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Not Confused…

[ 8 ] February 8, 2008 |

SecDef Gates:

“I worry that for many Europeans the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan are confused,” Mr. Gates said as he flew here to deliver an address at an international security conference.

“I think that they combine the two,” he added. “Many of them, I think, have a problem with our involvement in Iraq and project that to Afghanistan, and do not understand the very different — for them — the very different kind of threat.”

It’s not that they’re confused, or that they don’t understand, Bob; it’s that Iraq casts a shadow over the legitimacy of everything the United States does. It’s that support for the United States in Afghanistan inevitably means support for the US in Iraq; Europeans worry that any resources they devote to Afghanistan will be responded to by an increased US commitment to Iraq.

On some level I sympathize with Gates, and I do think that some European countries could and should do more in Afghanistan. But the problem isn’t primarily that Europeans are stupid and confused. Rather, it’s Iraq, and that’s entirely a problem of our own making.

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Friday Skiing Blogging

[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |

Today started at 4:30 AM in my NYC apartment. I’m now out west somewhere, ready for 2.5 days of skiing. I’ll be blogging when I can but…for this weekend, the snow rules.

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Anti-Clinton Sexism

[ 49 ] February 8, 2008 |

A valuable roundup. It’s easy to understand why this kind of stuff pushes people into Clinton’s camp.

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Late Contribution on the Liberal Label

[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |

My hostility to the “liberal” label and consequent preference for “progressive”, in spite of the problems of the latter, stems almost entirely from several years of experience in teaching introductory Political Theory and International Relations at the college level. Most everybody here knows that “liberal” as used in reference to American politics bears only a very tenuous relation to how “Liberal” is used in Political Theory and in International Relations, but it can be bloody difficult convincing eighteen year old undergrads that there’s a difference.

The convenience element is important to me, but so is the precision of language part. Conservatives and liberals in America, with a few exception either way, are both part of a larger Liberal project, and they share (at least publicly) a set of Liberal assumptions about political order, process, etc. Confining the liberal tag to what amounts to the left liberals in American discourse (even if the “right” liberals are most enthusiastic about that ghetto-ization), has always struck me as an inaccurate use of the term. “Progressive” isn’t ideal for a variety of reasons, but I think the progressive vs. conservative distinction better captures actual political conflict in the US than the liberal vs. conservative dichotomy.

But then, I’m just an ivory tower egghead, etc. etc.

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Cuba!

[ 10 ] February 8, 2008 |

Via Yglesias, Rodger Payne gives some solid reasons for preferring Obama to Clinton on Cuba policy:

Last summer, however, Obama wrote an op-ed for the Miami Herald calling for the US to ease up on some aspects of the economic embargo toward Cuba…Obama has also voted twice to cut off funding for TV Marti.

After Obama’s op-ed, however, Hillary Clinton’s campaign attacked it.

As US Cuba policy amounts to 47 years of utter stupidity (and counting!) anything sensible is quite welcome, and Obama seems to be talking more sense than Clinton. Payne suggests that Clinton’s position here is simply rhetorical, and that the distance between the two candidates is probably small. That’s fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go very far; the problem with US Cuba policy is, essentially, a rhetorical one, and thus holding to the same rhetoric while shifting policy in a sensible direction on the margins doesn’t actually do much. Whatever progress the first Clinton administration made in Cuba-US relations was lost during the Bush administration, in no small part because the rhetorical frame (starve Cuba until Castro gives up) remained unchanged.

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GOP VP II: The Supply Sidening

[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |

Hair Club For Growth President Pat Toomey suggests some running mates for McCain; the first few seem plausible. However, I would strongly urge McCain to go with the boundless charisma and highly popular non-crackpotery of Phil Gramm or Steve Forbes. (Maybe Gramm and Giuliani could run as a two-headed vice presidential candidate representing the most embarrassing presidential runs in living memory.)

Toomey’s editorial is also available in video format.



“Hey. I’m Pat Toomey. I’m not putting my name on the line for a fiscal policy that doesn’t work.”

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[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |


Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

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The Flip Flopper Flops

[ 9 ] February 7, 2008 |

Romney’s out for the good of his party (or so he says).

In the NY Times article about his exit, the reporter says that in New Hampshire, McCain cast himself as a straight-talker, in contrast to Mr. Romney’s “flexibility.”

Definitely the best euphemism I’ve heard today.

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. . . and somewhere in Omaha, Port Adelaide are the lords of Australian Football

[ 0 ] February 7, 2008 |

Mr. Trend explains where useless Super Bowl merchandise is headed:

For what it’s worth, this year, the 200+ “World Champion New England Patriots” that would have been used right after the game in the event of a Patriots win have ended up in Nicaragua. According to the article, millions of other shirts and items promoting the Pats’ victory are to be shipped to Nicaragua, Romania, and elsewhere in the coming weeks.

Years ago, I actually remember running into someone wearing a “Baltimore Orioles 1979 World Champions” shirt. I suppose it’s probably good that this sort of thing doesn’t wind up in the hands of Americans; for the sake of twisting old, embedded knives, I’d be sorely tempted to buy a “New York Yankees 2003 World Champions” shirt.

That said, I wish other countries were as stupidly premature with their championship merchandise as Americans seem to be. I think it would be sort of fun to own a Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters championship hat from last year’s Japan Series, or perhaps an Arsenal sweatshirt from the 2007 League Cup.

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The Superdelegate Question

[ 0 ] February 7, 2008 |

I agree with Ezra that it would be unfortunate for the nomination to come down to superdelegates, and I would hope that there would be a norm among many superdelegates to support a clear winner. A couple of additional points:

  • The election getting to the superdelegates may not be quite as dire in practice as it seems. In a case where a candidate has a clear lead but not quite enough to win, incentives are likely to take care of themselves, as it’s in the interest of superdelegates to back a winner. If the result of the primaries and caucuses is a near-tie, conversely, the election being settled by the superdelegates is less problematic, since a very narrow lead could be almost entirely a product of arbitrary choices in the primary schedule anyway. I could be optimistic, but the scenario that could produce a really bad outcome — a clear winner being thwarted by superdelegates — seems relatively unlikely.
  • As Publius says, trying to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates should be — in absence of a fair election with known stakes being held in those states — considered the nuclear option, one that would tear the party apart. There’s an important distinction between maximizing your advantages within the existing rules and retroactively changing the rules when they don’t work in your favor that has to be maintained. It’s fair for candidates to fight for superdelegates; it’s completely unacceptable for candidates to try for ex post facto rule changes to turn a non-election into an election.
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Household Robot Helpers for the Elderly?

[ 0 ] February 7, 2008 |

I’m sorry, but this

Household robots may help human carers look after the growing number of elderly Norwegians in years to come, enabling them to live longer and more comfortably in their own homes, a project leader told Reuters on Thursday.

Norway faces a growing shortage of health care staff over the next 5-10 years, and 2020 will be a crunch point when large numbers of post-World War 2 “baby boomers” leave the workforce.

Two employee groups have teamed up to see how robots and other hi-tech gadgets can be developed to help care for them.

… requires yet another link to this.

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Try Again

[ 41 ] February 7, 2008 |

This is good…

The Democratic National Committee is pressuring Michigan and Florida to hold Democratic presidential caucuses so the delegates they’ve lost for holding January primaries can be seated at the national convention, a top Michigan Democrat said today.

DNC member Debbie Dingell said it’s unclear whether either state would hold caucuses since they’ve already held primaries, Michigan on Jan. 15 and Florida on Jan. 29.

But she said the DNC is asking the two states to consider such a plan as the likelihood grows that the selection of the party’s nominee could come down to the national convention.

Of course, it would be ideal if Michigan and Florida held new contested primaries with everyone on the ballot etc., but this is clearly an improvement over where we’re at right now.

Via MyDD.

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