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A Rare One

[ 8 ] October 10, 2008 |

Watching the pathetic efforts of Norm Coleman’s press secretary reminds me that Ari Fleischer’s talent for complex, multi-layered, original lies really was unique. Republicans just don’t seem to have his like anymore.

What’s additionally funny about his flailing about Coleman’s non-position of Social Security is that it also seems to be John McCain’s position: “I no longer favor privatization, exactly. But I’m willing to favor a bold, bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission!” Perhaps McCain will get confused at the next debate and in response to a question about Social Security that he “has reported every gift he has ever received.” It would make about as much sense.

Dow 3600?

[ 7 ] October 10, 2008 |

I just want to point out that Kevin Hassett is apparently still part of John McCain’s economic campaign team.

That is all.

Red Storm Rising Redux

[ 0 ] October 10, 2008 |

In Tom Clancy’s classic Red Storm Rising, the Soviets opened a general NATO-Warsaw Pact War with a covert amphibious invasion of Iceland, then used the island as a base for MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters.

Now, the Russians may just buy Iceland. Times change, I guess. I would advise Putin to keep the receipt…

Palin’s innocent, ‘cuz she totally told me she was

[ 22 ] October 10, 2008 |

I’ll take “Transparent Absurdities” for $200, Alex.

Trying to head off a potentially embarrassing state ethics report on GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, campaign officials released their own report Thursday that clears her of any wrongdoing. . . .

Lawmakers are expected to release their own findings Friday. Campaign officials have yet to see that report — the result of an investigation that began before she was tapped as McCain’s running mate — but said the investigation has falsely portrayed a legitimate policy dispute between a governor and her commissioner as something inappropriate.

“The following document will prove Walt Monegan’s dismissal was a result of his insubordination and budgetary clashes with Governor Palin and her administration,” campaign officials wrote. “Trooper Wooten is a separate issue.”

Sure it is.

In related news, I’ve decided to conduct my own tenure evaluation, in lieu of the highly partisan review I’m likely to receive from my peers and colleagues who don’t understand that writing mean things about the governor actually counts as “scholarship.” I’m also going to investigate that stream of bullshit parking tickets I received ten years ago in Minneapolis.

The time has come to ask: What might happen to our country if we elect a black Muslim terrorist president?

[ 92 ] October 9, 2008 |

Dave and Hilzoy have noted some concerns on the part of our friends on the Right that Barack Obama may not actually be what he appears to be — a centrist Democrat with the most mild of reformist impulses — but rather a secret radical Manchurian monkey boy, who has spent decades hiding all of his actual beliefs and allegiances, in order to better destroy our very way of life.

This is an interesting theory, which it seems to me they are far too quick to dismiss as barking paranoia, of the classic American style. In the alternative, I’d like to suggest what some might consider a worst-case scenario for an Obama administration — but one that will seem all too plausible to anyone who is familiar with the ideology and techniques of the Left.

Predictions: Within a few months of Obama’s election, a couple of major U.S. cities will be the sites of a huge terrorist attack that kills thousands of Americans. The Obama administration will use this as an excuse for violating our civil liberties on an unprecedented scale, by setting up Gulag-style detention centers, where people will be held for years without any access to the legal system. Some of these people will be, I predict, actually tortured, as we all know the Left is completely dedicated to the idea that the ends justify the means, and that it has no respect for The Rule of Law.

But this will only be the beginning. Being a radical black militant, Obama will simply ignore any legal requirements that interfere with doing what he deems necessary to “protect” America. Indeed, I predict this power-drunk Negro will carry out secret and illegal spying operations against Americans on a scale Richard Nixon could only dream of. Then, in a veritable Maoist orgy of contempt for the very idea of law, he will demand that the legislature legalize his lawbreaking after the fact.

Moreover, Hussein Obama will have no trouble finding radical law professors and other viral strains of anti-Americanism in our institutions of higher learning, to justify whatever totalitarian theory of a “unitary executive” he might want to deploy. The argument, you can safely bet, will be that the Constitution grants this dusky interloper with a funny name UNLIMITED AND UNREVIEWABLE CONSTITUTIONAL POWERS to “protect the nation,” and there won’t be a thing our rump Congress and impotent courts will be able to do about it.

Furthermore, I predict an Obama administration will distract the public from its own treasonous incomptence through the oldest dirty political trick in the book: war. Obama will simply deem some nation to be our mortal enemy and a threat to our very existence. He will then invade it.

How can he get away with that you might well ask? The answer is all too predictable: such a war will be justified to the public on the basis of Maoist-Stalinist-Democrat-Nazi-style propaganda, fed to the public by a cowed and complacent Mainstream Media (MSM). And, because the administration will be riddled with neopotistic incompetents, appointed only because of their previous connections to the Great Tribal Chief, this war will be waged with maximum ineptitude, leading to hundreds of thousands of pointless deaths and trillions of dollars of wasted wealth.

After years of the sort of shiftlessness and corruption we all know is the trademark of certain kinds of people, That One will have undermined our entire economy to the point where the financial markets are crashing — creating an opening for the nationalizing of banks, insurance companies, government-backed mortgage agencies, and anything else the inner city street gang that will be running what used to be America can manage to get their thieving socialistic bongo-playing hands on.

A paranoid nightmare you say? Just wait eight years, and get back to me then.

"Your Winnings, Sir."

[ 0 ] October 9, 2008 |

Apparently, arbitrary executive power can be abused and exercised in ways that have little relationship with its stated justifications. Shocking!

Are you now, or have you ever been, a desperate right wing hack?

[ 0 ] October 9, 2008 |

Hilzoy, after spending far too much time reading The Corner:

[The revisitation of the Ayers non-story] is delusional. It would be interesting to ask, for instance, why so few of Obama’s law students have come forward to talk about his attempt to transform them into Maoist cadres, or why the lawyers in his firm have not mentioned his commitment to cultural revolution, or how he has managed to conceal his desire to nationalize the means of production from, well, everyone. Was he secretly plotting to get asked, unexpectedly, to speak at the Democratic Convention, take a chance on running for President, and succeed, back when he was on the Harvard Law Review? That, plus absolutely iron self-control, might explain why no one caught a glimpse of Obama’s secret radicalism: he has been concealing it for decades, the better to bore away at our bourgeois institutions.

Precisely. The success of the Ayers claims — and its filial guilt-by-association narratives — depend upon one’s ability to disregard everything that Barack Obama has said and done for more than two decades in public life. It would require, in the words of Joe McCarthy, “a conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man.” Well, maybe not quite so immense as the one orchestrated by George C. Marshall — but still. It’s the sort of thing that will work with these assholes, but few others.

The latest faux scandal involves the claim that Obama was a member of the “Marxist socialist” New Party during his run for the Illinois State Senate. Setting aside the obvious point — which is that the “evidence” for Obama’s membership rests on the testimony of a defunct website and a pair of ambiguously-written 12-year-old articles in a magazine with single-digit readership — the insistence that the New Party represented some sort of burrowing, Trotskyite faction of the revolutionary left is, well, stupid. Unless, of course, you equate revolutionary socialism with living wage campaigns, voter registration drives, or calls for greater vigilance on anti-trust laws, or any of the other issues that animated the various urban-based party organizations. Which I suppose, given the innate deficiencies of the folks promoting this story, is probably the case.

In any event, the New Party allegations — like the Ayers story — have been around for months now. Several bloggers dropped this turd on the sidewalk in May; the usual suspects have now discovered the pile and, after shoving some candles into it, have decided that it’s a heap of birthday cake. Under ordinary conditions, I’d be tempted to assert confidently that this is is a story too pathetic for even the McCain campaign to run with, but since the old man has decided to go the Full Wallace during the last month, there’s really no telling.

The Supreme Court and Abortion, Past and Future

[ 0 ] October 9, 2008 |

From the standpoint of a supporter of reproductive rights, Ann Bartow brings a pessimistic perspective while Neal Devins is more optimistic. I have agreements and problems with both arguments.

I do disagree with Bartow that the five votes to overturn Roe “are already there.” In particular, I don’t agree with her claim that Kennedy “has been moving against abortion over time.” I don’t see how his position has changed at all. The plurality opinion in Casey created (as Devins notes) a regime of legal-but-regulated abortion; Carhart II isn’t inconsistent with that. And while bans on “partial-birth” abortion are idiotic, they also have less impact on access to abortion than the waiting periods and parental involvement requirements upheld in Casey. Particularly when you consider his very strong endorsement of the right to privacy in Lawrence, I think the odds that Kennedy would be the fifth vote to overrule Roe are nil.

In addition, I also disagree with the essentially functionalist account of Casey advanced by both Bartow and Devins. Both see Casey as a product of social and political forces that perhaps caused the median justices to vote against their true preferences. But the upholding of Roe was very much contingent; with exactly the same political and cultural context it could well have been overruled. Had Reagan just nominated Scalia and Bork in reverse order, or Bush I had nominated Ken Starr rather than Souter, Roe would be gone. And I think this mattered a little more than Devins assumes. It’s true that majorities favor abortion rights, but a number of state legislatures would have almost certainly passed abortion bans had the Court permitted them.

At any rate, I do agree with Devins that Roe is probably safe in the short term, and certainly isn’t immediately threatened should Obama win. On the other hand, I don’t agree with him that a court with a more conservative median vote would reject abortion regulations that push the envelope. Roberts and Alito might not want an opinion overruling Roe explicitly, but I don’t think they will ever vote to find an abortion regulation unconstitutional, and as Carhart II proves the current “minimalist” court will go to ridiculous lengths to pretend it’s not overruling precedents it clearly is. Moreover, politics can change quickly, and given the relative ages of the pro- and anti- Roe forces on the Court there’s unlikely to be much margin for error for quite a while. The 2008 election really does matter, and a substantive right to abortion will not be on safe ground for quite a while after that. Casey did mirror (for better or worse) national median opinion quite well, but the Court could have plausibly have gone against it before and could do it again.

Canadian Election Blogging!

[ 16 ] October 9, 2008 |

Calgary Grit projects another Conservative minority. A majority had seemed possible to me, but according to this data the Tories just can’t pick up enough seats in Quebec, and strategic voting is likely to decrease the final Conservative margins.

Andrew Sullivan’s womb with a view

[ 0 ] October 9, 2008 |

I wouldn’t bother with this subject except for the fact that Sullivan is both very widely read and published on the Atlantic’s web site, so he’s sort of kosher from the viewpoint of what “counts” as a mainstream media source.

Sullivan has become obsessed with the idea that the McCain-Palin campaign is obligated to release documentation proving that Trig Palin is actually Sarah Palin’s child. He comes back to the subject several times a week, and has made some querelous posts about how the McCain campaign won’t even respond to his requests for some documentary proof. He’s also stuck on the idea that he has some kind of professional obligation as a journalist to keep pursuing this story, that he owes to his readers etc.

The whole thing seems fairly nuts, but it does raise some potentially interesting questions.

The less interesting question is why someone like Sullivan thinks this is such a big deal. One possible answer is that if Trig really isn’t Palin’s baby then that proves she’s a liar. This rationale for getting hung up on the question is absurd on its face. Palin is a proven liar on all sorts of subjects of vastly greater public importance than the maternity of Trig Palin.

Indeed of everything Palin lied about, lying about who Trig’s mother is might be the most defensible lie she’s uttered, assuming it’s a lie, because her motivations (I suppose) would be to protect her daughter. Which brings up the question of what Sullivan’s theory of the case is at this point. Does he not believe Bristol Palin is pregnant? Does he think Bristol is pregnant but got pregnant a few weeks after giving birth to Trig? Journalists can’t just go about demanding that public figures “prove” things unless they have some genuine basis for doubting the official story. If I started demanding that Obama “prove” he’s the father of his daughters I would quite properly be treated as a crazy person.

For a variety of reasons (Palin’s behavior at the time of the child’s birth, her non-pregnant appearance, Bristol Palin’s disappearance from school) the Trig isn’t Sarah’s baby theory had some superficial X-fileish plausibility before Bristol Palin’s pregnancy was revealed. At this point it seems quite wacky, and it isn’t surprising the McCain campaign is ignoring Sullivan’s increasingly unhinged-sounding demands for “proof.”

Which raises the one really interesting question in all this: What theory of knowledge do journalists like Sullivan hold? I’m happy to stipulate that it’s not inconceivable (snicker) that Trig isn’t actually Sarah Palin’s baby. Maybe Bristol isn’t pregnant and she’ll have a “miscarriage” right after the election. Maybe she somehow got pregnant a few weeks after giving birth to Trig. Maybe we’re all just brains in a giant vat and our beliefs are being manipulated by scientists from the planet Chryon in the Andromeda galaxy.

But . . . here’s the thing. If it’s possible at this point that the McCain-Palin campaign has successfully hidden the true maternity of Trig Palin (and again, I’ll admit that this is possible, if, in my view, extremely unlikely), then we live in a world where the powers that be have the power to control the apparent evidence in such a way as to potentially fool the entire American media about the true answer to a question like this. And of course we do live in such a world. Which means that Sullivan’s request for “documentary proof” of Trig Palin’s true parenthood is both extremely naive and more than a little nutty. What, given what’s already transpired, would qualify as “proof” under circumstances like this? Official-looking documents? Testimony of witnesses? High-definition video of the miraculous moment of birth?

If Sarah Palin has to this point gotten away with lying about the “fact” that she really isn’t Trig Palin’s mother, then that would be somewhat similar to the claim that the US government has gotten away with the “fact” that it actually carried out the 9/11 attacks. Both things are actually possible.

But what doesn’t make sense is to demand that the US government “prove” it didn’t carry out the 9/11 attacks. Because if it actually managed to carry them out and cover them up, then nothing would be easier than for the government to subsequently “prove” (in terms of the conventional media understanding of what “prove” means) that the people who believe the government brought the twin towers down by remote demolition are a bunch of lunatics.

Sullivan wants to play the role of the straight journalist, while still asking X-file type questions of the powers that be, and then expecting that those questions will actually be answered by those same powers. On many levels, that does not compute.

Big News Revealed!

[ 3 ] October 9, 2008 |

When told that that John McCain’s campaign (R.I.P.) will have BIG BIG news, I think it can only mean one thing: the release of the Whitey tape!

Happy birthday John Lennon

[ 32 ] October 9, 2008 |

Who is 68 today in minus space time or plus soul time.

Random thoughts:

(1) Lennon’s murder may have had more emotional impact on me than any other public event (I was 21 at the time Lennon was killed so I’m just barely old enough to remember the assassinations of King and RFK, but for an eight-year-old those were abstract events in faraway places. Lennon’s death took place at home as it were).

(2) Lennon was both a strikingly unique person and one of the characteristic figures of his time.

(3) I wonder if the financial pressure for a Beatles reunion would have built up to the point where it would have been irresistable? Leaving aside personally materialistic considerations, if somebody offers you a billion dollars or whatever I suppose you’re almost ethically obliged to take it from them, so you can do some good things with it.

(4) Five favorite Lennon songs at this moment:

Don’t Let Me Down
Yer Blues
Dear Prudence
#9 Dream