Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Lit 101 Class in Three Lines or Less.

McSweeney's Internet Tendency: Lit 101 Class in Three Lines or Less. by Ben Joseph


WINSTON: Don't tell the Party, but sex is way better than totalitarianism.
EVERYONE: Surprise! We're the Party.
WINSTON: Oh, rats.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
C.S. LEWIS: Finally, a utopia ruled by children and populated by talking animals.
THE WITCH: Hi, I'm a sexually mature woman of power and confidence.
C.S. LEWIS: Ah! Kill it, lion Jesus!

Paradise Lost

ADAM: Paradise has arbitrary dietary restrictions?
DEVIL: They're really more like guidelines.
GOD: Incorrect.


ISHMAEL: I'm existential.
AHAB: Really? Try vengeance.
ISHMAEL: I dig this dynamic. Can we drag it out for 600 pages?

The Great Gatsby

NICK: I love being rich and white.
GATSBY: Me, too, but I'd kill for the love of a woman.
DAISY: We can work with that.

Oliver Twist

OLIVER: Poverty ain't so bad, what with all the Cockney accents and charming musical interludes.
ME: Thanks to movies, no books were read in the passing of this class.
PROFESSOR WATERMAN: You're half right.

h/t Sullivan. Pic from McSweeny's page, cropped by me. Backpost finished 2009-11-30.

Goldblog: Ketziot & Abu Ghraib

I've rapidly changed my opinion about Jeffrey Goldberg. When I read his pieces in the New Yorker, he sounded like just another American leftist against Israel. But then I found out that he actually lived in Israel and served in the IDF - which is way better than what I've done. So his Zionist bona-fides are greater than mine and as such, I allow him his left-wing opinions. I say 'allow' and not 'agree' because I can still think he's wrong - but since he's paid his dues and comes to his opinions from real experience, he's an "Israeli" voice in my mind, and not a Diaspora Jew.

That said, read his post about comparing his IDF service as a prison guard in Ketziot to the reports about Abu Ghraib. Here's the first few lines to whet your appetite. How Ketziot Never Could Have Prepared Me for Abu Ghraib:
When Sy Hersh first told me about Abu Ghraib, I could not understand him, and not merely because he begins sentences in the middle of sentences. This was a problem of cognition. I had long ago built a template in my mind about these sorts of issues, and the story Sy was telling me did not fit.

This template was something I devised in the 1991, when I was a military policeman at the Ketziot Military Prison Camp in the Negev Desert of Israel. I had moved to Israel at the age of 20. I was drafted, and after many strange and discomfiting turns, I found myself in Ketziot, where I didn't want to be, for several reasons, including a) it's very hot in the Negev and I have the melanin of a Finn; b) I was raised as a socialist Zionist, which meant that I was a Jewish nationalist who opposed the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza; c) the job itself, which was to maintain order in a prison holding 6,000 Palestinians, most of whom would kill me if given a chance. This is not to say that I wouldn't die for Israel. I just didn't want to die enforcing an occupation I thought morally and politically dubious.
Pic from here. Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dowd and Hillary

Via TPM, the NYTimes Ombusperson (a.k.a. Public Editor) criticizes Maureen Dowd's coverage of Hillary (Pantsuits and the Presidency). I guess I don't expect much from Dowd to even bother outrage anymore. Dowd is an embarrasment to the profession, and that's saying a lot since 'pundits' are usually the lowest form of writer. 'Pundits' as we now have them are either bought-and-paid-for partisans or glib hacks. I really have no idea how Dowd got to her position (and I'm not surprised that she's won a Pulitzer - because those things are given out like meth at a hillbilly wedding).

But what makes this particular line of criticism important is the recognition that Dowd is basically gay-baiting. She applies a stark sexual politics onto Democrats - painting Democratic men as gay (unless they're like Bill Clinton and then they're pimps), and the women as lesbians. Considering Dowd is unmarried, and has attacked the notion of marriage in her book (Are Men Necessary?), her fixation on gender and sexuality goes beyond creepy into the pathology zone.

The whatever blog, Hullabaloo, put it very well:
"Again, the question isn't whether she should have treated Clinton any differently. It's that her entire worldview is toxic, both culturally and politically. She uses explicitly sexist and homophobic imagery that favors traditional authoritarian leadership to explain politics. She gets away with it because she has a rapier wit and is a physically beautiful person, thus insulating herself from the kind of criticism others would receive for writing this crud. But in truth she's a walking anachronism, more like a character in Mad Men than a modern sophisticate."
Pic self-made. Backpost finished 2009-12-03.

George Carlin, Dead at 71

George Carlin died. AUUUGHHGGH!

Carlin was a major influence on my comedy education; I took a lot of my intonation, my use of voices, my use of words, from him. In my estimation, no comic had better timing than Carlin (at least until the 80s... his recent material is best forgotten). Very sad to lose an influence of such stature.

Friday, June 20, 2008

538 Map of the Week #3

538 Map of the Week

Summary Changes:
Week 3: Obama 337, McCain 201
Week 2: Obama 273, McCain 265
Week 1: Obama 279, McCain 259

What a major shift! What happened? Well, according to 538's Nate Silver: Florida, Virginia, Missouri and even Indiana are now light light blue.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Because Why Not At This Point

Still logy.

"I Am Aware of All Internet Traditions"

Because I am still logy from a 48-hour deadline push, I am easily suckered into peer-pressure, internet-style. John Cole claims that "This may be the greatest thread in the history of the intertrons."

Why? Because some doofus didn't understand what the blogger was saying, expressed his confusion and when he was corrected refused to accept the reprimand. In so doing, he defended himself from any criticism by claiming the now immortal phrase "I Am Aware of All Internet Traditions."

At least at Balloon-Juice that phrase will live long.

Fun: Do It Yourself Obama Poster

Found this rolling through the internet: :: DO IT YOURSELF BARACK OBAMA POSTER ::

Fun stuff. As you can see, I changed my blog logo to fit this new ethos.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hillary's Martyrdom

Jason Zengerle makes a good point today in TNR: Hillary's Martyrdom Isn't All It's Cracked Up To Be:
Hillary's martyrdom differs from Bill's [Styx: post-GOP witch hunt] in one key detail: he survived impeachment; she didn't survive the Democratic primary. Heilemann makes it clear that Hillary still wants to be president, but it's really hard to see how she'll ever accomplish that. If Obama wins, she won't be able to run until 2016, when she'll be 69 and as fresh as Hubert Humphrey was in 1968. And if Obama loses, a decent segment of black and activist liberal voters will probably hold Hillary at least partly responsible for his defeat, no matter how hard (and how disingenuously) she campaigns for him this fall. And as Hillary learned in '08, you can't win a Democratic primary without those voters. In other words, Hillary's martyrdom might have made her more resonant, consequential, and potent, but I don't think it's made her more presidential.
She's damaged goods, and the damage was all self-inflicted.

Backpost finished 2009-12-03, with a fixed link.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Hagiography of Russert

Jack Shafer, one of the best things about Slate magazine, agrees with me about the selfish wasting of airspace and attention of the death of Tim Russert (for an example, see Remnick at The New Yorker.) Basically, they are treating him as an important world leader when, basically, he's just another of the pack of journalist-talking heads who emphasized the horse-race over real substance. Every prominent journalist who was working from 2001-2008 should be ashamed about what they let the Bush Administration get away with.

Here's a choice quote from Shafer's piece, The Canonization of Saint Russert:
I wonder whether the media grievers gave a moment of thought to how this Russert torrent they produced played with viewers and readers. Did the grievers really think Russert was so important, so vital to the nation's course, and such an elevated human being that he deserved hour upon hour of tribute? I wonder whether any of the responsible journalists paused to think, Hey, this is really weird. We're using our unchecked editorial power to soak the nation with our tears about our friend, and that's unseemly!

On days like this, I, too, hate the press.
Join the club, Jack.

Pic from here. Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Sebelius vs. Hillary

The TNR quotes from this Washpost story about Hillary supporters pushing back against Kathleen Sebelius as a possible Obama VP because, wait for it, Sebelius is too nice. And, evidently, the Hillary supporters that interest the mainstream media the most, are unhinged wackos who back Hillary mainly because she's equally mean as they.

Why is it that I - a major Hillary hater - have more respect for her than her supposed supporters? Logic would state that the media just seeks out the crazies, because certainly there must be some sane people among the millions who voted for her. These 'journalists' just prove, again, that they are out to create trouble and stir up controversy in the hopes of stirring up revenue.

I'm on record supporting Sebelius as Obama's VP, she seems to be a good electoral choice, and it is about time to have a woman hired into the White House.

Pic self made. Backpost finished 2009-12-07.

Scariest Video Ever

Retrojunk is an important memory bank for Gen-Xers like me, especially in their trove of TV show intros.

While surfing there the other day, I came across what may be the scariest video ever: the He-Man intro in German.

Why so scary? Well, the dialogue of the intro, as you probably know by heart, contains this line: "Fabulous secret powers were revealed to me the day I held aloft my sword and said 'by the power of Greyskull. I have the power!' Cringer became the mighty Battle Cat and I became He-Man the most powerful man in the universe."

It's already pretty spooky when, in the normal English intro, 'Adam' declares "I have the power!" When it's bellowed in German? Holy moley. Everything screamed in German in scary, but especially when musclebound warriors in blond page-boys scream about being supermen.

(see another version, less scary, at youtube here; but this second youtube version is also nasty.)

538 Map of the Week

As started here, this is the 538 Electoral Projection Map of the Week ending on 6/13.

Summary Changes:
Last week: Obama 273, McCain 265
This week: Obama 279, McCain 259 (Michigan & Nevada moved from almost red to toss-up white)

Well That Didn't Take Long

Yesterday, the Supreme Court miraculously reinstated habeas corpus. The country is slowly edging back from the Bush precipice. In Boumediene v. Bush:
The majority found that the constitutionally guaranteed right of habeas corpus review applies to persons held in Guantanamo and to persons designated as enemy combatants on that territory. If Congress intends to suspend the right, an adequate substitute must offer the prisoner a meaningful opportunity to demonstrate he is held pursuant to an erroneous application or interpretation of relevant law, and the reviewing decision-making must have some ability to correct errors, to assess the sufficiency of the government's evidence, and to consider relevant exculpating evidence. The petitioners met their burden of establishing that Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 fails to provide an adequate substitute for habeas.
This is great news, right? Well, not to John McCain.

From Time, McCain Slams The Supreme Court's Habeas Decision, direct quote from the campaign trail:
The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country. ... So now what are we going to do. We are now going to have the courts flooded with so-called, quote, Habeas Corpus suits against the government, whether it be about the diet, whether it be about the reading material....
One of the worst decisions? Really?

When I say "didn't take long" that means that McCain has swiftly shown himself to be unfit to be President of the United States. Bush and Co. (which alas has now included Hillary) like to describe the president as "commander in chief" - using military terminology and military imagery. This allows Bush, Hillary, McCain to talk all cowboy like about punching cowpokes in the varmints, or whatever they do in Texas. But the president is actually Chief Executive of the Constitution first and foremost. Which means that he needs to protect our rights, liberties, and freedoms above everything else. That's his job.

I don't want to get all 2nd Amendment here, but ultimately that amendment makes clear that individual safety doesn't stop with the Federal government but with each individual citizen. The president's job is to make sure that government doesn't take away the liberties of the citizen. Bush failed spectacularly at that job. By rejecting Boumediene, McCain plans to fail even more. McCain is standing square on Bush's shoulders and appears to be proud to extend Bush's legacy.

If the 2004 election was about the war, 2008 is about the Constitution. McCain has failed.

h/t Sullivan.

Update: More reading - Scott Horton, Dahlia Lithwick, Marty Lederman.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Why There is no 'Liberal' Mass Media

From the TPM, an editorial writer explains why she had to censor her writing about the Iraq War:
"And yet, in the years following 9/11, I felt editorial restraints that never allowed us to tell the whole truth about the lies and deception that led to America's most catastrophic foreign policy disaster. Others in the mainstream media felt far greater restraints. Jessica Yellin, a CNN journalist, for example, says she felt pressured by corporate executives at her previous network to support the Iraq War. To Anderson Cooper, she described how she and others were 'under enormous pressure from corporate executives, frankly, to make sure that this was a war presented in a way that was consistent with the patriotic fever in the nation and the president's high approval ratings.'"
As has been said before, while the writers and even editors of newspapers/TVnews may be "liberal", because these are for-profit businesses, the corporate ownership requires the news to be biased for marketability.

This bias is institutional and also completely understandable and obvious. It's a business; you need to sell papers and/or sell advertising minutes. And since the reporters/owners believed that the country supported a crazy revenge war against the man who tried to kill the president's daddy, then that's the story they were going to sell.

The midterm election of 2002 and the crazy thin-win of 2004 convinced the media ownership that the country was perfectly OK in ignoring the Bush malfeasance. To go against Bush meant to lose advertisers. And since FOXnews was the most profitable 24hr station at the time, it showed the other owners and bureaucrats that Bush-smooching sells.

I believe that the breakdown in this corporate collusion came from two sources: (1) Katrina and then (2) the 2006 midterms.

Katrina gave the rank-and-file reporters some backbone to try to buck their corporate 'responsibilities' and actually report the horrible effects of the Bush administration. Then the polls showed most people agreed (Miers, Schiavo, war dead all helped) then it became more lucrative to allow some criticism of Bush (or at least less slavish coverage). Then the 2006 midterms showed that the country actually wanted to attack Bush, and so that's where we are.

Press 'bias' is a market decision, pure and simple.

I think another bellwether moment was Colbert at the 2006 Correspondents Dinner. At the time, the press corps (following their owners' lead) was horrified that Colbert would dare challenge the naked emperor.

Anyway, this trend of press bias following the conservative business impulse of their owners won't go away until newspapers/newsTV becomes a non-for-profit business again. And I don't know how that will happen.

But read the TPM article to see what I'm talking about.

Murdoch Bets the Smart Money

This story from Reuters has been commented on by a number of blogs, and I finally remembered to join the chorus:
Rupert Murdoch predicts landslide for Democrats By Eric Auchard, Thu May 29, 8:19 AM ET,

CARLSBAD, California (Reuters) - News Corp Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch on Wednesday predicted a Democratic landslide in the U.S. presidential election against a gloomy economic backdrop over the next 18 months.

Murdoch has yet to endorse a U.S. presidential candidate but considers Barack Obama very promising, the media magnate said in an interview by two Wall Street Journal reporters at an annual conference for high-tech industry insiders.
"You have got the Obama phenomenon. You have got, undoubtedly, a recession ... The average American is really getting hurt financially and that all bodes well for him (Obama), Murdoch said.
Murdoch is associated with conservative political views but has a reputation for a pragmatic streak in major national races where he has shown a willingness to switch sides when he detects major political changes afoot.
Murdoch said he had played a role in the endorsement by the New York Post, one of his global stable of papers, in endorsing Obama during the Democratic primary with Hillary Clinton in New York.
Murdoch may be the amoral tyrant of a the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy, but he must also be extraordinarily smart/cunning... and he knows what's coming. It's in the historical structure. Were Obama as untalented in politics as Kerry/Gore, he'd still win. I said before, the only person who could have lost this election was Hillary.

McCain Hates War?

This canard - McCain Hates War - is going to be repeated a lot. So, to push back early, I bring the words/analysis of Matt Yglesias of Atlantic, back from March:
nothing about the fact that John McCain (allegedly) "hates war" should blind us to the fact that McCain loves advocating for the initiation of wars. McCain has a healthy understanding of what war means -- healthier than my own or than George W. Bush's -- but also a radically unsound understanding of how international relations works. To most people, war is horrible but sometimes necessary. To McCain, war is horrible but frequently necessary.
But, read his whole post for the proofs.

Some More Balloon

A few more things I've added to this Ballon-Juice thread (note, I never used to respond on blogs, but BJ feels different: (1) it's filled with a lot of no-nonsense types, men and women, who take pride in seeing through B.S., (2) many posters have swift, sick senses of humor which makes for great reading, and (3) posts are put up pretty quickly - all three things are the opposite on most sites like, for example, TPM/TNR):
jake says: I’m convinced the dude has memorized TAoW [The Art if War].
One thing that impressed me about "Dreams of My Father" is how Barack's upbringing was influenced by lessons learned from his father and step-father - both men were chosen by their countries to come to America to be given high degrees and return back to Kenya/Indonesia to be leaders. Barack's step-father teaching him how to defend himself in the chaotic oppressive weirdness of Indonesia gives insight to how Obama learned to survive in a dangerous world.
Obama as ninja pic from here. Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Sandman Material, Brewers Phrase & Fable

I'm in my (semi) Annual reading of the Sandman, along with a great book I got from my favorite online remainder store (, The Sandman Companion. The book is a set of interviews between the author Hy Bender and Neil Gaiman, the genius behind Sandman. Bender also provides a background/summary of each book and decent background.

Gaiman mentions in the interview that if come across a weird word in the Sandman you'll never go wrong looking it up in Brewer's Phrase & Fable - and, cool enough, the internet provides an online copy!

So, to test it out, here's Morpheus = (2 syl., the Sleeper). Son of Sleep, and god of dreams: so called because he gives these airy nothings their form and fashion.

Here's another online Brewers: From, and the dream/morpheus entry.

Backpost finished 2009-12-23.

Meaningless Prediction: The Possible Maps

I linked below this week's 538 map which shows, I believe, the very highest number of states that McCain will get and lowest for Obama.

The stats are, Obama at 273, McCain 265. GOP gets Florida, Michigan, Virginia according to current polls and Ohio is a dead 50/50 heat.

I have developed two maps showing what I think will happen in November. Scenario is the best I can hope for if current trends continue. By this I mean that given Obama's strengths as a campaigner, and given the unobstructed field (no more Hillary), I believe Obama will be able to pick up these states: MI, VA, NV, OH, MO, and 1 seat in Nebraska (it doesn't go winner-take-all). I'm also wagering that heavy campaigning in Florida will bring it to the fold, but that's the biggest toss-up I see in November, given current trends.

Scenario 1 Total: Obama 320, McCain 218

Scenario 2 is what *could* happen if the Democratic party gets it's act together and McCain is as terrible in November now as he was Tuesday night. Also this scenario projects maximum damage from Bob Barr's Libertarian campaign which may pick up protest votes in the deep South from people who hate McCain as much as they do Obama. Ron Paul doesn't seem to be mounting a third party run, but if he did, that would just go into the Barr spoiler camp.

The pickups in Scenario 2 are GA & NC from the Barr nonsense, North & South Dakota and New Hampshire from Barr and GOP implosion. The final tallies are:

Scenario 2 Total:Obama 387, McCain 151

Note, if the Republicans had run Romney and/or if the Democrats had run an Edwards-Obama ticket like I expected, it would have been possible that we would have had a massive landslide, possibly picking up Arkansas, West Virginia, Tennessee, and others in the South. Ah well.

Hillary's Debt

Balloon-Juice quotes this Hill story:
After a long primary season, the Clinton campaign’s expenditures have far exceeded the amount of donations it has received so far, and the campaign has accumulated debt of more than $19 million, according to campaign finance reports. Much of that debt consists of unpaid salaries and bills to vendors.
One commenter asks how it's possible that Clinton went so deep in debt in what was clearly a futile contest (she was mathematically eliminated after her 11 straight losses in February weren't offset by wins in Ohio & Texas).

Here's my response:
This is ridiculous. Clinton has to pay it. You just don’t accidentally run up a $20 Million Debt
I think it's called "shooting the moon." As far as I can tell - trying to put rational thought into what appears to be a deranged woman's head - her team spent money like gangbusters, and ran a scorched-earth campaign, in order to get within 2 digits of delegates of Obama (i.e. under 100, 99 would be fine, just like her 9.2 win in PA became 10 points, it works in reverse too).

With just 2-digits separating 'em, Hillary was going to pitch to the superdelegates that she *had* to take it to Denver and to force a floor-fight. Because 2 digits is just "too close." I read yesterday (can't find so quickly) that this was the thinking.

So the spendthrifting, the bridge-burning, was going to pay off if she could just get under 100. Then she'd claw her way to a floor fight and emerge bloody and victorious... and then pay off the debts.

This also explains the behavior of her top surrogates. This pyramid scheme was the only way they'd get paid as well. The Clintons made too many promises since 2000 to too many people - my assumption is they have a "promise debt" to go with this money debt - and so all of her surrogates needed to go along.

Its the mentality of a gambler, really. If you're so deep in the hole, the concept of stopping is crazy because if you owe $10,000, then the next humongous bet will pay that off if you win! And when that fails, make another humongous bet. Lather, rinse, repeat.

538 Map of the Week began a few months ago and it has taken the political world by storm. The site's author, Nate Silver, is a professional sports statistician who decided to apply his (lucrative, sought after) techniques to politics. See this story in the NYPost for more info.

I can't argue with numbers, but I find that he emphasizes certain things too much, the site is too confusing, and the clearly practical part - the tracking of state-by-state polls - seems to not reflect the feeling on the ground.

As of this week, June 6, he puts Obama barely winning in November. I can accept that because the polls were taken before Obama clinched the nomination and, hey, it's FIVE FULL MONTHS before the election occurs. Most people don't pay attention to the vote until after labor day, and while the primary was fun and all, it was also weird and confusing.

That said, I will try to post the map of the current electoral projection from week to week, so there's a running visual of the progression of the race. Standard deal, red=GOP, blue=Dem, stronger the color, the stronger the support.

P.S. He has not yet including anything from third-parties. Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, may have a strong showing in a number of Southern states that could complicate things. For example, NC and GA.


It's deadly deadline time again. Last time, the song I played over and over was "Time is Running Out". This time it's Ted Nugent's "Stranglehold." I was never much of a Nugent fan (he's a total wacko on and off the stage), but, being a music fan, over the years I've purchased and otherwise acquired as many 'Best of' albums so to sample the full gamut of the popular music landscape.

All I knew of Nugent was "Cat Scratch Fever" - an OK song with good guitar-work. But after listening to his "Best Of" I realized that the man swings a truly mean axe. And I fell in love with "Stranglehold" - an eight minute song with asinine lyrics that is basically a guitar Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida: a thorough-going exposition on what the electric guitar can do.

Here's a youtube someone put up of with pictures of the Nuge set to the full studio version of Stranglehold.

What I'm playing is my collection of Strangleholds from the studio, live, and bootleg albums.

Update: Another searcher.

Obama's Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference

From RealClearPolitics: June 04, 2008
Obama's Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference

Remarks at AIPAC Policy Conference
June 4, 2008
As Prepared for Delivery
It's great to see so many friends from across the country. I want to congratulate Howard Friedman, David Victor and Howard Kohr on a successful conference, and on the completion of a new headquarters just a few blocks away.

Before I begin, I want to say that I know some provocative emails have been circulating throughout Jewish communities across the country. A few of you may have gotten them. They're filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for President. And all I want to say is - let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty frightening.

But if anyone has been confused by these emails, I want you to know that today I'll be speaking from my heart, and as a true friend of Israel. And I know that when I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends. Good friends. Friends who share my strong commitment to make sure that the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever.

One of the many things that I admire about AIPAC is that you fight for this common cause from the bottom up. The lifeblood of AIPAC is here in this room - grassroots activists of all ages, from all parts of the country, who come to Washington year after year to make your voices heard. Nothing reflects the face of AIPAC more than the 1,200 students who have travelled here to make it clear to the world that the bond between Israel and the United States is rooted in more than our shared national interests - it's rooted in the shared values and shared stories of our people. And as President, I will work with you to ensure that it this bond strengthened.

I first became familiar with the story of Israel when I was eleven years old. I learned of the long journey and steady determination of the Jewish people to preserve their identity through faith, family and culture. Year after year, century after century, Jews carried on their traditions, and their dream of a homeland, in the face of impossible odds.

The story made a powerful impression on me. I had grown up without a sense of roots. My father was black, he was from Kenya, and he left us when I was two. My mother was white, she was from Kansas, and I'd moved with her to Indonesia and then back to Hawaii. In many ways, I didn't know where I came from. So I was drawn to the belief that you could sustain a spiritual, emotional and cultural identity. And I deeply understood the Zionist idea - that there is always a homeland at the center of our story.

I also learned about the horror of the Holocaust, and the terrible urgency it brought to the journey home to Israel. For much of my childhood, I lived with my grandparents. My grandfather had served in World War II, and so had my great uncle. He was a Kansas boy, who probably never expected to see Europe - let alone the horrors that awaited him there. And for months after he came home from Germany, he remained in a state of shock, alone with the painful memories that wouldn't leave his head.

You see, my great uncle had been a part of the 89th Infantry Division - the first Americans to reach a Nazi concentration camp. They liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald, on an April day in 1945. The horrors of that camp go beyond our capacity to imagine. Tens of thousands died of hunger, torture, disease, or plain murder - part of the Nazi killing machine that killed 6 million people.

When the Americans marched in, they discovered huge piles of dead bodies and starving survivors. General Eisenhower ordered Germans from the nearby town to tour the camp, so they could see what was being done in their name. He ordered American troops to tour the camp, so they could see the evil they were fighting against. He invited Congressmen and journalists to bear witness. And he ordered that photographs and films be made. Explaining his actions, Eisenhower said that he wanted to produce, "first-hand evidence of these things, if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda."

I saw some of those very images at Yad Vashem, and they never leave you. And those images just hint at the stories that survivors of the Shoah carried with them. Like Eisenhower, each of us bears witness to anyone and everyone who would deny these unspeakable crimes, or ever speak of repeating them. We must mean what we say when we speak the words: "never again."

It was just a few years after the liberation of the camps that David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the Jewish State of Israel. We know that the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle, and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know that we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as President I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security.

Not when there are still voices that deny the Holocaust. Not when there are terrorist groups and political leaders committed to Israel's destruction. Not when there are maps across the Middle East that don't even acknowledge Israel's existence, and government-funded textbooks filled with hatred toward Jews. Not when there are rockets raining down on Sderot, and Israeli children have to take a deep breath and summon uncommon courage every time they board a bus or walk to school.

I have long understood Israel's quest for peace and need for security. But never more so than during my travels there two years ago. Flying in an IDF helicopter, I saw a narrow and beautiful strip of land nestled against the Mediterranean. On the ground, I met a family who saw their house destroyed by a Katyusha Rocket. I spoke to Israeli troops who faced daily threats as they maintained security near the blue line. I talked to people who wanted nothing more simple, or elusive, than a secure future for their children.

I have been proud to be a part of a strong, bi-partisan consensus that has stood by Israel in the face of all threats. That is a commitment that both John McCain and I share, because support for Israel in this country goes beyond party. But part of our commitment must be speaking up when Israel's security is at risk, and I don't think any of us can be satisfied that America's recent foreign policy has made Israel more secure.

Hamas now controls Gaza. Hizbollah has tightened its grip on southern Lebanon, and is flexing its muscles in Beirut. Because of the war in Iraq, Iran - which always posed a greater threat to Israel than Iraq - is emboldened, and poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States and Israel in the Middle East in a generation. Iraq is unstable, and al Qaeda has stepped up its recruitment. Israel's quest for peace with its neighbors has stalled, despite the heavy burdens borne by the Israeli people. And America is more isolated in the region, reducing our strength and jeopardizing Israel's safety.

The question is how to move forward. There are those who would continue and intensify this failed status quo, ignoring eight years of accumulated evidence that our foreign policy is dangerously flawed. And then there are those who would lay all of the problems of the Middle East at the doorstep of Israel and its supporters, as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all trouble in the region. These voices blame the Middle East's only democracy for the region's extremism. They offer the false promise that abandoning a stalwart ally is somehow the path to strength. It is not, it never has been, and it never will be.

Our alliance is based on shared interests and shared values. Those who threaten Israel threaten us. Israel has always faced these threats on the front lines. And I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel's security.

That starts with ensuring Israel's qualitative military advantage. I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat - from Gaza to Tehran. Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened. As President, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade - investments to Israel's security that will not be tied to any other nation. First, we must approve the foreign aid request for 2009. Going forward, we can enhance our cooperation on missile defense. We should export military equipment to our ally Israel under the same guidelines as NATO. And I will always stand up for Israel's right to defend itself in the United Nations and around the world.

Across the political spectrum, Israelis understand that real security can only come through lasting peace. And that is why we - as friends of Israel - must resolve to do all we can to help Israel and its neighbors to achieve it. Because a secure, lasting peace is in Israel's national interest. It is in America's national interest. And it is in the interest of the Palestinian people and the Arab world. As President, I will work to help Israel achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security. And I won't wait until the waning days of my presidency. I will take an active role, and make a personal commitment to do all I can to advance the cause of peace from the start of my Administration.

The long road to peace requires Palestinian partners committed to making the journey. We must isolate Hamas unless and until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right to exist, and abide by past agreements. There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organizations. That is why I opposed holding elections in 2006 with Hamas on the ballot. The Israelis and the Palestinian Authority warned us at the time against holding these elections. But this Administration pressed ahead, and the result is a Gaza controlled by Hamas, with rockets raining down on Israel.

The Palestinian people must understand that progress will not come through the false prophets of extremism or the corrupt use of foreign aid. The United States and the international community must stand by Palestinians who are committed to cracking down on terror and carrying the burden of peacemaking. I will strongly urge Arab governments to take steps to normalize relations with Israel, and to fulfill their responsibility to pressure extremists and provide real support for President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. Egypt must cut off the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Israel can also advance the cause of peace by taking appropriate steps - consistent with its security - to ease the freedom of movement for Palestinians, improve economic conditions in the West Bank, and to refrain from building new settlements - as it agreed to with the Bush Administration at Annapolis.

Let me be clear. Israel's security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper - but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel's identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.

I have no illusions that this will be easy. It will require difficult decisions on both sides. But Israel is strong enough to achieve peace, if it has partners who are committed to the goal. Most Israelis and Palestinians want peace, and we must strengthen their hand. The United States must be a strong and consistent partner in this process - not to force concessions, but to help committed partners avoid stalemate and the kind of vacuums that are filled by violence. That's what I commit to do as President of the United States.

The threats to Israel start close to home, but they don't end there. Syria continues its support for terror and meddling in Lebanon. And Syria has taken dangerous steps in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, which is why Israeli action was justified to end that threat.

I also believe that the United States has a responsibility to support Israel's efforts to renew peace talks with the Syrians. We must never force Israel to the negotiating table, but neither should we ever block negotiations when Israel's leaders decide that they may serve Israeli interests. As President, I will do whatever I can to help Israel succeed in these negotiations. And success will require the full enforcement of Security Council Resolution 1701 in Lebanon, and a stop to Syria's support for terror. It is time for this reckless behavior to come to an end.

There is no greater threat to Israel - or to the peace and stability of the region - than Iran. Now this audience is made up of both Republicans and Democrats, and the enemies of Israel should have no doubt that, regardless of party, Americans stand shoulder-to-shoulder in our commitment to Israel's security. So while I don't want to strike too partisan a note here today, I do want to address some willful mischaracterizations of my positions.

The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its President denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.

But just as we are clear-eyed about the threat, we must be clear about the failure of today's policy. We knew, in 2002, that Iran supported terrorism. We knew Iran had an illicit nuclear program. We knew Iran posed a grave threat to Israel. But instead of pursuing a strategy to address this threat, we ignored it and instead invaded and occupied Iraq. When I opposed the war, I warned that it would fan the flames of extremism in the Middle East. That is precisely what happened in Iran - the hardliners tightened their grip, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President in 2005. And the United States and Israel are less secure.

I respect Senator McCain, and look forward to a substantive debate with him these next five months. But on this point, we have differed, and we will differ. Senator McCain refuses to understand or acknowledge the failure of the policy that he would continue. He criticizes my willingness to use strong diplomacy, but offers only an alternate reality - one where the war in Iraq has somehow put Iran on its heels. The truth is the opposite. Iran has strengthened its position. Iran is now enriching uranium, and has reportedly stockpiled 150 kilos of low enriched uranium. Its support for terrorism and threats toward Israel have increased. Those are the facts, they cannot be denied, and I refuse to continue a policy that has made the United States and Israel less secure.

Senator McCain offers a false choice: stay the course in Iraq, or cede the region to Iran. I reject this logic because there is a better way. Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran - it is precisely what has strengthened it. It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in. We will finally pressure Iraq's leaders to take meaningful responsibility for their own future.

We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests. We have no time to waste. We cannot unconditionally rule out an approach that could prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We have tried limited, piecemeal talks while we outsource the sustained work to our European allies. It is time for the United States to lead.

There will be careful preparation. We will open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with our adversaries just for the sake of talking. But as President of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing - if, and only if - it can advance the interests of the United States.

Only recently have some come to think that diplomacy by definition cannot be tough. They forget the example of Truman, and Kennedy and Reagan. These Presidents understood that diplomacy backed by real leverage was a fundamental tool of statecraft. And it is time to once again make American diplomacy a tool to succeed, not just a means of containing failure. We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives - including the lifting of sanctions, and political and economic integration with the international community. If you refuse, we will ratchet up the pressure.

My presidency will strengthen our hand as we restore our standing. Our willingness to pursue diplomacy will make it easier to mobilize others to join our cause. If Iran fails to change course when presented with this choice by the United States, it will be clear - to the people of Iran, and to the world - that the Iranian regime is the author of its own isolation. That will strengthen our hand with Russia and China as we insist on stronger sanctions in the Security Council. And we should work with Europe, Japan and the Gulf states to find every avenue outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime - from cutting off loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions, to banning the export of refined petroleum to Iran, to boycotting firms associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, whose Quds force has rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.

I was interested to see Senator McCain propose divestment as a source of leverage - not the bigoted divestment that has sought to punish Israeli scientists and academics, but divestment targeted at the Iranian regime. It's a good concept, but not a new one. I introduced legislation over a year ago that would encourage states and the private sector to divest from companies that do business in Iran. This bill has bipartisan support, but for reasons that I'll let him explain, Senator McCain never signed on. Meanwhile, an anonymous Senator is blocking the bill. It is time to pass this into law so that we can tighten the squeeze on the Iranian regime. We should also pursue other unilateral sanctions that target Iranian banks and assets.

And we must free ourselves from the tyranny of oil. The price of a barrel of oil is one of the most dangerous weapons in the world. Petrodollars pay for weapons that kill American troops and Israeli citizens. And the Bush Administration's policies have driven up the price of oil, while its energy policy has made us more dependent on foreign oil and gas. It's time for the United States to take real steps to end our addiction to oil. And we can join with Israel, building on last year's US-Israel Energy Cooperation Act, to deepen our partnership in developing alternative sources of energy by increasing scientific collaboration and joint research and development. The surest way to increase our leverage in the long term is to stop bankrolling the Iranian regime.

Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. But that only makes diplomacy more important. If we must use military force, we are more likely to succeed, and will have far greater support at home and abroad, if we have exhausted our diplomatic efforts.

That is the change we need in our foreign policy. Change that restores American power and influence. Change accompanied by a pledge that I will make known to allies and adversaries alike: that America maintains an unwavering friendship with Israel, and an unshakeable commitment to its security.

As members of AIPAC, you have helped advance this bipartisan consensus to support and defend our ally Israel. And I am sure that today on Capitol Hill you will be meeting with members of Congress and spreading the word. But we are here because of more than policy. We are here because the values we hold dear are deeply embedded in the story of Israel.

Just look at what Israel has accomplished in 60 years. From decades of struggle and the terrible wake of the Holocaust, a nation was forged to provide a home for Jews from all corners of the world - from Syria to Ethiopia to the Soviet Union. In the face of constant threats, Israel has triumphed. In the face of constant peril, Israel has prospered. In a state of constant insecurity, Israel has maintained a vibrant and open discourse, and a resilient commitment to the rule of law.

As any Israeli will tell you, Israel is not a perfect place, but like the United States it sets an example for all when it seeks a more perfect future. These same qualities can be found among American Jews. It is why so many Jewish Americans have stood by Israel, while advancing the American story. Because there is a commitment embedded in the Jewish faith and tradition: to freedom and fairness; to social justice and equal opportunity. To tikkun olam - the obligation to repair this world.

I will never forget that I would not be standing here today if it weren't for that commitment. In the great social movements in our country's history, Jewish and African Americans have stood shoulder to shoulder. They took buses down south together. They marched together. They bled together. And Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were willing to die alongside a black man - James Chaney - on behalf of freedom and equality.

Their legacy is our inheritance. We must not allow the relationship between Jews and African Americans to suffer. This is a bond that must be strengthened. Together, we can rededicate ourselves to end prejudice and combat hatred in all of its forms. Together, we can renew our commitment to justice. Together, we can join our voices together, and in doing so make even the mightiest of walls fall down.

That work must include our shared commitment to Israel. You and I know that we must do more than stand still. Now is the time to be vigilant in facing down every foe, just as we move forward in seeking a future of peace for the children of Israel, and for all children. Now is the time to stand by Israel as it writes the next chapter in its extraordinary journey. Now is the time to join together in the work of repairing this world.

Barack Obama is a Democratic Senator from Illinois and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Truth From the Past

Here's a clip (h/t TNR) of the PBS pundits in awe after they heard Obama's keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention.

Just watch these men, totally stunned.

Obama in Hebrew

The headline reads: "The Victory of Obama" and the line on top: "History in the USA: First Black Presidential Candidate"

His last name is spelled: Aleph-Vov-Bet-Aleph-Mem-Heh
His first name is like the Tanakh character Barak (Bet-Reish-Quf), which is interesting. I remember seeing a headline in 1991 which spelled a politician named David with Daled-Yud-Yud-Vov-Vov-Yud-Yud-Daled. That is, David was spelled phonetically in Hebrew instead of putting it as the Biblical David (Daled-Vov-Daled). So why with "Barack"?

pic from here, link from Sullivan.

What Hillary Wants

John Heilemann in NYMag should get credit for a great title: What Hillary Wants, and Why She’s Jesse Jackson ’88. Yet, I think he's dead wrong. Heilemann, in his predicition of Hillary behavior is based on these three ideas: (1) that Hillary is, and has been throughout the primaries, a rational actor, (2) that Hillary wants to set the stage to run in 2012, and (3) that Hillary believes that Obama is doomed in November.

The refutation of these points is simple: (1) and (3) are contradictory, and (2) follows from (3). The "rational behavior" assumption is thorny because logic is ultimately concomitant on perception. Hence there's an argument in epistomology (at least the one I employ) over whether an illogical person has a problem with logic or with perception and evaluating evidence. A person who weighs evidence in a kooky way (e.g. a person who denies there's a fire burning because a rabbi told them there wasn't, even though it's right in front of their eyes), may still come to 'logical' conclusions, despite the data being bad. Which is why I posit that (non-psychotic) insanity isn't about whether someone thinks logically, but whether they are able to perceive reality. If someone acts "insane" we often come to that conclusion because the person has acted "illogically" yet it's more likely because that person cannot perceive reality with confidence and reproducibility.

As an example, take Heilemann's idea that Hillary thinks Obama is doomed:
As I’ve written many times, Hillary believes with every fiber of her being that Obama is going to lose this year. (And so does her husband.) So her aim is to put herself in the best position possible to stand up on November 5 and say, if perhaps a tad more subtly than this, "I told you so."
Now, I've also read (can't remember where) that - contrapositive - Hillary believes that the situation in '08 is so favoriable for Democrats that whomever becomes the Democratic nominee will automatically win in November.

Since we have no quotes from her on the matter (and who'd trust 'em if we had 'em?), we need to use behavior as our guide to thought. If she believes that Obama is doomed to fail in Novemeber, what is she basing that on? As I said a few moments ago, the overwhelming evidence is that the Democrats will win no matter who the nominee is. And while ordinary educated Americans may not see this yet, political junkies (like me) and more importantly actual politicians know this to be true. All indicaters point to a slaughter. That's why it's much more plausible to say that Hillary believes that she needed to win the primary at all costs because that was the actual contest (like primaries in New Haven, where I live, the Republican candidate is a foregone loss and as such the real election is the Democratic primary).

If Heilemann wants to say Hillary is logical, then she can't belive that Obama will lose in Novemeber. So, he contradicts his premises.

Her behavior, logical or not, comports much more to a deep belief that the primary was the whole game.

However, in Heilemann's partial defense, I don't think she has been acting 'logically' but mainly because of her known personality flaws, her past behavior, and from sociological analysis of campaigns.

Anna Marie Cox, the Wonkette, put it best a few months ago (can't find the link yet, sorry) that a campaign (and especially a losing one) is so tumultuous, huge, complicating and personally-draining that what most people from the outside think are conspiracies are actually just blind chance. Sure, there are certain things that can be determined (like speeches, announcements) but these are boxing-jabs not billiard bank-shots.

I take Wonkette's point further about Obama and Hillary; both of them have been through a hell of scrutiny and stamina that has not been seen in the modern era outside of warfare. Both of them, I believe, have been reduced to their basest elements through the monthslong stress and exposure. Hillary has been revealed to be a petty and small-minded narcissit. Obama has been seen as a resiliant and cool-headed gamesman. I don't think her behavior has been rational primarily because it's unlikely than anyone who has been taking the pounding in public that she has will ever remain rational.

Her constant attacks on Obama, her tone-deaf race-baiting, her unthinking strategizing, shows a person on the brink. So no matter what she may want out of the process, I think her rationality has been burned away over the past few months and she's just operating out of her limbic system.

Anyway, Heilemann gives a Q&A for how the next few days/months play out. His answers and mine, based on the analysis:

1. Is she going to quit sometime soon or fight on to the convention? Heilemann: "my guess is that she might very well be out of the race by the end of next week. For Hillary to be the Democratic nominee in 2012, she must limit the extent to which she’s seen as having caused Obama’s (in her mind, inevitable) loss this fall. And setting off on a scorched-earth march to Denver runs in diametric opposition to that goal."

News to Heilemann, it's too late not to run a scortched earth campaign. That bridge has been burnt already. I believe she will at best 'suspend' her campaign - but keep open the fundraising to help relax the astronomical debt. Her behavior, according to my limbic - fight or flight - theory above, will be to take the next few days to let the adrenaline drain from her body. Since she believes that Obama will win, she's going to try to extort from him as much as possible to get as powerful a position she can in the next Democratic administration.

If it looks like he will fail - against the odds - then she will do to Obama what she did in Kerry in '04; just walk away. But if she thinks Obama will win, she'll use the weapons at her disposal to be a kingmaker, or at least an idispensible power broker.

That's why she's still ginning up feminist resentment; why she's claiming her people are the only true Democats, why she's stoking their desire to see her raze Denver to the ground, why she's claiming she'll march on. All of this is to keep the pressure on Obama to accede to her demands.

2. Does she want to be offered the VP slot?
Heilemann: "No, she does not. If it’s offered, she has to take it, because turning it down would be a signal to her supporters that she doesn’t support Obama (see above). And if she’s on the ticket and Obama goes down (again, as she’s convinced he will), she is then complicit in the loss, and her prospects in 2012 are damaged. Does Hillary want be the next John Edwards? The question answers itself."

Dumb. She will take the VP in a shot! It's power, baby, power. And she and her husband can engineer scandals in 2010 that could force Obama to resign. See my food-taster comment below. I don't think she'll get offered it, because Obama is a smart guy and why would he want all of Hillary's negatives and none of the positives?

3. So what’s with all the leaks that Bill wants her on the ticket? Heilemann: "He probably does. The idea of Hillary as veep must sound like a sweet deal to him: It would be history-making, it would cement the Clintons’ status as one of America’s great political dynasties, and in the second-fiddle job his wife would pose no danger of overshadowing him." On this we agree.

4. Will she work hard for Obama or undermine him in the fall?
Heilemann: "Implicit in all this analysis is that Hillary Clinton is a cold-eyed rationalist, and despite the occasional shard of evidence to the contrary, this is true. She’s aware that even as she’s become a much larger figure in the course of this race in one segment of the party, her reputation has taken a beating in another. She thinks it’s unfair, but she knows it’s the reality, and also that whether Obama wins or loses, it’s difficult to imagine a promising future for herself without repairing her standing among those who regard her poorly. I suspect there won’t be many louder Obama cheerleaders this autumn — or more insincere ones."

You see how crazy that is? If she was *rational* about a 2012 run, she would have dropped out earlier (citing the real money problems) and did what Heilemann is suggesting. However, he could be correct, that she will be a cheerleader etc, but only according to my analysis - that she'll do so only if Obama is seen to be winning and she will do so with a maximum focus on how she will deliver the women, white-males, whatever. Which means to me that Obama needs to neutralize her quick by announcing Sebelius as his VP (or whomever it is) BEFORE the convention.

5. If Obama wins, what will she do next?
Heilemann: "One rumor going around New York is that she’ll run for governor — an eventuality only marginally more likely than my pursuing that office. HRC cares not a whit about state government. She loves Washington, thinks of it as home, and of Albany as hell... No, in all likelihood, Clinton will head back to the Senate and take her place as arguably the most powerful member of that body. There are those who say the hard feelings of this race will cripple her with her colleagues. What a crock. Having campaigned in all 50 states and won millions of votes in the process, Clinton will surely be the most sought-after fund-raiser in all of Democratic politics besides the putative President Obama."

Right wrong wrong. He's right about governor; because the Senate is the sweetest job around and governor is only meant to be a stepping stone to the White House (which she doesn't need now). And like she cares about NY. Please.

He's wrong about Hillary being powerful and that there won't be hard feelings. She has burned WAY too many bridges. The polls show that she would have lost California and New Jersey had the vote taken place in April or later. And if Obama plays things right, he will construct a Democratic coalition based on pre-and-post-Clintonians (but anyone can join). Note, that's been his support so far from the Senate/House: Democrats who came onto the scene before 1992 and after 2000. The post-2000 don't owe the Clintons anything and the pre-92s have that and also resent the fact that while the Clintons built power for themselves, they didn't help the party at all (not only did we lose in the midterms under him, but we lost 2000 and they were nonexistent during the Bush administration, when we needed them the most!)

Hillary will be marginalized by the gamesman, Obama, and if she plays nice, she will be given the chance to spearhead the health-care through the Senate. If she doesn't play nice, then Obama may have enough power to silence her on purpose, echoing her silence from 2000-2006.

h/t Fallows.

Wes Clark for VP?

There was much blog-praise for this article by Matt Stoller on Open Left entitled and arguing for The Unifying Choice: Wes Clark for VP.

It's a good article but not as good as this one by Lawrence O’Donnell from NY Magazine; O’Donnell was a West Wing writer and he describes, in West Wing theatrical fashion, what could have happened in the convention were neither candidate were to have reached the necessary number of delegates. It's a great great read and thank God it won't come to pass.

Stoller's point has been made by others, and I could be resisting the allure of Clark because a colleague of mine - whom I think is wrong on everything - was advocating Clark while I was advocating Daschle. I just don't want to be wrong to that guy.

Anyway, the reason why I he thinks Clark is necessary is (a) Clark is a full-bore Clintonite and it would heal the wounds of the primary, (b) Clark is a talented and successful wartime general and brings that foreign policy/military credibility to the ticket, (c) Clark has run for president and has that experience.

Ironically I reject Clark for those reasons and a few more: (a) any connection to the Clintons should be seen as poison right now. The only way the Clintons will be mollified is if Obama were killed by a scandal (or, who knows, a bullet). Even having her as VP won't calm them down (and, as someone wrote, if he does pick her as VP he also better hire a food-taster).

(b) Obama actually has all the foreign policy credibility he desires right now - he opposed the Iraq War, McCain loves that war, and the Americans hate the war. All Obama needs for credibility is to have surrogates (Webb, Nunn etc) do the military talking to rebut McCain. Moreover, as many have pointed out, to admit you need a military man on the ticket is to admit you aren't military enough. Look at Bill Clinton in '92 - he had far less foreign policy experience than Obama (he was a governor of a land-locked state and a draft-dodger) and he picked a virtual clone as his VP (who, admittedly, had been in the Senate for 8 years).

(c) Clark's presidential run was a joke. And he has never won an election! OK, he won the 2004 Oklahoma primary, whatever. Stoller argues that since '04, Clark has a highly requested speaker: "In 2006, Jon Soltz of Votevets tells me, Clark was the single most requested surrogate in the country, with the possible exceptions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton." Whatever. While I think he is an impressive person (four star general, Rhodes scholar, military Democrat) I don't think he's been nearly tested enough in politics. Make him Secretary of Defense, or NSA, let him be a politician for a while.

I still back the idea of Sebelius.

Obama Spell-Check Watch

A letter I just sent to Andrew Sullivan:
Dear Andrew,

I blog on blogger and it has annoyed me that "Obama" is still considered an incorrect word according to their spellchecker. Of these four names, only Obama's is highlighted in red: "Obama Clinton Giuliani McCain" Note, the correct word proffered for Obama is not Osama (which is actually also highlighted in red) but "ABM." Osama gets "Asama" for some reason. Asama is a mountain in Japan according to the Wiki .

Anyway, maybe we can start a petition to get the spellchecker updated. The man's the nominee (and next president!).

Thanks for all your work,
Let's see if Sullivan quotes me and how long it takes from his quote til it gets done.

The Jacket Can Come Off

Obama has (putatively) won the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in what may be the biggest upset in (modern) American political history. Now the jacket comes off. Two jackets, really. The first jacket is doffed when gentlemen prepare for fisticuffs. Or a duel. Of all Republicans, McCain is a gentleman, and we know over and over that Obama is, so this battle of two men of honor will be as bloody as a hillside duel, but it portends to be on a higher level than other contests in the past.

The other jacket is a straight-jacket that Obama has had to wear since Hillary announced her intention to run for president. Bill Clinton was enormously popular in America and even moreso in the Democratic party, where he was the Democrat to leave office as popular and powerful (contrast to Carter, LBJ, Truman; this point was first made by Marshall). And the Clinton's fought dirty.

Obama was straight-jacketed, hamstrung, shackled by having his opponents be the most popular Democrats in a generation. And Hillary compounded the trouble by invoking female-disempowerment at every slight. Her "unconcession" speech last night - a disgusting display of narcissism, hubris, and neurosis - contained an especially galling line in this vein. I was fortunate to hear the line uttered live (we get only one TV news channel, it was showing her speech, and I could only listen to her for a minute or two at a time), transcribed passage from here:
You know, I understand that a lot of people are asking, what does Hillary want? ... I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard and no longer to be invisible.
What's galling about the 'invisible' line is that it is red-meat to angry feminists who have cried 'sexism' at every criticism of Holy St. Hillary.

I won't refute the 'invisible' remark because it is beneath contempt; I bring it up to show the lines of the straight-jacket that has now been removed. Other bindings that have been loosed: now every single Democrat can, with full voice, support Obama. Many have been silenced because (a) they don't want to unleash the Clinton fury or worse (b) the fury of Clinton voters. So Reid, Pelosi, Webb, Emmanuel, Salazar, Gore - all big names with set constituencies who have had to remain 'neutral' can now plaster the walls of America with pro-Democratic, pro-Obama words and ideas.

As a number of smart commentators have noted, until last night McCain was at the highest point he could be and Obama the lowest. McCain enjoyed a unified GOP and comparitively little press scrutiny while Obama had a deeply divided party and attacks coming from three sides (GOP, Clinton Democrats, the Press) with only 1/4 of a defense (his part of the party). No longer.

McCain and Obama may be in a dead-heat today, but now that Obama is unrestrained? It's going to be a slaughter.

As an anonymous blogger from the Economist online (UK) wrote last night, comparing the speeches of all three candidates:
At the risk of bolstering the reporters-mooning-at-Obama stereotype, if this evening's speeches were a video game, a wrinkled wizard would be hollering "Finish Him!" to Barack Obama while a dizzied John McCain wobbled. And Hillary Clinton would be frenetically mashing the buttons on an unplugged controller.
The biggest proof that Obama will destroy McCain comes from simple structure. The same structure that elected Harding in 1920 and Carter in 1976: that when the populace has had enough of the status-quo, they will elect the other party.

The only person, truly, who could have screwed that up this year was Hillary. Because she's so divisive, so hated, and quite frankly such a bad campaigner, that it would have been possible for the Democrats to have lost. It would have been a repeat of '04, when an unpopular incumbent was ALMOST unseated by a deeply flawed, lackluster candidate. And while I'm no fan of Kerry, he didn't prompt the deep visceral hatred that Hillary can and does. We just dodged the bullet.

Ah, but I hear you cry, what about Obama's weaknesses? The ones that are skin-deep, if you catch my drift. Well, 16 months ago, I thought the strongest ticket for the fall was Edwards-Obama, and I claimed that I didn't think America would vote for an inexperienced Black man with Hussein for a middle name. But, uh, he won. He won over whites, blacks, hispanics, in all the states.

Yeah, but he lost Ohio and Pennsylvania! Yes, and no. As I said earlier, he lost *closed primaries* in those states. A closed primary has no bearing on the fall general election. All a closed-primary proves is that he's not as popular to Democrats. And while, intuitively, that may bother people (how can a guy win when his party doesn't like him as much as another), it also repudiates the biggest weakness of the primary process which is that it rewards the extremists of each party, which give a rather poor general election contender.

More open primaries may have spared us from Dukakis and Kerry. And if PA/OH were open, I would wager that Obama would have won them handily, like he did in Virginia, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Minnesota (all open).

Obama is a very strong candidate, which is how he beat the Clintons. Let that settle into your skin for a moment: he beat Bill and Hillary Clinton. Nobody beat the Clintons since 1980! And Obama is inspiring, a historic orator, a gifted thinker, a talented writer, and damn near perfect campaigner. He has also just campaigned in all 50 states - something not done in any previous primary - which means he has already run a general election campaign once. From now til November, it's just picking up the lost sheaves.

And the structural reason why Obama/Democrats will win? The Iraq War is enough. And McCain, god love him, has decided to embrace the Iraq War as his running mate. It's the one thing which may be more unpopular than Bush, and McCain's embracing it?! And he embraces Bush, too. Why else would McCain reject the improved GI Bill? In an election year, the Republican nominee rejects a veteran-friendly piece of pork, a rejection not shared by his party but only by the incumbant president who enjoys the lowest approval rating since Andrew Johnson.

And you think McCain can win? Running on a platform of "I like the Iraq War and Bush's treatment of the country!" The only way Obama can lose now is if there's a crippling scandal. Could happen, sure. But I don't play lotto, and I don't bet on long-shots when the stakes are this high.

The twin jackets are now off. It's a great day for America.

Buh-Bye Widgets

These two widgets - the delegate tracker and Hillary deathwatch - have now been removed from the page, as they are no longer needed. But it's fun to watch her sink, one last time.

Wow, this is a magical moment. Buh-bye Hillary, you good for nothing freak.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

It is Over

The news is spotty but consistent. Obama has the magic number of delegates. He is the presumptive nominee (he loses the presumptive at the convention in August). It is a glorious day for the Democratic party, for America, and I'd say the world.

Sullivan has been posting different Youtube videos of celebration. Here's my favorite:

Video of the Day

Why have I never even *heard* of this sketch before? From 1992 SNL "Sabra Price is Right" with Tom Hanks as an Israeli electronics store owner. Whooo! Making fun of yordim* is the only time when I will claim that being anti-"Israeli" is not being either anti-Zionist or anti-Semitic. And boy is this anti-Yordim. (And since it's SNL, the ending stinks).

Here's the transcript, and below is the video:

*Yordim (sing. yoreid) are Israelis who have left Israel to settle in the Diaspora. The word literally means "one who goes down" (it's the inverse of someone who immigrates to Israel, called an oleh, someone who goes up). It's an accurate term, but not a nice thing to say to a yoreid's face.

h/t: Onion AV Club.

Obituary: General William E. Odom, 75

I found out from Yglesias that William E. Odom, 75; Military Adviser to 2 Administrations died over the weekend. I came across Odom from an interview he gave in February 2007 which I blogged about here. Odom was a highly respected military analyst who set about to destroy the Bush administration - and general GOP - concepts about war, and specifically about Iraq and Iran. Read the interview and you will realize that we just lost a great American.

Pic from here.