Sunday, March 30, 2008

Five Years.

Five Years, 4000 U.S. Soldiers dead in Iraq. Chris Bowers:
Whenever one a terrible milestone is reach in Iraq for the number of American soldiers killed, such as 4,000 today, it is necessary to point out that the milestone being focused on was actually reached a long time ago. In addition to the 4,000 dead American soldiers, the following fatalities have also occurred in Iraq over the past five years:
  • Journalists: 135 fatalities
  • Non-American military coalition forces: 308 fatalities
  • Non-military contractors: At least 1,001 fatalities as of June 30th, 2007
  • Iraqi Security Forces: At least 8,057
  • Iraqi military forces: During the invasion, between 15,000 and 45,000 Iraqi military personnel died.
  • Civilians: Between 400,000 and 650,000 as of June 2006, and over 1,000,000 now.
We are way, way past 4,000 deaths in Iraq. The non-civilian death toll, including journalists, all coalition military forces, contractors and Iraqi security forces, currently stands at a minimum of 13,501, or about 15 every two days since the start of the war. The civilian death toll is actually the greatest humanitarian crisis since the Rwanda genocide, and possibly since even before then (I don't want to start ranking genocides). Somewhere between 4% and 5% of the Iraqi population has died what is termed an "excess death" since the start of the Iraq war. For the sake of comparison, Pennsylvania represents just under 4% of the population of the United States.
Also, keep in mind that these are just deaths, and damage has been done in many other ways. Nearly four million living Iraqis are now refugees, roughly 16% of the population, 40% of the middle class, and larger percentages of religious and ethnic minorities. Between 60% and 70% of Iraqi children suffer from psychological trauma. Tens of thousands of American soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, have been injured. And oh yeah, the war will cost more than two trillion dollars.
All of this needs to be pointed out because, whenever one of these milestones are reached, it implies that the only suffering taking place as a result of the Iraq war is to be found within the American military. Such a narrow focus ignores the wide swath of destruction that the Iraq war has wrought. As long as there is a narrow focus on the efforts of the United States military, the war appears to be an honorable, gracious effort on the part of America with costs that, while grave, are ultimately discrete and containable. However, when one considers that the war has either killed or displaced more than 20% of Iraq's pre-war population, that is has resulted in the European Union surpassing the United States as the world's leading economic power, and that it has both caused and revealed significant weakness in our military capacity, the true nature of the Iraq war becomes apparent.
This needs to end. Now.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Train Of Thought Lounge: Arctic Monkeys

What's up, good people? I thought I'd try my hand at this here Lounge dealy, seeing as how I love nothing more than to lecture anyone & everyone at pretty much anytime about music I like/think they should become obsessed with. Ok I'm clearly exaggerating, but I do want to take this opportunity to hip you guys to Arctic Monkeys, a band comin' straight outta Sheffield, U.K.

I was telling JJ that I like this band because basically most of their songs are about going out in Sheffield and doing the kind of stuff that we do almost every weekend. This song is a prime example: "Last night, what we talked about made so much sense/But now the haze has ascended it don't make no sense anymore." True indeed.

Arctic Monkeys - From The Ritz To The Rubble

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Israel, The Global War on Terror... and Sri Lanka?

Daniel Levy at TPM has a somewhat strange essay on a meeting between the PMs of Israel and Sri Lanka last week:
In a meeting between Wickremanayake and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert the two discussed, what else, terrorism and the common threats they both face. Olmert had this unsurprising advice for his Sri Lankan guest: "Do not give in to terrorism because it will only bring destruction to your country. Terrorism must be fought; one must not capitulate to it." OK, no big deal – except that in these days of the dumbed-down war on terror, when the Republican Presidential nominee (intentionally or mistakenly) confuses Iran, their Iraqi Shia allies and Al-Qaeda, the Israeli and Sri Lankan examples can actually be rather informative and worth taking another look at.

The Israeli-Sri Lankan leaders’ tête-à-tête was probably not too illuminating, with lots of platitudes, mutual expressions of support and some kwetching and gewalts and whatever the Sri Lankan equivalents of those are. But the respective challenges posed to Israel and Sri Lanka, especially in the realm of suicide bombings can teach us a great deal— especially when it comes to the tendency here in the US to view terror through the prism of Islamo-fascism and peculiar and perverse shortcomings of Islam.

Since their formation in 1972, The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), better known as the Tamil Tigers, have waged a relentless insurgency against the Sri Lankan state in order to fulfill their ambitions of an independent state for the ethnic Tamils (the Eelam in the group’s name means homeland). Suicide attacks—which they have carried out over 200 of in the last 3 decades—have been a prominent tactic in their participation in a civil war which has claimed some 60,000 lives in the last two decades. In recent weeks, the situation in Sri Lanka has continued to deteriorate, seeing the assassination of two members of parliament by the Tigers and a concurrent abrogation—by the Sri Lankan government—of the official cease-fire that had lasted between the parties (however tenuously) since 2006.

So are the Tamil Tigers an aberration to the otherwise Muslim monopoly on suicide attacks – or do they perhaps hint at the underlying issues that need to be addressed in successfully confronting the phenomenon? That question really gets to the heart of the critique of the current Global War on Terror that is still insufficiently heard in the US and elsewhere too – that it can after all be about what we do, the policies we pursue (we America, we Israel, we Sri Lanka) rather than about who we are – freedom loving nations merrily going about our freedom-loving business. The GWOT policy cannot be effectively countered without challenging its basic assumptions and narrative, and US foreign policy cannot turn the corner without over-turning GWOT.

That last paragraph hits home and the key to understanding the major flaw in our "war on terror" as well as most of Israel's problems. The "what we do rather than who we are" argument is dead on needs to be heard more often in discussions of our foreign policy and Israel's as well(although our foreign policy is Israel's foreign policy since we give them their army... but we'll get to that later). My main issue with his statement is that I don't think that it applies to Sri Lanka the way it applies to the US and Israel.

The problem that I have is that Sri Lanka falls into a different type of conflict than the "war on terror". The conflict that is discussed as the "war on terror" is actually fairly easy to solve, because it involves immense aggression(through sanctions, wars such as Iraq, military bases where they are not wanted, and military support of a state that has aggressively encroached into the land of other countries half a century) on one side, with retaliation by unconventional means on the other side (Suicide bombings and other violence in Iraq, 9/11, the Barracks in Beirut).

While each of the actions that I listed above were given justifications when they were enacted, they usually weren't particularly good ones or they were trying to hide the real rational for those actions. The other actions were essentially responses to our (or Israel's) action with the means they had available to them. The Beirut bombing as a response to Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1982, suicide bombs in Iraq as a response to the US invasion and occupation, and Bin Laden stated that his grievances against the US were our bases in Saudi Arabia, the sanctions on Iraq, and our support of Israel. Although some sort of back and forth of aggressor/retaliation happens in most conflicts, in Sri Lanka (as with most post colonial conflicts) the history with the original aggressor(Great Brittan) makes things much more complex.

The background in Sri Lanka is a pattern similar to many other former colonies. Under the colonial ruler there are often cycles of favor and repression to create and then fuel ethnic tensions, leading to a situation after independence where the once privileged minority often finds itself persecuted by the once persecuted majority. Sri Lanka continued in this pattern when the Sinhalese controlled government passed the discriminatory Sinhala only act, which caused immense anger and resentment in the Tamil community, leading to protests and some violence in the following years. It was only years after these tensions had been growing on both sides that the LTTE was formed, and that the true civil war began.

It's this distinction that is my main problem with the article. Levy is comparing these cases because they have all used suicide bombings, and since that is a military tactic that seems a bit nonsensical. People are more likely to use suicide bombings because they don't have any other means. When you've over powered militarily like the Tamils and the Palestinians (also not a fair comparison because the Tamils are much closer to the Sri Lankan army in strength than the Palestinians could ever be as long as we are supplying Israel), your only option is to fight back a-symmetrically. They are both over matched to varying degrees, and so at times they have each used suicide bombers. The comparisons end there.

One of the more frustrating things about comparing these conflicts in that way is that it seems to equate the degree of difficulty that it would take to solve each conflict, when they couldn't be further apart. Although you will never read this in the paper, or hear it from a senator, republican or democrat(thanks, AIPAC...) - but the truth of the matter is, we could solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict starting tomorrow if we wanted to. There are many conflicts in the world that truly keep me up at night, and it's a real struggle to think about how there can be an feasible solution in my lifetime. Sadly Sri Lanka is at the top of that list with so many complexities, horrific levels of violence, and peace structure that would be hard to rebuild when so much trust has been lost on either side. There are many other conflicts that aren't as complicated as Sri Lanka, but they are also problematic because there is virtually no way the US could be any way involved as an even-handed broker. There is plenty of conflicts like this, just not Israel - Palestine.

The ironic thing is that Israel - Palestine would be so much easier to solve simply because the US is such an extremely biased broker. In fact, we're so tilted to one side that we actually hold all of Israel cards... or I at least the only card that matters(the military). Unlike these other situations, we actually can control the negotiations, because for all intensive purposes, we are one of the parties. But this won't happen, because the people in charge are stupid enough to believe that keeping things the way they are is in our national interest, even when all conceivable logic tells us that couldn't be further from the truth.

So, that was kind of all over the place, the original point remains the same. Comparing Sri Lanka's Civil War to the Israel-Palestine conflict and the US "Global War on Terror" is fairly ridiculous, because other than suicide bombings, the situations have very little in common. Random note, there isn't enough room in this post to write more about the details Sri Lankan conflict, but if you wanted to learn more I wrote a pretty long paper on the conflict and possible solutions in college that I could send you're way if you'd like. With everything going on in the world today, I'm hardly expecting anyone to want to subject themselves to 20 more pages on this extremely depressing topic, but hey, I figured I'd throw it out there.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Unthinkably Stupid.

Look, I know a little something about doing stupid things. I had Clemson taking out Kansas and then losing to Georgetown in my NCAA tournament bracket. I spent a solid amount of time with dcjonesy, Lsouth and others this past week rating 80s songs from one to ten based on how well you can pump your first and stomp your foot to them. Several weekends ago when I went out into Adams Morgan wearing a DC United flag as a cape. I bet 25 dollars on the redskins winning the super bowl last year at 50-1 odds. All of that stuff happened within the last couple months, and I haven't even started with the stories that involve my lime blazer. So I think we've established that I know stupid when I see it.

And so I mean it when I say that this is possibly one of the dumbest ideas I have ever heard. (Or a least to emerge in this election cycle):
[Hillary] Clinton also called on President Bush to appoint "an emergency working group on foreclosures" to recommend new ways to confront housing finance troubles. She said the panel should be led by financial experts such as Robert Rubin, who was treasury secretary in her husband's administration, and former Federal Reserve chairmen Alan Greenspan and Paul Volcker.
It's hard fight through the rage enough to form complete sentences after you reads something like that, but Economist Dean Baker does a pretty good job in his post titled "Senator Clinton Calls for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemons to Head Commission on Steroid Abuse":
Actually Senator Clinton's proposal was far more ridiculous. She suggested having former Federal Reserve Board chairman Alan Greenspan and former Treasury Secretary and current Citigroup honcho Robert Rubin lead a commission (along with former Federal Reserve Board chairman Paul Volcker) to analyze the country's current economic crisis.

There is certainly no one more directly responsible for the current crisis than Alan Greenspan, who allowed the housing bubble to grow unchecked for almost a decade. Also, as the country's preeminent bank regulator, he looked the other as the predatory mortgage market exploded.

While Greenspan is undoubtedly villain #1 in the housing bubble story, Robert Rubin has claim to #2 status in his post near the helm of Citigroup. Citigroup provided the secondary market for many of these predatory mortgages with its creative financial engineering and structured investment vehicles.

It's also nice because it makes a good parallel for her vote on the Iran resolution. There is clear evidence that on either foreign policy or the economy, she does not learn from her mistakes, and she goes out of her way to repeat them.

(Unrelated Rant)

I also wanted to apologize if it seems like every time you click over to this site, all I've done is write something new slamming Hillary Clinton. I know it's been like that for most of the primary season, but it really isn't my goal and I definitely don't go out of my way to write too many posts on an issue that has already been covered at length. I will say this in my defense though: Every day there is essentially a constant stream of infuriating news from/about her campaign. Stories like this, this, this and this for come to mind. And all of those happened today happened today, mind you. Writing about all of them would take too much time, as well as drive you (and me) completely insane. And let's face it, Hillary Clinton doing something stupid or damaging to the progressive movement is no longer really a surprising news story.

So why bring her up at all?

Because, by in large I think it's different than what you read or see elsewhere. I find it truly mind boggling the lack of mainstream media scrutiny she gets on issues that matter (the war, economy and willingness to destroy the democratic party) and (until recently) the abundance of "well there isn't that much of a difference if she wins the nomination" talk from the online left. One of the tasks of the progressive movement in our political system is to pressure our party's leaders to do the right thing, and when you see someone with a D attached to their name behaving this disgracefully, they should probably be called out.

Well, in 2 months either Barack Obama will be our nominee, or Hillary Clinton cementing her place in history as the person destroyed the loose coalition once known as the Democratic party. I guess only time will tell, huh?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Random bonus post: Gnarls Barkley 'The Odd Couple' album review

I know J said he would posting more this week, but I couldn't help myself. I had to get in on the action, especially while this stuff was all still relevant, so this week should be an all-out Train Of Thought bonanza!

Last Tuesday, Gnarls Barkley released their second full-length album 'The Odd Couple' to the web, while the album will be in stores tomorrow. The follow-up to the duo's seminal debut album, 'St. Elsewhere,' not only proves that Gnarls Barkley are no one-hit wonders, but that they have the ability to improve on the design they first created. Their first album was like nothing I had ever heard; fresh, bold, experimental without feeling forced. Danger Mouse had been known as the king of music's equivalent to a random hook-up, working with artists such as MF DOOM, Jay-Z and Gorillaz, but lacking a clear identity as a producer. Cee-Lo had reinvented himself from his days with Atlanta outfit Goodie Mob and even as a solo artist. 
Instead of picking up where 'St. Elsewhere' left off, Gnarls produced a stronger, more uniform, more compact album. Where 'St. Elsewhere had a hit-or-miss quality from song to song, 'The Odd Couple stays strong throughout, employing a 'less-with-more' strategy expertly. "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" is as stripped down as necessary, with just a soft drum line, a mandolin and Cee-Lo's smoky retro soul vocals. "Going On" (possibly the first single) also adopts more of an homage to the 60's throwback sound, with a melody simple enough to work but also unique enough to instantly quantify it as Gnarls Barkley's signature sound. "Open Book" and "Would-Be Killer" are more of a departure from the rest of the album without being wildly different. Keeping with the retro sound, "Surprise" bears a strong resemblance to the recent work of British producer Mark Ronson, most notably his tracks on Amy Winehouse's 'Back To Black.' 

The gem of the album, however, is the last track, 'A Little Better,' in which the bassline, vocals, hook and harmonies combine to bring out the best in both Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse.
Though I'm unofficially the resident sports guy around here, I'm gonna try and strengthen my music writing through time. It will improve in the future but this will have to do for now because Futurama is about to come on and I'm going to watch it. 

DOWNLOAD THESE: A Little Better, Who's Gonna Save My Soul, Going On 

A funny thing happened on the way to the Final Four

Year after year, upsets happen in the NCAA Tournament. In other breaking news, the sky is blue. It's true, they don't call it March Madness for no reason. What makes the tourney, in my opinion, the biggest and best annual American sporting event is its unpredictability. Despite the fact that millions of fools across the nation, such as myself, foolishly try to fill out brackets to predict who will win with better accuracy than the other fools, you never know what to expect from each game which is undoubtedly the tournament's best quality.

Unfortunately, this same aspect of the Tourney came at the expense of strongly-favored local candidates, the Georgetown Hoyas. With Maryland and Virginia Tech toiling away in the NIT once again, and Coppin State, Mount St. Mary's, American, and George Mason all already eliminated, G'Town was the only D.C. area team we had left to root for. Add in the fact that they won the Big East regular season title this year (no small feat) and made the Final Four last year and their loss to Davidson is compounded even further.

Any fan of Maryland could have told you how dangerous this Davidson team really is after watching them play the Terps extremely tough in the Tournament last year. Another thing Maryland fans know all too well is getting upset in the early rounds of the tourney multiple times, a feeling that is circulating around M Street right now, but was not previously the norm for the Hoyas' teams of the past. I clearly consider myself a Maryland fan more so than a Georgetown fan, but that probably has more to do with recent history and the time I grew up in more than anything else.  I have very distant memories of Georgetown's dominant teams of the early 90's, led by big men like Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo and mercurial guards like Victor Page and Allen Iverson. At that time, Maryland was still embroiled in NCAA sanctions and while still a competitive program, was definitely second fiddle to G'Town. Beyond that, Georgetown meant a lot more to this region's basketball scene, as well as the Black community as a whole.

John Thompson took over on "The Hilltop" in 1972 and, in short, was the spark that created the Big East conference (due respect goes to Lou Carnesecca of St. John's, Rick Pitino while at Providence, Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and Jim Calhoun at Connecticut for their contributions in its early history, too). By the 1980's, he built Georgetown into a premier basketball program and transcended racial barriers.  For D.C. natives, the Hoyas became not only a source of local pride, but Black pop cultural icons in the midst of the crack epidemic and high murder rates. Bringing things back to the here and now, this Georgetown team, brought back to prominence by John Thompson III, is not the same as the teams from a bygone era. Nevertheless, this loss represents a loss for D.C., especially with this year's Hoyas expected to go so much further.

One bright spot from yesterday's game was the breakthrough performance of sophomore Davidson guard and tournament superstar Stephen Curry. Again, last year we saw this kid put up 30 points against the Terps as a freshman. He went off for 40 in Davidson's 1st round upset of Gonzaga and 30 against G'Town yesterday, scoring 25 of them in the second half. Curry is the son of longtime NBA veteran, sharp-shooter Dell Curry, which goes a long way towards explaining why Stephen has so much game. ESPN's Anna K. Clemmons gives us a look at the team's magical run from an alum's perspective here, while Yahoo! Sports takes another look at the game here. 

A star has truly been born and although it hurts to see it come at G'Town's expense, it is great to witness history in the making. He may look like he's only 12 years old, but Curry became the sixth player in NCAA history to score at least 30 points in his first three tournament appearances. Quite an accomplishment. Better yet, Davidson is clearly slipping into Cindarella's shoes this year and it couldn't have happened to a more likeable group (though Villanova is a close second. Shouts to Kevin Williams! What up, Arun?)

Two signs, one huge problem.

If you can't tell from the picture, this is a house in Takoma Park, with two signs in their front lawn. One says "Was is not the answer" and the other says Hillary for president. I don't know what possesses anyone who is against the Iraq war to vote for Hillary Clinton, but on another note this really does represent larger problem of the progressive wing of the democratic party. We need to examine all factors (Media, Politicians, Strategy...) and try to understand which of these would allow for the picture above to exist, and what needs to be done about it. I don't think there are easy answers here, but it does seem like an interesting question and if you have any thoughts feel free to share them in the comments.

On more of a housekeeping note, I'll be posting more this week as I recover from the glorious basketball watching/hanging out/drinking/listening to 80s music binge that was much of last week. Special thanks to dcjonesy and Lsouth (the main offenders) and everyone else who helped provide the good times.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Contributor & Train of Thought Lounge-DJ Shadow

Just call me RB, the newest contributor to this fine blog. I have been lurking in the shadows, commenting and providing some insight into the current state of political affairs, but now I have been promoted to the front page, courtesy of JJ. This is a new experience for me, and I will try my best not to embarass JJ too much. Lets all try to build this community and really extend the discussion to anyone we can.

Since it is Friday, I think will skip the heavy stuff (Rev. Wright, Obama, passport breaches, invasion, and NCAA BUZZER BEATER MAYHEM) and provide this treat for everyone:
DJ Shadow- This Time

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Well done Barack. Well done Jack Lawton.

To paraphrase Jon Stewart: "And at 10:30 this morning a politician gave a speech and spoke to us like adults." Check it out if you haven't seen it yet.
The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.
Speaking the truth ain't always easy, or the smartest thing to do politically, but it is really nice to see leadership like this from a likely our next president.

And well done to Jack Lawton, the extremely impressive Canadian opposition party leader who I saw speak the other day at Take Back America:
"My message was 'let's work together and make trade deals that are sustainable and fair,'" Layton said.

Layton sees an opportunity to re-open the trade agreement after U.S. Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama made calls that they wanted changes for NAFTA.

And Layton seemed confident that either Obama or Clinton would be the next U.S. president that Canada would be dealing with.

"It's very exciting . . . (the movement) surrounding the candidacies of Senators Clinton and Obama," Layton said. "A real sense that a change in direction is in the offing in the United States."

"And that extends to the need to address some of these trade issues which are leaving working families and the increasing squeezed middle classes of the United States and Canada feeling more and more concerned."

Earlier this month, Layton sent both Clinton and Obama a letter warmly welcoming the positions of both candidates to "rethink NAFTA."

"Together, we can prudently lay the groundwork to craft trade agreements which will lead to improvements for the vast majority who have been left behind since NAFTA came into effect in 1994," Layton said in both letters.

"The Democrats in the U.S. can count New Democrats in Canada as allies in the vital effort to improve upon NAFTA and help build a modern 21st century North American economy that is prosperous, fair, and sustainable for today's families and future generations."
What's really cool about this guy is that he is a real deal progressive who has a realistic chance to be Prime Minister in the next election cycle. And if he went into office, I believe he really would challenge NAFTA, even if the president we get in the fall chooses not to.

Today was a good day. (Cue the sample)

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Train of Thought Lounge: Killing in the Name

In honor of this week's visit by Lsouth and the impending partial LQ16 reunion on Saturday night, it was time for some rage. Here's the original music video from 1993.

Rage Against the Machine - Killing in the Name

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week: Geraldine Ferraro

The Joe Buck Disgusting Act of the Week is awarded to whatever event/person best deserves Joe Buck's unnecessary and over the top outrage after a 2004 Randy Moss' touchdown celebration.

It starts with the other day with Geraldine Ferraro's comments about Barack Obama:
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."
Huh... that's fairly offensive, not to mention a really idiotic thing to say. You'd think that 43 for 43 record of white men being president would take down that whole "advantage" arguement, but let's give her the benefit of the doubt. After all she could be referring to this black president, but since's he's a basketball player, and that was an ad based on nickname he gave himself... somehow I doubt it. DHinMI at dailykos has the ugly strategy behind her strange statement:

One can laugh at the ridiculousness of the statement, or ridicule the idea that African-Americans somehow have it easier in America than white men or women. But to do so misses how Ferraro's statement will be heard by too many Americans.

The fact is, there are a lot of White people in American who believe they're at a disadvantage, that Blacks get things handed to them. The idea may be foreign to some people, but I've heard it my entire life. I've heard it at family gatherings, in my neighborhood when I was a kid, from family friends and all kinds of other folks. It's not a fringe belief. It's at the heart of the belief system of the so-called Reagan Democrats—swing voters and even some Democrats who were cradle Democrats but defected to Reagan and have been up for grabs in most elections since 1992.

Some of these Reagan Democrats will hear Ferraro's comment, and they'll think about the job they didn't get because, they believe, it went to an affirmative action hire. They'll think about the guy promoted over them because, they believe, he's black. And they'll think "here we go again."

Ohhhhhhhhhhhh! Race baiting from the Clinton campaign! Now THAT makes sense! Well, we've been down this road before, and since it's been seen by the national media, they'll let the smear stay in the news for a few more hours before Ferraro gives her insincere apology:

"It wasn't a racist comment, it was a statement of fact," she said on CBS' Early Show, adding that she would leave Hillary Clinton's national finance committee if she were asked.
"Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"
Wow, that was different. Instead of apologizing, she strongly defended the comments. It looks like the Clinton campaign over played it's racebaiting tactic by allowing the comments to be said by an actual racist! What a twist! The Hillary Clinton campaign, produced by to you by M Night Shyamalan. As if to solidify the point, what's her next move? To appear on one of the remaining sanctuaries for racism in the mainstream media: The Bill O'Reilly show!

O'REILLY: This crossed the wire. Apparently you told the Daily Breeze newspaper in Torrance, California, quote, "If Obama were a white man, he would not be in this position. If here were a woman of any color, he would not be in the position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is in a country who's caught up in the concept." Did you say that?

FERRARO: Yeah, but I also said a lot before that.

O'REILLY: Right, but you know you're gonna get hammered on that.

FERRARO: I was not speaking – no, I was speaking to – it was a paid speech. I was not representing a campaign. I go out and give speeches. I don't –

O'REILLY: Oh, I understand that.

FERRARO: You know, like you do.

O'REILLY: I absolutely know they can take you out of context, but do you believe that Barack Obama, if he were a white mean, white senator, would not be in the position?

FERRARO: Absolutely

O'REILLY: I got it. I got it. I got it. No, listen, I mean, I'm not saying you're wrong [...] but you're gonna get hammered by it, but if anybody does, let me know, and I'll take care of them. Geraldine Ferraro, everybody. Geraldine's too nice, see.
Classy stuff. But not as damning as this gem all the way from 1988.

That's right, you guessed it, about Jesse Jackson:
Placid of demeanor but pointed in his rhetoric, Jackson struck out repeatedly today against those who suggest his race has been an asset in the campaign. President Reagan suggested Tuesday that people don't ask Jackson tough questions because of his race. And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."

Asked about this at a campaign stop in Buffalo, Jackson at first seemed ready to pounce fiercely on his critics. But then he stopped, took a breath, and said quietly, "Millions of Americans have a point of view different from" Ferraro's.

Discussing the same point in Washington, Jackson said, "We campaigned across the South . . . without a single catcall or boo. It was not until we got North to New York that we began to hear this from Koch, President Reagan and then Mrs. Ferraro . . . . Some people are making hysteria while I'm making history."
I guess some things never change, huh?

Kos pulls a great quote from blogger dna who explains further explains the strategy and the cost:

If the Clinton campaign was truly embarrassed or disagreed with Ferraro's comments, they wouldn't be tossing her into the media frenzy to shout her message from the mountaintops that Barack Obama's success is due only to his blackness. And they would not be utilizing the most effective means of doing so--the Right Wing smear machine that nearly destroyed Bill Clinton's presidency.

The aim here is to evoke racial resentment on the part of white voters over issues like Affirmative Action, and cast Obama as a talentless hack who excels only because our country is held victim by political correctness. The hope is that this will drive a permanent wedge between Obama and white voters that will sway Superdelegates to ultimately go with Hillary at the convention. At worst, Obama will be so damaged in the general that he can never be a threat to their ambitions again.

Aside from the various ironies at work here, the fact that Affirmative Action has mostly benefited white women and Hillary's use of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy she gave a name to, the possiblity that Hillary, even if she gets the nomination, may face a similar line of argument given the fact that bans on Affirmative Action will be on the ballot in several swing states, there may be a silver lining. After this campaign, black voters should consider very seriously our allegiance to the Democratic Party in the voting booth, and the reality that white liberals are comfortable with our success only to the point that they can control and take credit for it.
Agreed. That last sentence hits home for those of us who believe that a Hillary Clinton victory based on super delegates will completely destroy (And rightly so, I might add) the democratic party.

After a couple days of this stuff, it also looks like this Ferraro has been fired, leaving behind this rather amazing letter:

Dear Hillary –

I am stepping down from your finance committee so I can speak for myself and you can continue to speak for yourself about what is at stake in this campaign.

The Obama campaign is attacking me to hurt you. I won't let that happen.

Thank you for everything you have done and continue to do to make this a better world for my children and grandchildren.

You have my deep admiration and respect.

Nice. But just like their other race baiting campaign, when the dog whistle turns into a siren, its becomes a lot less useful.

The more I read these quotes and others by her (especially the ones here about John Lewis and others who dared to endorse Obama), this doesn't quite qualify as one disgusting act. It more qualifies Geraldine Ferraro as a disgusting human being, and I really hope she quietly returns to her previous position of complete irrelevance that she maintained so well before the existence of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Washington Redskins: This offseason's Cincinnati Bengals

It's the middle of March. In the District, that could only mean one thing: the NFL free agency period is more than a couple of days old and the Redskins are well on their way to winning the Super Bowl... that is, until late December comes and the team has finished 8-8.  It's a scenario we've seen so many times that we're all used to it by now.  Dana Stubblefield. Dan Wilkinson. Mark Carrier.  Deion Sanders. Bruce Smith. Trung Canidate. Adam Archuleta. Brandon Lloyd.  Each offseason, each of these names brought lofty hopes and pushed Washington into plenty of analysts' pre-season picks for Super Bowl contenders.  Instead, these names are reeled off as a laundry list of failures.

Every year, it seemed as though the Skins were destined to mortgage their future once again, defiantly refusing to learn from its past mistakes.  But this year has been different.  
  • There have been no major "splash" signings-- Usually by now, Dan Snyder's private jet would have criss-crossed the nation, bringing three or four big names (likely all from the New York Jets) on board and throwing more cash at them than Pac Man Jones.  This time around, only one mid-level free agent has scheduled a visit, and that's still two days from now!  
  • The team has re-signed its own key players-- Two players I really thought were going to walk were back-up QB Todd Collins and RB/Return Specialist Rock Cartwright.  It warmed my heart to see the team keep both of them.  In past years, letting Antonio Pierce leave for division rivals and recent Super Bowl champs the New York Giants and seeing Ryan Clark go to the Pittsburgh Steelers set us back a ton.  I guess Cerrato & co. actually ARE committed to continuity.
  • Lo-and-behold, we have draft picks-- When we weren't signing free agents, we were consistently throwing away draft picks in return for players who weren't free agents.  Somehow, we actually have a decent amount of picks in 2008 (I couldn't find our exact total or breakdown-by-round, I'll post it in the comments when I do find it).  According to ESPN, draft guru Mel Kiper, Jr. has Washington taking Kansas CB Aqib Talib with the 21st pick overall.  Aside from his awesome name, I saw this man dominate Virginia Tech in the Orange Bowl and earn himself MVP honors on the night.  Good use of draft picks? What is this?
I have to say it's refreshing.  Two items of note before I sign off... this has been a decidedly weak free agent period, aside from Randy Moss and Asante Samuel.  Without numerous "gems" out there for the signing, perhaps the Redskins newfound conservatism is out of pure necessity and not self-restraint. Lastly, we have to see how all of these decisions play out before it can be assessed properly.  But for now, I like the way this offseason is going.  

UPDATE: As promised... to follow-up, the Skins have at least one pick in each round except the 4th, which was given up in the T.J. Duckett trade. Let's see if that holds up.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Train of Thought Lounge: Snoop buys a nail gun

In honor of the final episode of the wire, I figured I'd start featuring my favorite clips from the show every now and then. (And due to how much I've been thinking about it since last night, heavy on the now) Since it just ended, and I know there are a few of you still trying to catch up, I'll hold of on the massive spoiler filled thing I was writing on the last episode. But for now, here's Snoop buying a nail gun in first scene of season 4.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Reason #339 why I love Alex Ovechkin

This (via Japers Rink):
"I hear something when I score first goal — I hear them booing me, so I just started smiling. It is fun."
- Alex Ovechkin, after being being booed on every touch by the sabres fans.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Allow me to re-introduce myself...

My name is Jonesy! DC Jonesy, to be exact, and I want to formally introduce myself as one of a slate of new bloggers that have been graciously invited to post on The Train of Thought.  First off, I want to thank J, or "JJ" for that matter (or, while I'm at it, Jay Jay) for allowing me this platform with which to start my journey into the blogosphere.  I've been an avid reader and commenter to this particular blog, and a remarkable foundation has been laid for me to build on.

With politics being the main order of the day, I plan on focusing on the world of sports for most of my posts.  Sports is my area of expertise, as well as my desired job field in the extreme near future, and I have been searching for an outlet that would let me collect and organize my thoughts on the subject.  This way, sports will no longer be only the object of my desire, but a way I can start relevant conversations and get people to think a little more critically about things they once took for granted.

It will take me a while to get the hang of this, but I look forward to jumping aboard this train and helping it keep moving in the right direction.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Don't call it a comeback

I've been here for years, rocking my peers and puttin' suckas in fear...

What were we talking about? Oh yeah, the election.
So memo to the media: Don't call it a comeback, cause this ain't one. Not even close. Just put aside your lust for an endless race, and the Clinton camp's accusations of bias (Brilliantly referred to as "working the refs" on kos yesterday) and look it the numbers.

Pyhrric victories DON'T MATTER.
There are 10 states left.
She needed enormous wins yesterday to make this competitive.
She didn't get them.

Barring a meltdown of Nick Anderson proportions, Obama is going to win the popular vote, and in total pledged delegates. That was the game. She lost. That being said, there are two ways this can end:

1) She can play out the string and continue to run, hoping for the Nick Anderson or some other drastic turn. When the results are in for these next 10 states, and she has lost both the popular vote and delegate count, she acknowledges that she has lost a fucked up, but still mostly democratic process, endorses Obama as the nominee and goes back to the senate to insure that someone is taking on the important issues like flag burning and starting a war with Iran.

2) She keeps running, but starts pushing attacks to see as far as they can go, and really tries to drag him in the mud. She'll attack him with things that would clearly be used by McCain in the general, like claiming that only she and John McCain have the experience to be president. And after thoroughly smearing him for several months, she still won't have enough pledged delegates or a popular vote lead. What will she do then? Well she'll cheat of course, and try to get the super delegates to go against the will of democratic voters. This is extremely unlikely to work, but its worth pointing out that if she were successful it would probably destroy the democratic party for the next 5-10 years. And it's also worth pointing out that anyone willing to win by destroying our own party probably didn't have our best interests at heart in the first place.

She has her choice, but I've got a funny idea I know where this is headed.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The numbers don't add up.

The people on TV seem to have forgotten that Hillary Clinton can't win the pledged delegate lead without a miracle in the next couple of states. Unless she goes for a party destroying super delegate fight... she has lost. I don't get it. They're reporting her spin as if it's fact, and completely ignoring the scoreboard for the night. Make it stop. Please.

Put aside the idiotic stand taken by the pundits tonight, and take a look at the delegate count tomorrow. She can't win without destroying the party through a super delegate fight, I guess our political reporters decided sweep that under the rug for some unknown reason. Oh well. The numbers don't lie, and they'll still be there tomorrow morning.

11:45 - I should point out that Obama's campaign made a massive mistake several weeks ago. After super Tuesday, when Hillary Clinton made the point that super delagetes were important pieces of the process, he needed to take the hard line. I'm guessing his campaign was scared at pissing them off by making such a bold statement, but at that point he needed to firmly say, all super delegates should commit to supporting the winner of the popular vote. It would have been bold, but it would expose the process for being as shady as it is, putting him on the side of democracy and her on the side of back room politics. Super delegates are the only way she can win, and his campaign needs to start pointing this out to anyone who will listen.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Twas the night before the primary...

The Texas and Ohio primaries... the day when Obama wraps up the nomination and this long ordeal will finally be over! Hey wait a minute... what's he doing?

Good God! We were up by 10 with 5 minutes left in the 4th quarter! Did Eddie Jordan take over the Obama campaign? What the fuck just happened?

So the first story led to a response from the always knowledgeable Chris Bowers, who puts it in the context of other Obama policy moves:

Hagel and Lugar are both rank conservatives. Despite Hagel's support for partial withdrawal from Iraq, there is simply no way to describe either of them as centrist, much less progressive. Hagel's lifetime score on progressive punch is 9.27 out of 100, while Lugar's is 12.46 out of 100. Both of them are only very slightly to the left of the craziest wingers out there.

Obama sends out regular signals that he will govern in a very centrist fashion. Running Harry and Louise ads and appointing Bush Dog Jim Cooper as a spokesperson on health care make that obvious enough. His praise of Reagan and bragging that he is more bipartisan than the DLC also make that clear. He has no problem letting you know that he's "not one of those people who cynically believes Bush went in only for the oil," that he isn't a "anti-military, 70s love-in." He scolds unknown progressives for thinking that "every mention of God is automatically threatening a theocracy," and reminded everyone that Social Security faces a crisis. Now, he is sending out signals that will be appoint Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar to incredibly powerful posts such as Secretary of State and Secretary of Defense.

Here is the thing: what counter-indications had Obama given that he will govern as a progressive? I honestly can't think of any. He clearly must be blowing some sort of progressive activist dog whistle, given the caucus and support he has received, but I haven't heard the call. I get the "yes, we can," bit about how large numbers of grassroots and redstate Democrats are rebelling against a Clintonista Democratic Party that takes them for granted. Further, the identity politics in play are somewhat obvious. I also think I get that, in addition to the activists and identity groups he has attracted, the third major component of Obama's coalition are anti-establishment, but not necessary leftist, Democratic voters who also when for Bradley and Dean. Finally, in the contemporary political environment, looking like the outside is certainly an advantage. However, what I don't get are ideological progressives who think that Obama is one, too. Outside of telecom policy, his policy platforms are pretty much center-left wonkish boilerplate, and his rhetoric is straight down the middle. In short, I just don't see Obama as a transformative progressive at all.

If I am missing something, I don't know where to look for it. Chuck Hagel as Sec Def is just the latest indication that Obama is more about placating High Broderism, Tim Russert and the Washington Post editorial board than he is about transformative progressive change. I'll work hard to help elect him, but I also don't intend to delude myself about what to expect when he becomes President.

Now I'm as down on him as Bowers is, but I do think the article raises a few good points. I've always thought our best chances at progressive policy under Obama would be the war, foreign policy in general, communications policy, and climate change policy. Obviously the most important of those are the war and foreign policy, so talk of Lugar and Hagel for secretary of Defense or State makes me a bit sick to my stomach. That remark surprised me quite a bit, and angered me for several reasons... the most important of those being I really don't think stuff like this is going to help him win the DEMOCRATIC nomination.

Now as for the NAFTA story, that didn't surprise me in the slightest. Obama may be many things, but he seems to have adopted the democratic dance over free trade with this one. You make vague and non-committal critiques of "Free Trade" in an election year, then when in office you vote to expand it with deals like the Peru FTA. On this issue I got to say I don't understand where the shock is coming from. He has a mixed and fairly pro-free trade record in congress, he has surrounded himself with staunch free traders who run his economic policy team (One of whom, Goolsbee, is the "senior adviser" mentioned in the Canada article), and he himself wrote his thesis on free trade. Like many other issues, in order to reform trade policy, it's going to take a pretty big fight, and a willingness to stand strong against by bipartisan opposition. I think Obama is capable of doing this on other issues, but to think that he would use political capital to reform a trade policy that he doesn't really disagree with is nonsensical.

And before you think I've jumped off the deep end let me make this clear. I don't like talking about Lugar or Hagel in the cabinet, but Hillary's judgment on foreign policy and hawkish advisers genuinely scare the crap out of me. Obama won't reform trade policy, but there's even less of a chance of Hillary Clinton doing so. As you know from reading this site, I think Obama is clearly the superior candidate, and has a better chance of pushing progressive policy.

But that isn't the problem.

The problem is he hasn't won yet. And these last two moves were absolutely moronic two days before possibly your closeout primary. I hope I'm wrong. I really, really, really do. I hope tomorrow night leaves us with an Obama victory speech and Hillary Clinton getting the hell out of my daily life. But as a DC sports fan I know that no lead is safe and that anything can happen, especially if you let Eddie Jordan coach your team.

Meanwhile, in Gaza

Israel continues its war against the Gaza strip for having voted the wrong way.
Israel was facing widespread international condemnation yesterday for its onslaught in Gaza, as the UN and EU demanded an end to a "disproportionate" response to Palestinian rocket attacks, which were also denounced. Israel's prime minister, Ehud Olmert, rejected the criticism and vowed to press on with the offensive, which has claimed an estimated 100 Palestinian lives in the past five days.

Early today, after clashing with militants and making arrests yesterday, Israel moved more troops into northern Gaza and five Hamas militants were killed in nine airstrikes.

On Saturday alone, some 60 people were killed, the biggest Palestinian casualty toll since the second intifada broke out more than seven years ago. "Nothing will prevent us from continuing operations to protect our citizens," Olmert said. Two Israeli soldiers and one civilian have also been killed in the violence.

Human casualties apart, western governments expressed alarm at the decision by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and bitter rival of the Hamas Islamists in Gaza, to freeze all contacts with Israel, putting the already moribund peace process at greater risk. Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said: "For the time being, negotiations are suspended because we have so many funerals."

Britain reacted by calling on Palestinians and Israelis to "step back from the brink". David Miliband, the foreign secretary, said: "Israel's right to security and self-defence is clear and must be reiterated and supported. But measures taken in response to rockets must be in accordance with international law, minimising the suffering for innocent civilians and maximising the scope for political negotiations to be restarted."

With Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, due in Jerusalem tomorrow, a White House spokesman said: "The violence needs to stop and the talks need to resume."

Arab states were united in outrage. Pro-western Jordan, which, like Egypt, has a peace treaty with Israel, called the Gaza operations a "flagrant violation" of international law. Saudi Arabia, which brokered last year's revived Arab initiative backing peace with Israel, condemned what it called "mass killings".
Much more deserves to be written on this topic (and time permitting, it will), but I figured I'd just link to the story for now. There are few situations that make me more depressed than this one, mainly because I think its very probable that the US' Israel policy won't change in my lifetime.