Thursday, January 29, 2004

Mark Kleiman has the national tracking numbers up. I've been pondering a while the fact that it seems that a candidate's numbers in the national poll seem to tack with my perception of his news coverage. To wit, when Clark entered the race, he was at the top - and he was a major story for over a week. Then, when Dean grabbed the Gore endorsement, he shot to number one. And after his Iowa win, Kerry went to number one as the media covered his upset (Edwards also got a national boost from this). So there seems to be a correlation. I'm not suggesting that we Democrats are sheep, but there is a stange nexus between TV coverage and poll numbers.

Some political scientist should do a study.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Here's a Reuter's write-up of the Chicago Tribune story cited by Brad DeLong about the planned spring offensive into Pakistan that we may be conducting.

How's that for a long-winded sentence? I could give John Kerry a real run for his money in that department.
Via Brad DeLong there's word that the DoD may finally be going into Pakistan's tribal provinces after letting Osama bin Laden escape there after Tora Bora over two years ago. This seems like a good idea on paper, but the more I reflect on it, the more it seems like the 1970 invasion of Cambodia redux.

Nixon, after secretly bombing the country for a year, decided to invade Cambodia in April 1970 to go after an elusive Communist base and prop up Lon Nol's regime, which had attacked the Vietnamese bases that the previous government had ignored. The US invaded, but it never found, much less eliminated, the Communist base. It did empower the Khmer Rouge, who would become the worst post-WWII regime, and caused tremendous domestic unrest (Kent State being the most tragic instance). Five years later, the Lon Nol government fell to the savagery of the Khmer Rouge.

Now, there will not be domestic unrest if we invade the tribal provinces of Pakistan. But what will this accomplish? If we get Osama, it'll be worth it. If we push the radical Islamists further into the mainstream and get Musharraf overthrown, it won't - because then al-Qaeda will have its hands on some nuclear bombs, and you can call it a safe bet that they'll use them. Remember Cambodia - we never found the Vietnamese HQ, and the Khmer Rouge were strengthened. Do we want a situation where we invade Pakistan, never catch bin Laden or his chief lieutenants, and have the Musharraf regime replaced by one of al-Qaeda sympathizers? I would say not.

Of course, if Rummy'd done his job and sent in US troops to Tora Bora, we wouldn't be having this discussion.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Thoughts on New Hampshire:

Big winner is Kerry, obviously. Dean is still treading water, given that his poll numbers were ten points higher than his actual results going into Iowa and he was governor of the next-door state for a decade. Clark gets a boost from third - media whores won't be able to propagate the "the-Clark-campaign-is-doomed" meme after even an 800-vote third place finish, even though they're doing their best to keep it from looking up for Clark (i.e. the "Clark and Edwards tied for 3rd" headline at CNN.com... somehow if Clark were down by 800 votes I'd think it'd be "Edwards takes 3rd; Clark struggles into 4th"). Edwards holds steady - didn't fuck it up, but didn't take third and get momentum (for whatever it's worth) going into the next round. Joementum, man, give it a rest. It's over. Done. Finito. Quit before you fall further back. And so on. Kucinich never really had a shot, and I'm surprised Sharpton got any votes. But what the heck.

So it's on to February 3rd, where Clark seems to have an advantage. He's at the top (by himself or tied) in OK and AZ, and is positioned for 2nd (if not an outright victory) in SC since Kerry's not contesting. So there's potential for 3, or at least 2 and a strong 2nd in another, out of the 5 states up for grabs going to Clark. Dean really isn't flying in the Feb. 3rd states. And then the process should work its way around to Super Tuesday, when it'll probably just come down to Clark, Edwards, and Kerry - Dean having receded after poor showings on February 3rd.

Of course, I could be wrong, but I hope not.

Just like on tests.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Politus has a post linking to a Washington Post story describing the inaccuracy of everyone's New Hampshire polls. They're hard on groups like ARG and Gallup in a "wink-wink, nudge-nudge", jocular sort of way, but the Post really lays it on Zogby and its questionable methods. But back to the point: polling firms have been notoriously and wildly inaccurate regarding the New Hampshire primaries for about the last ten to fifteen years (possibly even farther back - which I can't remember and the Post doesn't mention in the article). So it's more than likely that they're all inaccurate this round. I'd say that Kerry would be a safe bet, but given the huge mistakes that the polls have given in just the recent past, you never know. Here's hoping the polling breaks in Clark's favor, and, no matter what, against Dean.

People are inherently unpredictable - half the people who are for Kerry now could see a Clark town hall and decide to switch over to him - which is why election polls are a fuzzy business. The old cliche is really true here: the only poll that counts is the one taken in the ballot booth on election (or primary) day. All these other polls are just expensive and probably incorrect window-dressing.

QUICK THOUGHT: If there's anything NH voters like to do, it's to fuck up everyone's expectations. Every campaign should remember that.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

I haven't blogged in a little while, and I probably will only sporadically for a while, as I my time has been consumed by homework, and, well, homework, but here are some quick thoughts:

The State of the Union: More like an hour-long Bush-Cheney '04 infomercial broadcast on the major networks for free.

Iowa Caucuses: Kerry and Edwards big winners, Dean the big loser. Clark benefits from Dean going down, but is hurt by Kerry's ascendence in NH, so it's basically a wash for my guy.

NH Primary: Kerry and Clark are battling it out for #1, while Dean's losing ground fast. Edwards hasn't been able to capitalize on the strong 2nd place showing in Iowa. Clark is in a good position - he can stomp Dean and finish a strong second to newly-crowned frontrunner Kerry or take 1st outright in a close battle.

There, those are my thoughts. I probably won't be updating frequently, like I said, but things can easily change.

Monday, January 19, 2004

So it looks like it's Kerry winning the Iowa caucuses, with Edwards in strong 2nd, and Dean and Gephardt lagging in 3rd and 4th. This is good and bad for Clark - on the one hand, it really deflates the Dean balloon and crushes the "inevitable" meme that had been on life support for the past week, but on the other, it gives Kerry something to hang his hat on in NH. I suspect that in NH Kerry, Dean, and Clark will end up bunched pretty close together a week from now - hopefully Clark will come in #1 or #2, but a strong third above 20% should be good enough, I think. I wouldn't count anything out, considering that Dean was at the top of the Iowa pack last week, so Clark could shoot up for a W in NH while Dean fizzles to 4th behind Edwards - you just can't say at this point.

All of which means that this nomination is getting thrown to the later primaries - most notably the February 3rd ones, where Clark is running strong. This fight won't be over for a long time, especially with the second (or first?) wind Edwards is getting from his strong 2nd place finish tonight.
Correction on the last post: According to the AP, Weaver and the Clark campaign are "in negotiations", whatever that means. Let's hope they wrap up those negotiations quickly and Weaver ends up on the Clark team.
I have to agree with Josh Marshall - the Clark campaign made a big pickup today by adding former McCain campaign official John Weaver to his campaign staff. This is big for two reasons: one, the obvious increase in the Clark campaign's overall skill; and two, Weaver will probably be put to task right away on catching up to Dean in New Hampshire, probably by appealing to independents who are potential Clark supporters. On a larger scale, though, Clark can point to this as an example of bringing disaffected Republicans into the Democratic tent - Weaver worked on McCain's campaign in 2000, but later switched parties after Bush came to power. And, contrary to what Howard Dean and Joe Trippi think, we Democrats are going to need all the independents and unhappy Republicans we can get in November.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

My prediction for the championship games played today:


Analysis: Pretty even matchups - Manning and Colts' explosive O v. the Patriots' stingy D against the Patriots' anemic O and the Colts' pourous D. It'll probably come down to special teams, which the Colts have an advantage on.


Analysis: On paper, this would be a pretty lopsided Eagles win. But they don't play the game on paper. If the Panthers make as many mistakes and penalties as they did last week, this could be an Eagles blowout. If they don't, Donovan McNabb's skill should carry the Eagles to the Super Bowl.

So, if these picks turn out to be right, the Super Bowl will be Eagles v. Colts. And then all bets are off.

Friday, January 16, 2004

I have to agree with Mark Kleiman on this one: the supposed murkiness which Matt Yglesias cites is one more of external perception than it is of actual clarity. As Kleiman enumerates, Clark's been pretty consistent on Iraq: Saddam is/was a bad guy, probably a long-term threat to the United States given the consensus (i.e., what Clark cites in his testimony and was generally agreed upon before Bush came to power) on WMD - but that Saddam was not an immediate threat as "time was on our side" in dealing with him, especially when confronted with the more daunting task of the overall strategic problem of Al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism. I think the majority of any confusion lies in Clark's testimony about a resolution: he specifically says that it should not include an unconditional use of force, just a stated intent to use it if all else fails - completely different from the two resolutions which were considered (one of which, Biden-Lugar, Howard Dean supported). In this, I think people are mistaken in assuming that Clark was somehow in support of either the House or Senate resolutions. Rather, he was supportive of an alternative resolution, which to my knowledge was never proposed. We've managed to dumb our political discourse down far enough that you have to be opposed to the idea of war at any time under any circumstance to be considered antiwar - what Kleiman calls the "hawk/dove axis." I don't believe you can place someone like Clark squarely on this axis. Obviously, as a former general, he's not going to be an all-out dove. But he does favor exhausting all diplomatic options and using force as a last resort, which puts him out of the hawk camp and its "force as a first resort" school of thought. If I had to generalize Clark, as it were, I would say this: Clark believes that the use of military force is an appropriate tool of American foreign policy, but that its use must be considered only after all diplomatic options have been exhausted and only as a last resort.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Another link: If you're one of the two people on the internet who hasn't seen the parody MoveOn ad, here it is.
I must disagree with Atrios here: Clark was as antiwar as he says. Just because he didn't use his CNN job to shout out "I AM AGAINST THIS WAR" at the top of his lungs or go and march on Washington doesn't mean he didn't make his position known. Does the Congressional Record not count for anything anymore? He made his position pretty clear there: that Saddam Hussein represented a problem for the United States, but that dealing with that problem should not impair solving the greater strategic riddle of Al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalist terrorism. As Clark said in his testimony before Congress:

"[T]he problem of Iraq is only one element of the broader security challenges facing our country. We have an unfinished worldwide war against Al Qaida, a war that has to be won in conjunction with friends and allies and that ultimately will be won as much by persuasion as by the use of force. We've got to turn off the Al Qaida recruiting machine. Now some 3,000 deaths on September 11th testify to the real danger from Al Qaida, and I think everyone acknowledges that Al Qaida has not yet been defeated.

As far as I know, I haven't seen any substantial evidence linking Saddam's regime to the Al Qaida network, though such evidence may emerge. But nevertheless, winning the war against Al Qaida and taking actions against the weapons programs in Iraq, that's two different problems that may require two different sets of solutions. In other words, to put it back into military parlance, Iraq they're an operational level problem. We've got other operational level problems in the Middle East, like the ongoing conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Al Qaida and the foundation of radical extremist fundamentalist Islam, that's the strategic problem. We've got to make sure that in addressing the operational problem we're effective in going after the larger strategic problem. And so, the critical issue facing the United States right now is how to force action against Saddam Hussein and his weapons programs without detracting from our focus on Al Qaida or our efforts to deal with other immediate mid and long-term security problems."

He then goes on to delineate a plan of action based on the policy objective (i.e. making sure Saddam didn't have WMD) as defined by the administration. Remember, this (9/26/02) is after all the bluster over the summer about war plans and Andrew Card's rolling out of the new product - and I think by at least this point Clark (and many others - including an average citizen like me, for example) were convinced that this was a fait accompli. Bush was going to invade Iraq no matter what Wes Clark or anyone else did or said abou the matter. Clark made it clear that his preference was for eliminating the threat of Al Qaeda first and foremost, then deal with the Israeli-Palestinean conflict, and then Iraq - and even then using diplomacy and international institutions to their fullest measure and only using force as a last resort. In short, Clark was arguing against going to war on pragmatic grounds - it would distract from the war against Al Qaeda, grounds that are more acceptable to the average voter than Dean's white hot, overly puritanical antiwar stance.

And as far as Dean goes, he's been running for president for over a year. As a dark horse, he was determined to exploit every issue that would endear him to the base - especially the war. I happen to think that he was in fact against the war, but he certainly has played his political cards quite cynically, at least concerning the primary - to the point of enforcing an antiwar purity test on everyone else. This is another reason I can't support Dean - his intellectual rigidity is almost Bush-like in nature. Once he's made up his mind, you can't change it. I was drawn to Clark precisely because of his pragmatic stance on the war that fit right in with my own. And I happen to think that a lot of other people - including intelligent Republicans - will be too.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

A quick link post: over at BusyBusyBusy, the premier practicioner of the "shorter" format, there's a humorous and spot-on recap of the conversation going on over at Slate between various liberal proponents of the war in Iraq (although I'm not sure you'd call Hitchens a liberal - more like a self-absorbed and self-righteous quasi-intellectual). Check it out.
Why do I get the feeling that the Bush space program is deja vu all over again. As Josh Marshall blogged and I commented on earlier, this plan is a little too reminiscent of Poppy's space program - full of sound and fury but doing nothing. And it seems that Bush the Lesser is doing the same thing. It says in the CBSNews article that a man on Mars is not supposed to land until 2030. This is far too much time to be put into it - there needs to be a goal that isn't 30 years in the future. We could probably get to Mars within the next decade if we put the resources into it. Which leads me to believe he'll dump this grand plan which I fully support (though I have a feeling that Bush will manage to fuck it up like he does most everything else. See: Iraq, invasion of, 2003 and US Economy, 2001-2005) after he secures reelection.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

There are only three types of people who maintain complete consistency on complex subjects in the face of changing evidence: the stupid, the dishonest, and the insane. We require our politicians to be one of the three.
- Mark "Arrr" Kleiman

How true. Witness Bush (stupid and dishonest), Dean (dishonestly and insanely rigid), and Tom DeLay (just plain insane).

Monday, January 12, 2004

Slate's Chris Suellentrop has done a pretty good job thus far covering Wes Clark in New Hampshire. But now he's decided to go Pickler and write an article which egregiously misrepresents a series of Clark quotes - probably in an attempt to be "even-handed" to Dean, the Republicans, Osama bin Laden, and who knows else. For instance, a bold header says "Bush was 'warned' about 9/11?", as if that's what Clark was implying. But if you read the actual quote, Clark was saying nothing of the kind. Clark was simply saying that the administration was informed by its predecessors that Al Qaeda was the number-one threat facing the country - and then proceeded to put Osama on the back burner while they pursued National Missile Defense and bombed Iraq. Then Suellentrop says that Clark said that "Bush 'never intended' to get bin Laden" - again, drawing an absurd conclusion from a quote which clearly states that Bush was fixated more on getting Saddam Hussein than Osama bin Laden. I'd accuse him of taking the quotes out of context, but even without context there is no reason to assume that Clark is actually saying what Suellentrop is implying in boldface. I mean, the quotes he gives actually contradict the supposed boldface implication.

This is just the worst piece of "journalism" thus far this year - and I suspect it will remain close to the top, even though we'll have some even more egregious misrepresentations and falsehoods peddled by the Nedra Picklers and Tim Russerts of this country.

I've been medidating on this for a while...

Quite frequenty when he co-hosts Crossfire, Paul Begala calls Bill Clinton the best president of our lifetimes. Which got me to thinking that for me, at least, it was certainly true. For the whole of my life, some 20+ years, there's been Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush the Lesser. Well, there's not really a choice for best president of my lifetime here - you really have to go back to JFK if you want competition for Clinton. LBJ is the great tragic figure of American history - his accomplishments are far overshadowed by his deblace in Vietnam. Nixon was an effective president, but he was paranoid and cynical - and oh yes, there's Watergate too. Ford was just there for two years and didn't do much. Carter, whom I admire a lot, had a pile of crises (oil crisis, stagflation, Iranian hostages) dumped on him all at once and did his best to solve them. Reagan was the most corrupt president since Harding, or possibly in all of American history, and there was also the little matter of trading arms for hostages with a state-sponsor of terrorism. Bush the Elder was impotent domestically, and Bush the Lesser is, well, Bush the Lesser.

So there you go - Clinton really has been the best president.
"You sit down! You had your say, and now I'm going to have my say."

Now, does that remind you more of Paul Wellstone or Bill O'Reilly? You know what they say about the company you keep, Howard. Everyday it looks more and more like Dean is Republican in both temperament and upbringing - upper class Yalie who can dish it but can't take it.

Courtesy of Diary of a Deanophobe.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

Another post, another link to Josh Marshall (hey, it's the best blog out there). He's discussing the revelations former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has made on 60 Minutes and in Ron Suskind's new book. I must admit that I'm a bit more willing to believe O'Neill's claims that the invasion of Iraq was sought out from the start of the Bush administration than Marshall is. He's correct in saying that there was bureaucratic infighting going on on the subject between the neocons and the Powellites prior to 9/11, when events tipped the scales in favor of the Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz faction. But it seems to me that neoconservatives had at least partially managed to get the better of Powell from the get-go (I seem to recall that Time's 9/10/01 edition was titled "Where Have You Gone, Colin Powell?"). For instance, Bush had already shoved aside several treaties and rejected multilateral solutions - he was clearly swayed by the Cheneyites in the administration more than he was Powell. So I think that it's likely that what O'Neill implies is correct - that the administration would have made a push to get rid of Saddam even had 9/11 never occurred. I completely agree with Marshall that the motives were not driven by oil - the neocons have a pretty genuine idealistic streak in them (I believe that Wolfowitz supported Clinton's war in Kosovo), even if they seem to disregard the democratic processes in order to get their way. The war itself is about transforming the Middle East into a stable, democratic region - not WMD. As Wolfowitz said, that was the bureaucratic reason everyone agreed on - and the way the war was legally justified to the American people, the Congress, and the international community. Which still makes it a serious issue if the administration lied or otherwise manipulated intel to support the war.
I just want to follow up on my last post by asking a rhetorical question to critics of manned space exploration (particularly those who say that robots can do the science faster, better, and cheaper): do you really think that the reason we go into space is because of science? Sure, the scientific knowledge we gain from space exploration is a bonus - and contrary to what skeptics might say, the knowledge we've gained from manned spaceflight, particularly the Apollo moon landings, is quite considerable - but that isn't the reason we send people into space. We send people into space to expand and explore the human condition - to see what we're truly capable of and if we have the guts to do it. I mean, we didn't spend billions of dollars to go to the moon just to pick up some rocks - we did it to see if we could do it. The most striking image of the 20th Century was a result of Apollo: the image of the Earth, floating in the distance. It has given the world an added perspective about how truly small and fragile the planet and all who dwell on it are. It redefined what it meant to be human - especially at the time of the great upheavals of 1968: the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the anti-war movements accross the West, and the violence at the Democratic convention. That's why we go into space: not to learn about the stars or the planets or the moon, but to learn about ourselves.

If you're still not convinced, I'll ask another question: Do you really think that Star Trek is a show about space exploration? If you do, then you just don't get it.
I'm with Josh Marshall on the Bush moonbase/man-on-Mars plan - it reeks of deja vu from Poppy's space plan. It sets out an impressive and worth goal but leaves out a firm timetable and leaves us wondering how exactly how we're going to fund this thing - and all the while the who project is left handing in the air as the deficit grows, the 2004 campaign grinds on, and Bush expends political capital to push through his ideological agenda.

Other than that, I think it's a great idea. I'm a big supporter of manned space exploration. People making rational cost/benefit analyses based on the science and knowledge we get from manned spaceflight are missing the point - I'm pretty sure there were some people in 15th Century Spain who said the same things about expeditions to the New World. It's about more than simple scientific knowledge - it's about humanity's place in the universe and doing things that were once thought impossible. There also have been rumblings that the moon base would be 'jumping off' point for Mars, and that that would be an incredibly dumb way to try to get to Mars. I agree, but I don't think that that would be the plan. Rather, it seems to me that it would be more logical to build the colony on the moon as a precursor to a permanent human settlement while going more for an expedition to Mars.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

From a New Republic writer endorsing Wes Clark:

If the need arose, Americans would follow Wesley Clark into war. They should follow him to the White House first.

Amen, brother.

In another, altogether unsurprising and totally expected move, TNR's crack team of editors endorsed Joe Lieberman for the Democratic nomination, which seals the dramatic shift that they've made from being one of the nation's most liberal magazines for the better part of the last century to a being a stalwart neoliberal organ. How this happened, I don't know, but it seems its niche of a liberal/progressive magazine to the right of the leftist Nation and the left of more moderate Democrats has been filled quite ably by the American Prospect.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

First mini-rant.

Do polls matter?

I ask this question because of a Politus post citing some unambiguously good news for our guy Wes Clark in a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll - namely that he's closed within the margin of error of Dean. Politus mentions that Deaniacs populating various blogs are trying to spin the results of this poll (and other recent negative results) as being inconsequential - the old "polls don't matter" argument - a substantial reversal from when the poll news was going in Dean's favor. Ultimately they don't - the poll that matters is the one taken in the voting booths on election day. But that's a cliche.

Polls matter if they're done properly; if they're not, you get a result like the 1936 poll that predicted Alf Landon would win in a landslide over FDR. Needless to say, that didn't happen. And they are fuzzy - note that Clark and Dean are statistically tied in the latest poll. Thus it would be more accurate to say that polls measure momentum rather than anything concrete. I think the last few months show this pretty well. Around the time of the Gore endorsement, Dean was riding high in the polls - he had great momentum. Now, as we get down to crunch time, Clark is picking up momentum and moving up the polls nationally and in key states like Arizona and New Hampshire. I think the exception to this is presidential job approval ratings, which are a matter of concrete past and current performance of the individual in question rather than speculation based on platforms, speeches, ads, and so forth.

So that's my take on political polls.
I should probably inform the two people that may or may not read this blog that I'll probably be going light on the rants while I'm back in college, slogging through my fun classes and Russian and writing a column for the paper... which conviently takes the place of any long rants. So there may be shorter rants appearing when I find the time/energy to write something. Just a fair warning.
I was going to launch into a post on the "Blame Canada" approach to the Mad Cow Disease outbreak, but Ezra at Pandagon beat me to it.


Monday, January 05, 2004

Best Strong Bad Email ever.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

No surprise here.

Did anyone think that he wouldn't vote with Bush 98 percent of the time? I suppose I'm surprised that it's not 100 percent, but then again, there's never been a perfect toady. Norm owes his Senate seat to George W. Bush and Karl Rove, and there is no fucking way he's going to defy their political wishes. He's not a Senator from Minnesota - he's the Senator from Rove.

Congratulations, people of Minnesota, you have a rubber-stamp in the Senate.

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