Friday, January 4, 2008

A good question

J. Zasloff asks a very good question:

Now that Edwards seems fatally wounded, I'm still wondering whom I should vote for. So I'll ask it again: what is at the center of the Obama Administration's first 100 days?

He draws a contrast with Edwards, who has made poverty the centerpiece of his campaign. I'm not sure I could answer that question about Hillary. But he makes a valid point, that "change we can believe in" is perhaps inspiring, but also pretty vague. (I'm not sure I'd agree that Edwards is "fatally wounded," at least not yet. Wounded, yes. Fatally? Perhaps not. Too early to tell. But that's another question.)

If Obama's presidency were a mixed bag at best...what would he point to at the end of the year with pride and say "at least we got that done, and if that was done, the other things aren't as important?"

Who needs parody?

You know, it's really hard to write a good, spot-on parody of the classic whiny liberal NuYawker looking down her nose at the silly rubes in the Midwest, giving a dozen totally bogus made-up reasons why it's so unfair that people outside NuYawk City and California have to be considered at all.

On the other hand, why bother writing a parody when the Times has Gail Collins?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Now it gets interesting

The GOP's Wall Street wing and East Coast Establishment (to whatever degree either bloc is non-mythical) both loathe Huckabee. Winning in Iowa will definitely help his fundraising, but he's still short of cash coming into Super Tuesday. If he can keep riding the evangelical vote, the difference in fundraising may not be as decisive as it would be for some other candidates. Still, it looks as if a GOP bloodbath is in the works. The knives will be out, and as I said a bit ago, paraphrasing someone else I can't remember, no one does a political knife fight better than Republicans.

Of course, a lot can happen between now and the time the primaries are over. The only Republican to win Iowa and go on to win the election was Bush 2000. Still plenty of time to coalesce around another candidate, and try to put down the upstart preacher who doesn't understand the role of the evangelical vote in Rove's GOP--to reliably turn up at elections, then go back to church and wait another 4 years, until they're needed to vote Republican again. No, the evangelicals are refusing to go to the back of the bus, and the rest of the party is looking on in horror. They embraced the fusion of politics and religion; they are now reaping the whirlwind. Whether they can get past this point without going through a complete purge and meltdown is very much up in the air; having perfected the politics of division and destruction, they appear ready to be consumed by it.

Which makes the Ron Paul situation all the more interesting. Ten percent of the vote, fifth place finish, behind Fred "Campaigning is such a bother" Thompson and McCain. But it seems high enough that Fox News' decision not to include him in the Republican debates is even more transparent than it was before. After all, it's still very very early in the process; too early, it seems, to be able to say with justification that it's only about including 'viable' candidates. Paul has a number of ideas that are distinctly crackpottish, but he's the only republican candidate talking seriously about limits on executive power, which is the defining issue of the next administration. As for his crackpottish ideas, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let him explain himself; that'll do the job of sinking his candidacy.

On the Dem side, well, this makes thing interesting indeed. Hillary is trying to sell herself as the agent of change, while also running on nostalgia for Bill. Um, hel-lo.... The 'inevitability' narrative just took a hit close to the waterline. She came in third. Not far behind Edwards, but third all the same. This raises the pressure for New Hampshire; she has to win there, convincingly, or the 'inevitability' meme is dead and the campaign is over. (If she loses Iowa and New Hampshire, then her last chance is South Carolina; but if she loses the first two, what are the chances of taking the third? It seems the more the voters get to know Hillary, the more they prefer someone else...)

Edwards has got to be sweating it. His campaign is still viable, but no more than that. He was hoping for a win, he came in a rather distant 2nd. He's got to do well in NH and in the south. Whether his trial-lawyer skills will be enough.... we'll see.

For Obama, he's celebrating, and rightfully so. His speech hit all the right notes, he won by a respectable margin with a large turnout...he can legitimately claim a very real victory. Yes, if he takes the nomination, the choice of a running mate becomes very important; it has to be someone with serious foreign-policy chops. But that's a very good problem to have. Yes, the slime machine (both the Clintons' and the Republicans') will kick into high gear. But the campaign has a way of testing a candidate; so far he's risen to the challenge every time.

Also, John Aravosis has a hilarious statistic.

Hey, that'll boost traffic...

Documentation of the Ron Paul Effect...

[but is the humiliation worth it?]

[this post & the previous: h/t Andrew Sullivan]

Even a conservative evangelical sees through it

There's an interesting post discussing one's experience on the campaign trail for the Huckabee campaign, and the many interesting things learned....

The Mainstream Media Ain't So Bad -- Many bloggers (including me) have a knee-jerk reaction to the mainstream media. We "just know" they have a liberal bias and that they can't be trusted to report accurately on Republicans and conservatives. If my experience is any indication, then most of what we know is "just wrong."

[...]I expected that I'd have the toughest time with the professional journalists but most of the reporters that I dealt with (especially Michael Luo of the New York Times and Jonathan Martin of Politico) were quite fair and always professional. Even when their coverage was cringe-inducing I rarely could fault them for being inaccurate or putting their own biases ahead of the facts.

Unfortunately, the same can not be said of the conservative media.

[...] Almost always the mainstream media from the "liberal" outlets were more fair and balanced than were the ones from the "conservative" side of the media.

Some conservative outlets, of course, were notably fair and accurate. [...]

But while there were a few other exceptions that I could praise ... far too many of the conservative outlets refused to present any evidence that conflicted with their typical anti-Huckabee narrative.


As a campaign staffer, I found such behavior frustrating. But as a consumer of conservative media I found it infuriating. There are a number of pundits, bloggers, reporters, and radio hosts that I will never trust again to be "fair and balanced."

Sometimes learning the truth can be painful, can't it? Sadder but wiser now, and all that....

Mitt Romney will never be President -- I won't be surprised if Mitt Romney wins the Iowa Caucus. I will be surprised, however, if he's still in the race when the South Carolina primary comes around. Even if the impending scandal that has been rumored for weeks doesn’t derail his campaign (I can't say what it is but you should hear about it before Jan. 8), his inherent dishonesty will eventually do him in.

It's not just his flip-flops on the issues, though that should be enough....No, what will destroy Romney's chances is that he will lie about an issue, know that he is lying, know that you know he is lying, and say it anyway. It's not just that he's dishonest. It's that he thinks we're stupid.

Now it's true that in the short term, we do tend to be stupid.... [M]ost people have yet to realize--as have the other campaigns and the mainstream media--he is a liar. But eventually the public catches on.

[...] Because most of it is done behind the scenes (i.e., scurrilous emails sent to reporters and influential bloggers) it is difficult to point out the most egregious examples. Don't take my word on it, though. Ask around to the other campaigns and media outlets.

[...] His "lie and buy" strategy may get him a narrow victory in Iowa but he'll flame out soon enough.

Tell it, brother.

There's nothing here that we didn't already know. But it's nice to see it admitted.

The "fair and balanced" thing, I think, goes back to a point Garry Trudeau made (and yikes, I'm actually quoting him, what's wrong with me?) The so-called "liberal" takes it as a given that the other person's viewpoint may be valid, that listening to "the other" is inherently worthwhile. (What's done after that, and how it's often misused, is another story. And I should note that "listen to" and "agree with" are not synonyms.) The conservative, on the other hand, knows he's right... Why should he listen to someone who's wrong? If he knows what the story is, why should he listen to some staffer try to convince him otherwise?

The whole sorry spectacle is, to a degree, the legacy of Karl Rove, the politics of personal destruction writ large.

On the other hand, maybe it's simpler than that. Nobody does a political knife-fight better than Republicans. The money elite of the GOP is terrified of Huckabee, and want him stopped, almost as much as they want Ron Paul to shut up.

Oh well. Nice to see someone start to gather just a bit more awareness than they had before...

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

No comment necessary

From today's Washington Post homepage.

I suppose there's nothing wrong with relaxing a bit and mugging for the camera, but... is this really the image they want to present? Of course, as things get down to the wire, I'm becoming more and more horrified by what's coming out of this campaign, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised. On the other hand, personally, I've felt the GOP was ready for a good crash/burn for quite a while... This may be the party's Nemesis.

Decisions, decisions...

I'm working on the schedule for next semester, and have hit the perennial dilemma. Based on the number of weeks in the course, etc., our second exam should be at about week 12 or so. But there's this little thing called spring break right then. So the question is, do I hit the students with an exam right before break, or right after?

On the one hand, an exam right before break always feels a bit cruel. On the other, given that it takes a few days after break for students to get back into the groove, you can make a case that an exam after break is cruel, that it pushes them to perform right after they've been away from the material for a while.

Last year we had the exam right after break... I think this year we'll try it before, and see if it makes a difference.

Isn't this thrilling?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sinking into Oligarchy

Glenn Greenwald has a must-read post about what the BushCo criminal enterprise has done to the rule of law and the idea that no one is above it.

Most revealing of all, anyone who insists that this should be different -- anyone who believes that our highest political officials and largest corporations should be held accountable when they break the law -- is a shrill "partisan," bent on vengeance and Guilty of obstructionism: trying to prevent the political establishment from operating in a harmonious, bipartisan manner to do their Important Work. At least under the Bush presidency, investigations into wrongdoing are bad and disruptive and mean-spirited, and calls for consequences for illegal behavior are shrill and nasty.
Count me as a proudly shrill partisan, then. Eight years of BushCo has done fundamental damage to American democracy, far more than Al Qaeda could ever dream of doing.

Also in that article, check out the link to Privacy International's new annual report. Based on their objective criteria, the US is now an "endemic surveillance society," right up there with China, Russia and a few of the military juntas of southeast Asia.