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Dear Sweet God, This is My Life

[ 23 ] February 20, 2008 |

I never, ever, ever again want to get locked in nine hour comment thread battle over the Florida and Michigan delegates; it is bad for my soul, leads to acne, prevents me from getting tenure, etc. I guess that I want Obama to win Texas and Ohio on the merits, but I also really, really want him to win so that this will be over; not for unity, not for the sake of the party, but simply because I want my afternoons and evenings and late nights back.

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Air Force Continues to Make My Case

[ 34 ] February 20, 2008 |

The USAF has been pissing off a lot of people lately.

The first problem is the F-22. The Air Force insists that it needs a lot of them. Congress, footing the bill, isn’t so sure. The Air Force has at least half of a case on this. It’s true enough that the F-22 is useless in our current wars, but utility in Iraq and Afghanistan is not the sole criteria of weapon merit. Moreover, there’s something to the Air Force complaints that the F-15 fleet is getting old and uncompetitive. The F-15 is still one of the best platforms in the world, but the age and wear on a lot of the frames means higher maintenance costs and lower readiness rates. Finally, in a perfect world you really would want what’s probably the best air superiority fighter around, even if you can’t predict precisely when and where it’s going to be used.

But of course we live in the real world, and while utility now isn’t the only criterion, it is a pretty important one. It’s unclear why we need the F-22 now in the numbers that the Air Force wants. It’s also unclear why procurement right now should favor the Air Force instead of the Army. The F-35 seems to me to be a much preferable option; it has ground attack and air superiority capability, it’s being developed with a number of other countries, and it has variants that the United States Navy and several foreign navies want. It’s almost as if the Air Force wants the F-22 simply because other countries won’t have it; this makes a tiny bit of sense, but not a terribly large amount, because we’re not going to war against Norway anytime soon. I’m pretty convinced that the F-22 is attractive to the Air Force for prestige reasons; it wants the aircraft simply in order to have a plane that’s more air superiority capable than anything the Air Force has. This amounts to essentially a cultural argument, as the fighter faction in the USAF has always been strong, if not necessarily dominant.

What’s really interesting is that as fewer people take the Air Force seriously, it seems to up its demands. AP:

The Air Force isn’t alone in wanting more money, but its appetite is far greater than the other military branches. Shortly after President Bush submitted his defense plan for the 2009 budget year, which begins Oct. 1, each service outlined for Congress what it felt was left out. The Air Force’s “wish list” totaled $18.8 billion, almost twice as much as the other three services combined.

“There’s no justification for it. Period. End of story,” said Gordon Adams, a former Clinton administration budget official who specializes in defense issues. “Until someone constrains these budget requests, the hunger for more will charge ahead unchecked.”

The intriguing thing about this is the resentment it seems to be stirring. The Navy is also requesting weapon systems that have no direct utility in Afghanistan or Iraq, but apparently it either has a better PR department or a better sense of when and when not to push. It can’t help that the Air Force has decided to treat the Army and Navy as enemies in the procurement battle, or that the USAF has been, well, quite blunt in the demands that it’s making. After General Bruce Carlson publicly stated that the Air Force wanted 380 F-22s (double the current fleet projection), SecDef Gates slapped him down pretty hard.

All of General Dunlap’s claims regarding the critical role of the Air Force in counterinsurgency can’t change the fact that it’s not a service built for the kind of war we’re fighting now. Moreover, the jobs that the Air Force is being asked to do now (ground support, transport, etc.) are things that it has bitterly resisted doing at every opportunity. Whereas the Navy has done a lot of good work on laying a theoretical and doctrinal foundation for its continued prominence, the Air Force seems capable only of clawing at the other two services.

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Lousy Miscegenating Communists

[ 14 ] February 20, 2008 |

Skemono has a fine post on the communism-miscegenation connection. A taste:

In 1957 the Citizens’ Council serialized a “Manual for Southerners” which included this bit of rhetoric:

Our most famous Americans have believed in segregation. Do you think they did not go to heaven because Race-Mixers had not made them integrate? The people of the United States have always practiced Segregation. And their preachers did not believe they were sinful. Why is it suddenly sinful for us Americans to want to keep Segregation? If God believed in pure races, can’t we believe in pure races, too? Or should we believe the Communist Race-Mixers? They do not believe in God at all.

Read the whole thing etc.

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[ 28 ] February 20, 2008 |

Obama with a convincing win. But it doesn’t count because it’s a caucus there are too many black people there aren’t enough black people the state is too small. Now, if he wins a state with one candidate on the ballot and no campaign, then he might have something. Also, I have been informed that unlike most politicians he — and I don’t mean to shock you — does not personally write all of his own material. It’s only a matter of time before this crucial issue catches up to him.

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Um, No.

[ 26 ] February 19, 2008 |

What is it about the chemistry of the birth control pill that the wingnuts don’t understand?

There’s news today that lawmakers in Missouri are trying to get emergency contraception (aka Plan B) classified as a drug that induces abortion. The proposed law would also (or perhaps principally) provide protection for moralizing pharmacists who don’t want to do their jobs and who refuse to distribute EC.

Crap like this makes me want to bang my head against a wall. It has been proven again and again that EC is not an abortifacient. It either prevents the implantation of a fertilized egg or, like plain vanilla birth control, prevents the release of an egg to begin with. And yes, I know, there are some people out there who will argue that if an egg is fertilized, anything that prevents the continuation of a pregnancy produces an abortion. But (1) technically, pregnancy doesn’t even begin until the embryo implants and starts to generate the hormones that sustain a pregnancy and (2) lest we forget, about 1/2 of fertilized eggs don’t implant anyway.

Also, proposals like this make it achingly clear that the wingnut anti-woman/anti-abortion movement has almost zero to do with protecting life and almost everything to do with ensuring that women don’t have control over their reproductive lives.

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The Summers Principle, In Graphic Form

[ 0 ] February 19, 2008 |



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Clinton Rules

[ 24 ] February 19, 2008 |

Dr. Black:

I wonder when Politico will give us the “scoop” that Clinton is planning to hire the hit man who killed Vince Foster to take out all of Obama’s delegates.

As has been established at interminable length, I”m more than willing to point out actual examples of dirty tactics or incompetence from the Clinton campaign, but progressives really should be careful before accepting the truth of anonymously sourced articles in Drudgico.

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The Federalism Dodge In Historical Perspective

[ 9 ] February 19, 2008 |

Dave’s post on Confederate nostalgia premised on an imaginary commitment to “States’ Rights” reminds me that one reason why John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in the Civil Rights Cases is one of my very favorite in the U.S. Reports is that he not only anticipated the bogus “special rights” argument but in contrasting the Court upholding the Fugitive Slave Acts and striking down the Civil Rights Act was also an incisive critic of the federalism dodge:

With all respect for the opinion of others, I insist that the national legislature may, without transcending the limits of the Constitution, do for human liberty and the fundamental rights of American citizenship what it did, with the sanction of this court, for the protection of slavery and the rights of the masters of fugitive slaves. If fugitive slave laws, providing modes and prescribing penalties whereby the master could seize and recover his fugitive slave, were legitimate exercises of an implied power to protect and enforce a right recognized by the Constitution, why shall the hands of Congress be tied so that — under an express power, by appropriate legislation, to enforce a constitutional provision granting citizenship — it may not, by means of direct legislation, bring the whole power of this nation to bear upon States and their officers and upon such individuals and corporations exercising public functions as assume to abridge, impair, or deny rights confessedly secured by the supreme law of the land?

Amazingly, the same faction that seceded in 1861 strongly favored the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, although the wording of the Fugitive Slave clause and its placement in Article IV rather than Article I suggests that the rendition of fugitive slaves was a state rather than federal responsibility. (An argument can be made for the constitutionality of the law, but it certainly wouldn’t be made by someone with a serious commitment to narrow federal power.) And this was part of a completely consistent pattern. Mark Graber’s recent book is good on this, but until demographics shifted in favor of the free states most Southerners were advocates of strong federal power — John Calhoun started as a nationalist, Jefferson may have been tortured by the Louisiana Purchase but most of his supporters weren’t (and even he went ahead with it), and so on. The relevant principle the slaveholding states adhered to is straightforward: the protection of human bondage. When the federal government advanced the interests of slaveholders, they advocated strong federal powers; when the federal government didn’t advance those interests, all of a sudden the rights of the states were paramount.

And, of course, has been consistent from Reconstruction onward as well. Pro-apartheid Southerners who claimed that Brown v. Board was an outrageous arrogation of federal power generally didn’t object to the Tennessee Valley Authority, constitutionally dubious federal persecution of communists, federal spending programs as long as most of the benefits went to white people, etc. Almost everybody who purports to want abortion “sent back to the states” favors every federal abortion regulation to come down the pike. And so on. “Federalism” has never been an especially important independent factor in American politics; much more commonly, it’s a way of advancing substantive claims you’d rather not defend on the merits.

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Abortion At Issue in Italy

[ 2 ] February 19, 2008 |

Is this what we’re heading toward here in the U.S.? In Naples last week, police stormed into a hospital based on an anonymous tip that doctors there had performed an abortion later than 24 weeks (the latest date allowed under the country’s 30-year-old abortion law). From the NY Times:

[P]olice officers entered the hospital and interrogated a Neapolitan woman, identified in the news media only by her first name, Silvana, immediately after the abortion and reportedly while she was still under the effects of anesthesia. They seized the aborted fetus.

Carmine Nappi, the chief of obstetrics at the hospital, likened the police intrusion to an anti-Mafia raid. “We’ve had countless complaints, we’re a hospital, but never a blitz like this,” he said by telephone on Thursday.

Nice one. Of course, tests proved that the fetus was 21 weeks gestational age, and that the woman had chosen to terminate the pregnancy based on tests that showed a serious fetal abnormality.

This “anti-mafia” style raid comes in the context of a new attack on the country’s abortion law. With the parliament dissolved and elections looming, conservative leaders are using abortion as a tool to mobilize voters. To Americans familiar with the elections of 2000 and 2004, this is nothing new: the right here has for a while now made contentious social issues loom large in order to scare voters (particularly religious conservatives) to the polls.

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He’s Not Jesus?

[ 58 ] February 19, 2008 |

It’s nonsense, but I respect it.

What I mean by this is that it’s a very smart move by the Clinton campaign, yet it doesn’t involve crediting sham elections or otherwise gutting the electoral system. The plagiarism accusation is precisely the kind of faux-authentic nonsense that the media loves; they prize authenticity tropes, and they prize depriving Democrats of authenticity even more. They launched it just before a primary that they’re trailing in but that they could win with some luck, with masterful timing that allowed just enough time for the networks to play and replay Patrick and Obama speeches, but not enough for saner heads to prevail. I don’t even really blame Clinton for the speciousness of the attack; if Clinton hadn’t launched it, then certainly McCain would have, and the press might have liked it even more coming from the Straight Talk Express.

In short, it’s precisely the kind of cutthroat politics that Clinton is supposed to be good at, but that she hasn’t displayed thus far this electoral cycle. Obama is in the right and should push back on this, but as far as I’m concerned it falls within what some commenters here have described as rough politics. At the same time, it’s simply bizarre to see arguments like this. After admitting that the plagiarism charge is bogus, and consequently that the Clinton campaign is really just making stuff up, Wendy argues:

The problem with the Obama “borrowing” (let us call it) is that it undermines the uniqueness and specialness of his message. I’ve been wondering why Obama has been underwhelming me, and now I realize that it’s because I’m from Massachusetts and we did this all in 2006! Same unity shtick, same rhetorical mastery, same promises of change. Take a look at Massachusetts right now. It’s a nice state, but it’s hardly a brave new world of politics.

Right…. this is echoed in places like TalkLeft, MyDD, etc.; the argument comes down to “don’t you see that Obama isn’t a messiah, but rather just a politician?!!?!!11?!!!” As such, it’s an exercise in the burning of straw men; Obama supporters actually do understand that Obama is a politician, they simply think that he’s a better politician than Hillary Clinton. The merits of that position can be argued back and forth, but they actually need to be argued.

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Castro Gone

[ 0 ] February 19, 2008 |

Forty-nine years, and ten American presidents. I have to suspect that he’s very near the end, or else would have tried to push through to next January. It’s worth noting (as I did here) that the proposed policies of Hillary Clinton and Serial Plagiarizer “Scott Templeton” Obama differ in important aspects; if we take what they say at face value, with Clinton we’re waiting around until Raul dies, while with Obama we’re talking to Cuba and hopefully taking an actual positive step towards finally bringing down the regime.

Also, the Patterson School simulated this scenario last year. I’ll be that our simulation was more exciting than real life will be!

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He tends to make more sense when you lift his head out of the toilet bowl

[ 47 ] February 19, 2008 |

Just in time for Confederate Inauguration Day, there was this bit of soul-coughing indignity from some fellow at Redstate last night.

Our hero — who answers to the rustic handle of “haystack” — found his man-thong in a twist after reading a Frank Rich commentary which dared to point out that Republicans tend to be . . . you know . . . white and that no small part of that fact can be explained by white hostility to the expansion of black civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s. Among other things, haystack scoffs at Rich’s refusal to curse the negroes who torched his own father’s shoe store during the 1968 riots. By refusing to acknowledge his authentic historical grievances, Rich is denied the right speak for or about white Southern men; that is to say, Rich fails to partake in the Great Absolution in which white men near and far toss their hands to the sky and declare that “Black People Wanted to Kill Me!”

While I may be nine years Rich’s junior, I actually STAYED for the mayhem that began in April of 1968 (I was 10), and the racial HELL that carried on through my entire Junior and Senior High School life. See, unlike Mr. Rich, I was (as a white kid in a white neighborhood) bused to a black neighborhood starting in the fall of 1970 (7th grade). I seem to remember an entirely different world than the one Mr. Rich glorifies, and I lived only a handful of miles away – just over the Maryland border…a simple enough bicycle ride back then through Queenstown that would likely see me killed were I to try such a ride today.

Having established his credentials as Someone Whom Black People Wanted to Kill, haystack continues his epic-length description of why Frank Rich don’t know shit.

As a down-line Confederate, I know of a reverence for God, a deep-rooted respect for my elders, a conviction that a Government is only as good as the independent and strong-willed people who fight FOR her, and a belief that the Federal Government is BEST that governs States the LEAST – this being emblematic of a Republic that was founded with the intention of ensuring as much for her citizens. What I ALSO know, is that anyone that believes such things today are considered racist, or worse. Look, I am derived from Confederates who often-times found themselves indentured servants, so it’s not like there’s any anti black mentality in my blood-we had as much to lose as anyone else…but we DID appreciate the meaning and value of fighting for what what we believed in-black, white, green, yellow or anything in between…the difference here is that the Democrats want you to believe any who might question such platitudes now must therefore be deemed rednecks. My ancestors, and yours, are rolling in their graves. The Confederate flag might have flown over some dark days of this republic, but that’s not to suggest that the ideals of the Confederacy, beyond the darkness of slavery, should be lost in the translation. That flag flew to represent an America that stood up for a people and a belief that a Federal Government had no place in deciding the business of the States’ right to determine their futures.

For good measure, of course, we’re reminded for the billionth time or so that Democrats were once the party of white supremacy and that modern liberals like Frank Rich won’t “take responsibility” for that legacy — “taking responsibility” being code for “harping endlessly on this irrelevant historical fact for the sole benefit of the Republican Party.” (To the author’s credit, though, he doesn’t remind us that Robert Byrd Was a Klansman [TM]). But the real treat here is the author’s ingenious formulation of a “Confederacy beyond the darkness of slavery” — a phrase that bears as much sense as “a fish beyond the oxygen-rich environment of the aquarium.” After all, the Confederate Constitution permanently safeguarded human property at the national level, and in so doing created a government that would have been utterly hostile to “States’ rights” if any particular state decided to abandon the institution. And when they fought for “what [we] believed in,” they fought for a national government thrown down on a cornerstone of slavery. Why neo-Confederates can’t “take responsibility” for this is quite beyond my imagination.

(Via a tip from Thers, whose blue language I frequently plagiarize.)

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