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[ 0 ] February 8, 2008 |

Friday Cat Blogging… Nelson and Starbuck

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The Flip Flopper Flops

[ 9 ] February 7, 2008 |

Romney’s out for the good of his party (or so he says).

In the NY Times article about his exit, the reporter says that in New Hampshire, McCain cast himself as a straight-talker, in contrast to Mr. Romney’s “flexibility.”

Definitely the best euphemism I’ve heard today.

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. . . and somewhere in Omaha, Port Adelaide are the lords of Australian Football

[ 0 ] February 7, 2008 |

Mr. Trend explains where useless Super Bowl merchandise is headed:

For what it’s worth, this year, the 200+ “World Champion New England Patriots” that would have been used right after the game in the event of a Patriots win have ended up in Nicaragua. According to the article, millions of other shirts and items promoting the Pats’ victory are to be shipped to Nicaragua, Romania, and elsewhere in the coming weeks.

Years ago, I actually remember running into someone wearing a “Baltimore Orioles 1979 World Champions” shirt. I suppose it’s probably good that this sort of thing doesn’t wind up in the hands of Americans; for the sake of twisting old, embedded knives, I’d be sorely tempted to buy a “New York Yankees 2003 World Champions” shirt.

That said, I wish other countries were as stupidly premature with their championship merchandise as Americans seem to be. I think it would be sort of fun to own a Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters championship hat from last year’s Japan Series, or perhaps an Arsenal sweatshirt from the 2007 League Cup.

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The Superdelegate Question

[ 0 ] February 7, 2008 |

I agree with Ezra that it would be unfortunate for the nomination to come down to superdelegates, and I would hope that there would be a norm among many superdelegates to support a clear winner. A couple of additional points:

  • The election getting to the superdelegates may not be quite as dire in practice as it seems. In a case where a candidate has a clear lead but not quite enough to win, incentives are likely to take care of themselves, as it’s in the interest of superdelegates to back a winner. If the result of the primaries and caucuses is a near-tie, conversely, the election being settled by the superdelegates is less problematic, since a very narrow lead could be almost entirely a product of arbitrary choices in the primary schedule anyway. I could be optimistic, but the scenario that could produce a really bad outcome — a clear winner being thwarted by superdelegates — seems relatively unlikely.
  • As Publius says, trying to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates should be — in absence of a fair election with known stakes being held in those states — considered the nuclear option, one that would tear the party apart. There’s an important distinction between maximizing your advantages within the existing rules and retroactively changing the rules when they don’t work in your favor that has to be maintained. It’s fair for candidates to fight for superdelegates; it’s completely unacceptable for candidates to try for ex post facto rule changes to turn a non-election into an election.
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Household Robot Helpers for the Elderly?

[ 0 ] February 7, 2008 |

I’m sorry, but this

Household robots may help human carers look after the growing number of elderly Norwegians in years to come, enabling them to live longer and more comfortably in their own homes, a project leader told Reuters on Thursday.

Norway faces a growing shortage of health care staff over the next 5-10 years, and 2020 will be a crunch point when large numbers of post-World War 2 “baby boomers” leave the workforce.

Two employee groups have teamed up to see how robots and other hi-tech gadgets can be developed to help care for them.

… requires yet another link to this.

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Try Again

[ 41 ] February 7, 2008 |

This is good…

The Democratic National Committee is pressuring Michigan and Florida to hold Democratic presidential caucuses so the delegates they’ve lost for holding January primaries can be seated at the national convention, a top Michigan Democrat said today.

DNC member Debbie Dingell said it’s unclear whether either state would hold caucuses since they’ve already held primaries, Michigan on Jan. 15 and Florida on Jan. 29.

But she said the DNC is asking the two states to consider such a plan as the likelihood grows that the selection of the party’s nominee could come down to the national convention.

Of course, it would be ideal if Michigan and Florida held new contested primaries with everyone on the ballot etc., but this is clearly an improvement over where we’re at right now.

Via MyDD.

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"The Joys of History"

[ 28 ] February 7, 2008 |

I’ll probably have more to say tomorrow about this WSJ article by historian Edward Larson, but one passage strikes me mildly amusing for various reasons:

[A] historian at Yale, the president’s alma mater . . . told me that Mr. Bush regularly reads history and has invited historians from Yale and elsewhere to the White House for informal discussions. Apparently, Karl Rove introduced the president to the joys of history.

Which is kind of odd — or maybe not — given the fact that Bush actually majored in history. (I can’t say for sure who taught at Yale at the time, so maybe this says more about their history department than it does about The Cheerleader.)

What’s especially puzzling, though, is the bit about Rove, who strikes me as one of the most joyless creatures ever to wear human skin. I could imagine him introducing someone to, say, “the joys of ratfucking,” or “the joys of disclosing classified information to reporters.” But the joys of history? Not so much.

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Seeing Red

[ 21 ] February 6, 2008 |

Over at Slate, the XX factor team is dissecting the wardrobe choices of the candidates’ wives last night (what color tie was Bill Clinton wearing? Anyone? Bueller?). They’ve honed in on Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama’s choice of a red suit. Here’s what Dana Stevens had to say:

To wear [red] is to quote [Nancy Reagan] as unambiguously as McCain evoked the Reagan/Stallone ’80s by marching onstage to the Rocky theme for his victory speech. Michelle Obama’s donning of the hue is more complex. Obviously, this choice is supposed to recall the general optimism of the morning-in-America days. But is it also meant to reassure us that Michelle, who only last year left her high-powered job as an executive at the University of Chicago hospitals, will remain safely on the Nancy-esque sidelines when her husband becomes president, confining her role to charity work like the cleft-palate foundation whose board Cindy McCain serves on (and through which she adopted their now-16-year-old daughter from Bangladesh)? At any rate, the color-coded association of both women with the ultimate loyal-but-silent political spouse clearly serves to distance them from a certain prospective first husband who doesn’t need to wear loud colors to get himself noticed.

Uh. Color me confused (bad pun intended), but I didn’t think that Nancy Reagan had claimed ownership rights over the R in Roy G. Biv. I think Stevens is right that the red may be intended to bring to mind optimism. At least in the case of Mrs. Obama, I’m guessing it’s also supposed to evoke energy and excitement, rather than the staid same-ol’. But, seriously, since when are we relying on the “neighborhood astrologer’s” positive associations with red as the jumping off point for a discussion about presidential politics and PR? And why is it that we assume that Michelle Obama is invoking Nancy Reagan (whose politics she probably couldn’t disagree with more), while Hillary Clinton is evoking…something else unnamed…when she wears red?

Perhaps what got my blood boiling more than anything about this exchange was the assumption that Barack Obama wants his wife to take on a Nancy Reagan-esque role, or that she would be willing to. Sure, she cut her hours at her high-power hospital job last year, but my guess is that had more to do with the rigors of campaigning than with her desire to be perceived as a dutiful, even Stepford-like, wife. I usually really like XX factor, but this back and forth felt like just another “woman’s” blog playing into exactly the assumptions and stereotypes it should be challenging.

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Gang of 14: A Huge Win For the GOP

[ 35 ] February 6, 2008 |

Jack Balkin points us to this article in the WSJ defending John McCain on the question of judicial appointments. Part of the op-ed consists of the usual vacuous buzzwords like “judicial restraint” (although they at least avoid the usual procedure of decrying “judicial activism” and then proceeding directly to a claim that judges should strike down affirmative action programs or railing against Kelo.) But — as with many conservative defenses of McCain — their overall point that McCain will nominate reliably reactionary justices is certainly correct. This point is particularly important:

Others are concerned that Mr. McCain was a member of the “Gang of 14,” opposing the attempt to end filibusters of judicial nominations. We believe that Mr. McCain’s views about the institutional dynamics of the Senate are a poor guide to his performance as president. In any event, the agreement of the Gang of 14 had its costs, but it played an important role in ensuring that Samuel Alito faced no Senate filibuster. It also led to the confirmation of Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown and Bill Pryor, three of President George W. Bush’s best judicial appointees to the lower federal courts.

Of all the attacks on McCain from the right, criticism for being part of the “Gang of 14″ is the most bizarre to me, given that the Democrats gained absolutely nothing from the compromise. The Democrats agreed to let several unacceptable judges on to the federal bench, and in return retained a theoretical ability to filibuster they didn’t use against either of Bush’s two very reactionary Supreme Court appointments. Moreover, if you’re willing to issue a farcical ruling to break a filibuster it’s hard to believe you wouldn’t go back on the Gang of 14 deal. And, of course, starting in 2009 maintaining the filibuster will directly help Republicans, and not creating a precedent where filibusters can be stopped by violating procedural rules is good for conservatives in the long run. What’s inexplicable about the Gang of 14 is why the Democrats agreed to it. Why a conservative would hold it against McCain is beyond me.

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Worst American Birthdays, Vol. 40

[ 24 ] February 6, 2008 |

Edward Geary Lansdale was born 100 years ago today.

Ed Lansdale was the sort of fellow for whom the term “blowback” was coined. During his long career with the Office of Strategic Services and its successor, the CIA, Lansdale is best known for his role as an adviser to the South Vietnamese government from 1954 to 1957. A specialist in counterinsurgency, Lansdale had previously enjoyed success in the Philippines, where he aided the former American colony in putting down the Huk rebellion during the early 1950s. Along with the 1953 Iranian coup and the toppling of Guatemala’s elected government in 1954, the Huk rebellion persuaded the Eisenhower administration that the United States could impose its will anywhere it chose, with minimal cost and at a volume that was barely audible to the American public.

Following the vicious counterinsurgency campaign in the Philippines, Lansdale and his advocates hoped their success might be duplicated in Vietnam, where the French had just finished a catastrophic effort to retain their imperial footprint in Asia. Employing “psychological warfare,” Lansdale headed the Saigon Military Mission, a classified group of about a dozen United States soldiers and intelligence agents who spread rumors, counterfeited documents, and organized a campaign of sabotage throughout the North, all of which was intended to disrupt a vote on the reunification of Vietnam, which the 1954 Geneva Accords required. (Although the United States had participated in the negotiations, Eisenhower administration had ultimately chosen not to sign the agreement.) As the northern regions of Vietnam were transitioning from French colonial rule to a communist-dominated government, Lansdale hoped to flood the South with anti-communist refugees who could bolster the government being created and supported by the US. Lansdale’s efforts bore fruit, as more than a million people fled the north. Millions more would flee the region over the next two decades.

During his years in Saigon, Lansdale also helped develop an army that would — he expected — be capable of defending itself without the need for direct American intervention. He boosted the political fortunes of Ngo Dinh Diem, the corrupt autocrat whom the United States regarded as the best hope for a politically independent South Vietnam. Although Lansdale had left Southeast Asia in 1957, he earned the trust and respect of the Kennedy administration, which in 1961 took his advice and accelerated its support for Diem. By the end of Kennedy’s first year in office, he had dedicated more than 15,000 American soldiers and military advisers to the cause.

By this time, Lansdale had moved on to other projects. Among other things, he oversaw the efforts — known as Operation Mongoose — to topple Fidel Castro, with whom the Kennedy brothers were especially obsessed. Over the next year, as the US began to take full custody of the war in Vietnam, Lansdale hired Cuban gangsters and drug-runners among various other unsavories to carry out raids against the Castro government. The Soviet Union responded by offering to place medium-range ballistic missiles on Cuban soil, a decision that helped bring the two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war.

During the 1975 Church Committee hearings, which exposed intelligence abuses over the previous several decades, a colleague of Lansdale’s, Thomas Parrot, described one of the battier schemes put forward by Lansdale’s office during the Cuban project.

He had a wonderful plan for getting rid of Castro. This plan consisted of spreading the word that the Second Coming of Christ was imminent and that Christ was against Castro [who] was anti-Christ. And you would spread this word around Cuba, and then on whatever date it was, there would be a manifestation of this thing. And at that time — this is absolutely true — and at that time just over the horizon there would be an American submarine which would surface off of Cuba and send up some star shells. And this would be the manifestation of the Second Coming and Castro would be overthrown . . . Well, some wag called this operation — and somebody dubbed this — Elimination by Illumination.

Lansdale was eliminated by natural causes in February 1987. John Kennedy and Ngo Dinh Diem were eliminated by assassins in November 1963. Fidel Castro has managed, albeit barely, to hang on for quite a bit longer.

(cross-posted at the Axis)
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[ 35 ] February 6, 2008 |

Brad Plumer reports that Karl Rove (and I sort of admire the spare elegance of Rove serving as an election analyst for Fox News; I mean, why not just skip the middleman) threw cold water on the idea of a McCain/Huckabee ticket. I have no idea who McCain will pick, and I understand the logic: McCain needs to shore up support among conservatives who don’t like him, but many of these people also hate Huckabee. But it does seem to me that there’s another side to it. Are the Limbaughs who hate McCain with an irrational frenzy likely to be assuaged by any VP pick? It seems unlikely. Huckabee, conversely, is well-liked by Southern evangelical voters and hence could be a real asset to voters who aren’t crazy about McCain but are open to persuasion.

If I were McCain, I would probably try to go with a plain vanilla southern conservative — like Fred Thompson, but alive. The bench seems pretty thin, though, and I think Huckabee would bring real advantages to the ticket.

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Marshmallow Suffrage

[ 0 ] February 6, 2008 |

For my part, I’m pretty committed to protecting the voting rights of “marshmallow shaped, middle-aged” people. And knowing more Ron Paul voters than Hillary Clinton voters is not something that one should brag about, or even mention in polite company…

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