04 March 2012

Taking non-apologies to new heights

There's been some great pragmatics examples popping up in connection with "Slutgate", which has already been attached to the Rush Limbaugh "slut" comments on Sandra Fluke's Congressional testimony. The responses from the three four Republican presidential candidates have been interesting, if underwhelming, and Limbaugh own "apology" is a gift that keeps on giving. The interesting thing, though, is that this is not the typical non-apology apology situation ("non-apology apology" is the terminology that has now been adopted by commentors and bloggers alike and is the unofficial formal reference to such things).

I'm not going to repeat the original insult--it's widely enough circulated.

Mark Kleiman titled his post on the subject, "Romney grows a pair", qualifying it immediately, "The world's smallest pair". [Emphasis--both kinds--here and throughout is added.] He then pointed out that Santorum's pair is only marginally bigger: "Rick Santorum, on the other hand, has millimeter-sized stones rather than micron-sized stones."

Here's Romney's comment:

I’ll just say this which is it’s not the language I would have used. I’m focusing on the issues I think are significant in the country today and that’s why I’m here talking about jobs and Ohio.

And here's Santorum's:

He’s being absurd, but that’s you know, an entertainer can be absurd. He’s in a very different business than I am.

The first one is ridiculous--my immediate response when I heard Romney's statement was, "So he wouldn't use the same words, but he thinks it was the right idea to express?" And my opinion remains on this remains unchanged. Santorum is using the "entertainer defense", which justifies Kleiman's description. Even without the entertainer defense, I am not sure "absurd" would pass muster--"I would never say it as he did, but he's just being ha-ha funny."

But the most telling is the fact that Limbaugh himself adopts language similar to Romney's--they must have the same publicist. But there is also a part of the statement that echo's Santorum's entertainer defense:

For over 20 years, I have illustrated the absurd with absurdity, three hours a day, five days a week. In this instance, I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke.

My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.

Again, the concern is about the choice of words but not the content that they communicated. This is an enhancement of the traditional non-apology apology--the expression of regret that someone has been offended without the regret for having uttered the expression that caused the offense. In this case, that's only a part of the convoluted statement.

Oh, he was just trying to be humorous (as an entertainer), so he did not mean to insult the subject (Sandra Fluke). She is insulted by the words, not the insinuation. This is actually a bit closer to the traditional non-apology apology than I initially estimated--"I thought I was being funny, but you got offended, so sorry (that you have no sense of humor and actually care about the words I choose)."

And, between the two word-choice paragraphs, there is a more personal statement.
I think it is absolutely absurd that during these very serious political times, we are discussing personal sexual recreational activities before members of Congress. I personally do not agree that American citizens should pay for these social activities. What happened to personal responsibility and accountability? Where do we draw the line? If this is accepted as the norm, what will follow? Will we be debating if taxpayers should pay for new sneakers for all students that are interested in running to keep fit? In my monologue, I posited that it is not our business whatsoever to know what is going on in anyone's bedroom nor do I think it is a topic that should reach a Presidential level.
Shorter Rush--she may not be a slut, but she's a sex fiend and I don't want to pay for her sexcapades, damn it! The parallel is also telling--if someone wants to be a runner, should the government pay for his sneakers? This is a clear continued justification of the content of the remarks, so, again, only the "wrong word choice" is highlighted.

This is one of the most skillfully constructed, multi-level non-apology apologies. The Democrats' response is right on the mark. Begala's tweet hits the bullseye.
In ‘apology,’ Rush compares birth control & women’s health to govt buying sneakers for workouts. Insulting?
But also note that this is only the apology for the initial statement that mentioned "slut". It does not offer an apology for the follow-up:
So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal. If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it, and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.
Oh, yeah--this is just the entertainer being absurd. Adele Stan, substituting for Ed Kilgore at the Washington Monthly (Steve Benen's replacement), rips into David Weigel over his backhanded defense of Limbaugh. Weigel's defense is a feeble one:
But let’s be clear about what this is. Limbaugh is a private citizen who has not endorsed any Republican candidate. (The closest he’s come is praise for Santorum, which the candidate quotes on his campaign lit.) There is not a pressing public interest here.
Stan hits Weigel on this part of his statement.
Call me crazy, but I consider health care for women “a pressing public interest” — and not just for the majority of the public who happen to be women. I also find the legitimization of hateful rhetoric to be “a pressing public interest.”
She then goes after the second part of the same passage that attacks the "Democratic media complex", which I am going to skip here.

Of course, this was hours before Limbaugh's apology--Stan's post is time-stamped just before noon, while TPM apology post is at about 7 pm. Otherwise, Stan might have been able to connect Limbaugh's apology to the statements by both Romney and Santorum, as I tried to do above.

I did mention three candidates (I have not seen anything from Ron Paul prior to writing this), but, so far, I've only mentioned Romney and Santorum. TPM posted a late addition, following their cornering of Newt Gingrich.

TPM caught up with Newt Gingrich after a speech at Bowling Green University in Ohio and asked about Rush Limbaugh's apology to Sandra Fluke.

"I'm not paying attention," he responded.

Asked whether he thought he felt Limbaugh misspoke, Gingrich turned the question on President Obama.

"I'm not paying attention," he repeated."I'm paying attention to the president apologizing to people who killed Americans."

Like the second part of Romney's statement, this is just a deflection, an attempt to derive personal political gain from the situation. So, if Romney's pair is only a micron, Newt's is basically invisible--he says, it's not his problem.

It turns out that Ron Paul did offer a comment, although it took me some time to track down the CNN post.

"It sounded a little crude the way it came across to me," Paul said. "I don't know why it has to be such a political football like this, so you have to ask him about his crudeness."

This is not even the size of Romney's pair--and you have to love Paul's attempt to stay out of "political football". The response from a comment on Free Republic that posted the link is pretty obvious:

Ron Paul joins Liberal chorus

And there you have it, in a nutshell. Any criticism of the bloated radio-jock is a part of a "Liberal chorus". In fact, the apology itself, however feeble, is unprecedented for Limbaugh--he normally blows off all demands for apology. But this one hit home--a number of advertisers have turned away from the show in the 24 hours prior to the release of his statement.

What you have at the opposite end from the "Liberal chorus" is even more absurd than the slut comment. Ed Kilgore picked one conservative post (of many, as it turns out) that devolved the discussion of contraception and birth control pills to the condom count.
I really did think another conservative had mistakenly cut and pasted a piece from The Onion, or that some mischievous intern had sandbagged the writer with an ironic topper. But no: the headline non-ironically reflected the views of columnist Craig Bannister, who in addition to being a big-time wingnut, clearly thinks of himself as a clever dog.
What's so clever?
Apparently, four out of every ten co-eds are having so much sex that it’s hard to make ends meet if they have to pay for their own contraception, Fluke’s research shows.
$3,000 for birth control in three years? That’s a thousand dollars a year of sex - and, she wants us to pay for it.
I did mention that Bannister was not alone. The following gem is buried deep in the comment thread.
Do the math $3k, 3 condoms for $2 = 4500 condoms. 365 days in a year = 12.3 times a day.
Furthermore, Ed Killgore flagged a comment by Erick Erickson that sort of suggests a mild pushback against Rushbo.
Well of course Rush Limbaugh was being insulting. It is not something I would do and I do think we’re going to now focused on what he said for a while and that it will be a distraction from the central argument, but he was using insult and sarcasm to highlight the absurdity of Sandra Fluke and the left’s position.
Erickson essentially admits what I noted above--that this is not about the insult, but about the message, but he actually laments that everyone is focused on the dressing and not the content. Of course, Erickson is himself a bomb-thrower who used to operate in a vacuum, but he can't allow himself to cheer on such insults any longer, now that he's a CNN employee.

UPDATE: A late entry from George Will.
It would've been nice if they had shared that with the larger public, the Republican leaders," Will said on ABC's This Week. "Instead, Mr. Boehner comes out and says, Rush's language was inappropriate. Using a salad fork for your entree, that's inappropriate. Not this stuff. I mean, and Rick Santorum says well, what he says was absurd, but an entertainer is allowed to be absurd. No. It is the responsibility of conservatives to police the right in its excesses, just as the liberals unfailingly fail to police the excesses in their own side. And it was depressing, because what it indicates is that the Republican leaders are afraid of Rush Limbaugh. They want to bomb Iran, but they're afraid of Rush Limbaugh.
So Will does get it.

23 November 2008

Back to shiver looking for a spine

Back in 2003, Jim Hightower spread Paul Keating's comment about Tom Delay far and wide:
... Here's how one of his own congressional constituents describes him: "Tom DeLay is a shiver looking for a spine to run up."
Of course, if one has no spine, there are few shivers he has to worry about.

I am no expert or a wonk in these matters. But something needs to be said about the rumor of cabinet appointments so far. For the most part, they appear to be short-term risk averse but with much long-term risk attached. This does not appear to be a plan of someone who hopes to set a new standard after eight years of nonsense, but rather someone who is looking for a couple of years comfortable coexistence before trying to run for office again. It is hard to pin this down as playing it safe or being spineless, yet, this is the impression I am getting. Of course, as one of the most overused cliches of football (both American and European variety) suggests, once a team is ahead, the worst strategy it can use is playing not to lose.

I suppose, these are some strong words. I find myself in a particularly odd spot because I was not a blindly overwhelmed Obama supporter who expected great things from his presidency. I simply expected that any team he appoints would be better than either one that they would replace or one that would follow John McCain into Washington.

With Bush administration members burrowing into the fabric of civil service (surprisingly easily, considering that they must be hired through the non-political branch), and the rumored cabinet members and associated managers so far largely being center-right politically, if not outright Republicans, it should still be possible to steer a progressive course (and I don't mean "progressive" as "ultra-liberal"), but that task is a bit more difficult than it would have been in past transitions. For all the whining from the Right that Obama is a Socialist, there is little in his selection process so far to suggest that there is even a hint of Socialism in his administration.

To take stock to date, so far, there have been rumors that appear solid when it comes to AG (DoJ), HHS, Treasury, OMB and DHS. The two at DoD, State and Commerce are still speculations, although the direction is clear. That still leaves Ag, ED, Interior, HUD, Transportation, Labor, VA, EPA and Trade Rep to be determined, as well as non-cabinet members of the NSC and the National Security Adviser (who does appear to have been chosen). There is no obligation to keep CIA, NSA and FBI directors either (not quite cabinet--especially with DHS taking over--but still important administrators). And some of the subcabinet positions may well be more important than others, although, obviously, it is not likely we'd hear about them prior to the cabinet coming together.

What's the assumption so far?
  • HRClinton at State (with Kerry and Richardson being common speculations earlier)
  • Holder as AG (with Edwards's career in an outhouse, he certainly was not going to be candidate and I have not heard many other names mentioned)
  • Geithner at Treasury (with Summers and Rubin as the shadows that were on nearly equal footing with him from the start)
  • Napolitano at DHS
  • Orszag at OMB
  • Gates remaining at DoD
  • Richardson at Commerce (assuming that State is taken)
  • Daschle at DHS
  • Brennan at CIA
I have no problem with Gates keeping his job--unless an obviously better candidate comes along, Gates is enough of a realist that he should mesh well with the new administration. Daschle--although close Bill Clinton ally in the past--is an Obama person who can put a stamp on healthcare reform. I know nothing about Orszag, except that he appears to be welcomed by a lot of people as very competent (and, considering his previous experience, that makes a lot of sense).

Richardson is a question mark. He appeared to be headed to the Senate without much of a fight, should he have chosen that route. He's been a solid administrator, except for some questions about his behavior toward women in the office. So his executive skills and diplomatic skills appear to be far better than his people skills. Fine, since I am not about to question his qualifications, as long as he keeps his hands to himself and his mouth shut, except when on task, I can live with him.

Not so for Summers, whose bad habits as the President of Harvard and past accounts of his management style at the Treasury suggest that he can't play with other children. Luckily, Geithner is is ahead of him for the post. Policy-wise, I defer to others' approval of Geithner. And I have nothing against Summers as a top policy adviser, which he would be as the head of th NEC. But I would rather not see him as a public face of the administration or in charge of substantial staff. Butting heads during meetings is his forte and if he does that in the privacy of policy meetings, so much the better.

Holder is his own person with experience at the DoJ under Bill Clinton, but I don't question his credentials. Even some conservative bloggers welcomed his potential appointment, although FNC and some of the more rabid popular bloggers have been dogging him on the Marc Rich pardon, Elian Gonzales and other inanities. That leaves HRC and Napolitano as the black sheep and Brennan as a big question mark.

I am not comfortable with HRC at State at all. She has the skills and the connection to pull off the external part of the job. HRC is not a bad person to send out globe-trotting as a messenger of good will. Not so obvious is her connection back home. Whose policy is she going to pursue? She can't easily go rogue on major policy points or in diplomatic situations, but how much pull will she have in determining this policy--will she defer to non-cabinet advisers when outvoted or will she stubbornly insist on her own measures?

Some have also questioned her management skills in large non-homogeneous enterprises, such as the Department of State. Her campaign, despite a number of successes, was essentially mismanaged (although much blame for that can be placed at the feet of other people, ultimately, HRC is responsible not only for hiring these people, but also for supervising them and agreeing with them). Her past attempt at a top-down healthcare reform was a dismal failure--and one cannot blame solely conservative opposition for that. Some of the proposals that the AMA criticized back in the 1990s included essentially deprofessionalizing some of the specialties, such as anestesiology and radiology, and handing the tasks to non-MD personnel, such as nurses and technicians. It's not just a question of the support staff being unskilled at the tasks that they would have to take over--that can be rectified with a gradual transition that includes proper training. But it would also have taken important diagnostic and complex treatment monitoring tasks from positions that carry greater responsibility to support staff that carries no formal responsibility because they generally don't make decisions. What's important here is not the details of the proposal, but how some of the larger issues, particularly cost reallocation, had been handled. Many of the solutions HRC's task force had come up with were worse than the problems they were trying to solve.

There is also the question of how HRC's departure would affect the Senate. It would not have an impact on party balance--NY governor is a Democrat and the state is highly unlikely to elect a Republican, unless the Democratic candidate self-destructed during the campaign. Judging from the 2008 election results, New Yorker got over Elliott Spitzer very quickly, so there is no long-term party image damage. But there is a question of caucus leadership. The same reasons that make her well-known diplomatically (not just as a former First Spouse) also promote her to leadership role in the Senate. Although the somewhat arcane Senate rules prevent her from chairing any committees, she can have leadership role for the whole caucus (cannot happen without any of the present leadership giving up their positions, of course, but that may happen). And, barring any major issues, the position in the Senate is safe for as long as she wants it. Despite the Republicans initially foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of Hillary Clinton, she has proved to be skilled at her job and popular with constituents (the qualities that are usually absent in Senators who lose their positions--such as Sununu, DeWine, Smith, Dole, etc.). And, after two terms, unseating a Senator becomes virtually impossible (although, of course, it has happened).

On the balance, it seems that HRC would be better off staying put and the country would be better for it. It also appears that the Democratic Party would benefit greatly from HRC not going to State and bringing a gaggle of supporters with her.

Napolitano's issues are quite different. She is certainly a very competent administrator and executive. Her state AG, gubernatorial and US Attorney experience is unquestioned. She would bring long-term immigration experience to DHS--something that would be refreshing after six years of trying to solve all immigration problems with a couple of labor busts and a border fence to the South. But that's where the benefits end.

Napolitano brings legal and immigration experience to the table in a department that is also responsible for national security infrastructure, intelligence and much else that falls outside the relatively narrow issue of immigration. And, although it would be good to have a lawyer who is actually inclined to follow the law at the helm, she would have to rely on others to take charge of the intelligence operations. Taking over a department that's been subservient to the Vice-President's office for some time, this is a very weak position to take and is likely to lead to internal problems within the chain of command.

But a far greater problem is strategic long-term position that is undermined by Napolitano leaving her state. She has long been considered a strong Senatorial candidate--either against McCain in 2010 or against Kyl two years later. Strategically, it is probably better to have her run against Kyl, although it is also possible, had she run as a popular governor in 2010, McCain would change his mind and retire rather than stay in a tough fight with a potential loss loming.

At the same time Arizona has no Lt. Governor, so a Republican Secretary of State would ascend to the governorship. Even if Brewer remains as loony as she is claimed to be in her Michelle-Bachmann-like zeal, she would have a boost of incumbency in the next elections and, barring any major disasters, would be favored to win in a state that is much closer than it used to be but is still heavily Republican. That means two bad outcomes for the Democrats--losing a governorship and a potential Senate seat in one swoop. Some continue to argue that Napolitano need not be entrenched at DHS, but it would be ridiculous to assume that she would only take over for two years only to run for Senate in 2010 (especially since much of the second year would be lost to campaigning, even if she did not resign immediately--which is unlikely). And, if she stays there the full four, to run in 2012, voters have short memories and she would not be as popular then as she is now. It was different in New Hampshire this year with Shaheen and Sununu. Sununu was a one-term, weak Senator who got elected essentially on nepotism earlier, and Shaheen was not running as a governor, having lost to Sununu earlier, but getting a boost from the general Republican depression and Obama's popularity in the state. And it was still close enough to conclude that Sununu might have recovered in different cycle. McCain and Kyl are both strong, long-term Senators, who are popular in their own right.

So chosing Napolitano hurts the Democratic Party both at the state and the national level, unless, of course, the Pary has concluded that Napolitano could not win a Senate seat in either case. Even then, her leaving makes reclaiming the governorship that much tougher. This is even worse, considering that 1) Arizona will be gaining in its Congressional delegation following the 2010 census and 2) there will be no gubernatorial counterbalance to Republican-dominant legislature when the district boundaries are redrawn. So, potentially, this may cost the Democrats not only a governorship and a Senate seat, but also a couple of House seats. Given other redistricting dynamics for the next cycle, this is not good news.

In some ways, Richardson is in a similar predicament. It is widely considered that the next Senate seat will be his for the taking. Even with the state leaning Democratic over the last few election cycles, Senate races are often unpredictable when the personalities involved are less dominant. So Richardson's absense would give an element of risk into that race as well. On the other hand, it would be much easier for him to abandon his Commerce post than it would be for Napolitano to leave DHS without major consequences. So I am not as concerned about Richardson overall as I am about Napolitano.

That brings the last questionable name on the list--Brennan. Andrew Sullivan cites Ambinder (and is, in turn, quoted by Kevin Drum):
Marc reports the Republican, former chief-of-staff for George Tenet (who authorized war crimes as CIA head), admirer of Dick Cheney, CEO of the company one of whose contract employees improperly accessed Obama's and McCain's passports, and defender of renditions and "enhanced interrogations" is still Obama's front-runner pick to head the CIA. No, I'm not making this up. ... Why is such a man even considered for the post under Obama? This man cannot end the taint of Bush-Cheney. He was Bush-Cheney.
Even though Sullivan identified once concession that Brennan made--having been involved in politicizing intelligence leading up to the Iraq War--it does not appear to be enough to balance his continued defense of torture and other slip-ups that clearly align him with the more radical of the Cheney stooges. Sullivan summarizes his opposition by essentially comparing the potential nomination to keeping Gates at the DoD:
It's fine not to uproot the entire agency and to have some continuity. But for Obama to appoint a Bush-Cheney apologist to the CIA? How on earth did this idea get this far?
On the other hand, Brennan was one of the earliest intelligence wonks to jump on the Obama bandwagon and got positive reviews along the way.
"The world is a very complicated place and there are not always easy solutions to a lot of the problems out there," says John Brennan, a top Obama intelligence advisor and former senior CIA official who co-founded the Terrorist Threat Integration Center and the National Counterterrorism Center, a post-9/11 effort to integrate the US government's terror threat intelligence. "If you look at the world in black and white, you miss a lot of the subtleties out there. 'Either with us or against'—the world is not divided into good and evil a lot of time. Despite America's military might, a lot of these problems do not lend themselves to kinetic solutions"—i.e. the use of force.
In this context, Brennan may not be a surprise. But in a profession where one has to adapt to potentially hostile surroundings to gather information, his resume does not inspire complete confidence. Did he exhibit a genuine preference for Obama brand of policy or was he simply one of the first rats jumping off the sinking ship, hoping not to get caught up in maelstroem.

So this is three highly questionable candidates out of a rather short list of nominations that are either "finalized" or are close to it. That still leaves eight cabinet posts and a few associated positions open, but it does not look promising. Education, Labor and Transportation are often token positions, wasted on some questionable characters--for example, the Bush appointments were, initially, two token minorities with minimal qualifications for the jobs and a token carry-over Democrat, moved from another department. When one nominee went bust, she was replaced with a wife of then-Senate Majority Leader. Sure, these deparments are far more central to the Democratic message than to Republican, but it does not mean that the appointments will be more meaningful (remember Romer?).

On the balance, it is clear that the cabinet, as it is shaping so far, shows far more grown ups and far less sycophancy than its predecessor in any of its incarnations. But this does not mean that the selections are well-balanced or deliver a clear positive message. It further appears that the nominees proposed so far may well have a negative long-term strategic impact on the Democratic Party, which is not what most of us want to hear this year.

UPDATE (11/26, early AM):
The other name previously mentioned next to Summers and Geithner was that of Robert Rubin. Well, since the weekend, it's become mud. The sage of Clintonomics has been tied to Citigroup for over a decade. With the Citi near-collapse and subsequent bailout, Rubin's star is suddenly not shining quite as brightly.

Brennan now is toast! He has removed his name from the hat, serving a parting shot on his critics who have been trying to tie him to the Bush administration policies. His bitterness does not exactly make him look innocent--I am more convinced now that he was an opportunist who thought he could jump on the winning team before anyone else did and snatch a piece of the prize. OK, no schadenfreude here, but I was not exactly rooting for him to get to the top. It seems far safer for the rest of us (the rest of the world, that is) if he remains an adviser. Perhaps, in a couple of years, when the "other" appointment does not work out--and, assuming that Brennan will stick around in some capacity--he may rise back to the top, vindicated. But if he ends up in some Blackwater-style operation instead, we can all compare notes later.

06 November 2008

Election, part 521

In case anyone is still wondering:
  1. Coleman and Franken are separated by less than 500 votes. Must.have.recount. Coleman is bleating some complete nonsense that the result is "too important" for a recount. And I thought Franken was the comedian in that race!
  2. As the tabulation approaches the final few votes, Merkley pulled ahead of Smith by about 6000 votes, but the difference is now approaching 0.5% (it's 0.42% right now). The reason why this is significant is that only a few thousand votes ago, Smith was ahead by nearly 2%. As the remaining districts kept coming in, Merkley gradually pulled ahead. If the few remaining votes to be counted break the same way as the last couple of thousands, the margin may well pass the mandatory recount limit. I suppose a recount is likely nonetheless. Besides, both candidates pulled in just over 47%, so there is good reason to wonder about Smith's survival. Meanwhile, the count is stuck at 99%. The Oregonian has called the race for Merkley. I am not sure that this is definitive--since Oregon is mail-only election, the count won't be finalized at least for another couple of days. On the other hand, the separation is nearly double that of the Alaska Senate race and that one still quite a few votes to count.
  3. With Merkley likely pulling this off, the count of Republican moderates in the Senate is shrinking to 4. Should Coleman lose, it will be down to 3, with two of them in Maine. Big Tent?
  4. Last night several outlets--but not NYT--declared both Georgia presidential count and Senate race as Republican victories. But, not so fast... Both races had Republicans over 56% with supposedly over 99% of precincts counted. Not so fast! TPM followed AP in reporting that early voting results from the Atlanta area were not included in the totals. Oops! The count went from 99% yesterday to 96% tonight. As further numbers came in, the Republican totals dropped precipitously toward 50%. The presidential race has now been called--the actual split is not important, only the plurality is needed to carry the state. Not so for the Senate--Chambliss is sitting (and has been all day) at 49.83%. Since it's below 50%, that points to a mandatory run-off (Georgia is a funny state). The question I have--and it was my guess last night, even before the story broke--is there a mandatory recount if someone is close to 50% in order to avoid a run-off, or does state law prefer a run-off to a recount? I doubt this is a trivial question.
  5. Both Alaskan races appear to have tilted Republican, although the latest numbers I am looking at on the NYT tracker sit at 76% of precincts. Doesn't make much sense--others have it at 99%. I wonder why Alaska would be so slow--and I also wonder what Alaskans are thinking, voting for these two creeps. It does, however, explain Sarah Palin's "popularity" in the state. Apparently, corruption is a required event in this pageant. I wonder if it will be necessary to have Palin run for president in order to keep her from running for reelection in Alaska. Set phasers on stun.
  6. Washington gubernatorial race was not close this time around. (Say good-bye to Rossi!) But one of the House races seems to be headed for a recount. Or maybe not.
  7. Jean Schmidt won in Ohio. Sad. But, on the comedic note, we'll still have Mean Jean and Michelle Bachmann to kick around. With a relative paucity of Republican congressmen these days, do their chances for appearing on cable news shows increase?
  8. The total presidential vote showed a higher percent turnout of registered voters (although some states also allow same-day registration) than the Nixon-Kennedy race. So much for the mandate argument from four years ago when Republicans kept claiming that Bush got the most votes of any presidential candidate in history. The talking heads are already whining that 52% is not a landslide and not a mandate. It's a slim margin. Yeah, and I am just as slim.
  9. I've already heard two radio talk-show hosts claiming that "we're going to impeach [Obama]!" I kid you not! "Sore losers" does not begin to describe these idiots. Actually, Jay Severin's exact words appeared to be more scatological (not the "impeach" part).
  10. Remember the debate kerfuffle on strategy vs. tactics?
  11. Obama has a bigger lead in the still-unfinished North Carolina than McCain does in still-unfinished Missouri. It looks like the final electoral count will not stay at 349.
  12. Indiana went against the polling trend and turned out for Obama. Florida and Ohio also beat the poll projections in his favor. NC and MO lived up to "too close to call" expectations. Interestingly, most of the final tallies across all states appeared to match closely the poll numbers for the trailing candidate. The winner in most states got more than projected. So much for the Rovian observation that Republicans always beat the projected poll numbers.
  13. In case you missed it--Obama beat the Gore and Kerry numbers for the Jewish vote. Exit polls suggest 78%. It might actually be higher. This is after many right-of-center observers predicted the opposite and the McCain campaign and its satellites broke the bank on sending out fear-smears even in the last few days of the campaign. So there are several possibilities. Here are a couple: Obama's debate performance was sufficient to overcome some fears (at least, among Jewish voters); McCain lost all credibility on foreign policy by the end of the campaign; the projected right-shift never happened to begin with. Obama failed, however, to impress the French Jews. On a related note, Russian treasury bailed out a "Jewish banker" to the tune of $2 billion and "Germany’s parliament agreed on a resolution that calls anti-Semitism a 'problem in German society that still demands serious attention.'"I am still waiting for a Bill O'Reilly apology for anything and for the latest odds on a snowball in hell.

04 November 2008

Jeepers Freepers

Barack Obama's grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, died from cancer on the eve of elections. Most people pay their respects and offer condolences. Some bite their tongues. Not so for the FreeRepublic conspiracy theorists.

It's understandable that they have conniptions over Obama's birth certificate (some Hillary supporters are still fuming on the subject). And that's crazy enough. But would they stop short of accusing Obama of either murdering his grandmother to get the sympathy vote or keeping her on ice to maximize the impact of the announcement? Not so much--that's exactly what they would do!

For openers,
Obama’s grandmother dies of cancer in Hawaii

Nice timing. That’ll pick up a few sympathy votes for sure.

2 posted on Monday, November 03, 2008 4:57:13 PM by PeterFinn (Sarah Palin for President in 2012.)
OK, so it's just perverse schadenfreude. But it gets worse.
Cancer patients usually pass away from a planned terminal sedation.
This may be the first politically timed terminal sedation ever, though.

9 posted on Monday, November 03, 2008 4:59:53 PM by counterpunch (It’s the SOCIALISM, Stupid!)
Did he have power of attorney over her? Did he decide to stop any kind of life support?

22 posted on Monday, November 03, 2008 5:02:49 PM by nikos1121 (The first black president should be another Jackie Robinson)

Wow, just before the 6:00 news. How convenient

33 posted on Mon Nov 3 17:04:49 2008 by NYC Republican (PLENTY of time for analysis/I-told-you-so in 2 days. Now, Infuriate the MSM--- Support McCain/Palin)
There is no point copying the entire thread. You get the picture.

Some suspect that Obama offed his granny to get the sympathy vote--either as well-timed euthanasia or just in cold blood.

Others opine that she might have died much earlier--e.g., when Obama flew to Hawaii a week earlier, then returned to the East Coast without waiting another day for her birthday.

Yet others wondered why Obama flew back when it was announced that she fell and broke her hip and now she died from cancer.

The only group that was finally deterred was concerned about the fact--and was building its conspiracy theories on it--that the original wire report did not contain the time of death. This was finally put to rest by comment #215 or so, because later reports did mention more details. Still the entire discussion was taking place in a vacuum--they continued to discuss publication times of the local papers as if it was happening in DC.

What a bunch of cold-hearted bastards! No wonder they get worked up about "sharing the wealth" and judicial nominees who would empathize with "those less fortunate"!

It's all part of the same package.

20 May 2007

Corrupting Influence

I've been corrupted! I joined the sloganeering crowd--you may or may not have noticed (and, judging by the traffic, you haven't), but I've added a slogan to the "blog description". It's at the top of the page, but, if you are too lazy to look up there--or are using an RSS feed--here's what is says.
It's not about the Democrats, stupid--it's about Democracy!
I wish more people would reflect this sentiment.

15 May 2007

On stabs in the back and other assorted weaselitude

James Taranto puts out his nonsensical remarks daily. I've been mostly skipping them--too much real work--but I have a break in the drudgery today so, I thought, I'd give it a minute (I dutifully archive all the crap that ends up in my mailbox and I did have a reason to subscribe to Taranto's daily musings once upon a time). And I see that Taranto is still a lying weasel that he's always been.

Pretty Ugly
"Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards is calling on his supporters to turn this year's Memorial Day into a day of antiwar activism, saying that the best way to honor the troops is to demand an end to the Iraq war," the Washington Post reports. Edwards, who voted for the war, has set up a Web site for his effort, supportthetroopsendthewar.com.

Andrew Sullivan has observed of Edwards, "He's pretty, he has flowing locks, he's young-looking." But as lovely as Edwards may be on the outside, it is ugly to try to turn a solemn day honoring those who died in the service of their country into a political stunt.

What'll he think of next, turning Christmas into a day of pro-abortion activism?

Note the strategic use of the hair comment, which had absolutely nothing to do with the story. It may be preaching to the choir, but he's still trying to reinforce the message. And, in case you missed it, it's about stabbing the troops in the back! (See here, here, here, here and here.) The reason I am particularly aware of the issue is because I have just spent nearly two hours researching it and sending some correspondence on it literally just before opening Taranto's screed. Of course, the other thing that Taranto does not tell you is that everything that the Bushies do is a political stunt. They've made the self-promoting abuse of the troops-as-backdrop into a ubiquitous routine. Any odds on Bush appearing before the troops just before or on Memorial Day?

Nice Going, Nancy
The Jerusalem Post reports on one Syrian who wasn't happy about Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to dictator Bashar Assad:

Mamoun Homsi is a courageous pro-democracy activist who had been one of the few independent members of Syria's puppet parliament. In March 2002 he was thrown out of the legislature and sentenced to five years in prison. As he was dragged off to jail, Homsi shouted, "This is a badge of honor to me and others like me. Long live the people!"

Released after four years in 2006, Homsi immediately left the country, saying there was no possibility of changing the regime by reform, and that any criticism would bring more imprisonment.

Homsi wrote Pelosi a letter urging her not to visit Syria as such a step would only strengthen the regime. Last week, the government seized all of his assets in the country, leaving his family destitute.

I wonder if Mr. Homsi made any comments on the visit by Rice. Did he write a letter to her as well?

That Explains It!
"A U.S. troop pullout from Iraq would leave the country as a potent launchpad for international terrorism and Washington would be forced to go back in within a couple of years, a leading al Qaeda expert said on Tuesday," Reuters reports:

Rohan Gunaratna told a security conference at Lloyd's of London insurance market that Iraq, like Afghanistan in the 1990s, would become a "terrorist Disneyland" where al Qaeda could build up its strength unchallenged.

And to think, that strange lady in L.A. thought Disney wanted to liberate Iraq.

Huh? And the point is...? Yeah, yeah--it's about the pottery barn rule again...

Speaking if which, I actually followed the link included in this piece. That lead to Taranto's clap-trap from April 30. In addition to the "strange lady" coverage, there was this:

Lynching Was Bad, but . . .
Speaking of the Los Angeles Times, on Friday the paper printed an exceptionally idiotic column by Rosa Brooks titled "9/11 Was Bad, but . . ." Brooks suggests that people who worry about terrorist attacks are "irrational wimps":

The 9/11 attacks were appalling and tragic, but they did not threaten the survival of the nation. . . .

Of course, 3,000 dead is 3,000 too many. But keep it in perspective. As a nation, we have survived far worse. We lost more than 100,000 Americans in World War I, more than 400,000 in World War II, 37,000 in Korea, 58,000 in Vietnam--all without allowing our national character to turn into quivering jelly.

Every year, we also lose millions of Americans to preventable accidents and disease. We're more likely to die on the road than as a result of Al Qaeda's machinations. Annually, we lose some 43,000 people to auto accidents. For the grieving families, that's 43,000 deaths too many. But, although we surely could reduce auto fatalities if we chose to make it our top national priority, the Bush administration has yet to announce a "War on Highway Deaths."

This is unoriginal as well as fatuous. It's not even original in the L.A. Times, which published essentially the same piece three months ago. But in the hope that our new friends at the Times won't make the same mistake a third time, let's repeat our analogy that shows why this is such a ridiculous argument.

According to this table, 4,742 people were lynched in America between 1882 and 1964. That's an average of but 57 people a year, and the number of annual lynchings peaked in 1892, at 230. By the standards Brooks applies to 9/11, lynching was not a big problem. It killed far fewer people than war, disease, accidents, etc.

Yet if someone were lynched tomorrow, would we shrug it off because the number of deaths is only 1/43,000th of the annual car-crash toll? Of course not. It takes a stunning degree of moral obtuseness to treat a murder in the furtherance of a hateful ideology--be it white supremacy or Islamic fundamentalism--as the equivalent of an accidental death.

A similar bit of foolishness comes from Ian Buruma, who won an award at the book festival. In yesterday's Times, he opines:

Just as Jews, during some traditional Passover feasts, ask God to bring down his wrath on the Gentiles who "don't know him," and many Christians believe that hell awaits those who don't subscribe to their faith, Muslims are led to believe that killing the enemies of Islam can be justified.

"Just as"? Surely there is a difference between believing or hoping that God will punish unbelievers and taking it upon oneself to do it. It doesn't speak well of the editors of the L.A. Times that they not only publish such nonsense but do so habitually.

I wonder what rock Taranto was hiding under when Derbyshire and the rest of the idiots were referring to the victims of the VaTech massacre as, for all practical purposes, "irrational wimps".

Good Point!
"Wouldn't it be weird if French President-elect Nicolas Sarkozy turns out to be more pro-American than all the Democrats running for U.S. president?"--Jim Seay of Henrico, Va., quoted in the Richmond Times Dispatch's "Your Two Cents" feature
Don't hold your breath, Jimbos!

22 April 2007

Law does not apply

If you want to know why almost no one takes Hamas seriously as civic representatives of the Palestinian territories, all you need is the latest headline in the Jerusalem Post: Hamas calls for new attacks on Israel.

Hamas on Sunday called for new attacks on Israel after nine Palestinians were killed in a surge of fighting over the weekend.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum urged Palestinians to be prepared for a new round of confrontation.

"The blood of our people is not cheap," he said in a statement faxed to The Associated Press. "Therefore we are calling on ... (Hamas's armed wing) and the Palestinian resistance groups to be united in the trench of resistance and to use all possible means of resistance and to respond to the massacres."

The Corsicans and their blood feuds got nothing on these idiots. Let's not forget that the Palestinians killed this week were all involved in the very activities for expansion of which Mr. Barhoun is now calling for.
The two Aksa terrorists, including a top bombmaker, were killed in the Casbah of Nablus after IDF troops surrounded a building where they were hiding and ordered people out, the group said. Most occupants came out, but the two operatives remained holed up inside. An exchange of fire broke out, and the two men were killed.

On Saturday night, IAF helicopters killed a member of a Kassam rocket cell in a car in the northern Gaza Strip, wounding one of his confederates. It was the second such missile strike since Israel accepted a Gaza cease-fire in November.

Earlier Saturday, Gazans fired four Kassam rockets into Sderot; one scored a direct hit on a home, sending several people into shock.
Three terrorist organizations - Islamic Jihad, and Fatah's Aksa Martyrs Brigades - claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks in a joint statement.

They said they were carried out to avenge the deaths of three terrorists killed by border police in Jenin earlier in the day.

The Daily Star (Beirut) has a different headline, but substantially the same facts:
Two teenagers among dead as Israelis raid Gaza, West Bank

Karim Zahran, 17, was shot dead while throwing stones at Israeli troops near the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, Palestinian security sources and medics said.

The Israeli Army said troops fired at a man in a crowd who was about to throw a Molotov cocktail at soldiers.

In the northern West Bank town of Nablus, the army shot dead two gunmen from Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group affiliated with President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, Palestinian security sources and the army said. The Palestinian sources identified the dead men as Fadel Nur, 23, and Amin Lubadi, 25, and said they were killed during heavy exchanges of fire with the Israeli troops.

Al-Aqsa Brigades vowed to retaliate for the killings.

"We do not cooperate with the Israelis and we use only the language of arms, as it's the only one they understand," Al-Aqsa official Nasser Al-Kharaz told AFP. He also called on Abbas "to cease all contacts and meetings with the Israelis as these do not bring anything and give the world the illusion that Israel speaks of peace."

The Daily Star gives an even better idea of how crass Barhum's comments were.

"We call on Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades [the armed wing of Hamas] and all other Palestinian resistance factions to unite and use all means to respond to the massacres of the occupation," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum said.

Another Hamas spokesman, Ghazi Hamad, called on "the international community to pressure the Israeli government so it stops its crimes against the Palestinian people."

Massacres of the occupation?? Crimes against the Palestinian people? Why not just ask, as a condition for peace, for 10 Israelis to be sent voluntarily to Gaza daily to be blown up? The attitude also explains why the PA police is impotent to stop any crimes either within the territories or against Israelis. They want criminality with impunity. I am not going to try to split hairs over whether throwing rocks, as opposed to throwing a Molotov cocktail, constitutes sufficient threat to the IDF to provoke it to shoot. It's a minor point compared to the rest of this situation.

There is even a bit of irony here. Note that even Arab and other developing world publications have finally adopted more appropriate language and identify Palestinian gunmen and bombmakers who have a tendency of dropping dead from Israeli raids as "Palestinian militants". (Never mind that even Western European papers still tend to adopt the "facts" from Palestinian sources, often ignoring the Israeli version of each story.) In the past, there was no implication in print reports that these men were involved in any sort of adverse activity when IDF soldiers just happened to have killed them.

So this change in coverage is an improvement, right? Perhaps. On the other hand, "militant" has become almost a badge of honor and the response from Palestinian groups remains the same--militant or not, with or without the gun, they reserve the right to retaliate for any Palestinians killed.

An odd parallel--Dahlia Lithwick seems to have come to similar conclusions about Alberto Gonzales's testimony. She is wondering if Gonzo's testimony was not just an elaborate bird-flipping by the White House. Keeping Gonzo in place is not denial--it's a provocation to a virtually impotent Democratic Congress: No matter how criminal we get, you can't touch us (or we'll cry "politics").

20 April 2007

Bomb Bomb Iran

There is a lot of buzz on McCain's off-the-cuff "Bomb Iran" joke. The YouTube video is floating up the charts.

When I first spotted the header at Steve Clemons's The Washington Note blog early Thursday, I did not bother to read the actual post (the picture appeared sufficient)--I simply assumed that Steve or one of his guests was reusing a Carter-era parody song to mock a McCain policy statement. My reaction to the post turned out to be somewhat recursive. Scott Paul wrote,

When I first read it as an unrelated comment to my last post, I brushed it off as a joke.

It's no joke.

Speaking at a VFW meeting in South Carolina, McCain asked when the U.S. would "send an air mail message to Tehran. " McCain replied: "You know that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran? Bomb bomb bomb, anyway..."

Ann Althouse adds,

Is he trying to be Reaganesque?

alluding to Reagan's "The bombing will begin in five minutes" joke.

McCain is undeterred.

"Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," he told reporters. "My response is, Lighten up and get a life."

When reporters asked if the joke was insensitive, McCain said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"

McCain does not have my vote, but he has my support here. Note how Paul missed the euphemism in the vet's "airmail message" prompt . It's the same kind of mail as the one Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper) warns Jeffrey (Kyle MacLaclan) about in Blue Velvet when he threatens to send him a "love letter". McCain simply replies in kind--especially to the generation that grew up listening to the Beach Boys.

But the joke is far from new. There were several versions popping up during the Iran hostage crisis (Vince Vance and the Valiants was the best known version), and they persisted through the early 1980s. Some, like Vince's, had a definite Right Wing tinge, but not all.

However, there was no YouTube in the 1980s. In fact, there was barely an embryo of an internet. So, not surprisingly, few people remember the lines like "Went to a mosque, gonna throw some rocks. Tell the Ayatollah..."Gonna put you in a box!" " (from Vince's version), "A-rockin'-n'-a-rollin', Nuke'm 'till the'r glow'n'" or "Bomb Ira-a-an, just like Viet-Na-a-am!" (from other versions) that lurked around the college counter-culture music circuit. Beatnik coffee houses are not the internet and 45s are not CDs.

But no one seems to have bothered to check more recent archives either. Here's one version (Adam Kontras) that appeared almost exactly a year ago.
[Update NOTE: The clip will pop up in a new tab or window. It starts with a brief ad.]

No wonder that the site that distributes the Kontras clip came up with a humorous take:

John McCain Rips Off AtomFilms!!

It is unusual that the same song not only served for multiple parodies at different time periods, but that it spawned versions from both ends of the political spectrum (although the ones from the Left were distinctly more ironic). The fact that McCain tapped into the same channel shows that he still has a sense of humor and can still connect the dots. His critics, on the other hand, are getting stale. Meanwhile, the Corner is poll-watching...