial Bridge in New Jersey.
2 to 4 million gallons of nerve gas disposed of... next to a river? Bush's EPA doing what it does best, I suppose.

Now let's all imagine that instead of the Delaware River in 2006, millions of gallons of VX were found dumped by the Tigris River in 2003. I think we would have had more than a few celebratory speeches about finding WMD, and more than a few condemnations of Saddam for deceitfully and dangerously releasing nerve agents near a major waterway. And just for good measure, we might have even gotten another super-cool aircraft carrier landing.

IRAQ IS A TOTAL MESS, PART 2,784,331:

From The Scotsman: "...in some areas, militants appeared to be engaged in ethnic cleansing."

AND FOR PART 2,784,332:

From The Independent: "Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed each month by death squads attached to the Interior Ministry in Baghdad, the UN's former human rights chief in Iraq has told The Independent on Sunday."

Next semester, Thomas Friedman is offering a class at Brandeis about globalization. I have a good mind to take it, if for no other reason than to just sit in the front row at every lecture and ask him about how his clever little invasion is working out.

However, since the result of the ideas of Friedman and others is ethnic cleansing and death squads (ethnic cleansing and death squads, for chrissake!), saying "I toldja so" won't cut it, as it just isn't appropriate. As for Friedman himself, saying "sorry" just won't cut it, either. But it would be a good start, and much better than the "It all worked so well in my head, but Bush screwed it up" defense. It's war, after all. War is messy, and inherently screwed up. As Bush so nicely put it once, "war is a dangerous place."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Ohio Democrat Blogging

NEW HERO ALERT: The Ohio GOP has proposed barring GLBT people from adopting kids. Democratic State Sen. Robert Hagan calls them "homophobic" and responds with a bill barring registered Republicans from adopting kids. Hagan justifies his bill by arguing that "credible research'' proves kids living in Republican homes experience "emotional problems, social stigmas, inflated egos, and alarming lack of tolerance for others they deem different than themselves and an air of overconfidence to mask their insecurities.'' How cool is that?

MORON ALERT: Charlie Wilson, the Democratic favorite to replace gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland in the 6th District congressional seat, failed to qualify for the upcoming Democratic primary because he did not submit the required 50 signatures. 50 signatures? You can get that many by sending out a team of kids for one afternoon of canvassing. Did his campaign just forget to take this necessary step?

One day, I swear I'm going to stop being surprised by the incompetence of the Ohio Democratic Party, which has been a pathetic, lifeless beast for as long as I can remember. This year represents the best chance Democrats have had in statewide races since the days of Sen. John Glenn. With strong candidates contesting for governor and senator, and an ethically-challenged Ohio GOP, we'd better see some results this year. But if the Wilson case is a sign of things to come, we're in serious trouble. If the state party cannot produce winners this year, then we have to throw the bums out and rebuild the state party from scratch.

OPPORTUNISTIC ASSHOLE ALERT: Paul Hackett could not have possibly withdrawn from the Senate primary against Rep. Sherrod Brown in less graceful way. Despite Brown's more liberal record on the issues (including, interestingly, the Iraq War), I had not chosen a favorite among the two. But by whining and trying to divide the state's Democrats on his way out the door, Hackett proved he was an unworthy candidate all along. It proves he has no devotion to the ideas or to the cause, and was instead just a political opportunist. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. Fortunately, I think by the time November rolls around, people will have forgotten his charade and will have united behind Brown, whose race against Mike DeWine is one of the country's most important Senate showdowns.


Photos of the esteemed blogger himself taken at the WWII Memorial on the National Mall from this week's excursion to DC. The esteemed blogger is in the orange jacket, and is pictured with his three excellent partners-in-road-tripping.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Racism Works, Part 1 Million

In light of the controversial UAE port deal, a new Rasmussen poll shows that 43 percent of Americans now trust Congressional Democrats more on national security, while 41 percent trust President Bush more. If I'm not mistaken, this is the first time since September 11 that Democrats have had such an edge. Maybe even the first time Democrats have polled better on national security in a long time; I don't really know. The poll also found that Americans opposed the port deal by a 64 to 17 percent margin.

So what happened? Although Bush's national security poll numbers have been falling steadily as his War for Terrorist Recruitment spirals out of control in Iraq, he has still maintained a substantial lead over the Democrats on national security matters. The Karl Rove strategy of massive fearmongering and anti-Arab racism has successfully kept Americans frightened and supportive of Bush. So in order to take the national security advantage away from Bush, the Democrats essentially did a better job of using scare tactics and scapegoating minorities.

While there are no doubt legitimate questions about the secretive nature of the deal, the reason this has become an issue is pure, simple anti-Arab racism. The Democrats argument is basically that Arabs as a whole are scary, untrustworthy, and bent on harming America. While I enjoy seeing Bush and his cronies in serious political trouble, it's sad that Dems had to use Bush's own dirty, racist scare tactics on him in order to gain an edge. For all the progress this country has made on issues of tolerance, it never ceases to amaze me how scapegoating minorities (typically blacks, immigrants, Arabs, gays, or a few others) almost always works in politics.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Cheatin' Bible-Thumpers and Anglo-Saxon Tragedies

IN THE SPIRIT of my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about 2008 nominees lately. The other day, I was pondering prospective Republican candidates, and something occurred to me. Of those widely suspected to be running, three have carried on extramarital affairs (John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, and Newt Gingrich). There’s also Bill Frist, whose lifetime accomplishments include insider trading and killing stray cats. Yet, this is the party that will run a campaign based on “moral values.” I guess since our candidates don’t have so much trouble living by moral values, they don’t feel the need to talk about them constantly. Once Republicans are able to remove the plank from their eyes, they need to shut up about everyone else’s specks.

THE NORTH CAROLINA GOP has a novel idea: Let’s get churches to give us their directories so that we can exploit the bigotry of religious voters. We’ll bring them to the polls to vote against gay rights, then we’ll send their kids to Iraq, eliminate their Social Security benefits, and deregulate the factories polluting their air and water.

The indicted former Tom DeLay aide and Jack Abramoff business partner, Michael Scanlon, explained GOP political strategy best in an email a few years ago to a tribal leader, letting him know that he and Ralph Reed would turn out the evangelicals to oppose a rival tribe’s casino bid:

"The wackos get their information through the Christian right, Christian radio, mail, the internet and telephone trees. Simply put, we want to bring out the wackos to vote against something and make sure the rest of the public lets the whole thing slip past them."


STORIES like this are why I read the British press:

“Today Mr Deghayes is one of eight British residents being held in Guantanamo Bay. During his three-and-a-half years' incarceration he has been tortured, held in solitary confinement for months, had his finger smashed, lost the sight in one eye and has resorted to a hunger strike, unable to defend himself in a court.”

They don’t treat US torturers with kid gloves. They don’t substitute “alleged abuses” and “mistreatment” for the word “torture.” They don’t use a different standard for their coverage of human rights abuses in places like China than they use for the same abuses by the US and Britain. Most American journalists are either incapable or unwilling to report the news without a jingoistic slant.

HOW’S THIS for a juxtaposition?

“The world will have 100 million extra hungry people by 2015, scientists say.”

“A new study by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001, and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes concludes that the total costs of the Iraq war could top the $2 trillion mark.”

$2 trillion for a war that does little more than create terrorists and kill civilians. That’s more than the GDP’s of every country in the world, save the US, China, Japan, India, and Germany. How much are we investing to stop such famines? Still proud to be an American?

And you know what may be the worst of all? How many people have even seen these two sparsely-covered stories? And how many have heard about a man in Massachusetts who murdered his wife and daughter? It’s as though American media magnates are constantly searching (no pun intended) for the next Natalee Holloway or the next Scott Peterson, just like record execs look for the next Nirvana or the next Britney Spears. It’s as though there’s no need to cover massive starvation or a $2 trillion war as long as there’s a tragedy that has befallen an idyllic family of Anglo-Saxons.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Looking Ahead to 2008

For political junkies such as yours truly, the speculation over the 2008 presidential race began on November 3, 2004. I've been trying not to obsess over it too much at least before the midterm elections this year, but yesterday I gave up and decided to feed the addiction. The trigger was seeing the 2008 Straw Poll on MyDD.com, made up of a list of people widely believed to be running.

After hanging my own chad in the blog's balloting, I felt it was time to properly analyze the candidates. Below are my ratings of the 11 potential candidates according to MyDD, rated on a scale on 1 to 10 on both their substance and their electability. The ideal candidate, of course, would be one who has both strong progressive views (substance) and broad appeal (electability). The best candidate is therefore the one who finishes with the highest total score of substance and electability combined. Starting with the highest rated candidate, here goes my list:

Sen. Russell Feingold - Total Rating: 17.5

Substance: Hard to beat Feingold in this regard. The only one to vote against the Patriot Act in the post-September 11 frenzy, a fervent opponent of the war, and an all-around good, ol' fashioned Wisconsin progressive. Rating: 9

Electability: His opponent will no doubt try to paint him as liberal extremist, out of the mainstream, yadda yadda yadda. But will it work? My guess is no. Feingold is nobody's puppet, and no extremist. He has voted for right-wing judges, teamed up with the oh-so popular John McCain on campaign finance, and generally demonstrated a fiery independent streak. His history also speaks to this. When he ran for re-election in 2004 against a Republican Gulf War vet, the unpatriotic liberal charges didn't stick. Besides his political views, he is also very charismatic and good-looking, two factors that probably count more than anything else in winning "swing voters." Rating: 8.5

Fmr. Gov. Mark Warner - Total Rating: 14.5

Substance: He was a pretty moderate governor, but also a very effective one, well-respected by most Virginians and able to keep the state's fiscal house in order like most governors have been unable to do lately. I'll be curious to see how he positions himself as the primaries approach. Rating: 5

Electability: Damn good, overall. He's a Virginian, young, well-spoken, and good-looking. He's already demonstrated the ability to win in a red state, and being a governor is always better than being in Congress when you're running for president. He also has a corporate background as a brilliant executive, which people seem to like, surprisingly enough. Rating: 9.5

Fmr. Gen. Wesley Clark - Total Rating: 13

Substance: Total wild card. The guy's never held office, so he has no voting record, and he's never taken firm stances on most pressing issues. Every time I've seen him talk about issues, he never seems particularly conservative or liberal. I'm also divided in my opinion of his military background, since that sort of thing usually makes me suspicious. On the other hand, though, it would also mean that he wouldn't have to constantly prove his toughness, as I'm sure someone like Hillary Clinton would. Rating: 4

Electability: It doesn't get any better than a general in this regard. Although I'm sure it would come out in the course of a campaign that he faked his wounds in Vietnam and was actually a Viet Cong operative, the military background is still a big plus. And it also means that he has no voting record for Republicans to distort. While he's not extremely inspiring, he still has some charisma and seems comfortable in his own skin. Rating: 9

Gov. Bill Richardson - Total Rating: 12

Substance: He's run New Mexico in a pretty moderate way, and without real distinction. Like Clark and Warner, he doesn't strike me as too conservative but it wouldn't hurt to move a little to the left. Rating: 5

Electability: I tend to think he's pretty electable. He has a somewhat dull personality and a tendency to say weird, off-the-cuff things which could potentially hurt him. But on the bright side, he's a governor and he's from the Southeast, which rivals the Midwest/Great Lakes area as a swing region. The main point, too, is that he could really get out the Hispanic vote for a party that has been hemorrhaging Latino voters in the last few election cycles. Rating: 7

Gov. Tom Vilsack - Total Rating: 9.5

Substance: He comes from the unceasingly irritating DLC School of "If I attack other Democrats constantly for being too liberal, then I can get elected." His last outburst was a few days ago when he attacked the Democrats for criticizing Bush for breaking the law, for Gawd's sake. He doesn't take his DLC-ism quite as far as Lieberman, but then again, not everyone gets to make out with the president on a regular basis. Rating: 2.5

Electability: Relatively good. He's fairly popular in Iowa, a crucial swing state, and he's not a bad orator. Also, he's got an interesting personal story, being an orphan and all. But I'm not so sure that the attacking other Democrats strategy actually works for many people. Rating: 7

Fmr. Sen. John Edwards - Total Rating: 8.5

Substance: The "Two Americas" rhetoric is cute and all, but this guy doesn't do it for me. Like Kerry, his voting pattern shows serious shifting with political winds. Also, his anti-free trade stance just doesn't make sense to me, but I realize that I diverge from most liberals on this one. Still, he does have some redeeming aspects, and is by no means a conservative. Rating: 3.5

Electability: His electability, I think, has been overrated many times before. Just being from the South doesn't win elections by itself. And let's not forget that when he ran for president in 2004, he was abandoning a Senate race in which he was badly trailing. True, he does have good looks (OK, really good looks) and he is charming, but I think his lack of experience and four years out of politics will hurt him. Rating: 5

Sen. Hillary Clinton - Total Rating: 8

Substance: Ick. Blah. While she's in the right place on health care and the environment, two of my pet issues, her stance on the war makes me physically ill. If I were Maureen Dowd (or perhaps the Rude Pundit), I would sum it up like this: For five years we've been dealing with an out-of-control foreign policy because Dick Cheney has insecurity issues about his manhood. The last thing we need is a president who has even more to prove in that regard. If she doesn't get her act together about Iraq, then I have no use for her. Rating: 2

Electability: With her huge fundraising and name recognition, she might be such a sure thing in the primaries, rendering this whole list pointless. But nevertheless, she's not infallible, and if she indeed wins, it will be interesting to see how the national electorate takes to her. I disagree with the conventional pundit wisdom that she's totally unelectable, mostly because I think that being a woman is a plus, since it will galvanize female swing voters and because most of the bigots are already Republicans anyway. Despite this, she has some serious problems. Thanks to years of uncritically repeating Rush Limbaugh-esque attacks on her, the media has incorrectly painted her as too far left, so she could have trouble winning moderates. And on the other side, anyone who's ever checked out the blogosphere knows that liberals can't stand her. Rating: 6

Fmr. Sen. Tom Daschle - Total Rating: 8

Substance: I must confess that I hated his stint as the leader of Senate Democrats. I was actually pleased when he lost in 2004, because it signified a chance for Democrats to move away from his "appease Bush" style of leadership, something Harry Reid has done in some ways though not in others. Currently, Daschle's been trying to get back on the radar by calling for withdrawal from Iraq. What an empty attempt to get back in the good graces of the base. He knew the war was wrong when he gift-wrapped it for Bush back in 2002, and I'm not forgetting or forgiving. Rating: 2.5

Electability: Not terrible. He's been out of politics for a bit too long, but he still has some strengths. Though he lost in 2004, he can win in conservative areas. He has enough looks and charisma to get by, and people might remember his term nostalgically for a time when there was balance in government. Rating: 5.5

Sen. Evan Bayh - Total Rating: 6.5

Substance: Typical middle-America Democratic centrism. Whatever. Rating: 3

Electability: Not too great. His name recognition outside of Indiana is next to zero, and for good reason. He's a guy who just doesn't stand out in a crowd, and lacks the magnetic personality of winners like Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, or Dubya. I predict he will fare like Sen. Bob Graham did in the 2004 primaries, just a no-name who lacks the personality or politics to gain a following. And even Graham had a personality. At least Bayh has no serious problems, just a general weakness. Rating: 3.5

Sen. John Kerry - Total Rating: 5.5

Substance: Although Satan will soon come to collect for Dick Cheney's soul, the gout-ridden V.P. was right on the mark when he ridiculed Kerry for switching his voting patterns when the threat of Howard Dean presented itself. I've said it before and I'll say it again: The Rove-ian talking points about an unprincipled waffler are true. And I know I'm not the only one who saw the pathetic filibuster attempt on Alito as just the first act of trying to gain the base for a primary run. Rating: 2.5

Electability: If at first you don't succeed, dust yourself off and fail again. What a sad embodiment of the Democratic Party's overall problem with this. Rating: 3

Sen. Joe Biden - Total Rating: 4

Substance: Do you have an hour? Do you understand curse words? I'd like to rant. Rating: 1

Electability: Way overrated. People think he has charisma and note that he's from Delaware, which is vaguely middle-American. But the guy's just an insufferable blowhard, and although the stupidity of the electorate never ceases to amaze me, I think most people will be able to see through his lame act. Rating: 3

So there it is. To steal a line from Groucho Marx, those are my opinions, and if you don't like them, well, I have others. Any comments/discussion on this is highly encouraged. I'm really curious to know what other people's thoughts are. Was I wrong about some candidates? Did I leave anyone out? And before you say it, no, Barack Obama is not running. Dream on.

(update) Barack Obama is still not running. Give it up, already. And no, Gore's not running either.

Barbara Boxer? Now you're just being absurd.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Media and Middle East Briefs

Any regular reader of mine would probably know that the media and the Middle East are two of my fixations, and today there was a lot happening on both of these fronts.

RICHARD COHEN at the Washington Post summarizes why we must not have illusions about Hamas:

"But the hard truth is that culture and religion matter, and we should not expect moderation just because that's how we would react. Toto knows the truth. The Middle East is not Kansas."

And thank Allah for that. The last thing the Middle East needs is more Kansas-style religious fundamentalism.

TWO PROFESSORS of Middle East Studies (and bloggers), Juan Cole and As'ad AbuKhalil give their own reactions to Bush's Mideast gibberish in yesterday's State of the Union. They're a lot like what I said, just with a lot more detail and intellectual heft, and in AbuKhalil's case, more wonderful sarcasm.

I urge you to read them both, as Cole and AbuKhalil are two of the best sources for Middle East news and opinion on this side of the Atlantic. Choice excerpts:

Cole: "Bush's main accomplishment in the Middle East since 9/11 has been to strengthen Muslim fundamentalist parties everywhere in the region."

AbuKhalil: "But the lack of seriousness of Bush's "push" for democracies is best exemplified by this sentence: 'Saudi Arabia has taken the first steps of reform -- now it can offer its people a better future by pressing forward with those efforts.' One of the most oppressive states on earth, and certainly the most misogynistic and religiously exclusivist, is praised for cosmetic steps that it took in the last years, and which did not affect the fundamental monopolization of power by an unelected royal family, and their allies in the clerical establishment."

AN INTERESTING piece in Britain's Guardian about a media conference in the Middle East, sponsored by al-Jazeera.

THERE is nothing more irritating to me than when a CNN anchor talks about "Arab opinion," as though Arabs are monolithic. Arabs are one of the most politically and religiously divided people in the world, and to think that they all react the same way to certain events, playing up this myth of an "Arab street," is just plain foolish. CNN also likes to bring on Arab correspondents, typically from the pro-U.S. al-Arabiya station, which mainly functions as a mouthpiece for the Saudi royal family. The mere idea that these journalists can speak for all Arabs is even more ludicrous than the idea that Dick Cheney can speak for all Americans.

BUSH said today that the U.S. would defend Israel against Iran. How pointless and unnecessarily provocative. Even if that is our policy, why state it? Doesn't he know how that sounds to many in the Middle East? Besides, Israel is a big boy, with its own nuclear arsenal and the strongest conventional army in the region. Iran wants no piece of Israel, despite Ahmadinejad's rhetoric. It's just that--rhetoric. Doesn't anyone else realize that the Iranian leader is just using scary talk to frighten his citizens for political gain? Haven't we seen that enough in this country to know how to recognize it?

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Post-SOTU Thoughts

BEFORE the speech, Wolf Blitzer said of Dick Cheney and Dennis Hastert, "They look mighty good there together, don't they?"

Must be the way that Hastert's sagging cheeks reach all the way down to Cheney's gout-ridden foot. Oh my. If anyone could possibly find two uglier, less healthy people, I'd be curious to see.

On second thought, I think I'd prefer not to.

BUSH actually praised alleged democratic reforms in Egypt and Saudi Arabia while criticizing Iran's lack of a democracy. Say what you want about Iran, but it's much more democratic than Mubarak's Egypt or the House of Saud. Also, none of its citizens attacked us on 9/11, something that Egypt and Saudi Arabia can't say.

TERRORISTS now want "weapons of mass murder." They apparently gave up on "weapons of mass destruction" because our fearless leader rid the world of them a few years back.

THE CHANCES that George "Failed Oilman" Bush and Dick "Secret Energy Meetings With Ken Lay" Cheney will end America's addiction to oil are far less than the chances that the two men will design a rocket and fly it to Mars.

A plan to go to Mars? Wasn't that introduced at, let's say, a presidential speech before Congress around this time of year in 2004?

I AGREE that "human life" should never be "devalued." That's why every time one of the sick warmongers in your adminstration uses the phrase "collateral damage," I sell my stocks in human life because the value is driven down.

RONALD REAGAN did not reject "isolation and retreat" as Bush said. He pulled out of Lebanon in the early 1980's after the attack on the Marine barracks, something cited frequently among al-Qaida types for inspiration.

BEST MOMENT of the speech:

"Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security..."

(APPLAUSE)

Yay for the only unscripted moment of the night!

Five Things To Watch For

State of the Union speeches are so scripted, boring, and lie-packed that watching them can can seem downright torturous to anyone who hasn't done time in one of our jails overseas. So to keep things interesting, here are some things I suggest looking out for:

On his way in, will Dubya plant a big wet one on Joe Lieberman's lips or on his cheek?

Which religious charity will the obligatory black person sitting behind Laura Bush represent?

What will be the oh-so compelling personal story of the ordinary soldier who will also be seated in a choice spot?

Which word will be used more: "freedom" or "terror?"

If Bush doesn't directly appeal for it, will God no longer bless the United States?