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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 2 ] May 10, 2008 |

George W. Bush, announcing National Hurricane Preparedness Week, 10 May 2005:

Each year from June through November, Americans living on the Eastern seaboard and along the Gulf of Mexico face an increased threat of hurricanes. These powerful storms can create severe flooding, cause power outages, and damage homes and businesses with their high winds, tornadoes, storm surges, and heavy rainfall. The effects of these storms can be devastating to families and cause lasting economic distress. During National Hurricane Preparedness Week, we call attention to the importance of planning ahead and securing our homes and property in advance of storms.

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When You Put it that Way, it Almost Seems Like a Pattern

[ 28 ] May 10, 2008 |

Chris Bowers:

  • African-Americans support Democrats by about an 8-1 ratio. All 42 African-American members of the House and Senate are Democrats.
  • The LGBT community supports Democrats by about a 3-1 ratio. Both of the LGBT member of Congress are Democrats.
  • Non-Christians support Democrats by a 3-1 ratio. Both Buddhists and both Muslims in Congress are Democrats. Only three of the 43 Jewish members of the House and Senate are Republicans. . I’m also going to take a guess here and state that there are no publicly declared atheist Republicans in Congress.
  • Latinos support Democrats by more than a 2-1 ratio. Twenty-one of the twenty-five Latino members of Congress are Democrats.
  • More than 60% of Asian-American voters choose Democrats. All eight of the Asian-American members of Congress are Democrats.

Traitors, all.

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Headline of the Week

Republicans Vote Against Mothers; No Word Yet on Puppies, Kittens

Really (The article’s pretty good too). The GOP in the House voted against recognizing the extraordinary contributions of mothers in America (in honor of Mother’s Day) yesterday. The vote shows both the party’s weakness right now (they did this as a tactical move to try to bring the House to a standstill), and its ugly underbelly of misogyny. Would the GOP men have voted against celebrating themselves for Father’s Day? I am going to guess not. But this vote was a twofer for them – attempted (and failed) procedural mayhem and a chance bring those uppity women down a notch.

(via Bitch Phd)

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Annals of Desperate Hackery

[ 9 ] May 10, 2008 |

The nice thing about constructing an “electability” argument is that since you’re largely dealing with the unknowable you can say a great many things without saying anything that’s obviously false. Some Clinton supporters, however, have decided that this wouldn’t be any fun, and have decided to put forward this classic:

As you know, Hillary has racked up victories in bellwether states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and now Indiana

Indiana’s recent presidential election results:

2004 GOP +20
2000 GOP +16
1996 GOP +6
1992 GOP +4 (Perot 20%)
1988 GOP +20
1984 GOP +24
1980 GOP +18
1976 GOP +7
1972 GOP +33
1968 GOP +12

By the standards of Clinton’s backers, then, Obama can definitely count North Carolina and Georgia as victories in crucial “bellwether” states.

In fairness, perhaps they’re just trying to console their candidate. If Indiana is a “bellwether” state, the Democratic nomination was really never worth having in the first place…

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Pennism: Fallacious and Offensive

[ 1 ] May 9, 2008 |

Matt says that while Clinton’s assertions about the importance of her greater appeal to “working, hard-working Americans, white Americans” are “one part fallacy, two parts baseless speculation” they’re not “offensive.” Let’s assume that she misspoke and didn’t intend the fairly overt racism of her literal comments; they remain problematic, but it’s a fair assumption. But even given a more charitable interpretation, the fallacies in her argument are precisely what makes it offensive.

The baseless speculation, I assume, is the transparently illogical claim that because Clinton attracts more working-class whites against Obama that she would therefore attract more against McCain. But even if we assume that Clinton would perform better among this group in the general, we are left with the fallacy central to Mark Penn’s approach to politics. Particularly when you consider that turnout as well as margins are not static, there’s no reason why Obama’s lesser performance with respect to any particular demographic can be assumed to be problematic. If Obama does worse among working-class whites in Pennsylvania but compensates by getting a higher turnout among African-Americans and young professionals, so what? The fact that the latter two groups are more reliably Democratic doesn’t matter. If you get an extra 100,000 votes (whether by higher turnout or higher margins), the fact that the relevant demographic was already majority Democratic is wholly irrelevant.

This glaring logical fallacy leads us to what’s offensive. Precisely because which group such analysis chooses to focus on is entirely arbitrary, the choice always reflects political interests (in Penn’s case, inevitably with center-right results.) Clinton has outperformed Obama among a number of demographics, but surely it’s no a coincidence that Clinton — as is usually the case when people make this argument — identified white workers rather than, say, Latinos or older women. It reflects the Bill Schneider assumption that there’s something suspicious about a coalition that doesn’t rely enough on white voters. Jon Chait’s article about Clinton’s desperate embrace of reactionary populism correctly identifies the context in which Clinton’s comments should be evaluated:

Historically, the conservative populist’s social divide ran along racial and ethnic lines. In recent years, overt racism has all but disappeared from mainstream political life, and even racial hot button appeals like the 1988 Willie Horton ad have grown rare. What remains is a residue of nostalgia about small towns–whose residents are said to have stronger values and work harder than other Americans, and who also happen to be overwhelmingly white. In 2004, after John Kerry declared that some entertainers supporting him represented “the heart and soul of America,” George W. Bush embarked upon a national tour of small- and mid-sized cities, where he would say, “I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places like Duluth, Minnesota,” or other such places.

Likewise, Bill Clinton recently declared, “The people in small towns in rural America, who do the work for America, and represent the backbone and the values of this country, they are the people that are carrying her through in this nomination.” The corollary–that strong values and hard work is in shorter supply among ethnically heterogeneous urban residents–is left unstated. Hillary Clinton’s statement about “hard-working Americans, white Americans” simply made explicit a theme that conservative populists usually keep implicit.

The obsessive focus on Obama’s purported weakness among rural or small-town whites in particular clearly reflects the general framework that they are “Real Americans” while people who live in racially diverse urban centers are not. This is not only grossly offensive nonsense — the flipside of condescending, stereotyped portrayals of midwesterners — but offensive nonsense that is greatly beneficial to the Republican Party.

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Just wondering….

[ 5 ] May 9, 2008 |

….when Condoleezza Rice is going to explain that these are the “birth pangs of a new Middle East.”

Of course, if you’re Jules Crittenden, you’re pretty much dancing with glee, since this offers you another opportunity to argue that the US should just go ahead and Bomb(x5) Iran. After all, he notes — and I wish I were making this up — the cold war was filled with smaller hot wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Cambodia, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, so screw it.

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Presidential Statement of the Day

[ 6 ] May 9, 2008 |

Richard Nixon, speaking at a Republican fundraising dinner, 9 May 1973:

In the American political process, one of the most difficult tasks of all comes when charges are made against high officials in an administration. That is a very great test of an administration, and many times in the history of our country, administrations have failed to meet the test of investigating those charges that might be embarrassing to the administration, because they were made against high officials in an administration.

We have had such a situation. We have been confronted with it. We are dealing with it. And I will simply say to you tonight that this Nation–Republicans, Democrats, Independents, all Americans-can have confidence in the fact that the new nominee for Attorney General, Elliot Richardson, and the Special Prosecutor that he will appoint in this case will have the total cooperation of the executive branch of this Government. They will get to the bottom of this thing; they will see to it that all of those who are guilty are prosecuted and are brought to justice. That is a pledge I make tonight and that I think the American people are entitled to.

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Good Policy: Sometimes Good Politics

[ 0 ] May 9, 2008 |

In assessing a potential unity ticket, Mark Schmitt says:

Obama is in many ways the most plain-spoken liberal to win the Democratic nomination since Walter Mondale. But while Clinton is probably inherently more cautious than Obama, her record marks her as more conservative on only one issue, and that’s the one on which she is most out of step with the vast majority of Americans–the decision to go to war in Iraq. And yet, she still suffers under the reputation, developed during the 1990s, that she is some sort of quasi-socialist. That’s the worst possible combination: perceived as more liberal than she actually is, while being demonstrably more conservative only on less popular points.

Yglesias, in addition, notes the craziness of adding Clinton to the ticket for foreign policy “cred.” It’s just bizarre that there are still Democrats who seem to think that taking a politically and substantively disastrous position on the most important issue of the Bush era is some kind of asset. At any rate, since I think these arguments were the best ones against Clinton’s candidacy for the top of the ticket, it’s not surprising I also think they’re good ones against making her veep. Support for the Iraq War should be a disqualifying factor or something close to it.

There is, I think, and important larger point here. Some people have talked about this week’s primary as being salutary because Clinton’s silly gas tax pander failed, but that’s a trivial example. The war is the big one. Admittedly, this is the kind of counterfactual that’s impossible to prove, but my guess is that if she had voted against the war Clinton would be the Democratic candidate. Given the closeness of the race, her inherent advantages going in, and that the war had to be a liability it’s hard to imagine that she wouldn’t have prevailed without the Iraq albatross. Whether or not Clinton’s support was sincere — I don’t think it really matters — sometimes getting big policies wrong really is politically damaging. (See also the 2006 midterms.) This is evidently a good thing.

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Oh Noes! Not My Cell Phone!

[ 0 ] May 9, 2008 |

The Air Force thinks we’re stupid:


No one expects commercials to be word-for-word accurate — not even ads from the U.S. military. But a new Air Force commercial, about the perils of an attack in space, does more than stretch the truth, a bit. It snaps the truth into tiny little pieces, experts and former officers say — violating the laws of physics and common sense, while flying in the face everything that’s known about the world’s constellation of satellites.

Brian Weeden, Air Force veteran:

It is clear that the Air Force is preying on the lack of public understanding of the threat (and space in general) in an attempt to convince voters that space is important too and only the US Air Force can protect America in space. After years of trying to convince the politicians that areas such as space situational awareness needed more funding and failing, the Air Force has turned to another method to get its message across: fear.

John Pike on the $81 million we’re spending to feel better about our Air Force:

I am at a loss to understand the statutory authority under which the US Air Force can spend my money in propagandizing to me that they are doing a great job of spending my money. This advertising initiative is without precedent, and if it is not illegal it should be

Noah further points out that the propaganda campaign we’re paying the Air Force to conduct against us does not, apparently, have recruitment as one of its goals; the Air Force is planning on paring down, and few if any of the ads in the campaign have anything to do with recruitment.

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The Godstick and the Shame Cave

Yes, really, $1.3 billion.

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It Burns

Oh, the hypocrisy, it burns, don’t it?

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Great Moments in Amnesia

[ 66 ] May 8, 2008 |

From a blog that calls itself, impossibly enough, “The Realist”

I want to know what the possibilities are of Hillary going Independent and taking all of us with her? What would be the ramifications if this were to happen?

Hmmm….(looks skyward)….erm….(counts fingers, then recounts)…dum de dum….(pulls abacus from closet, spins wooden beads thoughtfully)….uh….(exhales slowly, staring at shoes)….well….(scratches ear, grimaces slightly)….

No, I can’t imagine there’d be any problems with that. (Wanders off and drowns himself in a toilet.)

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