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Florida Primary Vote

[ 43 ] March 18, 2008 |

…regrettably, won’t happen this cycle.

I wouldn’t say that this changes anything much about the outcome of the Democratic race; Clinton had essentially no chance before this, and she still has essentially no chance. Obama will win the pledged delegates easily, delegates from the Florida straw poll will not be a decisive factor, and the vast majority of superdelegates voting to overturn this lead is Not. Going. To. Happen. (Obama is now almost certain to win the popular vote as well, although why this is supposed to be an important factor in a race in which obtaining the most popular votes per se isn’t the goal, states use radically incommensurate systems, and some states don’t even report popular vote totals I can’t tell you.) This latest example of Florida electoral ineptitude, however, may make the obvious apparent to a greater number of people.

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Bring the Gold

[ 0 ] March 18, 2008 |

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

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Of Course He Lied….

[ 48 ] March 17, 2008 |

Did Ahmed Chalabi lie in order to press the United States to go into Iraq? This is a silly question; of course he lied, and of course he stole, and of course he talked to the Iranians, etc. etc. These, believe it or not, are not his true sins; there are many opponents of brutal, authoritarian regimes who will lie and steal and manipulate in order to overturn or harm the governments that they oppose. Yes, he helped con the United States into a war, but that’s hardly his problem; 4000 dead and a $12 billion/month in expenses is America’s responsibility, not his.

Chalabi’s real sin was ignorance. First, he hadn’t the faintest idea of the actual situation in Iraq. He depended on exiles for all of his information, and displayed no apparent interest in determining the likely effects of a US sponsored overthrow of the regime. He failed utterly to build a base of support sufficient to control Iraq, a problem that the United States noted very quickly. In short, this would-be revolutionary figured out a way to make the destruction work, but gave no attention to the creation; in this he’s not too terribly different from his American allies. Second, Chalabi gravely underestimated the ineptitude of the people that he was lying to. If you’re going to con someone, you have to make sure they have what you want, and it turns out that Chalabi’s marksallies didn’t have the goods. It was not in Chalabi’s interest to have Iraq turned into either a) an US imperial outpost, or b) a democracy; he wanted to be the Iraqi Attaturk, an enlightened despot who would rule with US assistance, but not at the beck and call of the Americans. But this was not a possible outcome; too many Americans actually believed the democracy rhetoric, and those who didn’t had no use for a puppet that had its own mind. Rather than using, Chalabi got used, and it didn’t take a genius to see what was going to happen.

The moral of the story is that while it’s easy to play morons like Richard Perle, it doesn’t get you very far in the end.

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Listen to Me! I Worked for Scoop Jackson!!! LISTEN!!!!11!

[ 6 ] March 17, 2008 |

This paragraph is bad enough to be worth spending some time on:

I did not believe the American-led coalition could prudently leave Iraq the day Baghdad fell. Coalition troops were essential to support a new Iraqi government.

Translation: The people we turned Iraq over to would invite us to stay, whether anyone else wanted us or not. But they wouldn’t invite too many of us to stay, hopefully, because the entire point of this thing was to demonstrate that we could pound a small country to dust without working up a sweat. Incidentally, what is this “nationalism” you speak of? And what is this thing called “state coercive capacity”?

But I was astonished (and dismayed) that we did not turn to well-established and broadly representative opponents of Saddam Hussein’s regime to assume the responsibilities of an interim government while preparing for elections.

Translation: The group of folks that I and my buddies had cobbled together may not actually have been in Iraq in twenty years, but that’s no reason to believe that they can’t run the place. I know Ahmed Chalabi; Ahmed Chalabi is a friend of mine, and he’s been telling me for thirty years now that he can run Iraq. Who am I to contradict him?

Our troops could have remained, under the terms of a transparently negotiated agreement, to help the people of Iraq build their own society, something we didn’t know how to do and should never have tried. After five years of terrible losses, they may now be getting that chance.

Translation: If only we had installed our puppets sooner, the Iraqis never would have noticed that they were puppets. We could have invaded Iran, like, four years ago! But now, fortunately, we’ve adopted a policy that runs 180 degrees counter to what I just suggested… hmm…. well, at least the hippies don’t like it.

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[ 26 ] March 17, 2008 |

Kristol smears Obama. It’s almost as if hiring a unscrupulous propagandist famous for thoughtful analysis of why the editors of your paper belong in prison for revealing illegal government behavior has its downside!

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A Chubby for Chalabi

[ 0 ] March 17, 2008 |

Just so you know, Richard Perle really wishes we’d turned Iraq over to the Iraqi National Congress — which is to say the people who loaded the Bush administration’s trencher with all the bullshit they could gobble with a gigantic wooden spoon.

Having noted that, I’m not even sure that Perle’s offering is the worst in this lame NYT anthology of five-year reflections on the war. Danielle Pletka, for example, suggests that she’d have thought twice about the war if she’d realized the Iraqi people would suck so much at being free.

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The Chamber Of Commerce Court

[ 8 ] March 17, 2008 |

Jeffrey Rosen’s article about the pro-business court — the Chamber of Commerce’s “litigation center filed briefs in 15 cases and its side won in 13 of them” — is very much worth reading. It’s worth being reminded, again, that although court watchers tend to divide the Court into symmetrical groups of “liberals” and “conservatives” there’s no Marshall or Douglas or Brennan on the current Court, as evidenced by the Chamber’s enthusiastic support of Ginsburg and (especially) Breyer. It’s instructive that the Court’s two Democratic appointees are no more liberal than its two Rockefeller Republicans.

I do think some parts of the general assessment of the Court that starts this analysis should be qualified:

What should we make of the Supreme Court’s transformation? Throughout its history, the court has tended to issue opinions, in areas from free speech to gender equality, that reflect or consolidate a social consensus. With their pro-business jurisprudence, the justices may be capturing an emerging spirit of agreement among liberal and conservative elites about the value of free markets. Among the professional classes, many Democrats and Republicans, whatever their other disagreements, have come to share a relatively laissez-faire, technocratic vision of the economy and are suspicious of excessive regulation and reflexive efforts to vilify big business. Judges, lawyers and law professors (such as myself) drilled in cost-benefit analysis over the past three decades, are no exception. It should come as little surprise that John Roberts and Stephen Breyer, both of whom studied the economic analysis of law at Harvard, have similar instincts in business cases.

This elite consensus, however, is not necessarily shared by the country as a whole. If anything, America may be entering something of a populist moment. If you combine the groups of Americans in a recent Pew survey who lean toward some strain of economic populism — from disaffected and conservative Democrats to traditional liberals to social and big-government conservatives — at least two-thirds of all voters arguably feel sympathy for government intervention in the economy.

Seeing the Supreme Court as an adjunct of a social consensus is a more accurate reductionism than seeing the Court as a valiant defender of powerless minorities, but it’s a little problematic. The Court, because of the appointment process and its own inherent institutional weaknesses (especially its reliance on other political actors to enforce its commands), is unlikely to stray outside a broad range of political acceptability for long. But on many important issues, a social consensus doesn’t exist, and as long as the Court has some support among powerful elites it has more range of action than the idea that the Court follows the opinion polls might imply. In the long run, this is likely to mean a Court that’s more libertarian than the median voter. And while talk about restoring a “Constitution in Exile” is overblown, just as the late Rehnquist Court was more socially liberal than the Republican-controlled Congress so is the current Court likely to make it more difficult for Democratic Congresses and presidents to enact desirable regulations and (especially) to enforce existing ones, even if these laws are broadly popular. Indeed, as the article demonstrates the Republican-dominated Court heps Republicans in Congress greatly, as it makes it harder to do thing like enforce civil rights legislation without forcing conservative legislators to modify the legislation and take the hit.

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[ 0 ] March 17, 2008 |

I have no idea if the public babe-in-the-woods routine of Jim McGreevy’s wife was, in fact, false. But the story does remind me that I’m always a little puzzled by confident assertions (I don’t mean to single out that particular post, just using it as an illustration) about how families will be affected by someone’s bad actions or what the bad actor’s wife should do about it. None of us, unless they knew them, has any idea what Silda Wall knew or what she should do or whether it would be best for their daughters if she took them back to North Carolina. She seems to be an extremely smart person and I trust her to make her own judgments. The idea that people think they can know about the relationships of total strangers is bizarre.

And this has always been a locus of unfair commentary about Hillary Clinton. She’s been frequently attacked — mostly by people who are indifferent or hostile towards feminism — as a betrayer of feminism for staying with her husband. And, of course, had she left she would have been roundly attacked by many of these people as selfish, cold, unforgiving, etc. etc. had she left. You can never win, especially if you’re a woman. Which is why minding one’s own goddamned business about how consenting adults conduct their own relationships is generally a sound principle.

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Ducks and Cats Make the Tourney!

[ 6 ] March 17, 2008 |

I foresee a glorious Oregon victory over the Memphis “Paper” Tigers, although I won’t necessarily bet that way in my tourney entry.

LGM Tournament Challenge

League: Lawyers, Guns and Money
Password: zevon

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My Lai

[ 17 ] March 16, 2008 |

Today’s the 40th anniversary of the slaughter at My Lai. Less than a week after the episode was first reported in November 1969 — more than 18 months after the incident itself — the South Vietnamese Defense Ministry released an explanatory statement that described the encounter as an operation intended to destroy “an important Communist force” in Quang Ngai province.

When soldiers of the Task Force Barker engaged into the target they met strong resistance from the enemy. This hamlet was organized by the Communists into a good combat hamlet with good communication and an underground system. The population of the hamlet was forced by the Communists to stay in their places.

The encounter resulted in 125 enemy killed and also there were around 20 civilians killed during the fighting because of the artillery.

Therefore, reports of newspapers and of the foreign press in the past days which said that there were 567 civilians killed were totally untrue.

A few weeks later on December 8, Richard Nixon discussed My Lai for the first time, describing it during a news conference as an unfortunate but “isolated” case. He then reminded the country that the United States had built “over 250,000 churches, pagodas, and temples for the people of Vietnam.” The correct total, as it turned out, was 268.

No American president since Nixon has spoken of the incident in public.

Here’s a clip from Four Hours in My Lai a documentary produced for Yorkshire Television in 1989.

The rest of the documentary can be found here.

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Brighter than Creation’s Dark

[ 1 ] March 16, 2008 |

Going to see the Drive By Truckers tonight in Newport, so probably best that I relate my thoughts on Brighter than Creation’s Dark today, rather than later…

I didn’t love BTCD on the first few listens, and even now I’m pretty sure that I prefer both Dirty South and Decoration Day. Still, the album has grown on me. Cooley has a larger presence than on previous albums, which tended to work out well; 3 Dimes Down, Self Destructive Zones, Bob, and especially Perfect Timing are all outstanding tunes. For Hood’s part, I think that Righteous Path is one of his very best tunes; Hood excels at understanding and relating a certain perspective on politics (even though he has some distance from it), and Righteous Path is probably better than even Puttin’ People on the Moon on that score. That Man I Shot is also pretty good, even if a bit didactic. Before listening to You and Your Crystal Meth I would have doubted that Hood could write a bad song about meth, but there you have it. The Opening Act grew on me over time. The new innovation is three songs by Shonna Tucker, none of which are particularly terrible or particularly good. I’ll be curious to see how she does live.

Inevitably, I have to wonder what might have been; what if Isbell had been able to make peace with the rest of the band for at least one more album? Take the best three or four songs from Sirens of the Ditch, add them to Brighter than Creation’s Dark, and cut the whole thing down to about 14 songs or so, and you have one hell of a great album. Of course, we live in an age where such a project is indeed possible on a personal basis; here’s one possibility:

Sirens of Creation’s Dark
The Righteous Path
Brand New Kind of Actress
3 Dimes Down
Down in a Hole
Shotgun Wedding
Perfect Timing
The Magician
That Man I Shot
Self-Destructive Zones
Opening Act
Goode’s Field Road

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Sucker Bet?

[ 0 ] March 16, 2008 |

Huh; I wonder if putting down $2 (against $100) on Gore winning the nomination would be justified…

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