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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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Full Disclosure

[ 28 ] February 19, 2008 |

In light of this unbelievably stupid non-story, I would nevertheless like to inform my colleagues and LGM readers that on more than one occasion, I have devoted valuable classroom time to ridiculing the defensive skills of Derek Jeter and warning my students about the menace of robots. On those former occasions, it is quite probable that I used words like “clutchiosity” and “leadertude” without crediting Scott. In the latter instances, I may have offered dire, Farleyvian predictions based upon “elementary chaos theory,” and I may also have alluded briefly to Battlestar Galactica, a show that I have in fact never seen. I may also have worn a tie once or twice without mentioning that Rob apparently wears ties on teaching days.

I have not yet pilfered catch phrases or wardrobe ideas from Bean or DJW, but I assure them both that when this happens, I will probably not credit them either.

I offer my sincerest near-apologies for all of this.

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Hillary Clinton, Machiavellian Super-Genius

[ 50 ] February 18, 2008 |

I recently said that one shouldn’t be too harsh on the Clinton campaign, but this may have been premature:

Good lord, let’s see if I have this right. The Clinton campaign decides to cede every post-Super Tuesday state to Obama under the theory that Texas and Ohio will be strong firewalls. After – after – implementing this Rudy-esque strategy, they “discovered” that the archaic Texas rules will almost certainly result in a split delegate count (at best).

While they were busy “discovering” the rules, however, the Obama campaign had people on the ground in Texas explaining the system, organizing precincts, and making Powerpoints. I know because I went to one of these meetings a week ago. I should have invited Mark Penn I suppose. (ed. Maybe foresight is an obsolete macrotrend.)

I dunno, if I were paying someone upwards of $2 million for consulting I might expect them to, say, know the basic delegate allocation rules of states that might determine the nomination. Maybe they think that the “states that Mark Penn considers insignificant don’t count” rule will be applied ex post facto right after they count the delegates from the Michigan and Florida straw polls.

These errors are particularly problematic given the extent to which cases for Clinton depend on her allegedly greater political savvy, something that is more often asserted than demonstrated (which is pretty much inevitable when Mark Penn, Union Buster (TM) is running your campaign.) It’s true that the campaign can be seem as “tough,” but not in ways that are effective; leaving delegates on the table while you focus on futile strategies like trying to steal votes in Michigan or expect superdelegates to reverse a clear victory really wasn’t a good idea. But this is one good thing about a competitive primary: the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
If assertions about Clinton’s allegedly brilliant strategic skillz continue to prove false, she won’t be the nominee.

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What? Texas is a State? I Thought it was Just a Myth…

[ 6 ] February 18, 2008 |

To step back a bit from the radical uncertainty espoused in my last post, let me say that I strongly agree with Hilzoy, Peter, and Matt on this point; the fact that the Clinton campaign apparently didn’t understand the first thing about the Texas primary until a month ago does not speak well of Hillary’s reputation as a cunning political knife fighter. I wrote a bit a couple of weeks ago on the difficulty of assessing the difference between a good campaign and a bad one, but in this case it really seems like either Hillary is a bad don or Mark Penn is a bad consigliari, because the Clinton campaign has made at least a couple identifiable bad steps (devoting no attention to the caucus states really stands out) that have turned this into a real race.

… and Scott; clearly great minds think alike.

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Prediction Time!

[ 24 ] February 18, 2008 |

Prediction 1: If Obama wins the nomination and loses to McCain, Clinton supporters will angrily claim vindication, saying that it was obvious all along that Obama couldn’t win.

Prediction 2: If Clinton wins the nomination and loses to McCain, Obama supporters will angrily claim vindication, saying that it was obvious all along that Clinton couldn’t win.

Prediction 3: Whichever of prediction 1 or 2 comes to pass, the analysis therein will quickly take on the appearance of settled fact, such that two years down the line everyone will remember that it was obvious all along that Clinton/Obama couldn’t win.

I am incredibly confident that, if McCain wins the Presidency, two of these predictions will come true.

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Obama and the Republicans

[ 56 ] February 18, 2008 |

In the thread below, commenter Dr. Zen suggests that Obama’s apparent level of appeal to self-identified Republicans is a reason to be suspicious of him. This is becoming something a regular theme in case against Obama, followed by a suggestion that his rhetoric about bipartisanship and coming together is troubling in a moment when the other party is so clearly disastrously evil.

A common response is that this is a feature, not a bug, of Obama the candidate; that his political skills and image allow him to defuse partisan rancor, and consequently bring in support for an agenda that would be unappealing if offered by a less impressive and talented politician. There is probably some truth to that response, but I think that misses the basic dynamic at work here. Virtually anyone in Obama’s current position, I expect, would be getting much of this support. The fact that he speaks the boilerplate language of unity well certainly doesn’t hurt but lots of politicians do this perfectly well. His support from self-identified Republicans is, I suspect, more structural than personal.

The simplest and most probable explanation, I suspect, runs something like this: Once upon a time, these people were standard-issue Republicans, with all the attendent views on Democrats in general and the Clintons in particular. This worldview couldn’t survive the onslaught of the Bush years, and some of the scales have fallen from their eyes. They’re prepared to admit they were wrong to vote for/support/believe in Bush and Bushism, and since the GOP standard-bearers seem bizarrely eager to go down with the Bush ship, they’re taking a fresh look at the Democrats. But they’re not prepared to admit to themselves just how wrong they’ve been, and for how long. Obama, while similar to Clinton on a great deal of substance, has the advantage of being someone they can support without any further admissions they were wrong back in the day; they only first heard of Obama around the time. Now, this isn’t the story the Andrew Sullivans of the world are willing to tell themselves, let alone anyone else, so they find some superficial reason to like Obama, which isn’t hard. But in the grand scheme of things, they’d pretty much have to find a reason to like whoever occupied the space Obama currently occupies; fundamentally it’s not about him.

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Your Moment of Fascism

[ 0 ] February 18, 2008 |

Today is the 65th anniversary of Joseph Goebbels’ notorious Sportpalast speech, in which he called for “total war” against the Bolshevik peril, which had just turned back the German armies in the battle for Stalingrad.

An excerpt:

Bolshevism has always proclaimed its goal openly: to bring revolution not only to Europe, but to the entire world, and plunge it into Bolshevist chaos. This goal has been evident from the beginning of the Bolshevist Soviet Union, and has been the ideological and practical goal of the Kremlin’s policies. Clearly, the nearer Stalin and the other Soviet leaders believe they are to realizing their world-destroying objectives, the more they attempt to hide and conceal them. We cannot be fooled. We are not like those timid souls who wait like the hypnotized rabbit until the serpent devours them. We prefer to recognize the danger in good time and take effective action. We see through not only the ideology of Bolshevism, but also its practice, for we had great success with that in our domestic struggles. The Kremlin cannot deceive us. We had fourteen years of our struggle for power, and ten years thereafter, to unmask its intentions and its infamous deceptions.

The goal of Bolshevism is Jewish world revolution. They want to bring chaos to the Reich and Europe, using the resulting hopelessness and desperation to establish their international, Bolshevist-concealed capitalist tyranny.

I do not need to say what that would mean for the German people. A Bolshevization of the Reich would mean the liquidation of our entire intelligentsia and leadership, and the descent of our workers into Bolshevist-Jewish slavery. In Moscow, they find workers for forced labor battalions in the Siberian tundra, as the Führer said in his proclamation on 30 January. The revolt of the steppes is readying itself at the front, and the storm from the East that breaks against our lines daily in increasing strength is nothing other than a repetition of the historical devastation that has so often in the past endangered our part of the world.

That is a direct threat to the existence of every European power. No one should believe that Bolshevism would stop at the borders of the Reich, were it to be victorious. The goal of its aggressive policies and wars is the Bolshevization of every land and people in the world. In the face of such undeniable intentions, we are not impressed by paper declarations from the Kremlin or guarantees from London or Washington. We know that we are dealing in the East with an infernal political devilishness that does not recognize the norms governing relations between people and nations. When for example the English Lord Beaverbrook says that Europe must be given over to the Soviets or when the leading American Jewish journalist Brown cynically adds that a Bolshevization of Europe might solve all of the continent’s problems, we know what they have in mind. The European powers are facing the most critical question. The West is in danger. It makes no difference whether or not their governments and intellectuals realize it or not.

The German people, in any event, is unwilling to bow to this danger. Behind the oncoming Soviet divisions we see the Jewish liquidation commandos, and behind them terror, the specter of mass starvation and complete anarchy. International Jewry is the devilish ferment of decomposition that finds cynical satisfaction in plunging the world into the deepest chaos and destroying ancient cultures that it played no role in building.

We also know our historic responsibility. Two thousand years of Western civilization are in danger. One cannot overestimate the danger.

If you’re Jonah Goldberg, this speech — stripped, we assume, of its anti-Semitism — must sound exactly like a speech by Barack Obama and nothing like the dislocated ravings to be found in, say, Powerline’s Book of the Year.

For as much grief as we give the Pantload around these parts, I have to hand it to him for establishing himself as one of the great intellectual-cultural embarrassments of 2008. Let’s assume for a moment that Obama actually does receive the nomination. If Goldberg can hitch his absurd narratives to some of the emerging anti-Obama memes, he will stake out an enduring place among historians as the guy who argued that the nation’s first prospective black president was actually a fascist.

Say what we will about the guy, but those efforts will secure him an immortality of which few pundits can hope to dream.

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The New Spin…

[ 48 ] February 18, 2008 |

Apparently, pledged delegates totals are illegitimate, because some states have open primaries. Consequently, it is the responsibility of the superdelegates to overturn the preferred pledged delegate candidate if another candidate wins the national popular vote among “self-identified Democrats.” When caucuses are excluded, Michigan and Florida included, and overall totals determined by evaluating exit poll data rather than counting votes, Clinton wins!

To say this aloud is to refute it, but it is nevertheless generating excitement at TalkLeft. For good measure, Lukasiak throws in the “but can Barack Obama REALLY win California and New York?” meme. Christ, the stench of desperation is sickening.

Clinton partisans are really sounding more desperate than they should; I think Obama is the favorite to win this thing, but Clinton still has a decent shot if she can take Wisconsin, and maybe even if she can’t. There’s no reason at this point to be jury-rigging the data in such an obtuse fashion; this kind of garbage can wait until after March 4.

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Straightforward Answers To Bizarre Questions

[ 25 ] February 17, 2008 |

I wish I was making this up, but:

The inference is that by winning the small red states with caucuses, but not the big blue states like California and New York, Obama is likely to repeat McGovern’s blowout in the general election.


Any thoughts on the validity of this scenario?

It is wholly invalid.

Really, the fallacy here is transparent; indeed, I can’t believe that someone as smart as Merritt believes this is serious. By the same logic, Clinton will go down to a crushing defeat because she can only get a small fraction of the African-American vote. The fact that Obama has lost a couple states that Democrats reliably win by 15 or 20 points in a Democratic primary means absolutely nothing in the general, just as Hillary Clinton would obviously not struggle to win Illinois or Connecticut or Maryland. (Inferences about Obama’s ability to win solid-red states would be similarly invalid, but I think there’s a hack gap here; I don’t recall seeing a prominent Obama supporter talking about how he’s going to carry Alabama and South Carolina — after all, Jimmy Carter won them in 1976! Correct me if I’m wrong.) And to repeat what I’ve said before, to the extent it means anything (which probably isn’t much) Obama’s greater strength in states that aren’t Democratic electoral college locks is clearly a point in his favor in the general election, although one can reasonably argued that this is balanced by Clinton’s apparently greater appeal in a swing state such as Florida. At any rate, one cannot infer from Obama losing California to Clinton that he would do less well against a Republican, and even it was true who cares if the Democrats win the state by 18 or 14 points anyway?

Really, people need to keep some perspective here. Either Clinton or Obama would almost certainly be better candidates than John Kerry, and Kerry won 251 electoral college votes against a wartime incumbent in a decent economy. We can argue about which one is marginally better, but the Dems are in good shape either way, and bringing George McGovern into the discussion is simply absurd.

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