The day’s primaries in Indiana and North Carolina are drawing to a close. In the large scheme of things, these probably aren’t going to shift the course of history; but the things I’ve been hearing all day today have made me angry, much angrier – and much sadder – than anything I’ve seen in the United States in a while. (And God knows, there has been plenty of competition.)

It started with the legal fracas (which started over the past week) over people tied to the Clinton campaign making fraudulent robocalls to black voters to falsely convince them that they weren’t registered to vote. I was willing to wait to see if this was isolated, but…

has been working for the Obama campaign in Indiana today, with a sharp focus on making sure people who can legally vote can actually do so. Take a look at his posts from today: 5:52 AM 7:55 AM 9:40 AM 11 AM 12:30 PM 8 PM. I should say that this is not a random poll worker; this is an attorney with an extraordinary record of public service and devotion to democracy. He is someone whose opinion on elections I take seriously. And I’ve heard similar things from other channels.

If this is really what happened — Clinton campaign workers systematically attempting to prevent voters that they see as likely to vote against them, attempting to prevent black voters from voting — then I think that this campaign has crossed a certain line which I didn’t expect that anyone on this side of the aisle would cross. It would represent a deliberate attempt to interfere with the basic operation of democracy for personal gain.

(NB: I didn’t say that Clinton personally authorized this, and I seriously doubt that she did. But something doesn’t happen on this wide a scale, in a state so closely watched by the candidate, without at least being tacitly condoned from the top. With something this serious, it doesn’t really matter; the simple act of having created an environment within a campaign where such a thing would be considered acceptable by field workers on a large scale is, in my eyes, a sign of a deep and pervasive moral failure of the people at the top. If it was with an actual explicit OK, which is unlikely, it would be such a reprehensible act that it doesn’t even bear mentioning)

Why does this make me so angry? I know this isn’t exactly unique in American history. But the scale of hypocrisy that would be required to do such a thing while preaching to the Democratic choir, while waving the flag of Bill Clinton’s “blackness,” and the simple fact that a Democrat would be willing to do this even in a party primary, seems to make what would ordinarily be a contemptible action far worse.

I think this is also why I find it worse than watching Middle Eastern politics. I don’t expect a Syrian election to be even vaguely legitimate. I expect the US to try to create a gold standard of how democracies are run.

So. I’m going to wait a while longer, to see if this is confirmed by further sources over the next few weeks. If (God forbid) this checks out, and Clinton does win the nomination, then I don’t think that I will be able to support her in the general election. Not that I’m likely to vote for McCain, whose policies I think would drag the country even further into the abyss1; but I may simply abstain from the presidential election.

1 Under the Bush administration, our country was led to the brink of an abyss; but under a McCain administration, we would take a great leap forward.

Published in: on May 6, 2008 at 17:55  Comments (10)  

Something else interesting…

A very interesting US civics quiz. Difficult, and fun.

You answered 55 out of 60 correctly — 91.67 %
Average score for this quiz during April: 66.8%
Average score since September 18, 2007: 66.8%

Published in: on April 18, 2008 at 13:56  Comments (21)  

Day Sixty

At tonight’s Clinton-Obama debate, one of the hosts asked an almost inevitable question about Clinton’s “day one” rhetoric: “What would you do differently on day one than a President Obama would when it comes to managing the nation’s economy?” After both candidates answered, it was hard to avoid the impression that the real answer is “not much;” they both had fairly similar plans. And this was the case with a lot of what they said tonight; the policy differences between the two candidates seem relatively minimal, and I suspect that a lot of the places where they do differ are the sorts of things that would change after the election. (I wouldn’t be surprised if Obama’s health plan ended up taking on more aspects of Edwards’ as it got prepared; and I would be surprised if Clinton would really freeze the prime interest rate for five years, as she promised to do tonight.1)

But this made me realize where I think the biggest difference between the two candidates is: Not on day one of a presidency, but on day sixty.

If a new president were to start to push the sorts of policies that both candidates have endorsed, about health care, the economy, or Iraq, they would start to run into serious resistance. Within two months, some very powerful interests would have marshalled considerable forces to oppose those changes. And on that day, what really matters is whether the president has the ideological leadership of the country; can he or she go out in public, make the case that This Is What We Need To Do, and cause people to form up behind the idea?

Simply having a sheaf of policy proposals, no matter how well-designed, is not enough. The power of the president isn’t in the passing of laws; it’s in the bully pulpit, in the power to set the policy direction of the country and rally the citizenry to do what needs to be done. Bill Clinton knew how to do that. Ronald Reagan did, too. Obama has often been compared to JFK, and I think the comparison is somewhat apt; he may lack experience, but experience has been a poor predictor of presidential success. But Hillary Clinton? After half a year of campaigning, I still don’t know what her grand vision is. From hearing her response and Obama’s to the question of meeting with Raúl Castro, I would almost think it was “cautiousness.” As she’s fond of saying, she has been tested before against strong Republican opposition — but she failed. Her health care plan went down in flames because she didn’t unify anyone behind it, and I haven’t seen any evidence that she’s gotten better at that. Plus, of course, there is a significant field of Republicans who would consider it their first responsibility to stymie anything Hillary Clinton does as a matter of principle; AFAIK, few feel similarly strongly against Obama.

So what I would foresee from a Clinton presidency is a mess. A lot of exciting proposals coming out on the first day, lots of big, thick bills going into the legislature, lots of lobbyists showing up, lots of sneaky ads and negative campaigns running around in the media, and ultimately her being forced to back down. Followed by four years of not being very effective, because the Democrats in Congress can’t get their act together enough to pass things even when they are in the majority unless they have a strong leader, and very likely a Republican president in 2012.

I don’t know what would happen from an Obama presidency, but it’s less likely to be that. Faced with a Day Sixty challenge, I expect that he would have been out there in front of the country for the entire time prior to that, forcefully making his case for reforms; the negative campaign is far less likely to even start, much less gain serious traction, if the people making it realize that public opinion is strongly against them to begin with. I don’t know if his policies would be as good in their details, but they would have a chance to pass.

So this past primary, I voted for Obama. I support his campaign and think he would make a genuinely better leader for this country than Hillary Clinton, a better leader than John McCain.

I don’t want a president with nothing more than policy papers; I want one who can help restore our vision of America as a country worthy of emulation.

One more thing…

Published in: on February 21, 2008 at 19:14  Comments (66)  

More madness.

A fascinating little clip, courtesy of Warren Ellis’ blog, of a video from Westboro Baptist Church. (The “God Hates Fags” crew) They got together to sing a song called “God Hates The World,” to the tune of “We Are The World.” It’s morbidly fascinating – you don’t get to see real, unabashed dystheism in the world very often. They aren’t even preaching “repent or else;” the message is very clear, God hates you and everybody else, nothing you can do will change it, he’s going to burn everyone in Hell.

It’s sort of like seeing the cultists of the Elder Gods from H. P. Lovecraft come to life; their god is going to wake up and destroy the world, but presumably they’re still worshipping him so that they’ll be eaten last?

Published in: on December 20, 2007 at 23:54  Comments (4)  
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Hoo boy…

Ah, Mike Huckabee. Favored candidate in Iowa because, as far as I can tell, nobody’s listened to him enough to realize why he’s a nut job. Here’s his Iowa campaign manager, Bob van der Plaats, explaining why he’s qualified to handle foreign policy — because he’s “a man who understands the theological nature of this war.”

Published in: on December 20, 2007 at 18:16  Comments (8)  

A lovely bit of news to start your day

Embattled Attorney General Resigns.

You know, I remember when Ashcroft resigned, that I wondered how exactly the administration was going to find someone worse. It didn’t take too long to find out — they hired a replacement whose biggest qualification had to do with writing memos justifying the use of torture. And this guy has really lived up to that; he’s spent the past two years expanding executive power beyond what King George ever claimed, aiding and abetting the administration to evade and ignore the law, lying outright to Congress whenever not under oath, and when under oath telling things which have only the most technical relationship to the truth, and working tirelessly, day in and day out, to dismantle the Constitution and replace it with an unquestionable single-man rule.

Published in: on August 27, 2007 at 09:37  Comments (16)  


In order to counter allegations that his foreign policy stance is naïve, today Barack Obama threatened to invade Pakistan.

Boy, he sure countered that allegation. Does he intend to conquer and hold a country of 157 million people, largely in hard-to-access mountain regions? Or is the plan simply to invade hostile areas like Waziristan, so that we can drive the people there slightly further into the mountains (which they’ve practiced holding by guerilla warfare for the past three thousand years or so) and in the process destabilize and delegitimize the central government until Musharraf’s fragile grip on power fails, and the increasingly strong Islamist movement in the Pakistani military takes over?

I do like him as a “fresh face…” but seeing him on the last debate, he came across as an amateur. If he wants to get serious support in the primary, he’s going to need to fill in his foreign policy background with some real understanding, not half-assed grandstanding.

Published in: on August 1, 2007 at 12:16  Comments (8)  
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Punctuation ambiguities

From Reuters, a story about a fundraiser. Starts off innocently enough:

A planned Republican fundraiser in New Hampshire aims to promote gun ownership in America by letting supporters fire powerful military-style weapons — from Uzi submachine guns to M-16 rifles.


Local Democrats say the event is in poor taste amid a spike in violent crime in Manchester and seeks to glorify the use of machine guns for political gain.

It took me a moment to parse that last sentence correctly.

Published in: on July 25, 2007 at 13:32  Comments (8)  
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One more…

Hold on, I just realized that the past few news stories may give Orwell an unfair advantage. So here’s one more (although it’s good news, relatively speaking): The (very conservative and usually government-friendly) 4th circuit court of appeals in DC ruled today that the government must allow Guantánamo detainees who are challenging their detention to see the evidence against them. No formal response yet from the administration, but I’ll give you one guess as to what it will be.

Published in: on July 20, 2007 at 18:35  Comments (4)  

Another little oddity.

Yesterday, I was listening to the radio, (transcript and recording) and heard Gen. David Petraeus (who’s acting as the President’s mouthpiece, not the Army’s) defending how well we’re doing in Iraq. There were a few interesting changes in the official administration line:

  • The main source of our problems isn’t sectarian violence, it’s al Qaeda. News to me, and apparently news to US forces too; CIA director Michael Hayden recently listed them as the fifth biggest issue, behind the local insurgency, sectarian strife, criminality, and general anarchy. (Good CSM article here)
  • He said that it’s far too soon to be asking for benchmarks about the “surge,” and that benchmarks aren’t that meaningful anyway, because the surge has only had one month to operate in so far. That’s odd; I recall the surge first being ordered this January, and the 30,000 additional troops were deployed in February. (Detailed order of battle; the new units were the 2nd BDE 82nd Airborne, 1st BDE 34th Infantry, 4th BDE 1st Infantry; they were followed by 3rd BDE 3rd Infantry in March, 4th Stryker BDE 2nd Infantry in April, 2nd BDE 3rd Infantry in May, as well as extension of deployments for various Marine units (including the 15th MEU), and deploying the USS Stennis group) So how exactly does that translate as only having had a month to prove it? (Answer: Because we said so. This administration has a disturbing tendency to make public statements that directly contradict their previous statements, and state that what they say now has always been their policy.)
  • And in related amusement, Lt. Gen. Odierno gave an interesting briefing where he gave as evidence for how good things are in Baghdad that he walked a thousand meters there.

    Just to get this straight: Several months after we deploy 30,000 additional troops and move troops from all of Iraq into Baghdad (and thus cede control of more land back to civil war and insurgency), a 3-star general visits (with all of the attendant security precautions), and with a full armed escort, can walk a full thousand meters on foot through the defended area without being shot. This constitutes a significant improvement in the conditions in Iraq and evidence that our strategy is working.

    Working at what, exactly, I’m not sure, but it’s apparently working.

I think I need to start playing a game with the news reports. I call it, “Kafka or Orwell?”

Edit: Here, let’s play.

Published in: on July 20, 2007 at 18:32  Comments Off on Another little oddity.  
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