Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Many senior Democrats are apparently idiots.

The Washington Post, claiming that filibuster reform is dead:
Many senior Democrats, who have watched the majority flip back and forth a half-dozen times in the past 20 years, balked at taking away minority rights, out of fear that Democrats could soon find themselves in the minority.
I have to wonder why those senior Democrats believe that this Congress can constrain a future Republican majority anymore than the current Congress is constrained by the rules written in 1975. The filibuster is going away. The only question is whether it will go away in time for the Democrats to accomplish anything worthwhile.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Facebook: anonymity is for trolls

Julie Zhou of Facebook would like to rid the internet of anonymity:

Some may argue that denying Internet users the ability to post anonymously is a breach of their privacy and freedom of expression. But until the age of the Internet, anonymity was a rare thing. When someone spoke in public, his audience would naturally be able to see who was talking.

Others point out that there’s no way to truly rid the Internet of anonymity. After all, names and e-mail addresses can be faked. And in any case many commenters write things that are rude or inflammatory under their real names.

It's hardly a surprise that a product design manager from Facebook thinks anonymity is something we might all want to get rid of. After all, the company makes money selling personal information and has been notorious for it's lack of concern about it's member's privacy.

Still, it's hard to believe she hasn't heard that even today there are very real reasons for people to write anonymously. And she'll be happy to know that her concerns about anonymous trolls are shared by the governments of Iran, Egypt and China.

But anonymity was rare thing until recently? Has she never heard of Poor Richard? Or Publius?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Of course Democrats should end the filibuster

Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein are worried that the Democrats shouldn't be too hasty about getting rid of the filibuster.

Here's Matt:
The concern I have is that the political timing is wrong.
and here's Ezra:
You can't return from an election in which the public decisively voted for the Republicans and then say that in the interests of democratic governance, you're taking away the tools Senate Republicans use to exert control over legislation.
Of course you can.

Did Mitch McConnell wonder about political timing after he’d lost 14 Senate seats over 2 consecutive elections? No. He decided the new rule was “Every bill needs 60 votes”. And just as quickly, the whole political world agreed with him. He had Tea Parties organized in protest of Obama barely a month after he took the oath of office. Nobody told him his political timing was lousy. And, likewise, nobody but the Republicans will care about the demise of the filibuster a month after it happens.

Here's Ezra again:
my favored option -- is for Democrats to join with Republicans to set rules that will go into place six or eight years from now.
I hate to break it to Ezra, but the Republicans aren't about to join Democrats to make the world a better place. They'll simply wait until they regain the majority and repeal the filibuster all by themselves. If the Democrats don't work every angle to figure out how to govern with 50+ votes then Republicans will get that majority, along with the presidency, in 2012.

Political timing? Seriously? We’re at the edge of another Great Depression. If Democrats are in the majority next January they need to get rid of the filibuster or the government will cease to function. If they hope to keep the majority and the presidency past 2012 they’ll need to solve real problems. That’s political reality.

I don’t know why Matt and Ezra constantly feel the need to be part of the liberal cold water brigade, but if they want to be part of a progressive solution, they'd be better off spending their time dreaming up ways to pass legislation with a mere majority instead of explaining to the rest of us why nothing can be done.

Monday, June 21, 2010

unknown unknowns

From the NYT:
DAVID DUNNING: Donald Rumsfeld gave this speech about “unknown unknowns.” It goes something like this: “There are things we know we know about terrorism. There are things we know we don’t know. And there are things that are unknown unknowns. We don’t know that we don’t know.” He got a lot of grief for that. And I thought, “That’s the smartest and most modest thing I’ve heard in a year.”

Just to keep the record straight, people were laughing at Rumsfeld, because he only discovered "unknown unknowns" when it was completely self-serving to do so. There was nothing he didn't know before the Iraq war became an obvious disaster. Before the war, he told us that we knew Saddam had WMD, we knew he was a real threat to the U.S., we knew he was assisting Al Qaeda, and we knew that the war would be easy and over in a matter of weeks.

Rumsfeld dismissed anyone who doubted the wisdom of starting a second war while we were still fighting in Afghanistan. Not only did he ridicule them, he typically accused them of treason for giving 'aid and comfort' to the enemy.

Rumsfeld was neither smart nor modest in his answer. He was just attempting to deflect responsibility for his failures.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Getting Democrats back under 60?

This is the Republican party setting high standards:
“In 2012, their goal is to get Democrats back under 60,” said Jennifer Duffy of The Cook Political Report. “With 24 seats, the mathematical odds are pretty good.”

Democrats currently hold 56 seats in the Senate and the likely victory of Al Franken would put them at 57. Even giving them credit for the 2 independents (Lieberman and Sanders) only gets them to 59.

So isn't getting them "back under 60", two elections from now, quite a bit less than the bare minimum that the Republicans should be hoping for?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Something called volcano monitoring"

Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana, complains about "wasteful spending".

While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a magnetic levitation line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called volcano monitoring.

Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.
Note to Bobby Jindal. Volcano monitoring is something like this, only for the people on the West Coast:

Hurricane Rita off the coast of Louisiana, 2005.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC

Friday, January 23, 2009

Forbes defines "liberal"

Lots of bloggers are puzzled by the fact that Forbes magazine's list of the 25 most influential liberals includes several self-described conservatives, moderates and advocates of George Bush's Iraq war. How did they get on the list?

Here's a summary of Forbes' reasoning:
  • Andrew Sullivan - gay, gay, so very, very gay.
  • Christopher Hitchens - atheist, thinks Sarah Palin is an idiot.
  • Chris Matthews - likes Obama and it's been years since he thought only wackos hated W.
  • Fareed Zakaria - really smart. looks foreign.
  • Tom Friedman - come on, we all know Friedman is a liberal
  • Fred Hiatt - mostly moderate and the left hates him, but Obama will probably read his column.

I guess we're a center-left nation after all

According to Forbes magazine, you're a liberal if you subscribe to "some or all of the following":
  • progressive income taxation
  • universal health care of some kind
  • opposition to the war in Iraq, and a certain queasiness about the war on terror
  • an instinctive preference for international diplomacy
  • the right to gay marriage
  • a woman's right to an abortion
  • environmentalism in some Kyoto Protocol-friendly form
  • and a rejection of the McCain-Palin ticket
I love the "certain queasiness about the war on terror" line. I suppose that's a euphemism for "opposes torture". And "rejection of the McCain-Palin ticket" alone puts 53% of all voters in the liberal category.

Republican women and the Lilly Ledbetter Act

Republican women Senators broke with their party to help pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, but Republican women in the House didn’t.

Ledbetter had sued her employer when she discovered that she was making far less than her male collegues, but (in a 5-4 decision) the Supreme Court decided that she hadn't discovered it quickly enough:
Although Ledbetter did the same job as her colleagues, and had more seniority than some of them, they were all being paid considerably more than she was. Ledbetter sued, under the Civil Rights Act, and proved that her lower pay was the result of discrimination early in her career, the effects of which had never been remedied. But victory was short-lived; the verdict was overturned on appeal, and then the Supreme Court ruled against her. The Court did not deny that Ledbetter had been discriminated against. However, according to the Civil Rights Act, Ledbetter’s lawsuit had to be filed within a hundred and eighty days, and the Court ruled that the clock started ticking with the first act of discrimination, almost two decades before Ledbetter found out what was going on.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act overturns that decision, clarifying that the clock starts ticking with the most recent discriminatory paycheck. Last year, Republicans successfully filibustered the bill and George Bush had threatened to veto it if it got to his desk. Yesterday's bill passed the Senate 61-36, enough to stop another threatened filibuster. Without the support of Republicans Susan Collins (R-ME), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) it would have fallen short.

Arlen Specter (R-PA) was the only Republican man in the Senate who joined them.

But before you conclude that Republican women and Republican men are hopelessly divided on this issue, realize that only 3 House Republicans supported the bill; Ed Whitfield (KY), Don Young (AK) and Christopher Smith (NJ) - all men.

Friday, November 14, 2008

White support for Obama in the States

Here's an example of a pollster overanalyzing his data:

There is considerable variation in the percentage of whites who voted for Obama. Where African Americans made up less than 20% of the vote (according to exit polls), whites varied from 30% to 60% in their support for Obama but with no relationship to the size of the African American vote. As the African American electorate rose above 20%, white support for Obama fell sharply to barely 10%.

So whites are less likely to vote for a black man if there are "too many" blacks living in the state? I don't think so. Look closely at his chart and you'll realize that the entire basis of his inference relies on data from 3 states - Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama - which just happen to border one another.

White support for Obama varied by region, not by the number of blacks in each state. Obama did most poorly among whites in the deep south and in Mormon country. He did best in the northeast and on the west coast. White New Yorkers don't have the same values as white Mississippians. Voters in Vermont disagree with voters in Utah on just about everything. People in different places want different things and it shows up at the polls.

Simply plotting the data on a map shows a very precise pattern - slightly different in the western US than in the east, but with clear regional trends.

White support for Obama by state relative to the U.S. average (42%). White voters in states colored red voted disproportionately for McCain. White voters in states colored blue voted disproportionately for Obama. The intensity of the colors indicates the margin for the preferred candidate. (Data from NY Times exit polls.)

Take a trip from Alabama north to Maine, Michigan or Minnesota and you'll find yourself in states that are progressively friendlier to Barack Obama, irrespective of the percentage of blacks in each state. Even West Virginia, which many were suggesting was filled with white racists, fits the pattern perfectly (more supportive of Obama than Virginia and Kentucky, less supportive than Ohio and Pennsylvania).

Obama's support among whites in states along a path from Alabama to Maine. Does this look random to anybody?

Suddenly, the "considerable variation in the percentage of whites who voted for Obama" becomes very predictable.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

John Kyl: just kidding about the nuclear option

Wait! You mean all that talk about the need for an "up or down vote" was just a bunch of partisan B.S.?

November 2008
“He believes in justices that have empathy,” said Kyl, speaking at a Federalist Society meeting in Phoenix. The attorneys group promotes conservative legal principles.

Kyl said if Obama goes with empathetic judges who do not base their decisions on the rule of law and legal precedents but instead the factors in each case, he would try to block those picks via filibuster.

That didn't take long.

It seems like just yesterday Senator Kyl was wringing his hands over the thought that Democrats were destroying 214 years of "wise, carefully thought out" Senate tradition.

April 18, 2005
KWAME HOLMAN: But Sen. Kyl says the advise and consent role should include an up-or-down vote as well and changing the Senate rules may be the only way to guarantee it.

SEN. JON KYL: There may well come a Supreme Court vacancy soon. I just don't think the people of the country are going to stand by and let a minority dictate whether or not we're even going take a vote on a nominee.

SEN. ARLEN SPECTER: My strategy is to use every ounce of my energy to try to confirm President Bush's judges without going to the so-called "constitutional" or "nuclear option."

KWAME HOLMAN: But Sen. Kyl says Democrats may give Republicans no choice.

SEN. JON KYL: Our Democratic colleagues have to make a decision. Will they continue their filibuster or not? If they do, and they're not willing to discuss any kind of a compromise, then I don't see any alternative but to reestablish the tradition of the majority vote.

April 25, 2005
SEN. JOHN KYL: This is strictly about whether or not a minority of senators is going to prevent the president from being able to name and get confirmed judges that he chooses after he's been elected by the American people. And it's never been the case until the last two years that a minority could dictate to the majority what they could do.


SEN. JOHN KYL: Well, I'll tell you what is shutting down the judiciary is not filling vacancies. We have according to the commission on the courts several emergency judicial emergencies, situations in which we need to put judges in to vacant positions. They're not -- we're not being able to act on them. It really is true that justice delayed is justice denied. So we need to give these judges an up or down vote. That's all we're asking for, and if some of my colleagues think that they're too conservative or in some other way unqualified then vote against them.

May 19, 2005
SEN. JOHN KYL: The reality is that the Senate is now engaged in an historic effort to protect constitutional prerogatives and the proper checks and balances between the branches of government. Republicans seek to right a wrong that has undermined 214 years of tradition – wise, carefully thought-out tradition. The fact that the Senate rules theoretically allowed the filibuster of judicial nominations but were never used to that end is an important indicator of what is right, and why the precedent of allowing up-or-down votes is so well established. It is that precedent that has been attacked and which we seek to restore.

Fortunately, the Senate is not powerless to prevent a minority from running roughshod over its traditions. It has the power – and the obligation – to govern itself. As I will demonstrate today, that power to govern itself easily extends to that device that has come to be known as the “constitutional option.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

David Frum: its already Obama's fault

Who says conservatives have to wait until January to start blaming Obama for the country's problems?

Here's David "axis of evil" Frum, on the day after the election, claiming that FDR deliberately delayed an economic recovery until his inauguration and hinting that Obama will do the same:

[M]any suspected that Roosevelt understood that the worse things were on the day before he took office, the better he would look on his first day in.

Deliberately or not, Roosevelt maximized political and economic uncertainty for almost half a year at unknowable cost to the American people, but to his own ultimate political benefit.

Might such a temptation be repeated? There are signs that the worst of the Wall Street financial crisis lies behind us. Credit conditions are thawing, huge liquidity has been injected into markets and stock indexes seem to have apparently stabilized. A recession has begun, but its severity remains uncertain.

From the point of view of the new president, this bottoming out is premature. He needs the recovery to begin in January and will benefit if it can be made to look that way.

That would be understandable politics. It could be very dangerous economics.

Got that? The economy is already turning around. But if it isn't, it's Obama's fault.

Feingold as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee?

The Hill worries about the possibility that Russ Feingold could become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

That leaves Feingold, an unapologetic champion of civil liberties and a staunch opponent of the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, next in line. Feingold opposed the war from the start and was the first senator to call for a U.S. troop withdrawal timetable.

You'd think the results of the last two elections would make that a no-brainer. But not everyone agrees:

Democrats could bypass the Wisconsin senator and choose a more centrist member, such as Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.), who initially supported the war and could be more open to compromise.

Yes. Why would anyone want a chairman who's an unapologetic defender of civil liberties and opposed an unpopular war, when we could have a man who reached across the aisle to vote for the biggest foreign policy blunder of the last 40 years?

I suppose in a bipartisan paradise Joe Lieberman would keep his committee chairmanship despite attacking the Democratic majority, and Russ Feingold would be expelled from the caucus for not playing nice with Republicans.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bob Barr's insurgent campaign costs John McCain two states

He didn't exactly cost John McCain the election, but if the current numbers hold, it looks like Bob Barr, the conservative Republican who famously broke from his party on the issues of the rule of law and torture, may have cost John McCain victories in North Carolina and Indiana.

    North Carolina with 98% of precincts reporting

  • Barack Obama(D) 2,098,401
  • John McCain(R) 2,084,344
  • Bob Barr(L) 25,031

  • Indiana with 98% of precincts reporting

  • Barack Obama(D) 1,330,959
  • John McCain(R) 1,315,916
  • Bob Barr(L) 28,692

Update: Too early to be sure, but Ron Paul may cost him Montana for the same reason.

Numbers via TPM at 12:30 Eastern time.
Image via Bob Barr for President under a Creative Commons license.

Congratulations President-elect Barack Obama!

Ohio plus all the Kerry States puts him over the top.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Just vote already

"Vote" Image originally uploaded by Dean Terry under a Creative Commons license.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sarah Palin earned $107,987 as governor in 2007

A Republican donor, defending the $150,000 expense of outfitting Sarah Palin had this as a defense:

Given the short notice and the Palins’ relatively modest means, “she could probably not go into her closet at home in Alaska to come up with a wardrobe appropriate for her status as a vice presidential candidate," he said.

Together with her husband, Palin earned over $166,000 in 2007. That's not on par with McCain or even Obama (and nowhere near the fictional income of Joe the Plumber), but it's hardly "modest means".

It's more than double what the typical 2-earner family in the U.S. or Alaska brings home.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

McCain: "I am not President Bush"

If McCain wants us to think he's different from George Bush then he should stop stealing W's lines.

Here's John McCain last month:
"What what we'd be doing is nominating justices who strictly interpret the Constitution," McCain said during an appearance on the ABC daytime talk show "The View." "We would not impose litmus test."
and here's George W. Bush in 2000 during the debate against Gore:
Q: Should a voter assume that all judicial appointments you make to the Supreme Court will be pro-life?

BUSH: Voters should assume that I have no litmus test on that issue or any other issue. The voters will know I’ll put competent judges on the bench, people who will strictly interpret the Constitution and will not use the bench to write social policy. I believe in strict constructionists.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Obama: Human rights must be a part of trade agreements

McCAIN: Free trade with Colombia is something that's a no-brainer. But maybe you ought to travel down there and visit them and maybe you could understand it a lot better.

OBAMA: Let me respond. Actually, I understand it pretty well. The history in Colombia right now is that labor leaders have been targeted for assassination on a fairly consistent basis and there have not been prosecutions.

And what I have said, because the trade agreement itself does have labor and environmental protections, but we have to stand for human rights and we have to make sure that violence isn't being perpetrated against workers who are just trying to organize for their rights, which is why, for example, I supported the Peruvian Free Trade Agreement which was a well-structured agreement.

April, 2008:

More than 2,500 union members in Colombia have been killed since 1985, and fewer than 100 cases have a conviction, according to the National Labor School, a labor research group in Medellín.

Now these killings are emerging as a pressing issue in Washington as Democrats and Republicans battle over a trade deal with Colombia, the Bush administration's top ally in Latin America. The Colombian government is already struggling to recover from the latest salvo in the fight, a vote by U.S. House Democrats on Thursday to snub President George W. Bush and indefinitely delay voting on the deal.

Since President Álvaro Uribe took office in 2002, there has been a marked decline in union killings, accompanying a broader decline in overall murders and kidnappings. Still, 400 union members have been killed since then, and dozens of his supporters in the Colombian Congress and his former intelligence chief are under investigation for ties to rightist paramilitary death squads, which are classified as terrorists by the United States and responsible for some of the union killings.

Here's Amnesty International's report :

Killings, arbitrary detentions, and death threats -- the reality of trade unionism in Colombia

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

McCain: the challenge is to know when to go to war

McCain: [T]he challenge is to know when the United States of American can beneficially effect the outcome of a crisis, when to go in and when not, when American military power is worth the expenditure of our most precious treasure.

And that question can only be answered by someone with the knowledge and experience and the judgment, the judgment to know when our national security is not only at risk, but where the United States of America can make a difference in preventing genocide, in preventing the spread of terrorism, in doing the things that the United States has done, not always well, but we've done because we're a nation of good.

And I am convinced that my record, going back to my opposition from sending the Marines to Lebanon, to supporting our efforts in Kosovo and Bosnia and the first Gulf War, and my judgment, I think, is something that I'm -- a record that I'm willing to stand on.

Sen. Obama was wrong about Iraq and the surge. He was wrong about Russia when they committed aggression against Georgia. And in his short career, he does not understand our national security challenges.

Kosovo, Bosnia, the first Gulf war..... Isn't he forgetting something here?

For anyone keeping score - John McCain lobbied for a trillion dollar war that's turned into a quagmire. Barack Obama opposed it.

Obama: health care should be a right for every American

Obama: Well, I think [health care] should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can't pay their medical bills -- for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they're saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don't have to pay her treatment, there's something fundamentally wrong about that.


And when Sen. McCain says that he wants to provide children health care, what he doesn't mention is he voted against the expansion of the Children's Health Insurance Program that is responsible for making sure that so many children who didn't have previously health insurance have it now.

Senator Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that.

McCAIN: Now, how -- what's -- what's the best way of fixing it? Nuclear power. Sen. Obama says that it has to be safe or disposable or something like that.

Look, I -- I was on Navy ships that had nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is safe, and it's clean, and it creates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

And what could be safer than life on a nuclear military vessel?

Naval nuclear accidents

United States

* USS Thresher (SSN-593) (sank, 129 killed)
* USS Scorpion (SSN-589) (sank, 99 killed)

Both sank for reasons unrelated to their reactor plants and still lie on the Atlantic sea floor.

Russian or Soviet

* Komsomolets K-278 (sank, 42 killed)
* Kursk K-141 (sank recently, 118 killed)
* K-8 (loss of coolant) (sank, 42 killed)
* K-11 (refueling criticality)
* K-19 (loss of coolant)
* K-27 (scuttled)
* K-116 (reactor accident)
* K-122 (reactor accident)
* K-123 (loss of coolant)
* K-140 (power excursion)
* K-159 (radioactive discharge) (sank recently, 9 killed)
* K-192 (loss of coolant)
* K-219 (sank after collision, 4 killed)
* K-222 (uncontrolled startup)
* K-314 (refueling criticality, 10 killed)
* K-320 (uncontrolled startup)
* K-429 (sank twice, 16 killed)
* K-431 (reactor accident)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

John McCain and the Bankruptcy Bill of 2005*

*Or why even the Democratic Senator from MBNA is a better bet for consumers than the Republican maverick from Arizona.

In 2005, John McCain was an enthusiastic backer of the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (S. 256) which ultimately became law on a 75-24 vote. This is the bill that stripped away many of the protections individuals used to have when falling into bankruptcy. Amendments to protect victims of identity theft, those who fell into debt due to medical or natural catastrophes, and to provide homestead exemptions were all rejected. Attempts to place restrictions and regulations on creditors, such as disclosure obligations, restrictions on predatory lending practices and limits on the interest rate that could be charged also failed (the figure above shows how each Senator voted on consumer protection amendments to the bill; red are Republicans, blue are Democrats and green is the Independent Jeffords).

As the name implies Republicans were concerned with what they considered abuses of the bankruptcy laws and McCain was no exception. As this letter to a constituent shows he believed that too many people were gaming the system at a time of prosperity:
The number of Americans filing for bankruptcy has increased dramatically in recent years. What is surprising is that this increase is coming at a time of low unemployment and high wages, when debt problems should be at their lowest. Significant numbers of people who can pay some of what they owe are opting to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, which permits them to erase almost all of their debt.
Despite being written explicitly to the desires of the credit card industry, in McCain's view the bill created a "fair and balanced approach" which restored personal responsibility to the system. And while "Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention" was the essence of the bill, there was little that could be called "Consumer Protection" in it.

With the exception of an amendment to protect disabled veterans (which passed 99-0), all attempts to add consumer rights to the bill failed. John McCain was one of 50 Republican Senators who voted against adding consumer protections to the bill every single time. McCain even voted against an amendment that would have protected active service members in Iraq from means testing and usury.

S.256 passed the Senate 74-25.

The Republicans were unanimous in their support for the final bill. 18 Democrats and Independent Jim Jeffords voted with the majority.

25 Democrats, including Barack Obama, voted against the bill.

Joe Biden voted for it.
In fact he championed it in the Senate, and his defense of the bill bordered on absurdity. Still he voted for the consumer protection amendments over 40% of the time.

McCain still defends his vote on the bill. His spokesman cites the bill as an example of McCain's bipartisan worldview and believes it compares favorably against Barack Obama.
"Eighteen Democrats and John McCain worked together on the bipartisan Senate bankruptcy bill, and Barack Obama's rigid partisanship and self-promoting political attacks show that he's a typical politician — which is the problem in Washington, not the solution." - McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Does John McCain support the overthrow of "failed" democracies?

OBAMA: And the problem, John, with the strategy that's been pursued was that, for 10 years, we coddled Musharraf, we alienated the Pakistani population, because we were anti-democratic. We had a 20th-century mindset that basically said, "Well, you know, he may be a dictator, but he's our dictator."

And as a consequence, we lost legitimacy in Pakistan. We spent $10 billion. And in the meantime, they weren't going after Al Qaida, and they are more powerful now than at any time since we began the war in Afghanistan.

That's going to change when I'm president of the United States.

MCCAIN: I -- I don't think that Senator Obama understands that there was a failed state in Pakistan when Musharraf came to power. Everybody who was around then, and had been there, and knew about it knew that it was a failed state.

Musharraf didn't "come to power". He overthrew the Prime Minister in a coup, suspended the constitution, imprisoned Supreme Court justices when they ruled against his wishes and spent as much effort jailing the opposition as targeting al Qaeda (while receiving the open support of the U.S. government).

And while Pakistan is often dysfunctional, it's biggest problem is that the military isn't subject to the civilian government and constantly threatens the elected leadership when it doesn't get it's way.

Friday, September 26, 2008

20 civilians a day are dying in Iraq

Documented civilian deaths due to violence in Iraq over the last 2 months. (Data from Iraq Body Count)

MCCAIN: This strategy has succeeded. And we are winning in Iraq. And we will come home with victory and with honor. And that withdrawal is the result of every counterinsurgency that succeeds.

And I want to tell you that now that we will succeed and our troops will come home, and not in defeat, that we will see a stable ally in the region and a fledgling democracy.

The consequences of defeat would have been increased Iranian influence. It would have been increase in sectarian violence. It would have been a wider war, which the United States of America might have had to come back.

So there was a lot at stake there. And thanks to this great general, David Petraeus, and the troops who serve under him, they have succeeded. And we are winning in Iraq, and we will come home. And we will come home as we have when we have won other wars and not in defeat.
Just to clarify; when John McCain insists that we are winning in Iraq, his definition of victory includes the fact that the capital city has been ethnically cleansed, neighborhoods are literally walled off from one another, one-fifth of the population of the country have fled their homes, corruption is rampant, Iran has extended it's influence into the highest levels of the government and, on average, only 20 people are being murdered every day.

Monday, September 22, 2008

"We're going to take over these bad loans"

Now if that that isn't a winning campaign slogan, I don't know what is.

"We're going to take over these bad loans," McCain said. "And we're going to have the taxpayer help you out. But when the time comes and the economy recovers, then anything that's gained back is going to go to the taxpayers first.

It'd be great if, as a U.S. Senator, he made sure that was actually written in the legislation. I hear he has until Friday.

Of course there is a way to be confident that taxpayers will get paid back if the government bailout works. Instead of buying toxic debt, buy a stake in the corporations themselves.

[T]he financial system needs more capital. And if the government is going to provide capital to financial firms, it should get what people who provide capital are entitled to — a share in ownership, so that all the gains if the rescue plan works don’t go to the people who made the mess in the first place.

I don't suppose anyone on Capitol Hill reads the New York Times.

Friday, September 19, 2008

"Banking lobbyists cheered"

Flashback to April, when Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) attempted to add an amendment to the housing bill which would have protected homeowners facing foreclosure.
The 58-36 vote to table the amendment allowed senators to move on to less contentious amendments to the housing measure forged Wednesday by Sens. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) and Richard Shelby (R-Ala.).

Durbin’s amendment would allow judges to revise the terms of mortgages on primary residences. It is opposed by the banking lobby and most Republicans. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), for example, said earlier Thursday that he would have insisted on a 60-vote threshold for the amendment’s adoption. That all but doomed the bill’s chances in a Senate split 51-49.


But banking lobbyists cheered the tabling vote.

"This has been at the very top of our members' priority list,” [Francis] Creighton [of the Mortgage Bankers Association] said, adding that the change would have been a "terrible thing for the housing market, our customers and, yes, our members."

Francis Creighton, quoted above, has recently been promoted to Chief Lobbyist for the Mortgage Bankers Association, so I guess the industry's collapse hasn't been bad for everyone.

Joe Biden voted with Dick Durbin to keep the amendment.

Barack Obama, John McCain and Hillary Clinton were all absent on the campaign trail.

And P.S. to Democrats in the Senate. You don't get to complain about Mitch McConnell filibustering your bills until you can get at least 51 votes to back the legislation

Image originally uploaded by bbcworldservice's photostream under a Creative Commons license.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

McCain - Palin 2008

My guess is that this is the sort of thing that will bite McCain in the end:
As for the introductory speeches, I listened for what was not said as much as what was. The big missing element: John McCain. Almost nobody talked about him. Rep. Dean Heller, who represents basically every part of Nevada that isn’t Vegas, did not mention McCain once in his speech. “They want to take your taxes!” he said, of the Democrats. And, of course, “she’s one of us.”

- Sean Quinn of fivethirtyeight at a Sarah Palin campaign stop in Nevada.

If Palin keeps drawing the large, enthusiastic crowds while McCain struggles to fill his venues, that will eventually become the story of the day. And I doubt anyone can survive as the unwanted guest in his own campaign.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

"I'm John McCain and I approve this message"

CARVILLE: And John McCain, deep down inside my heart, you know, as you know, I've said before I admire McCain. I don't believe he knew about it. I hope somebody asked him. But I refuse to believe that John McCain agreed to airing this spot. I know he says I'm John McCain, I paid for it but they have that in the can and they do it. It I don't think he knew about it. I really don't.
Of course he knows about it. The whole point of forcing candidates to say "I approve this message" is so they'll take responsibility for what gets done in their name. Carville is actually arguing that McCain is an honorable idiot.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The party of Big Brother?

From Mitt Romney's RNC speech:
It's time for the party of big ideas, not the party of Big Brother!
No he wasn't talking about the president spying on all our phone calls, he was talking about Medicaid and unions. Apparently, when Mitt worries about Big Brother, he's thinking about the charity organization, not the dictator in Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin's got a bridge to sell you!

Sarah Palin campaigns for governor. 99901 is the zip code of Ketchikan, Alaska.
"I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere," Palin told the cheering McCain crowd, referring to Ketchikan's Gravina Island bridge.

She did take the money, though.
An uneasy compromise was reached. Congress took away the money for the Gravina Island bridge and another Alaskan bridge which was almost as controversial. Instead, Congress gave the money to the state with the understanding that it was not required to use the funds specifically for bridges.

Friday, the state of Alaska officially sank the Bridge to Nowhere. Governor Sarah Palin, also a Republican, said "Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport." "But," she said, the bridge "is not the answer." Palin has told state transportation officials to look for the most "fiscally responsible" alternative.

In other words, Congress replaced an earmark with a blank check and Palin happily accepted.

Now, I wouldn't expect the governor of any state to reject a quarter-billion dollars in free money from the fed. But don't try to pretend that you scolded Congress against fiscal recklessness. A simple thanks would suffice.

(Image from Andrew Halco via John Cole)

Friday, August 29, 2008

Some of Palin's good friends are gay

Not that that means she supports their vile behavior.
Palin said she's not out to judge anyone and has good friends who are gay, but that she supported the 1998 constitutional amendment [banning gay marriage].

Elected officials can't defy the court when it comes to how rights are applied, she said, but she would support a ballot question that would deny benefits to homosexual couples.

Sarah Palin "didn't like" marijuana

August 2006:
Palin doesn't support legalizing marijuana, worrying about the message it would send to her four kids. But when it comes to cracking down on drugs, she says methamphetamines are the greater threat and should have a higher priority.

Palin said she has smoked marijuana -- remember, it was legal under state law, she said, even if illegal under U.S. law -- but says she didn't like it and doesn't smoke it now.

"I can't claim a Bill Clinton and say that I never inhaled."
Interesting that she thinks state law trumps federal law. I wonder what she thinks about medical marijuana.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Republicans pray for rain in Denver, miss target

On learning that next week's Republican convention might be postponed because of Hurricane Gustav, my first thought was
"What about all the people who've already booked their flights to St. Paul?"
and my second thought was
"Oh... Never mind."

I accept your nomination for presidency of the United States.

"We are the party of Roosevelt. We are the party of Kennedy. So don't tell me that Democrats won't defend this country. Don't tell me that Democrats won't keep us safe.

The Bush-McCain foreign policy has squandered the legacy that generations of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, have built, and we are here to restore that legacy."

It’s not a guarantee – it's only an opportunity.

"Eight years ago, some said there was not much difference between the nominees of the two major parties and it didn’t really matter who became President."
- Al Gore, August 28, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I can't believe they struck out that line

“They’re asking for another four years — in a just world, they’d get 10 to 20.”

- The single line struck from Dennis Kucinich's speech according to The Hill.

We don't need 4 more years of the last 8 years

"Most of all, I ran to stand up for all those who have been invisible to their government for eight long years. Those are the reasons I ran for president, and those are the reasons I support Barack Obama for president.

I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him?

Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids?

Were you in it for that young boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage?

Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

We need leaders once again who can tap into that special blend of American confidence and optimism that has enabled generations before us to meet our toughest challenges, leaders who can help us show ourselves and the world that with our ingenuity, creativity, and innovative spirit, there are no limits to what is possible in America."

- HRC August 26th, 2008

Monday, August 25, 2008

Don't you support my right to call you a leftist wacko?

What's more pathetic than watching a FOX news reporter wander into a group of protesters he's just finished describing as a gang of rowdy leftists and then begin complaining that nobody will talk to him?

via michael calderone

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It's been a state for almost 50 years, Cokie

Photo of the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu. Image by JPhilipson

I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii, and I know Hawaii is a state. But

- Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs (aka "Cokie") Roberts, explaining why Barack Obama looks like an elitist for visiting an American state during an American election.
Cokie apparently believes that there are “real” Americans, and then there are a lot of other people who somehow ended up with the right to vote for our president.

Hawaii is a state. It’s people are Americans. Just because they don’t live like Cokie doesn’t make them some sort of exotic, foreign tribe.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Why won't Obama admit that the surge is working?

This may have something to do with it:
Female bombers struck Kurdish political protesters in Kirkuk and Shiite pilgrims in Baghdad on Monday morning, leaving at least 48 people dead and 249 wounded in one of the bloodiest sequences of attacks in Iraq this year.
One and a half years after the surge was implemented, Iraq remains one of the most violent places in the world. The surge only been a success compared to the bloodiest days of the conflict.

Monday, June 30, 2008

I know standards have been lowered lately

...but I didn't think they'd fallen this far.
Schieffer: I have to say, Barack Obama has not had any of those experiences, either, nor has he ridden in a fighter plane and gotten shot down. I mean...

Clark: Well, I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president.

Schieffer: Really!

Uh.... Yes. Really.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Mitt Romney wants every nation to have nuclear weapons?

How else can you interpret his statement that non-proliferation is a liberal issue?
Romney: ... you’re talking about two liberal positions: non-proliferation as well as gasoline mileage. They are very much down the mainstream of what the left wing of the democratic party has been pushing for a long time…
non-proliferation: n. the prevention of an increase or spread of something, especially the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

One of the worst decisions in history

It's strange that John McCain thinks that a world in which Osama bin Laden is tried by an American court would somehow be more dangerous than the actual world - where we just let him run free.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

In John McCain's world, the Iraq war began in May 2007

“Senator Obama has consistently offered his judgment on Iraq, and he has been consistently wrong. He said that General Petraeus’ new strategy would not reduce sectarian violence, but would worsen it. He was wrong. He said the dynamics in Iraq would not change as a result of the ’surge.’ He was wrong. One year ago, he voted to cut off all funds for our forces fighting extremists in Iraq. He was wrong…

...Why, if it had been up to Obama, we never would have gone to Iraq in the first place!

h/t Steve Benen

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sorry, he needs you to fight his forever-war

In John McCain's dream world, by 2013 the Iraq war has been won, bin Laden will be captured, and the soldiers who signed up after 9/11 still won't be eligible for benefits under his GI bill:
[Webb's bill] would increase education aid to all military members who've served on active duty since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The House version has 294 co-sponsors; the Senate bill has 58.

McCain countered that the bill is misguided because it doesn't encourage soldiers to re-enlist.

Under the proposal, all veterans, including those who served in the National Guard or Reserve for at least 36 months since the attacks — not necessarily consecutively — could get full in-state tuition, regardless of cost, as well as some money for books, fees and a stipend for living expenses. Certain grants also could be provided for those who attend private colleges.

McCain, a former Navy pilot and Vietnam POW, has joined Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and others to push an alternative that would make it easier to transfer education benefits to spouses and children and to provide more generous education benefits to personnel who serve for 12 years or more.

"This is not World War II we're fighting. This is not Vietnam," Graham said. "This is a global struggle with an all-volunteer force. And anything we can do to help retain people, I think, would be great."

True. This isn't World War II. World War II would have been over by now.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

$4.00 a gallon

From the CATO Institute, 2003:
One last word on the rising cost of gasoline. American motorists should be mighty pleased that the United States does not adopt the economically dysfunctional high-energy tax policies that are commonplace in Europe. In the Euro nations gasoline often reaches $4 a gallon with more than half the price collected in taxes. Perhaps $2 a gallon gasoline is a bargain after all
$4 a gallon! Boy those Europeans sure were a bunch of suckers.

Monday, May 5, 2008

This election is all about the Iraq war

Fresh insight from a man who once suggested the Democratic race could end after the Iowa caucus:

DAN BALZ: I think the degree to which that it is a reminder that, in a long election, the terrain shifts. And, so, the ability to say, well, who is the best candidate in November when are you not entirely sure what that terrain may look like.

Eight or 10 months ago, there was so much talk about how the Iraq war would define, not only the general election, but also the outcome of the primary fight between Obama and Clinton. And now we have -- you know, it is not that Iraq is not unimportant. But, clearly, the economy and gasoline prices have risen considerably in terms of people's significance.

Newsflash: Barack Obama is winning the Democratic nomination because of the Iraq war. The Republican party is collapsing for the same reason.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Gallup's daily tracking poll January 3 - May 1

Reinforcing my point that this race has been over since February, take a look a Gallup's daily poll numbers since January. Clinton started with a 10-20 point lead nationwide, which Obama erased on Super Tuesday. Since then, they've been essentially tied. There is no momentum, we're just coasting to the finish line.

Others disagree however. Here's a short list of articles describing the momentum of the race - in reverse chronological order.

Trailing in Money, Votes, Clinton Gains Momentum

Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton won the Pennsylvania primary Tuesday night with a 10 percent victory margin. The win gives her momentum as the race moves to North Carolina and Indiana.
Poll: Obama Speech Doesn't Slow Clinton Momentum

The Gallup Daily Tracking poll shows that for the first time in a month, Sen. Hillary Clinton has opened up a statistically significant lead over Sen. Barack Obama in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination. Today's poll shows Clinton with a 49% to 42% lead over Obama in national Democratic voters' presidential nomination preference.
Clinton Picks Up Momentum Post-Ohio And Texas

Monday's polls hinted at a Clinton comeback in Ohio and in Texas, which prepared us for what came yesterday night. Now, surveys are registering Clinton's rise outside of Ohio and Texas, suggesting that her improved stance was not just related to her campaigning in those two states and that Democratic voters might have some buyer's remorse naturally.

Florida voters retain clout

Tampa-based Democratic consultant Ana Cruz, who has been organizing Democrats for Clinton, says Florida stands to catapult Clinton into the Feb. 5 contests. Florida is the first mega state to weigh in on the Democratic nomination, after all, and it's the first primary where only Democrats can vote. Obama benefits when unaffiliated voters are eligible.

"Six months ago, people were upset and angry and saying our votes won't count," she said. "Boy the tables have turned. ... The biggest swing state in the country is going to give the Clinton campaign momentum to continue on with the marathon."
Clinton Momentum Sweeps Across the Country

Fresh off its stunning come from behind victory in New Hampshire, the Hillary Clinton for President campaign today kicked-off its post-New Hampshire efforts with a series of events across the country.
Iowa Winners Count on Momentum

On the Democratic side, Hillary Clinton is still the front-runner, though fallout from the Obama win could upend those estimates. She's leading by some 21 points nationwide, according to averages of polling data gathered by Real Clear Politics. There is little historic precedent for a candidate with a lead that large to lose a party nomination.

In Nevada, Clinton leads Obama by more than 20 points, ditto for California, Florida, and Michigan (where Obama and Edwards are not on the ballot). In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, it's closer to a 30-point lead.
Two New Polls Show Clinton Momentum

Two new polls released this morning show Hillary Clinton holding a lead in the Hawkeye State, continuing to build on her momentum in the final days before the Iowa caucuses.
Clinton sure has had a lot of momentum this race. However, that wasn't always true:

Clinton Slips As Richardson Gains Momentum

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Hillary Clinton has lost some ground but still maintains a lead in the Democratic primary race in New Hampshire, and opponent Bill Richardson has made the biggest jump.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The next president can't save us from Bush's power grab

Steve Clemons at The Washington Note suggests that anyone at an Q&A for McCain, Obama or Clinton should ask the following question:
Question One: Specifically, which powers of the Presidency that the Bush administration has acquired for itself would you roll back and give up?

That's a great question. Unfortunately, it falls into the same category as asking the son of a jewel thief which of his father's gems he'd give back. It implies that the decision is his, not the law's.

This election has been over since February

Map of the county-by-county primary and caucus results by dreaminonempty

There's the media's view of the current election:

Victory gives Clinton fresh momentum

Barack Obama faced renewed questions yesterday about his ability to deliver a Democratic victory in November after his failure to knock out Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's Pennsylvania primary.

With the protracted campaign entering its final phase, Clinton won the primary with 55% of the vote against 45% for Obama, a majority achieved by decisive wins among white voters, Catholics and low-income households.

The result did not significantly dent Obama's lead in delegates, popular vote or fundraising, neither did it fundamentally alter his status as the Democratic frontrunner. But Clinton cast it as a turning point. "The tide is turning," she said in an email to supporters yesterday morning.
And then there's reality.

This election has been over since February, even if we didn't realize it at the time. Clinton has won all the states that she was expected to win the day after Super Tuesday (and by similar margins). Obama has won all the states he was expected to win. The Reverend Wright, NAFTA, Tuzla and "bitter" controversies haven't affected the race at all.

Take a look at the map above and you'll see that Hillary's greatest support follows the Appalachian mountains from northern New York state down through Tennessee then slides into Arkansas and Texas. Obama's strength has been in the south and northwest. A bright 7 year-old could tell you where the next blue and green pieces of that puzzle will go.

What looks like momentum is simply a fluke of the primary calendar. Despite reports of voters who haven't made up their minds - they basically have.

Barack will win in North Carolina, Oregon, South Dakota, and Montana. Hillary will win in Kentucky, Puerto Rico and West Virginia. Indiana is a tossup. He'll end up with about a 150 pledged delegate lead.

And the superdelegates aren't going to overturn that result.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

McCain is decidedly middle-class?

Compared with his wife, McCain is decidedly middle-class. Based on his tax return, he collects his Senate salary ($161,708), a Navy pension ($58,358), and some Social Security income ($23,157). The money he's earned over the years writing books ($176,508 in 2007 and about $1.8 million since 1998), he gives to charity.
Add it up ( ignoring the book residuals ) and John McCain makes $243,223 a year. That's not middle class. That would put McCain and his wife in the top 2% of American households, even if she had no money at all.

I suppose compared to Bill Gates, John McCain is in a class with Somali refugees and subsistence farmers in Chad.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Is the gas tax holiday an April Fools Day joke?

The price of gas since January 2007. Data via randomuseless.info

Hillary Clinton and John McCain have decided that the cost of gas has become so oppressive they'd repeal the federal tax on it.
Clinton outlined a series of steps to address the issue [of high gas prices] at the beginning of the show, reflecting the growing importance of pocketbook concerns among voters. “I would also consider a gas tax holiday, if we could make up the lost revenues from the Highway Trust Fund,” she said, without specifying how to make up those lost revenues.


McCain, the likely Republican nominee, called for Congress to suspend the 18.4 cent federal gas tax and 24.4 cent diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor day last week. Economists have warned that the benefits of such a holiday are short lived.
If we repealed the tax today, we would return to a golden era of cheap prices not seen since .... April 1st 2008.

Speaking of disenfranchisement...

Who else remembered that there was a Republican primary in Pennsylvania today?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The bitter truth

Apparently, Pennsylvania's blue collar workers aren't as delicate as the political media hoped they would be.
[T]hey find it hard to get worked up about the comments -- as do other Pennsylvanians, judging by polls that so far show little damage from an episode Clinton has worked hard to exploit. Years of watching the decline of the town they have lived in since their family arrived from France in the 1920s has, they suggested, provided perspective that keeps them from getting caught up in 24-hour cable and Internet outrage.
I don't suppose we could get back to discussing issues people actually care about now.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Saturday, April 12, 2008

"Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them."

- Hillary Clinton (April 11, 2008)

Strangely enough, she wasn't giving a concession speech.

So let's check the record.
  • Barack Obama thinks some people are bitter at being unemployed or after losing their homes.
On the other hand, Hillary Clinton's team has a problem with:
Other than that, she's got no problems at all.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Joe Lieberman: Still missing the point on the Iraq fiasco

Among all the other nonsense written by Iraq war cheerleaders Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham this jumped out at me:
In recent months, the Iraqi government, encouraged by our Ambassador in Iraq, Ryan Crocker, has passed benchmark legislation on such politically difficult issues as de-Baathification, amnesty, the budget and provincial elections.
See that's the funny thing, de-Baathification is what Paul Bremer did. Later, when even the Bush administration realized what a boneheaded move that was, they demanded that the supposedly sovereign Iraqis fix it. The "difficult issue" Lieberman is praising was de-de-Baathification.

But that would sound ridiculous.

Friday, April 4, 2008

So that's what he did with all that money

House Minority Leader John Boehner explaining why Republicans are going to win big this year.
“[Rep.] Ron Paul [R-Texas] wrote us a check for the first time ever,”
Paul's a pretty good sport considering the number of times Republicans accused him of working with al Qaeda during the campaign.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Serial adulterer willing to run for NY governor

So the New York Post hints (without any apparent sense of irony) that Rudy Giuliani believes he's the perfect fit for the NY governor's office, now the latest occupant has become embroiled in scandal:
New York's new governor has spent his brief time in office dropping one bombshell announcement after another. He admitted that both he and his wife had affairs during a rough patch in their marriage and that he abused drugs decades ago.
Rudy, you may remember, was driven from the NYC mayor's mansion after a judge barred his mistress from the grounds.
Specifically, the judge reprimanded the mayor and his divorce lawyer, Raoul L. Felder, for three days of verbal attacks on Donna Hanover, the mayor's estranged wife, over Mother's Day weekend. Mr. Felder, who called Ms. Hanover ''an uncaring mother'' who was ''howling like a stuck pig,'' made the attacks with the mayor's support after Justice Gische sided with Ms. Hanover and lifted an order of silence she had briefly imposed on the case.

The judge ordered that for now, Ms. Nathan was never to be in the presence of the children, or ''at any event attended by the children.'' She was also barred from the Gracie Mansion grounds.
And that's not exactly the worst scandal surrounding the former mayor.

Maybe he thinks it's a job requirement.

h/t ThinkProgress

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This is what a disintegrating ice shelf looks like

Formosat image courtesy Cheng-Chien Liu, © 2008 Earth Dynamic System Research Center, NCKU
In late February 2008, an ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated into a floating pile of massive ice bergs, smaller ice fragments, and slush that was trapped in place by freezing sea water over subsequent weeks. The dramatic event was first spotted in NASA satellite imagery by Ted Scambos, lead scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center. Over the following days, international collaborators used images from satellites and aircraft to track the event.

This highly detailed image from the Taiwanese Formosat-2 satellite shows the different sizes, shapes, and textures of the ice fragments on March 8, 2008. Several large icebergs float amid a mosaic of smaller pieces of ice. The level of detail in the image is so great that it can seem as though you are standing over a scale model made out of papier-mâché and foam blocks. The detail can make the bergs seem deceptively small. In reality, some of the large bergs are several hundred meters (yards) long.
NASA's Earth Observatory reports on the disintegration of the Wilkins ice shelf here.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

John McCain defines success in Iraq

Give him some credit, it's more than George Bush has ever done:
Many people ask, how should we define success? Success in Iraq and Afghanistan is the establishment of peaceful, stable, prosperous, democratic states that pose no threat to neighbors and contribute to the defeat of terrorists. It is the triumph of religious tolerance over violent radicalism.
Of course the war in Iraq is currently a failure by all those standards.
Those who argue that our goals in Iraq are unachievable are wrong, just as they were wrong a year ago when they declared the war in Iraq already lost. Since June 2007 sectarian and ethnic violence in Iraq has been reduced by 90 percent. Overall civilian deaths have been reduced by more than 70 percent. Deaths of coalition forces have fallen by 70 percent. The dramatic reduction in violence has opened the way for a return to something approaching normal political and economic life for the average Iraqi.
Yes, compared to the worst days of the civil war - when death squads roamed the streets of Baghdad just miles from the Green Zone and millions fled their homes - things are now better in Iraq. This is about the only standard by which we're currently succeeding in Iraq.

John McCain doesn't compare Iraq today to Iraq 5 years ago because his war has made life worse in all respects. The progress he applauds is only relative to our previous failures and he insists the situation is so fragile that if we leave, there will be a genocide.

And as for life approaching normal, over 1000 Iraqis have died in political violence this March, which is up from February, which was up from January.

Update: make it about 1400 in March - nearly double January's toll.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Don't fight me in that there briar patch!

Br'er bin Laden suckers Farmer John, yet again...
"As you probably know, an audiotape ... was released where bin Laden said, and I have to quote bin Laden: 'The nearest field of jihad today to support our people in Palestine ... is the Iraqi field.' He urged Palestinians and people of Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to 'help in support of their mujahideen brothers in Iraq which is the greatest opportunity and the biggest task.'"

McCain followed that with, "For the first time, I have seen Osama bin Laden and Gen. Petraeus in agreement, and that is, the central battleground in the battle against al-Qaeda is in Iraq today! That's what bin Laden is saying, and that's what Gen. Petraeus is saying, and that's what I'm saying, my friends."
Meanwhile, Osama is living a thousand miles away in Pakistan.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Why did they get it right?*

Jim Henley explains why it was blindingly obvious that the Iraq war was a bad idea from the start:
You didn’t have to be all that bright to oppose the Iraq War in advance. Heck, polls suggest that most Americans were dubious about the idea until the war became obviously inevitable. Real enthusiasm was confined to the elite media, the bipartisan defense-policy establishment and a bunch of Republican quasi-intellectuals who had spent ten years casting about for different countries to have a war - any war - with. I mean, for crying out loud, at one point our rulers declared that Saddam Hussein might attack America with remote-controlled model planes. You didn’t have to wait to bounce that one off the folks at your next MENSA meeting to judge its likelihood. Nor did you have to puzzle overlong, if someone tried to put that one by you, how much stock you should put in anything else that came out of their mouths.
Typically, there is a single overriding reason to go to war. We went to war in Afghanistan because Al Qaeda had destroyed the World Trade Center and they were effectively the military arm of the Taliban. Everybody understood that and Americans overwhelmingly supported the decision to attack Afghanistan because of it. Freeing afghani women from oppression, bringing democracy to the country, ending their own brutal decades long civil war - those were all incidental to the cause and nobody argued they were casus belli in themselves.

On the other hand, we were given dozens of reasons to go to war against Iraq, some of them contradictory, some of them silly and some of them patently false. And when you know for a fact that any of the arguments for war are absurd, you don't need access to secret intelligence to realize that the rest of them are probably bogus too.

Of course, it wasn't easy to hear voices speaking against the Iraq war in 2002. Here's the Washington Post (in 2006), illustrating why.

The day after the House vote, The Washington Post recorded that 126 House Democrats voted against the final resolution. None was quoted giving a reason for his or her vote except for Rep. Joe Baca (Calif.), who said a military briefing had disclosed that U.S. soldiers did not have adequate protection against biological weapons.

"As a veteran, that's what hit me the hardest," he said.

Lee was described as giving a "fiery denunciation" of the administration's "rush to war," with only 14 colleagues in the House chamber to hear her. None of the reasons she gave to justify her concerns, nor those voiced by other Democratic opponents, was reported in the two Post stories about passage of the resolution that day.

So to acknowledge some of those who got it right from the start:

Scott Ritter (July 20, 2002):
I bear personal witness through seven years as a chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations to both the scope of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs and the effectiveness of the UN weapons inspectors in ultimately eliminating them.

While we were never able to provide 100 percent certainty regarding the disposition of Iraq's proscribed weaponry, we did ascertain a 90-95 percent level of verified disarmament. This figure takes into account the destruction or dismantling of every major factory associated with prohibited weapons manufacture, all significant items of production equipment, and the majority of the weapons and agent produced by Iraq.

In direct contrast to these findings, the Bush administration provides only speculation, failing to detail any factually based information to bolster its claims concerning Iraq's continued possession of or ongoing efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction. To date no one has held the Bush administration accountable for its unwillingness - or inability - to provide such evidence.

Al Gore (Sept 23, 2002)

I am deeply concerned that the policy we are presently following with respect to Iraq has the potential to seriously damage our ability to win the war against terrorism and to weaken our ability to lead the world in this new century.

The vast majority of those who sponsored, planned and implemented the cold blooded murder of more than 3,000 Americans are still at large, still neither located nor apprehended, much less punished and neutralized. I do not believe that we should allow ourselves to be distracted from this urgent task simply because it is proving to be more difficult and lengthy than predicted. Great nations persevere and then prevail. They do not jump from one unfinished task to another.
Russ Feingold (Sept 25, 2002):
I remain extremely troubled by the Administration's shifting justifications for going to war in Iraq. I remain skeptical about the need to take unilateral action now and to accept all of the associated costs of that decision. I remain unconvinced that the Administration has thought through the potential costs and challenges of post-conflict reconstruction in Iraq, or even thought through how to address the issue of weapons of mass destruction once an engagement begins.
Shibley Telhami (Oct 7,2002):
One of the most appealing thoughts about a possible war with Iraq is that it could help spread democracy, transforming a rotten political order in the Middle East. But more likely, such a war would render the Middle East more repressive and unstable than it is today. Democracy cannot be imposed through military force, even if force is used successfully to oust antidemocratic dictators. And our vital aims in fighting terrorism, securing oil supplies and protecting the lives of American soldiers will, in the context of the Middle East, almost certainly ensure that the spread of democracy will again take a back seat to our national priorities.
Nancy Pelosi (Oct 10, 2002):
There is no political solution on the ground in Iraq. Let us not be fooled by that. So when we go in the occupation, which is now being called the liberation, could be interminable and the amount of money it costs could be unlimited - $100 -$200 billion, we can only guess.
Barack Obama (Nov. 25, 2002):

If (the invasion of Iraq and overthrow of Saddam) has happened, what the debate's really going to be about is; what's our long term commitment there? How much is it going to cost? What does it mean for us to rebuild Iraq? How do we stabilize and make sure that this country doesn't splinter into factions between the Shias and the Kurds and the Sunnis?

What I would have been concerned about was a carte blanche to the administration for a doctrine of pre-emptive strikes that I'm not sure sets a good precedent.

David Obey (Dec. 12, 2002):
The decision to prepare for military action against Iraq forces us to make difficult choices about the use of our assets, choices that further complicate our offensive against al Qaeda. Good military strategists and planners, for instance, are always in short supply, and when we do two things at once, they are very badly stretched. Our capacity to observe and listen for enemy activity through the skies and over the airways is finite. Our skilled Arabic translators are extremely limited in number. We have shortages in a number of specific types of equipment that are needed in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In short, our growing focus on Iraq will unquestionably degrade our efforts against al Qaeda and even official sources are already acknowledging those efforts are faltering. And if you doubt that one has an impact on the other, I invite you to talk to some of the people deep in the agencies who I've talked to.
*in response to Slate's series of a similar title