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The I-Pod Candidate?

[ 34 ] June 20, 2008 |

Taking on Johnathan Cohn on his own terrain (and I think Cohn’s emphasis on presidential ability rather than short-term political tactics is sound), Brad Plumer makes a case for Sebelius as VP pick. This is the bottom line:

Sebelius’s biggest strength is the fact that she’s the most competent executive of any of the rumored Democratic veep candidates, save for possibly former Virginia governor Mark Warner (whom the Democrats need to win a Senate seat anyway). The fact that, as governor, she erased a $1.1 billion budget deficit in her first year of office without raising taxes, and later steered a large education-funding package through a fractious legislature, would suggest that she’s perfectly capable of heading up the executive branch–and doing it well.

There just aren’t a lot of people with both executive and foreign policy experience,and the person who best fits that profile (Richardson) has other weaknesses. The other thing to add is that I don’t think her less-than-inspiring State of the Union response should be much of an issue. Most people look bad giving them, and if making a dreary entrance on the national stage was a disqualifying factor the Dems would have been stuck with Paul Tsongas in 1992.

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Democracy Works!

[ 36 ] June 20, 2008 |

Players vote Derek Jeter most overrated player in baseball. (Actually, the title is misleading, as while the #1 pick is unassailably correct, Slappy Rodriguez and Wright are bizarre choices, and J.D. Drew would be a better fit for a most underrated list.)

I’m surprised by the outcome, though. I think the biggest reason that explains the paradox of how Jeter is both at times annoyingly overrated and was screwed out of an MVP award in 2006 is the prejudice against on-base players as opposed to RBI men, but one suspects that the hard sell of the New York media — which, not content to celebrate the many virtues of a first-ballot HOFer, has invented a number out of whole cloth — alienated a lot of voters even as it attracts attention.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 14 ] June 20, 2008 |

Richard Nixon, remarks to reporters, 19 June 1969:

Mr. Hoover does enjoy my complete confidence, and there has been no discussion with regard to his tenure as far as the future is concerned.

I should add, further, that with regard to the controversy on electronic surveillance, that I checked personally into the matter as to whether or not that surveillance which had been discussed had been conducted by him and the FBI, by themselves, or whether it had been, as is supposed to be the case, always approved by the Attorney General.

I found that it had always been approved by the Attorney General, as Mr. Hoover testified in 1964 and 1965. As far as this administration is concerned, our attitude toward electronic surveillance is that it should be used very sparingly, very carefully, having in mind the Fights of those who might be involved, but very effectively to protect the internal and external security of the United States.

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[ 0 ] June 20, 2008 |


That didn’t take very long at all.

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[ 13 ] June 19, 2008 |

This really is bad.

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We’re #2!

[ 0 ] June 19, 2008 |

Above the Law (the legal tabloid run by David Lat, he of Underneath their Robes fame) has published its list of Top 10 Legal Songs.

And guess what? We’re #2.

Not bad, eh? Though I think #1 was too obvious a choice and LGM should reasonably have won.


Update: link fixed. barbri has sucked out my brain.

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To Reiterate

[ 37 ] June 19, 2008 |

Since the first three comments manage to miss the point entirely, allow me to try this again:

  • Like any Democrat capable of winning a national election, Obama will make all sorts of compromises and advance suboptimal ideological positions. It is good for progressives to point his failings, although arguments that move in the “since he isn’t a social democrat, we might just as well have McCain in the White House” direction are where I get off the bus.
  • Such critiques that take the form “many [always unnamed and uncited, because where progressives of any influence are concerned they pretty much don’t exist] Obamabots think Obama is a God Among Men who Transcends Politics but, in fact, he’s a politician who is not about to turn the United States into Denmark singlehandedly! Haha, Obamabots are so stupid!” are incredibly irritating, and I for one will ignore any substantive points made in such frames 100% of the time.
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Boeing vs Northop, Round 783. Fight!

Yes, its yet another in a series of “when is he coming back, I can’t stand this new guy” posts. We probably all know Farley’s views on the Air Force, and just why it needs to be folded back into the Army and Navy (and no, I don’t mean the department store). The poor old USAF has been having a torrid time recently, what with the firings and all.
Now the GAO has decided to get in on the action, weighing in on the matter of the proposed air-to-air refuelling tanker. Originally this contract was to go to Boeing. Then it turned out there’d been some skullduggery and kickbacks involved, and massive fines were levied, along with jail time.

Then the contract was handed over to the foreigners, EADS/Airbus, although in truth the primary contractor was Northrop Grumman and the planes were going to be built in the US. Not only that, they were better planes in just about every way. Every way but one; they didn’t come with Boeing’s crack team of lobbyists. Boeing whined and whined, and the GAO decided to look into their claims, and has actually upheld Boeing’s complaints. Which I guess puts us back at square one.

Expect much chest-beating jingoism to be brought to bear on Boeing’s behalf; I wouldn’t be surprised if they get the contract after all. Good news for Washington, not such good news for Alabama, since Airbus was going to build a massive new plant there to assemble all their A330s. If they’ve lost the contract, I can’t see any reason for them to continue with that plan, and that means a loss of hi tech jobs in a state that probably needs them.

It’s also bad news for the Air Force, who might not get the plane they want, which was also the best one for the job. But then I might just be biased towards Airbus since:

  • A: I’m one of those communists from across the pond
  • B: when I fly back across that pond I prefer to do it in an A333 since they have nice seats and real live 110v AC sockets under them in coach
  • C: Northrop built a way cooler-looking fighter (the YF-23) than Boeing (the YF-32)

Expect this mess to get sorted out sometime by 2014. I hope those old converted 707s can keep flying until then!

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This Is Payback?

[ 0 ] June 19, 2008 |

I dunno, if Rumsfeld really wanted to get back at McCain, wouldn’t he prominently endorse him and suggest that we’d see similar foreign policy under a McCain administration no matter what their conflicts have been?

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A Point Endorsed

[ 20 ] June 19, 2008 |

Indeed. One of the most irritating aspects of blog discussion about the primary was the “See — Obama’s a politican, no matter what his supporters say!” / “Obamabots don’t understand that he will not suddenly make Republicans disappear!” talking points, along with similar assorted strawmen.

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Note to Wingers: This is Called Judicial (System) Activism

[ 0 ] June 19, 2008 |

The New York Times reported yesterday on an alarming trend out of the anti-woman/forced pregnancy camp in Kansas. In that state (and a few others), state laws allow people to petition for a grand jury investigation into, well, just about anything that they can get enough signatures for. This time, it’s to investigate Dr. George Tiller, the doctor who provides late term abortions to women out of his Wichita, Kansas clinic. Dr. Tiller has been performing abortions since the 1970s and has been harassed virtually the entire time. He has faced extreme violence –including being shot in both arms by an abortion opponent.

And now he is waiting for the results of a grand jury investigation into whether Dr. Tiller has illegally performed second and third trimester abortions. Which, I’m going to guess, he hasn’t. If you were under as much scrutiny as he has been over the years, you would follow the law to a tee too.

Anyway, here’s the quote that lays bare how ridiculous and politically-motivated these grand jury investigations are:

The grand jury meeting here is at least the 10th ordered by petition in the state in recent years: two investigated abortion providers, including Dr. Tiller, and the rest investigated misdemeanor obscenity violations by stores selling explicit videos, magazines and other items. Only one has led to a conviction.

Right. So all 10 grand jury investigations were against either people selling porn or providing a health service for women. But it’s not a fishing expedition. nooo sireeeee.

Talk about abuse of the courts. This is what I’d call judicial (system) activism.

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Teh Soviet Funny

[ 35 ] June 18, 2008 |

There are no shortage of dumb theories about the fall of communism — nearly all of them having to do with Reagan — but I’ll admit I’d forgotten this chestnut.

For some commentators in the 1980s, the existence of … humour in the communist world took on a profound significance. It demonstrated the indomitable nature of the human spirit under oppression; the fact that communism produced such a huge quantity of jokes showed how hugely oppressive it was; and the stubborn persistence of this humour played a major role in undermining Soviet rule. In the end, they said, communism was laughed out of existence.

Ben Lewis, a television documentary producer with a good knowledge of Russian and German and an inquisitive but sceptical mind, has set out to test these claims.

He has travelled through the former Soviet bloc, collecting jokes, inspecting police records and interviewing cartoonists, dissidents, politicians and diehard communists. The result is a fascinating book which . . . engages with the existing theories and argues that most of them are wrong.

This means I’ll have to shelve my book project, “In America, you catch cold, In Soviet Russia, cold catches you”: How Yakov Smirnoff, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher Saved the Free World for Carrot Top and Tom Green.

I suppose there’s no question that humor can be a valuable political tool, but it’s also true that political humor is usually ambiguous enough that it can shore up as well as mock its target. One of the points this review makes is that Lewis discovered that the Soviet leadership itself utilized humor to absorb or contain the harsh and deserved critiques of the system it presided over. The fact that Stalin apparently joked about his own reputation as a sadistic brute is an expression of the same tendencies in humor that allow George W. Bush to crack wise about missing WMD. You could make a good case that the evolution of human wit probably came to an end that evening.

Still, the article reminds me of my favorite old Soviet-era joke:

So Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev are riding along in a train when it suddenly breaks down. The three leaders step out onto the tracks, scratch their heads a little, consider the scene and try to decide what to do next. Stalin advises that the engineer be shot. Khrushchev, gently disagreeing with his predecessor, recommends quietly assigning the engineer, pardoning the rest of the crew and offering them a second chance to get the train running. Brezhnev recommends pulling down the shades and pretending that the train is still moving.

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