Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Economist: The Senator and the Policy Test

Obama has made the figurative cover of the best "newspaper" available. The subject of Lexington this week is the uphill battle that Sen. Obama must fight to establish himself as a credible figure on matters of policy like the creation of a universal health care apparatus, military preparations for the January after next, and how he will address the problems of unprotected borders and exploited immigrant labor.

I think he will certainly have a struggle to match up to well packaged opponents who have honed their skills in this area, namely telling people how much they know about everything.

This piece makes two good observations about the situation in which Obama finds himself and about how he can navigate the terrain.
After six years of George Bush, the country is in no mood to elect another fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants lightweight. But command of policy is not a make-or-break issue. Mr Obama almost certainly has the wherewithal to put together policies on a wide range of subjects.

Part of the difference between the Senator and then-Gov. Bush is that Obama has surrounded himself with policy advisers who are neither entrenched partisans (Sen. Clinton recruited most of those early on) nor Washington ideologues. He has brought in many fresh young experts like Ian Solomon, transformed from an enterprising consultant and legal scholar into a legislative architect, and Pulitzer Prize winner Samantha Power to advise on foreign policy.
Mr Obama has already shown that he possesses something more important than expertise—judgment.

This point is significant, because the main reason that so many in middle America have come around to the realization that the current administration is on the wrong course is from repeated demonstrations of poor judgment. That is why the votes for the authorization force in Iraq will not go away for Clinton and Edwards.

Obama ought to continue to make the distinctions he has in this area clear, but also claim some ground of his own. There is at least one area wherein he has all the other democratic challengers beat hands down. The Senator should use the opportunity afforded by the embattled AG to remind everybody that he is a genuine expert on Constitutional law. His expertise on the Constitution, as well as his focus on government ethics, set Senator Obama apart. He would do well to present that fact clearly.

Washington Post: Me or Your Lying Eyes?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Washington Post: Women's Basketball Needs Consideration, Nation Needs Conversation, Imus Needs Education Not Just Condemnation

This piece from the Sports Page is right on. Calling for the head of Imus is a misguided effort that will do little to vindicate the real victims and do absolutely nothing to advance race relations. The MSM should takes it cue from Essence Carson instead of Al Sharpton.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

CNN: Finally Some Justice at Justice

Here is the subpoena. As you can read for yourself, it was very polite and to the point. Three cheers for government oversight.

Monday, April 09, 2007


Five Times this number of people have already been killed in Darfur genocide. More die everyday.

How the United States can end genocide in Darfur without putting US troops on the ground:
1) Establish No Fly Zones -This would prevent Sudanese government helicopters from slaughtering civilians in Darfur on the ground. Sen. Biden(D-DE) introduced a resolution (h. Res. 723) calling for a no fly zone - but the bill stalled in the International Relations Committee. Write your member of Congress using the link below and tell them you support NATO enforced no fly zones in Darfur.
2) Fully fund the African Union Mission in Sudan - The African Union is badly under funded and lacks the resources to protect civilians in Darfur - but Congress refuses to provide adequate funding. By fully funding the AU we can empower African nations to end the bloodshed without putting US troops on the ground.
3) Support the International Criminal Court - The United States is one of the only major powers to oppose the existence of an International Criminial Court(ICC). The ICC was created to hold countries accountable for crimes against humanity such as genocide. By supporting the ICC, the United States would send a strong signal to Sudan and other rogue states that genocide will not be tolerated. As long as the US continues to oppose the court, it will continue to empower dictators to commit war crimes with impunity.

What YOU Can Do To End Genocide in Darfur:
1) Share This Note!
2) Contact your representatives
Send your Representative an email saying you support a NATO enforced no-fly zone, increased funding for the African Union and full US participation with the International Criminal court. Template letter provided at the link above.
3) Join/Start a STAND chapter
4) Post a Flyer
5) Start your own petition
Even better than contacting your congress member is sending them a petition
with 10, 20, or 50 signatures you've collected. This shows them you're serious and the issue has broad support.
5) Join the Facebook Group

LA Times: Front-runners Lose Label

I have heard some saying that the front-runners on both sides can no longer claim the label, but I have also heard Pat Buchanan say otherwise because of Hillary and her national poll numbers within the primary field. Which is it?

RCP: Why We Fight Over Foreign Policy

This is absolutely a must-read. It is a bit on the long side, so it may do to break up your reading with short or long breaks as you see fit.


There are a few great points that I want to highlight--
Thus, all leaders, analysts and citizens simplify when they debate foreign affairs. And therein lies our problem. We forget that we are simplifying and claim veracity and truth for our insights. Our opponents must be depraved or incompetent if they do not agree with us. How many people say today they hate George Bush or, in the 1990s, Bill Clinton? Emotions take over for common sense. Since we have to simplify to make any sense of world affairs, why not go all the way? Make the world really simple and divide it into two groups, those who are good and agree with us and those who are evil and disagree with us. We’re all guilty of this. Bush oversimplified when he said after 9/11, “those who are not with us are against us.” But Democrats, who deplore Bush’s comment, oversimplify when they say Bush is evil and lied to us about the Iraq War.

We all have the tendency to simplify because it is the path of least interneal resistance, eliminates cognitive dissonance. There is nothing wrong, contrary to what many including the President believe, with questioning ourselves. You can be resolute without having blinders on.
The liberal perspective sees the world in terms of institutional cooperation and world order, not material struggle and balancing. It asks why international life cannot be similar to domestic life in which a single authority does exist and enforces common rules and law...The world is becoming smaller through the interdependence of communications (diplomacy), transportation (trade), professional societies (epistemic communities), urbanization and industrialization (bureaucracies), common problem solving (law), and environmental protection (planet earth). The habit of cooperation slowly diminishes the significance of power and ideological differences.

From this perspective, states don’t just seek power to survive. They also seek to form more perfect unions.

I would say a fair treatment, by a former Ford and Reagan staffer, of the general liberal philosophy of foreign policy.
If the United States was suspect in its desire for diplomacy — just a way station toward war, as critics contended — un officials and war opponents were suspect in their willingness to use force — not a last but a past resort (no longer applicable in modern-day international affairs). Critics of the war never acknowledged that an invasion force was necessary to retrieve the diplomatic option of un inspectors. But, equally, supporters of the war never made clear what evidence from inspections would ultimately satisfy them that Iraq had fully disarmed. The reluctance of both opponents and supporters of war to come clean reflects their relative preference for the use of diplomacy and force. It is a matter of emphasis and perspective, not of bad faith and politics.

Interesting point on the subject of mutual mistrust which must, and can, be overcome.
One of the great mysteries of the Iraq war is why Saddam Hussein gave up everything, including eventually his life, for nothing, since he had no wmd... Perhaps he did not know whether he had wmd, which then suggests he was disconnected from his own regime as well as the international community. Or perhaps he just didn’t believe the U.S. and its allies would attack, or that...[d]iplomacy would save his regime. But all of these speculations suggest that he was out of touch; that, as identity perspectives argue, there was no significant shared discourse or knowledge between Saddam Hussein and other players that might have led to a peaceful resolution of the dispute through common understandings. Liberal and realist factors — diplomacy and even rational deterrence by force — never had a chance to work because identity factors overrode them.

The same identity perspective, of course, can be used to explain U.S. behavior. The neocons were out of touch and never seriously considered how big the threat was and how many troops would be needed to contend with it...They were driven all along by an ideological view of the world that distrusted other states and international negotiators unless they were similarly ideologically oriented. This identity perspective, it might be argued, also drives the Bush doctrine of democratizing Iraq and the Middle East region.

In the Ender Quartet by Orson Scott Card a central character proposes the Hierarchy of Alienness. The most alien form of sentience, Varelse seems to be the way extremists of all stripes view their opponents, and by implication they want seek to be varelse from others. But even forgetting that according to the definitions of this fanciful framework we are all Utlännings at the very most alien, there is no way that we cannot find some common ground with even our most estranged enemies, because after all, hyperbole aside, we are all human.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

NY Times: Obama Has Serious Message & Serious Manner

This piece is quite flattering of Mr. Obama, so maybe it deserves to be noted as one of many that a friendly press has given the Senator. However, in no way does it seem an undeserving characterization.

The reputation he has built purposefully, for thoughtful sincerity, has proven consistent as he competes in the greatest gladiatorial arena in American politics. He is more measured in his appearances on the campaign trail than he was at the convention in 2004, probably because he is speaking to crowds that need information and not partisans that need to applaud.

For months we talked about whether a freshman senator could campaign with the likes of John Edwards and (Bill &)Hillary Clinton. He has met the challenge and more.

[A] more casual setting has revealed Mr. Obama to be a tactile campaigner... drawing voters close in conversation.

And it allowed for moments like one that took place at the V.F.W. Hall in Dakota City, after almost everyone had gone. Mr. Obama was approached by a woman, her eyes wet. She spoke into his ear and began to weep, collapsing into his embrace. They stood like that for a full minute, Mr. Obama looking ashen, before she pulled away. She began crying again, Mr. Obama pulled her in for another embrace...

The next day, at the rally here, Mr. Obama described the encounter for the crowd. The woman, he said, had asked if her son’s death was the result of a mistake by the government. “And I told her the service of our young men and women — the duty they show this country — that’s never a mistake,” he said.

He paused carefully as he reflected on that encounter. “It reminds you why you get into politics,” he said. “It reminds you that this isn’t a game.”

Most candidates can give a description of a moment with grieving mother like this, but how many can do that and still channel the intellect of Stevenson and the convictions of Hubert Humphrey*. My hope is that a fear that nice guys, along with smart guys and honest guys, finish last, will not keep us from electing one.

Another, totally separate point from this article, about the early opposition to the war, made me think of a hypothetical exchange in a Democratic debate.

Obama: I want people to know that I opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning because I want them to know that judgment counts for something. It was not easy to oppose the war in 2002, as my colleagues in the Senate know.

Edwards: Well those of us who were in the Senate in 2002, who have been making decisions about national security, know that actually being in the office means you have a different set of information and a different set of challenges in making that type of decision (with charming drawl in full effect).

Obama: Well, Senator, if you think that being in office necessarily compels you to make one decision that you would not if you were not the office holder, my advice would be not to run for president. There will be more pressure in that chair than any of us can imagine, and we need somebody in it who can make the decision while taking into account what Americans want, but making a priority of what Americans need. I hate to bring up the old charge of inconsistent leadership, thrown around by our opponents without substance or scruple, but I made that decision in 2002 because some of us did know, without equivocation, that this war was the wrong course.

* Humphrey was another brilliant youngster in the Senate who made his name as a brilliant convention speaker, in 1948, and made his career as a brilliant public servant advocating for civil rights.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Washington Post: All Kinds Suffer in Sudan

Among the many lessons, we have to learn from this tragedy in which God only knows how many souls have perished, is that helping the oppressed means taking the time to know who they are and not assuming that those with different names are in different circumstances.

I have been as guilty as the next liberal in painting this as a conflict between oppressive Arabs and vulnerable Africans, but the truth is more complicated. In fact, the Darfurian Genocide is much more akin to the "good versus evil" framework in which President Bush has conceived his disjointed War On Terror/War Against Terror/War on Terrorism/Global War on Terrorism. Thus far it has presented a real instance in which the argument against an overly mighty government which can exercise domination of the governed populace has validity.

Another crucial lesson is that there are many types of suffering. This quote is from a tribal leader whose camp has recently been added to the number receiving basic food aid and water.

The main problem that remains, he said, is the profound boredom that comes from a life of long walks confined to a small circle, livelihoods wiped out.

Politico: Giuliani Wants To Be Himself


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

NY Times: Wayward Journey From the Bush-Cheney Inner Circle

Makes me wonder how Bush, who obviously had a real stake in cultivating bipartisanship in Texas and convinced many, who were not neo-cons or evangelicals, that he could bridge political divides, become such a poignant symbol of discord between Americans and the agent of a weak and confused America among the nations of the world.

I pause to question my own enthusiasm for another candidate who pledges to bridge the partisan divide. But I think the message with which I come away from this article is that we must allow our passion for political change to push us, but not to blind us to the direction and likely effect of our efforts. Choosing our course should be the work of the rational mind. The intensity can come from anger with corruption, hope for saving the social safety net, desperate prayer for a successful public educational system, or the smile and charm of a particular candidate. However, the plans we endorse and work for should be chosen carefully, because of what and candidate says, and not because of the way he or she says it.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Baltimore Sun: The Truth About What a Necessary Exit Strategy Will Mean via RCP

PTR: A Little Competition Goes a Long Way via RCP

YDN: Does Starbucks Have Anything Besides Image?

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Democratic Primary First Quarter Fundraising

NY Times
Monsters & Critics

Boston Globe

These numbers should be no surprise as all of these candidates have been raising money nonstop. I hope we will not have to wait until April 15 to get the report from the campaign of Senator Obama. As the Times suggested, I think his announcement will be a big one. I am anxious to see how his small donation figures compare to Sen. Clinton. If her reporting is accurate, that 80% of her 50,000 donors gave in amounts under $100, that means that at most they contributed $400,000; not exactly substantial in the grand scheme and a tiny share of her $36 million war chest.

RCP: Contempt for Impatience

George Will seems to hate liberal legislators and their supporters. Why else would he point out the efforts to get an extended period for ratification of the ERA, now the WEA, without pointing out the two hundred years needed to ratify the 27th Amendment. Sometimes laziness is in the eye of the beholder.

Guardian Unlimited: We Gotta Get [Them] Outta This Place!

Contrary to what the blogmentary from one reader suggests, this piece does have something useful to say. Hopefully Rifkind is correct in his statement that, "the British will, eventually, be released." More importantly, it is essential to know that this is a dangerous game, which does have potentially devastating consequences for Iran and her citizens, but it appears that this is a game which must be played now.

Fareed Zakaria has provided an assessment, as usual based in a better understanding than many pundits, that summarizes how this is likely a sign of the continuing power struggle between pragmatists* and reckless ideologues in the Iranian leadership. President Ahmadinejad was almost certainly in favor of pursuing this policy of provocation and bring escalation to a boil, meaning people will die, whether the Revolutionary Guards took their orders or merely their lead from him. However, experience tells us that Iran, as all nations that have an economic stake in the world, can be dealt with. Britain and the EU must give reinforcement that communicates clearly that this tactic of hostage taking (we can be sure that is an accurate description by the suggestions that the release of Iranians held by Coalition troops is the goal) will neither get the Iranians their personnel captured in Iraq nor give them (the hardliners in Tehran and Washington) an excuse for military confrontation.** There are reasons to believe that the EU, for all its bureaucratic lethargy is moving toward a solution, perhaps out of public view, with neither a fight nor appeasement which would result from giving in to blackmail.

A close aide to Tony Blair who asked to remain anonymous, as is customary at 10 Downing Street, expressed complete satisfaction with the growing support from other European countries. "We couldn't have asked for more," he said.

Remember that when cooler heads do prevail, it usually takes a little while.

*Pragmatism must be kept in context in a government where all involved are conservative theocrats
**Again, that is an action in which people are killed