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Olbermann suspended for making campaign contributions

[ 28 ] November 5, 2010 |

Casablanca

This story seems odd on a number of levels.

First, NBC’s rules, which apparently require journalists to get permission from their bosses before contributing to or otherwise participating in political campaigns, are pretty ridiculous. (News organizations have a wide variety of policies regarding this sort of thing, from anything goes at FOX to above the fray appearance of objectivity at all costs at places like the New York Times). Is anybody under the impression that Keith Olbermann is supposed to be maintaining an appearance of objectivity, whatever that means in this crazy mixed up world where the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans? (It’s unclear whether Olbermann did get permission before contributing a combined total of a little more than $7K to two congressional and one senate campaign).

Second, Olbermann’s flouting of his organization’s rules, however ridiculous those rules may be — if he did flout them; again this isn’t clear — seems tactically very unwise. His influence as a commentator is exponentially more valuable to candidates whom he favors than the piddling sums he’s legally allowed to contribute to them. Making such contributions without clearing them first creates yet another bogus issue for the Scream Machine to whinge about as it goes on about Mainstream Media Bias etc etc.

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Friday Nugget Blogging

[ 0 ] November 5, 2010 |

I still like the Democrats.”

If Ben Domenech ran a cooking magazine…

[ 2 ] November 5, 2010 |

…it would look something like Cooks Source, which has seemingly addressed the public’s demand for magazines comprised entirely of stolen material.

In the wake of all this, the magazine’s Facebook page is now one of the funniest things on the Facebooks. To make things even more entertaining, the editor apparently set up a new account under the name “Joe Smith” and began posting comments in defense of herself. Has anyone seen Judith Griggs and Lee Siegel in the same room?

….[SL] My favorite part: Griggs’ claim that the author she ripped off should be paying her. Maybe she’s angling for a job on Rand Paul’s staff!

F.f..f..f..f..fricking Anarchy!!!

[ 11 ] November 5, 2010 |

This reminds me of this.

In Fairness

[ 29 ] November 5, 2010 |

If I were Kevin Smith, I wouldn’t want people to review my movies either. But given that his critical reputation persisted for about a decade after his (one) watchable-if-highly-overrated debut film, it’s a little unsporting.

Does Dino Rossi (R-Fail) have Tenure?

[ 9 ] November 5, 2010 |

Apparently, it’s good to revisit this post every two years.

“He’s Dead, Jim.”

[ 8 ] November 5, 2010 |


Post-Halloween Friday Daddy Blogging… Miriam and Elisha

Torturer-in-Chief

[ 18 ] November 4, 2010 |

And he’s proud of it! At least the pretense that the GOP actually opposed arbitrary and illegal torture is over…

Can The Democratic Party Problem Be Solved?

[ 180 ] November 4, 2010 |

The midterms have essentially ended any prospect for substantial progressive legislation for at least two years and probably longer, so progressive infighting will only intensify. Many critiques of Obama from the left — especially on his civil liberties record and his glacially paced and timorous process for executive and judicial branch nominations — are very much valid. On domestic politics, the question is more complex; in general, both the press and among both the Democratic and third-party left greatly overrate the president’s ability to enact legislation in general and overstate the importance of presidential rhetoric by a factor of about twelve billion. Still, there’s plenty of room for disappointment. The standpoint from which some of the more overheated criticism comes from is another question. As pointed out by Berube in this thread, the strangest form of criticism comes from the small faction (of which lambert is the definitive but by no means the only example) who sees Obama’s failures not as an indictment of the Democratic Party or America’s political institutions and culture, but as an argument that things would have been much better had the primary come out differently. The attempt to turn Hillary Clinton — a politician with impeccable DNC credentials whose campaign was being run by Mark Penn, fer Chrissakes — into the second coming of Eugene Debs couldn’t be more bizarre. However one evaluates Obama’s first two years, there isn’t the slightest reason to believe that the outcomes would have differed significantly no matter which viable candidate won the primary.

Greens, at least, because they harbor no such illusions about the Clintons or any other possible Democratic presidential candidate can at least offer a more plausible and coherent critique. But do they offer a viable solution? This brings us to dsquared. Daniel is a great blogger who is often a great contrarian, and the key skill of a great contrarian (like a great lawyer) is to ask and answer the right questions. This defense of third party voting is an excellent example. Scalia once said of an especially appalling Kennedy opinion that what “is obviously true is not relevant, and what is relevant is not obviously true.” I think here Daniel goes further here — everything he says is true, but none of it is really relevant. It’s true that the congressional Democratic caucus as a whole is unimpressive and not especially progressive, but unless third party voting or non-voting can change this it’s beside the point of his central claim. The reheated Anthony Downs that comprises the great bulk of his argument is true but in context proves too much. It’s true that it doesn’t matter whether any individual votes for the Democratic Party — but this applies not only to all voting but all political action. There’s no political “opportunity cost” to taking the time to vote since no not-voting political activity that an ordinary person could engage in during that time could have any impact on the course of American politics either. If we’re going to apply Downs properly, the appropriate response is just to be free riders and ignore politics entirely, not to vote Green or donate money to the ACLU or MoveOn or Chairman Bob Avakian or whatever.

Arguments about third party voting, then, generally aren’t arguments about whether any single individual should vote for the Democrats but whether groups of similarly situated individuals should vote for the Democrats. At this level, the advocate of third party voting in a first-past-the-post system has to address the fact that an unwillingness to sully one’s purity with strategic voting has very real downsides (such as hundreds of thousands of deaths and trillions of dollars wasted attacking a country that poses no threat to the United States, fiscal policy that increased inequities and make s future progressive reform much less viable, several decades each of Roberts and Alito, etc. etc. etc.) and no discernible benefits. If third party voting is supposed to be the key to making the Democrats better, well, Nader already succeeded in his goal of throwing the 2000 election to Bush — how did that work out? According to Daniel, not very well — and, remember, this is true! So I’m not sure why the next time will be the charm.

…as Pithlord notes in comments, see also Julian Sanchez.

Sparky Anderson

[ 14 ] November 4, 2010 |

RIP Sparky. Not a surprise given reports yesterday about Anderson being placed in hospice care. Sparky’s passing will be mourned in both Cincinnati and Detroit.

Has any other player ever received as many as 527 plate appearances in his rookie season, and never played in another major league game? 42 walks in 527 PA is actually kind of impressive from someone who hit .218 and slugged .249…

They’re Both Right!

[ 39 ] November 4, 2010 |

No need to be fighting like this:

With tea party-backed candidates going down in Delaware, Colorado and Nevada, depriving Republicans of what would have been a 50-50 Senate, a bloc of prominent senators and operatives said party purists like Sarah Palin and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) had foolishly pushed nominees too conservative to win in politically competitive states.

Movement conservatives pointed the finger right back at the establishment, accusing the National Republican Senatorial Committee of squandering millions on a California race that wasn’t close at the expense of offering additional aid in places like Colorado, Nevada and Washington state, where Democratic Sen. Patty Murray holds a narrow lead as the votes continue to be counted.

But the teabaggers really did cost the GOP control of the Senate, and the establishment’s bizarre fantasies of California triumph do indeed remain bizarre. If Florida had an electoral system that met minimally acceptable democratic standards, Karl Rove’s obsession with California would have cost Bush the 2000 election — but they’re still dreamin’.

Since some commenters who know better seem to buy this tea party excuse, I suppose I should address the argument that O’Donnell’s defeat was really a win because her primary win will keep other Republicans in line. The obvious problem with this argument is that it’s already been accomplished. I hate to break this to you, but Mike Castle was going to vote a straight tea party line on any vote that was consequential to the party leadership. And these Potemkin moderates are a real political asset to the GOP — the media just loves the senators who talk a good moderate game and then vote like Tom Coburn on any issue that actually matters, up to and including an essentially Rockefeller Republican health care plan. Sacrificing several Senate seats to accomplish something that’s already been accomplished while denying some extra political cover was unambiguously stupid.

Annexation

[ 17 ] November 4, 2010 |

In light of growing disquiet about Chinese intentions and capabilities in the Pacific among US security types, it’s worth taking note of this fairly alarmist Russian analysis:

This brings [Aleksandr] Khramchikhin back to China.  He has previously written some fairly alarmist pieces about the potential Chinese threat to Russia, so this time he focuses on the possibility that China would attack Kazakhstan. This seems to be a sufficiently fantastic scenario that it could be dismissed out of hand, but instead he argues that China would easily win such a conflict while absorbing Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with minimal effort. This means that Russia would have to come to Kazakhstan’s assistance or face the prospect of a 12,000km border with China stretching from Astrakhan to Vladivostok. (I’m not sure what happens to Mongolia in this scenario, but I assume it’s nothing good.) And at this point, Khramchikhin argues that Russia might as well capitulate on the spot.

A couple of thoughts:
1. This scenario is fascinating in that it very nearly mirror-images US concerns about Chinese expansion into the Pacific. It doesn’t include any nonsense about reputation and resolve (“If we allow the Chinese to seize Taiwan, then the Japanese and Indians will be forced to accommodate themselves to the reality of Chinese hegemony etc. etc.”) but otherwise it’s quite similar in tone. I guess that everybody has to come up with a reason why they should get paid.

2. In mild, brief defense of US analysts on the subject, I do think that a move to the Pacific is more likely than the conquest and annexation of Kazahkstan.  I’m pretty sure that the PRC does actually kind of want Taiwan, and I’m not certain at all that it would want Kazahkstan even if someone were selling at bargain basement prices.  I would also think that as a future grand strategy the Athenian sea-focused empire makes more sense in the modern context than the Spartan land-focused; nationalism and the expanding material and intellectual tools available to insurgency have made land based empire prohibitively expensive, which the Soviet Union discovered to its dismay.