Monday, June 30, 2008

Spain wins Euro 2008

¡Viva EspaƱa!

Spain won its first major trophy in 44 years, capping off an excellent European Championship tournament. I couldn't find the TV ratings for the final just yet, but early indications here and here are that the tournament boasted successful TV ratings for the previous stages. Just more great news for soccer fans in the U.S.

A quick note about D.C. United before I sign off; yesterday's match against David Beckham and the L.A. Galaxy at RFK Stadium (the lead-in to the Euro final yesterday on ABC) was just amazing. From the blowout win, to the awesome pre-game display for Ben Olsen, to his stirring and unexpected introduction in the 75th minute, and even to the disorienting and stifling heat, yesterday was just a day I will never forget. And I was about as wrong as I possibly could have been about United earlier this season. A public apology to Coach Tom Soehn, Luicano Emilio (nine goals in his last six matches, including two yesterday), and the entire team, who are beginning to look like the most dangerous squad in MLS again.

Possible FISA Actions

Most of you have probably heard of at least one of these. But just in case, here are a couple of ways to express your displeasure at Obama's support for the FISA amendment:

- Join the growing (currently 5002 members) group called Senator Obama - Please Vote Against FISA. You do have to join my.barackobama to get in on the group, though that was something I had been meaning to do anyway. (NB: You may, however, want to opt out of, or receive in daily digest form, the group's extremely active LISTSERV. The box for that is located at the bottom right of the group's page.)

- Sign this online petition, currently 1229 strong, which urges the following of Obama:
1) That you speak out against the bill in its entirety and encourage other Senators to vote against it when it comes up for a vote in the Senate next week.
2) That when called to vote on the FISA Bill, that you vote against it in its entirety.

My guess is that the my.barackobama group will have more of a chance of having any effect at all, as it already has larger numbers, works within Obama's own system, and is more difficult to do. May as well do both, though, if it's an issue you care about.

Thanks, Helen

On Criticizing Obama

I was going to quote a really well written post that Kos did on the subject a few months back, but I can't find it. As usual, Chris Bowers provides a good response to the truly silly "debate" that some people are having on whether or not criticizing obama ok:
I'm not going write anymore about the "to criticize" or "not to criticize" debate that, in certain quarters of the blogosphere, still seems to have some legs. While it is an interesting abstraction, it also ignores two key realities:
  1. Many progressives will continue to criticize Barack Obama in public between now and Election Day.
  2. Barack Obama will receive more grassroots, progressive activist support than any other Democratic candidate in history.
No matter what we say, both the activism and the criticism will flow. Both are unavoidable, necessary and healthy We would be a pretty lame grassroots movement if we managed to quiet criticism, forge consensus or sit on their hands en masse. I would simply suggest that if you are interested in generating activism for Obama, that you should encourage activism rather than criticizing criticism. Because, in the end, telling someone to SYFPH(Shut your fucking pie hole) really isn't a very effective call to action.
You can count on one hand the democrats who you can assume are doing the right thing and kicking ass at all times. Barack Obama isn't one of em', and it's not looking like he's gonna be. But this isn't the end of the world, and it means that you just have to treat him like any other democrat and pressure him to do the right thing. Take the FISA bill for example. If next time he's debating a move to the right and one of his advisers has to say "But we're gonna take a lot of shit from dailykos, you know that place where our money and man power comes from"... that is a success. A really cool development on this front is people creating group on Obama's own website condemning his FISA vote.

Another point that should probably be made: The people who are doing the criticizing are probably likely the most passionate members of the progressive movement. If they weren't, why would they even bother criticizing? So it's not like these people are gonna for vote McCain, Nader (he's running?), or cast ceremonial ballot in support of Bob Barr's mustache.

Criticism is good. Keeping people honest is good. Politicians are vehicles, and are to be treated as such.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Euro XI

With Sunday's Euro 2008 final between Germany and Spain fast approaching, I thought I would compile sort of an All-Euro team comprised of the best players of the tournament. I have no idea whether they do this in real life or not, but it's a pretty good idea, no? Without further ado, here is The Train of Thought Euro XI:

Iker Casillas, Spain (Real Madrid)
Without a doubt, the most clear-cut selection to this team. Seen by many as the best keeper in the world, Casillas cemented his spot with a stellar performance in penalty kicks in the quarterfinals against Italy.

Philipp Lahm, Germany (Bayern Munich)
The diminutive left back may not be known for his outright defending skills, but he more than makes up for that going forward along the flank and contributing to German attacks. His assist to Miroslav Klose, then his brilliant run and one-two with Thomas Hitzlsperger that lead to his 90th minute winner against Turkey earned him a spot on this team.

Carles Puyol, Spain (Football Cunts Barcelona*)
His solid play and leadership in the center of defense has helped Spain reach its first major tournament final since 1984.

Denis Kolodin, Russia (Dynamo Moscow)
His thunderous shots from 25-30 yards out raised plenty of eyebrows, but Kolodin was just as effective as a member of a Russian backline that, apart from an opening-game blowout loss to Spain, only surrendered two goals in three games, including a shutout of Sweden (Kolodin was suspended for Russia's semifinal loss to Spain).

Robert Kovac, Croatia (Borussia Dortmund)
Kovac led one of the most airtight defenses of Euro 2008. The team registered two clean sheets in its first three matches and held Turkey scoreless for over 120 minutes of its quarterfinal match until a miracle goal, then a loss in PK's eliminated the unlucky Croatians.

Wesley Sneijder, The Netherlands (Real Madrid)
The most electrifying player for the high-flying Dutchmen (get it?), Sneijder scored one of the best goals of the tournament from a nearly-impossible angle against Italy. He was clearly frustrated by the Russians, but that doesn't erase the brilliance he showed during the group stages.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, Germany (Bayern Munich)
He exhibited style and flair rarely associated with the German team and played his way into the starting lineup after registering a goal and two assists in the quarterfinals against Portugal. Schweinsteiger followed that performance with a goal in the semis against Turkey.

Cesc Fabregas, Spain (Arsenal)
Another player who inexplicably doesn't start for his team, Fabregas' effect has been clearly visible as he's amassed a goal and three assists coming off the bench.


David Villa, Spain (Valencia)
Villa terrorized opposing defenses in the first few games of the tournament and while his scoring has slowed since then, his four goals still lead all players thus far. Unfortunately, Villa will miss the final due to a thigh injury.

Nihat Kahveci, Turkey (Villareal)
This man only scored two goals for Turkey but those two goals came three minutes apart, erasing a 2-1 deficit against the Czech Republic in the 86th and 89th minutes to send his squad through to the knockout rounds.

Andrei Arshavin, Russia (St. Zenit Petersburg)
Easily the most talked-about player of Euro 2008, Arshavin lived up to the hype in his first two matches. Even though he failed to do so in Russia's loss to Spain, his spot on this team is still warranted.

As for the Spain-Russia match, it definitely failed to match the excitement most people were expecting. Spain methodically took apart the Russians despite losing top-scorer Villa to injury early in the match. Russia lacked the urgency and drive of its previous matches, but what's not to like about a Spain-Germany final? I'm eagerly awaiting it.

*Until F.C. Barcelona stops relentlessly going after Arsenal players every single summer, I will refer to them in this manner instead of Football Club Barcelona.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pay back your debt?

You've got to be fucking kidding me.

Some Clinton donors had been frustrated that the Democratic presidential nominee-in-waiting had not done more to help her pay the bills even as they are expected to help fund his campaign.

Obama received a standing ovation from the crowd of more than 200 when he said he would enlist his supporters to help pay off her debt.

"I'm going to need Hillary by my side campaigning during his election, and I'm going to need all of you," Obama said, according to a report written by the only reporter allowed into the event and shared with other reporters afterward. He recounted how he had told his top fundraisers this week "to get out their checkbooks and start working to make sure Senator Clinton _ the debt that's out there needs to be taken care of."

Unity, I'm all for it. It's usually not a big deal for someone to concede when they lose, but hey, some people are clearly a little more special than others and need a couple of weeks to figure that out. But your millions of dollars of debt you incurred because you spent money like a drunken sailor? No no no, I'm no you rapper, that shit is your mess to clean up. You honestly going to expect people to give their hard earned money to a multi-millionaire couple? To a campaign that race baited, tried to cheat, and gave 14 million dollars to a union busting asshole? From the bottom of my heart, you can go Cheney yourself.

Where are the "feminists" now?

When it comes to defending Michelle Obama, where have they all gone?
Rikyah at Jack and Jill politics and in a Mary Curtis in Washington Post, are asking that very question:
In her piece called ' The Loud Silence of Feminists', Curtis opens with:
Michelle Obama has become an issue in the presidential campaign even though she isn't running for anything. An educated, successful lawyer, devoted wife and caring mother has been labeled "angry" and unpatriotic and snidely referred to as Barack Obama's "baby mama."

Democrats, Republicans, independents, everyone should be offended.

And this black woman is wondering: Where are Obama's feminist defenders?
One has to wonder, as Michelle Obama is being labeled unpatriotic, bitter, mean, angry. Where are those feminists who saw sexism lurking around every corner with Hillary Clinton?


Curtis wrote:
The campaign against Michelle Obama -- who went on "The View" this week to prove her everywoman bona fides -- has not caused a rift between black and white women so much as it has exposed it.

I've long been frustrated, as a black woman and a feminist, with our national conversation. I didn't hear the cause speaking up for women of color or for women who have always worked in blue-collar or service jobs. Choice was not their issue.

The woman who employed my educated mother to clean her house never quite saw her as a sister in the struggle for equality.
And there in lies the problem. The feminist movement has accomplished a lot, and has plenty to be proud of, and I don't want to paint with a broad brush. Under that banner of achieving equal treatment, pay and defending women's rights I am most certainly a feminist in that camp.

However, things that have been done under the feminist name have not been less than kosher. My first introduction to this was a lecture describing the imperialistic nature of "lets save these poor foreign women campaigns" that are much more degrading and insulting than they are helpful in any way. The intentions of some of the people behind these campaigns might be good, but the impression it leaves with the people they are trying to "help" doesn't exactly exude sisterhood as much as it breeds contempt. Telling people that their cultures are backwards and behind the times is greeted with same enthusiasm that forms of imperialism receive, and the tensions just grow from there.

Well, the other major fault line throughout sections of the feminist movement is race, and rikyah from Jack and Jill politics adds her 2 cents:
Well, it's no secret that I'm not a fan of feminism. I don't believe that it had anything to do with Black women's lives. I believe we already had our own brand of feminism, because Black women have always worked. Our ancestors - mothers, aunts, grandmothers, elders in the church- have been balancing work, relationships and marriage, well, since forever. We failed to uphold the lessons that they tried to teach us, throwing it away for something that NEVER had our families in mind. I can't be a Black feminist if I'm being separate from the Black men in my life. Just doesn't work for me. That's part of the reason why there was no real 'conflict' for me when it came to Obama vs. Clinton. Am I Black or Woman? I'm both, but I've been in this country long enough to know:
1. Being Black is the true designation of my life
2. Being separated from the men in the community has not done us any good
3. 'Sisterhood' is a one way street; I'm a ' Sister', when Mainstream Feminism wants something from me. When they're done, then I'm kicked to the curb. I understood long ago that Miss Anne wasn't studdin' about my Black behind, and I don't think I'm alone in that realization.

I said before that I wasn't going to hold my breath waiting for Mainstream Feminists to defend Michelle Obama. This was a job that those of us who cared would have to take on our shoulders.

Their silence has been quite instructive....don't you think?
Yep, and like she said... I'm not holding my breath waiting on Geraldine Ferraro's strongly worded condemnation.

Chomsky- "US Public Understood to be Irrelevant..."

Check out this interview with Noam Chomsky from Al Jazeera...Interesting points, especially about the changing healthcare policies:
"The main domestic issue for years … is the health system - which is understandable as it's a total disaster.

The last election debate in 2004 was on domestic issues ... and the New York Times the next day had an accurate description of it. It said that [former Democratic presidential candidate John] Kerry did not bring up any hint of government involvement in healthcare because it has so little political support, just [the support of] the large majority of the population. "

"No, the public is the same, it's been saying the same for decades, but the public is irrelevant, is understood to be irrelevant. What matters is a few big interests looking after themselves and that's exactly what the public sees."
The most interesting part of the interview is when Chomsky is asked about the nature and the progressive vision of changing the electoral system. Who should we be studying? Bolivia:
"We have models right in front of us. Like pick, say, Bolivia, the poorest county in South America. They had a democratic election a couple of years ago that you can't even dream about in the US. It's kind of interesting it's not discussed; it's a real democratic election.

A large majority of the population became organised and active for the first time in history and elected someone from their own ranks on crucial issues that everyone knew about – control of resource, cultural rights, issues of justice, you know, really serious issues.

And, furthermore, they didn't just do it on election day by pushing a button, they've been struggling about these things for years."

A couple of years before this they managed to drive Bechtel and the World Bank out of the country when they were trying to privatize the war. It was a pretty harsh struggle and a lot of people were killed.

Well, they reached a point where they finally could manifest this through the electoral system - they didn't have to change the electoral laws, they had to change the way the public acts. And that's the poorest country in South America.

Actually if we look at the poorest country in the hemisphere – Haiti - the same thing happened in 1990. You know, if peasants in Bolivia and Haiti can do this, it's ridiculous to say we can't."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

WOOOO! More Guns!

The Supreme Court overrules DC's gun ban.
The Supreme Court, splitting along ideological lines, today declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual's right to own guns for self-defense, striking down the District of Columbia's ban on handgun ownership as unconstitutional.

The lawyers challenging the District's 32-year-old law were able to persuade the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit last year to do what no other federal appeals court had ever done: strike down a local gun-control ordinance on Second Amendment grounds.

The amendment says that "a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed," and all but one of the circuits that had considered the issue previously had interpreted it as providing a gun-ownership right related only to military service.

Does anyone, and I mean anyone want to tell me that this will lead to less gun violence in the District of Columbia? If you do believe that, can you please inform the crazy people's bus, I know they've been working overtime rounding up the Clinton protesters at the DNC rules committee, but I'd personally feel a lot safer if you got the help you desperately need.

Second, this picture, with this caption, is directly from the washington post:

Caption: Gun rights activist Ariel Sarousi, left, and Steve Bierfeld, both of Arlington, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court after the decision was announced on the District of Columbia gun ban. (Mark Wilson - Getty Images)
I shit you not.

New rule: Anyone who wants more guns in DC is required to live in a DC public housing complex and use public transportation for 1 year. If they haven't changed their mind after that time has passed, they can have what ever guns they want. If they don't want to do that, THEY CAN SHUT THE FUCK UP AND GO THE FUCK BACK TO NORTHERN VIRGINIA. PERIOD.

The ruling itself is one thing, but the self righteous people who advocate this type of crap in places where they have absolutely no stake in the outcome just drive me completely insane. Maybe it's that whole growing up in and around a colonial dominion thing that puts me on edge about this stuff... but whatever it is it sets off a nerve that did not need setting off after the other crap that's happened this week.

Oh yeah, and be sure to check out the awesome amounts of new content below this post. We've had a lot more posts recently, so you don't want to miss anything!

Film Vault- Capitol Dome or Filibust!!

I apologize for my absence from the blog. The past few weeks have been extremely chaotic, but now I am back and can focus on the blog.

As JJ and Nick have discussed earlier this week, the failure of Democratic leaders to even pretend to fight against the passage of FISA likely means the government and telecoms will not be held responsible for any crimes committed through President Bush's wiretapping of America.

Good laws...ideals, civil liberties, basic rights....What good is any of this stuff if there is no one left standing to defend it? Aside from Feingold, Dodd and a handful of other democrats, few have come forward to hold the President and telecoms accountable. Where are the leaders? Hoyer and Pelosi?? Obama??

Which brings me to the Train of Thought Film Vault. Today's special scene comes from the classic "Mr Smith Goes to Washington" directed by Frank Capra. I'll provide a spoiler free entry for those that have not seen it, but as the title to my post suggests the film ends with an epic filibuster pitting the forces of reform and good against the proverbial evil political machine. In this scene, Jimmy Stewart is nearing the end of his 23 hour filibuster, and on his last breath the chamber finally begins to listen:

"Get up there with that lady that's up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won't just see scenery; you'll see the whole parade of what Man's carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so's he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That's what you'd see. There's no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties."

More drama in Basel as Turkey bows out

As a sports fan, this point in time of the calendar year usually becomes what I like to call "the dead zone." The NBA and NHL have both recently wrapped up. The NFL has long since finished. Baseball is still in the pre-All Star Game doldrums and by the time the games start to have any meaning, all of the other major sports have started back up. Even as much I've gotten into international soccer in recent years, most of the European club leagues finish their seasons in May.

But thanks to some unknown heroes at ESPN, I have not had that same problem this year due to the fact that the entire 2008 European soccer championships are being televised in the United States. This was such an unexpected development that there was actually a plan in the works at one point to actually travel to Austria and/or Switzerland, where this year's tournament is being co-hosted, in order to catch some of the action. It never occurred to me that I would be able to watch all of the games on TV. Not once.

Four years ago, the games were only available on pay-per-view for somewhere in the region of $20 to $30 per game. I also recall that JJ happened to be vacationing in Montreal with his family during Euro 2004 and how jealous I was that he got to see even a minute of the action on TV. In four short years, every single game has been shown on some form of ESPN and even featured on ABC over the weekend. This is huge progress for soccer in this country.

As for the games, each one has just been more riveting than the last. Yesterday's semifinal was no exception. Germany faced Turkey, with each trying to book a place in the final. The Germans had been here many times before, while Turkey pulled off one unexpected victory after another en route to their first-ever Euro semifinal, with three come-from-behind wins in a row. Turkey was also missing several starters due to injury or suspension, including their keeper and in my opinion, the player of the tournament to this point, the influential Nihat Kahveci. 

So it made perfect sense when they took the lead over heavily-favored Germany about 20 minutes in.  

After hitting the crossbar a few minutes earlier, Turkey neatly played a cross in from the right after a throw-in, a looping shot from the center again crashed against the bar only this time it fell right to Ugur Boral, whose scuffed shot snuck underneath German goalie Jens Lehmann. 1-0, Turkey.

Turkey's shock lead only lasted for five minutes though as Germany equalized through Bastian Schweinsteiger. By this point, I only considered Turkey's fast start against mightily-stacked odds "a shock" because they hadn't waited until the last 15 minutes of the game to pull off their miracle. However, at 1-1 going into the half it was clear that anything could happen and that Turkey would not go down without a serious fight.

Germany would score a go-ahead goal in the 79th minute on a textbook Miroslav Klose header after a nice run and cross from Philip Lahm. But as they had done in each of the last three games, with their tournament lives in the balance, Semih Senturk deflected a shot at the near post and past Lehmann again in the 86th minute. Absoultely unbelievable. In a strange way, the more you see the Turks pull off something unexpected, the harder it truly is to see it coming yet again! So with such a late equalizer it's now EVEN MORE OBVIOUS that Turkey is a team of destiny and simply will not lose and with the prospect of extra time looming... Lahm unleashes a devastating shot into the top corner. Germany 3, Turkey 2, and so would end an amazing run from this team.

You clearly had to feel for the Turks. To battle back so many times and show such resilience without anything to show for it is definitely a shame. Credit is due to Germany though and it's on to a sixth Euro final for them, more than any other country in the history of the tournament. The only downside of the match was the worldwide live feed being knocked out multiple times by lightning, causing the live audience to miss Klose and Senturk's goals, as well as the final whistle. That being said, this post goes out to Turkey who were without a doubt the story of the tournament and always incredibly fun to watch.

Today's game features the other underdog of Euro 2008, Russia, as they take on Spain in what should be another fantastic game. Russia's Andrei Arshavin has been a revelation and has led the team farther than it's been in this competition since the dissolution of the Soviet Union (not exaggerating). Meanwhile, Spain has done well to disprove its reputation for underachieving and has done so playing a stylish, attacking brand of soccer you may have read about. Soccernet also has an interesting opinion piece about how nationalistic stereotypes are disappearing on the soccer pitch (i.e. the technical Germans, the underachieving Spanish, the diving Italians). 

My money is on Spain to pull it out 2-1, but if there is anything this tournament has taught us, it's to truly expect the unexpected.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Yes, We Can. Yes We Can, And We Will.

(with thanks to Karl Blumenthal's OpenLeft post and ACORN's Charles Jackson for giving me permission to post the actual video)

If you've got 22 minutes and could use a fiery refresher on the excitement and importance of this year's presidential election, then check out this June 23rd speech by John Edwards at the annual convention of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).

To reiterate:
This is who we are. This is our moment. This is our time to lock arms again and walk through this country. We're going to look at everything that needs to grow stronger, and it needs to start by making sure that no one is ever denied opportunity and justice and an equal chance again... So let's walk together. Let's not stop until we end poverty in this country. We can't get that with John McCain and four more years of that mess. Eight is enough. But if you want change, if you believe in your heart and soul that anything is possible, then lock arms with me, walk hand in hand, and let's march to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and put Barack Obama in the presidency and make America what it's capable of being. We can do this together. Yes, we can. Yes, we can, and we will.

Despite some recent shake-ups, ACORN maintains a number of excellent ongoing campaigns and has a near-40-year history of working to improve the lives of people near and below the poverty line. They have had a close political relationship with Edwards throughout his political career, because both ACORN and Edwards hold to the same central message: poverty of the scale that exists in the United States is absolutely unacceptable.

Edwards's speech, which touches on these issues directly, is one of the best speeches so far in a year of truly fantastic speeches. It's also a perfect example of JJ's remarks to me about how the power of Hillary's concession speech was largely derived from her appropriation of Obama's buzzwords and general frame. Of course, she did such a fantastic job that it was easy to question the extent of her campaign's authorship.

Well, Edwards – who actually has a unique platform – definitely wrote this speech. This endorsement of Obama matches all of the power and prescience of Obama's narrative with all the fire of his own campaign to end poverty. And he's not just falling in line behind the presidential candidate, either. These aren't issues that Obama has been explicitly pressing – on a national level, the alleviation of poverty appears to remain, despite his best efforts, the exclusive concern of Edwards himself. Indeed, if rumors are to be believed, then this has been a consistent point of contention between the two. Nevertheless, Edwards's endorsement here is personal, passionate and absolute.

In short, I think this speech powerfully confirms a welcome trend in progressive national politics: the growing realization that we don't all have to be the same in order to present a unified political front. This sort of individualized yet unified position has long been a latent and largely unused strength of Democrats, perhaps the only true answer to the more consistently lock-step Republican Party. Although the Democrats have a long way to go, as JJ points out, I can't help but be encouraged by this move towards positive debate.

So, enjoy.

The icing on the cake

Nancy Pelosi, who as speaker of the house, allowed this bill to be voted on, now says this to the senate:

"It would be healthy if (the public) heard more about it... even if the resolution is the same," Pelosi said, when asked by reporters whether she thinks Senate Democrats, including Sen. Barack Obama, should filibuster the legislation updating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as it heads to the Senate floor this week.

What a fucking coward, she has the power to stop this bill dead as speaker of the house, refuses to act, but then calls on the senate to fillibuster when it would be extremely difficult to pull off, especially when you consider that she could have killed the bill by simply saying so. Then in an even bigger dick move, she throws Obama under the bus even though he supported the bill! Good luck trying to this one out Barack! I might have an ounce of sympathy for you if you weren't sleeping in the bed you made.

The bulk of the blame here is squarely on Hoyer, Pelosi and Obama. Hoyer, because he did the deal, Pelosi and Obama because they were the only two individuals who could have stopped it. Enjoy the mess you've made, fuckers.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Republic Syndrome

A brilliant post by Glenn Greenwald for those of us wondering why on earth the democrats would cave on the FISA bill. He coins it New Republic Syndrome:
The number one problem facing the Democratic Party is that, as events of the last week demonstrate, it continues to be plagued by The New Republic Syndrome, one of the most fatal political afflictions that exist. In 2002 and 2003, The New Republic was one of the leading crusaders for an attack on Iraq, railing against what it called "the intellectual incoherence of the liberal war critics." In a February 2003 Editorial, they decreed that "the United States must disarm Iraq by force" and declared war opponents guilty of "abject pacifism."

In 2004, TNR expressed regret because "the central assumption underlying this magazine's strategic rationale for war now appears to have been wrong," but they still insisted that "if our strategic rationale for war has collapsed, our moral one has not." But by December 2006 -- hundreds of thousands of dead bodies later -- that very partial acknowledgment of wrongdoing turned into this: "The New Republic deeply regrets its early support for this war."

Also in 2004, The New Republic endorsed Joe Lieberman for the Democratic nomination for President, using its endorsement to attack Howard Dean and his liberal supporters as suffering from "an old Democratic affliction: an excessive faith in multilateralism and an insufficient faith in the moral potential of U.S. power" and said that Dean supporters were "dangerously out of touch with a country that feels threatened by terrorism, not Donald Rumsfeld."

Despite those forced mea culpas and reversals, TNR never actually learns. Today -- in a post bearing the very sensible and Serious title: "Keeping FISA in Perspective" -- TNR is here, via Josh Patashnik, to tell you that there's nothing truly disturbing about the FISA bill that is about to pass. What's more, those who think there is, and those who want to oppose Democrats who support the bill, are -- just like war opponents of 2003 and Lieberman opponents of 2006 -- nothing more than shrill, hysterical radicals who are irresponsible and even insane:

There's no question the FISA compromise is very disappointing in a few respects, most notably because it means there will (apparently) be no judicial pronouncement on the legality of Bush's wiretapping program. I'm torn as to how I would have voted on the bill, were I a member of Congress. But it is most certainly not a threat to constitutional government in America, and to suggest that it's of such extraordinary, overriding importance as to merit primary challenges from the left against Democrats in center-right districts is, quite simply, nuts.
It's not "nuts" to give the President vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers, permanently conceal Bush's lawbreaking, or give amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms. It's "nuts" to oppose those corrupt measures and try to defeat politicians who support them.
So that's why the new republic sucks, but we knew that. The larger point is what's truly devastating:

The reason these posts are worth noting is because they so perfectly capture the mindset that needs to be undermined more than any other. It's this mentality that has destroyed the concept of checks and limits in our political system; it's why we have no real opposition party; and it's why the history of the Democrats over the last seven years has been to ignore and then endorse one extremist Bush policy after the next. It's because even as The New Republic Syndrome has been proven to be false and destructive over and over -- even its practitioners have been forced to recognize that -- it continues to be the guiding operating principle of the party's leadership.

The defining beliefs of this Syndrome are depressingly familiar, and incomparably destructive: Anything other than tiny, marginal opposition to the Right's agenda is un-Serious and radical. Objections to the demolition of core constitutional protections is shrill and hysterical. Protests against lawbreaking by our high government officials and corporations are disrespectful and disruptive. Challenging the Right's national security premises is too scary and politically costly. Those campaigning against Democratic politicians who endorse and enable the worst aspects of Bush extremism are "nuts," "need to have their heads examined," and are "exactly the sorts of fanatics who tore the party apart in the late 1960s and early 1970s." Those who oppose totally unprovoked and illegal wars are guilty of "abject pacifism."

It's exactly that mentality that has brought us to where we are as a country and a political system today. It's not at all surprising -- and wouldn't have surprised the Founders in the least -- that a radical and corrupt political faction (the Bush-led Right) has been able to take over parts of the Government and sought to consolidate political power. The expectation was that this would happen, and the solution was to devise a litany of checks -- the Congress, the media, opposition parties -- that would stand up to and vigorously oppose that faction and prevent it from running rampant.

It's primarily the failure of those institutions, rather than the emergence of a corrupt and lawless faction, that has made the Bush era so unique and distinctively destructive. Those institutions have failed because they have been, and continue to be, defined by the meek, amorphous, principle-free New Republic Syndrome, which thinks that its restrained tolerance and complicit embrace of patent Bush extremism is some sort of mark of political sophistication and Seriousness.

And this is why it's a big deal. Greenwald links to a blog called Unfogged which I hadn't read before, but it's writer offers two depressing predictions:
1. This pattern of behavior is so deeply ingrained in the Democrats that they will continue to quake in fear of a wildly unpopular party that just imploded under its own stupidity and hubris.
2. Despite a far weaker electoral position than the Democrats ever had to deal with, the GOP will have no problem behaving like an effective opposition party.
I agree 1000% with #2, and the jury is still out on #1, but it sure hasn't looked hopeful recently.

One of the original things I liked about Obama was his willingness to break with conventional wisdom in how to approach certain topics. His willingness to speak out on Iraq, the speech on race, his original talk about Palestine (until he completely obliterated that earlier this month) and his academic background on the US Constitution were places where I really thought he might change the debate. This worries me not because I didn't expect to be disappointed by Obama, but because the disappointments are coming in areas I didn't expect.

It's just that it doesn't add up in my book for a former constitutional law professor to endorse something that undermines the principles of the constitution... but I guess I'm old fashioned in that way.

It seems like this bill/fight would have been the definitive moment for Obama politics. It takes down the old dems weak on security frame replacing it with new dem leader defending the constitution frame... a fight that really should be 'post-partisan' and could easily be framed that way. I just don't get it.

New Republic syndrome is alive and well within the democratic party, and that's far more dangerous than any names the republicans will call us in the fall.

And when you hear the self congratulatory press releases from the rest of the dems over the next couple of days, keep this quote in mind from none other than Russ Feingold:
"That’s a farce and it’s political cover, anybody who claims this is an okay bill, I really question if they’ve even read it."

The McCain Plan or: “How I learned to stop worrying and cut the bullshit”

Decades of arguments, with no end in sight. Millions of dollars spent. A population divided into three distinct groups without any hope of reconciliation.

The grim battle between constructivists, primordialists, and instrumentalists may have finally been brought to a close, however. Ethnic conflict theorists from around the world will be happy to hear that Republican nominee John McCain has finally discovered the final solution for ethnic conflict! Yes, all it takes is getting the groups in question together and telling them to “stop the bullshit.” Attempts to forge unity and achieve reintegration can be called off immediately, as all you need is a touch of vulgarity with a side of ignorance. Word is already being spread across the internet, ethnic conflict theorists should soon be happy to hear that their life’s work has been in vain.

The media hasn’t yet discovered the rest of the McCain plan, however. Solving the Iraqi Shia and Sunni problem is just the beginning. The Train of Thought has received exclusive documents from the McCain Campaign detailing their plans for the rest of the world:
  • Israel vs. Palestine: “I’ll sit the Palestinians and Israelis down and tell ‘em ‘Push them into the sea!’ This will result in a hilarious game in which an Israeli team led by Olmert and a Palestinian team led by Abbas meet at a beach and wrestle for the future of their people! Whichever team pushes the other into the ocean first gets to keep the place. The losers have to pack up, although I’m sure I could help find a nice spot somewhere on the earth to declare their home, regardless of how the current occupants feel about it.”
  • China vs. Tibet: “I’ll sit the Chinese and the Tibetans down and tell ‘em ‘Culturally repress them all!’ This one is a bit more complicated. First we gather 1,000 Han Chinese and 1,000 Tibetans. The Han are given to the Dalai Lama, while Hu Jintao gets the Tibetans. Then all rules are off, with both leaders doing their best to repress the citizens. Deny them work, freedom of religion and expression, even administer brutal police beatings and stays in bleak gulags! Whichever leader has his charges feeling more repressed a month later wins. Winner gets Tibet. The only problem is that the Dalai Lama is a reincarnated god of compassion, whereas Hu Jintao has plenty of practice being awful to Tibetans. To even it out the Dalai Lama will get help from an expert team of China-repressers: a Japanese delegation and zombie Western colonial-era fatcats! I don’t foresee any problems with this one.”
  • Republic of Ireland vs. Northern Ireland: “I’ll sit down the Irish and the other Irish and tell ‘em ‘Drunkenly argue about Christian theological concepts!’ Yes, this one will be brought to a close as thousands of Irish and North Irish clergy argue the finer points of transubstantiation, consubstantiation, and the exact meaning and makeup of the Holy Trinity! Eventually Catholic and Protestant parishioners will be brought together as one to end the increasingly meaningless debates and reunite the island forever.”

For a man who just can’t get Shia and Sunni straight, these are some really innovative plans. Now all we have to do is pray that McCain can implement his policies after defeating the looming menace of the upcoming commu-secular-African-anti-American-Barackocracy this fall. Good luck, Senator!

Monday, June 23, 2008

John McCain Understands Ethnic Conflict

This gem, Via Atrios:
In May of 2006, as Iraq spiraled down into an orgy of sectarian bloodletting, John McCain had a solution. "One of the things I would do if I were president," McCain told a group of wealthy contributors, "would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, 'Stop the bullshit.'"
He then told the Kurds to shut their traps, while he demanded that the Iranians get off his lawn. John McCain has apparently adopted the Abe Simpson foreign policy.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Swift Boat Veterans Against McCain

Aside from a few mass email forwards, unofficial Republican attacks on Obama have been surprisingly absent from this year's presidential race. While "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" was unveiled in early May of the 2004 election cycle, and had ads on the air by mid-June, there are apparently no well-funded groups gearing up for 2008. Ready to Attack Obama, if Some Money Arrives, from today's New York Times, summarizes the situation:

No major independent effort to help Senator John McCain’s campaign has materialized. Although Republican operatives say something will eventually develop, alarm has spread among many, especially after Mr. Obama’s announcement on Thursday on public financing, raising the prospect that he will wield an enormous financial advantage over Mr. McCain in the fall.

Many reasons explain the absence of a serious independent effort at this point, Republican strategists said. Many wealthy donors who might be in a position to finance a 527 group, named for the Tax Code section that covers them, or a similar independent effort that is free to accept unlimited contributions are wary this time because of the legal problems that dogged many such groups after the 2004 election.

Major donors are said to be uncertain of Mr. McCain’s chances as Republicans face a decidedly unfavorable climate in the fall. Lingering, as well, is the possibility that they may anger Mr. McCain, who has a record of campaign finance reform and has in the past been critical of such groups.

Politico offers a deeper analysis of why the money hasn't materialized and won't be coming from the same sources as last time. A piece of the apparent poverty stems from preparations set in place during Hillary Clinton's long presumptive nomination, which soaked up both funds and energy in the production of work that cannot easily be used against Obama. Furthermore, it appears that none of the big-name donors who supported "Swift Veterans" are taking a hand in this election. And why should they, considering McCain's open disgust with that side of politics?

But, in explaining the absence of any anti-Obama groups this time around, every individual interviewed for this story cited the same central reason: a fear that their party’s nominee will publicly denounce them and hold a grudge.

“Both donors and operatives know how much [McCain] abhors these groups,” said John Weaver, the Arizona senator’s former chief strategist, referring to the independent groups that have thrived following passage of the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance law. “If he is ultimately successful and any of these groups played a significant effort in electing him, many believe, probably rightfully, that they would be ostracized.”

Another GOP strategist said that McCain’s denunciation of a 501(c)(4) which aired an ad in South Carolina last November touting McCain when his resources were severely limited sent a chilling message to potential independent expenditure groups.

McCain issued a public statement at the time calling on the group, spearheaded by GOP adman Rick Reed, to “cease and desist.”

"Anyone who believes they could assist my campaign by exploiting a loophole in campaign finance laws is doing me and our country a disservice,” McCain said then.

He used even stronger language after that, saying at a Texas town hall meeting in late February that 527s “are distorting the entire political process and they need to be outlawed.”

However, as both articles note, McCain has been careful not to strongly criticize Obama attack groups for the last few months, saying that he will not play "referee" during the general election. It is also possible that Obama's massive predicted financial advantage will spur republican donations.

Nor is the lack of widespread attacks caused by a lack of trying, but merely a lack of funds. Floyd Brown of has put the following two ads online, and pledges more:

The first ad, in particular, would be scary on a national level. In spite of being thoroughly and repeatedly debunked, the rumor that Obama is a "secret Muslim" has endured for months and was cited in post-primary interviews with voters in states that Obama lost. Seeing "evidence" for the rumor on television could cement many voters' mistaken impression that Obama is lying about a Muslim past, and provide a way for certain voters to maintain racist preconceptions in a more socially acceptable, though still disgustingly bigoted, manner.

However, there is reason to think that a campaign based on ads like that won't be as effective as the "Swift Boat" attacks, which called into question a core aspect of Kerry's appeal in a way that was difficult for Kerry to directly address. Obama's charisma, his on- and off-line media advantage, and his willingness to confront racial issues and "smears" openly and directly make him fundamentally less vulnerable to these sort of attacks. In fact, I'm hoping that race will be as much of a shield for Obama as it is an under-the-table liability: many television companies may refuse to run ads with strong racial overtones for fear of legal or financial consequences, and any race-based attack has the potential to backfire tremendously against McCain. If this is the best they've got, they may be in serious trouble even if money does materialize.

Still, mass funding or no, there's going to be some outrageous mudslinging in the next few months, and it won't always be possible to control the damage. The only real solution Obama has is to run so effective a campaign that a few points lost to disinformation won't hurt. And on that front, even without that totally insane 6/18-6/19 Newsweek poll, he's off to a good start.

EDIT: OK, PS, this is just great.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Profiles in Cowardice

Ladies and Gentleman, your Democratic congressional leadership, let by Maryland's own, Steny Hoyer: (via Glenn Greenwald)

George Bush's latest powers, courtesy of the Democratic Congress

CQ reports (sub. req.) that "a final deal has been reached" on FISA and telecom amnesty and "the House is likely to take up the legislation Friday." I've now just read a copy of the final "compromise" bill. It's even worse than expected. When you read it, it's actually hard to believe that the Congress is about to make this into our law. Then again, this is the same Congress that abolished habeas corpus with the Military Commissions Act, and legalized George Bush's warrantless eavesdropping program with the "Protect America Act," so it shouldn't be hard to believe at all.
So all the Attorney General has to do is recite those magic words -- the President requested this eavesdropping and did it in order to save us from the Terrorists -- and the minute he utters those words, the courts are required to dismiss the lawsuits against the telecoms, no matter how illegal their behavior was.

That's the "compromise" Steny Hoyer negotiated and which he is now -- according to very credible reports -- pressuring every member of the Democratic caucus to support. It's full-scale, unconditional amnesty with no inquiry into whether anyone broke the law. In the U.S. now, thanks to the Democratic Congress, we'll have a new law based on the premise that the President has the power to order private actors to break the law, and when he issues such an order, the private actors will be protected from liability of any kind on the ground that the Leader told them to do it -- the very theory that the Nuremberg Trial rejected.

Warrentless wiretapping and immunity for the telecom companies that spied on american citizens! That's what we voted for in 2006! Oh wait, there's more!:
So a deal has been reached on no-strings-attached war funding well into the next President's first year, and all the Democrats get out of it is a GI Bill that isn't paid for (they had to drop the tax on millionaires), some appropriations for flooding in the Midwest and Gulf Coast and modified unemployment insurance for an additional 13 weeks. That's not nothing, but given that it's a signing of a death warrant for tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis, it's perverse to even talk in terms of what you "get" out of the deal.
Wow, a blank check for war too! I guess if you're going to bend over for a president with an approval rating in the 20s, you might get it all done all at once right? And granted, it's not all the Democrats, but it's times like these when you find out who the real heroes are. Here's one of them, and one of my heroes, Russ Feingold on the bill:
“The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration.”
What a fucking beast.

It seems like all that's left is the voting, but there is a chance to turn this one around. There's that guy, who won all those votes, and is the new leader of the party... what will he do? If Obama came out against this, there is a very good chance this bill gets stopped dead in it's tracks. He is the new leader of the democratic party and all, wouldn't it be nice for once to have someone - you know- LEAD?

I was going to also write a post about Obama's working group on national security, but this has been too much enraging news for one day. And besides, if he comes out against this bill, I'll pull out the Will Smith Neuralizer and forget about this. (Banging head against wall)

And on a unrelated history nerd and one day late note... Happy Juneteenth! Now an official holiday in 29 states... most recently in California thanks to Arnold Schwarzenegger believe it or not!

UPDATE: John Cole at Balloon Juice add humor to the situation:
The Democratic Leadership as portrayed in a picture:

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Unspeakable Fury of Michael Savage

Over the last few days the outcome of Boumediene v. Bush has continued to garner reactions from across the political spectrum. I wouldn’t have assumed that a right dating back at least 793 years could possibly be this controversial, but here we are. The lines were drawn quickly with liberals, libertarians,* sane conservatives, and those generally interested in justice and the rule of law aligned against people stuck in a pre-1215 A.D. mindset.

Along with plenty of good analysis came the bad. Newt Gingrich, for example, called the outcome of Boumediene “worse than Dred Scott.” That’s right: assuring habeas corpus rights for those held by the U.S. is worse than the decision which said African Americans could never be U.S. citizens, and had no legal rights. In celebration of this bombastically hyperbolic stupidity, I may now take the precedent set by Newt to declare anything I dislike “worse than Dred Scott.” That sandwich I had for lunch today? Worse than Dred Scott. Weather last night? Worse than Dred Scott. New M. Night Shyamalan movie? Worse than Dred Scott. Newt Gingrich, as a human being? You called it, worse than Dred Scott.

Even by the shrill and awful standards set by Gingrich and McCain, however, Michael Savage is unbelievable. This guy is in a league of his own. Read this, and do keep in mind that this is coming from a guy who is not, as far as I know, infected with rabies or gamma radiation or anything:
Don't tell me they're entitled to a rational defense, I'm so sick of this -- I could rip my desk and it's made of iron. I feel like Superman right now, I could take my hands and break my desk, that's how enraged I am today, I'm choked up with anger.

Ahahahahahahahahahaha, this is literally the 8th time I’ve read that, and I’m still laughing at how insane Savage is. But hey, you know what? Two can play at that game:

Hey Michael Savage, your unending capacity for intolerance makes me so angry that I could take my hands and rip up my desk, that’s how angry I am! It’s mostly made of wood but there’s some metal running along the bottom, I can’t tell how much because of the fact that I’m choked up with rage. Anyway after I rip up my desk, I then swing it around really fast and smash it through the wall of my house, and then as it flies away towards the horizon I jump out of the hole in the wall and land on it, breaking all the laws of physics but it doesn’t matter because I’m just totally outraged and furious. So I’m riding this wrath-fueled desk through the air across most of the United States, and air controllers are really angry at me because seriously, how is that even possible? But it doesn’t matter at all, I’m sick of this and I’m filled with uncontrollable, indescribable rage.

After riding impossible currents of hot air and vexation for hours I land in Savagetown USA, famous home of Michael Savage! You’re there naturally and I can see that you’re really angry, plus I had heard your insane on-air rant a few hours ago where you said something weird about breaking a desk, but I’m definitely angrier than you. So angry, in fact, that I fix your desk using only ire and indignation, which are towards the less angry edge of my anger spectrum but are still way beyond any anger that you may be experiencing. After that I give you the must infuriatingly enraged lesson on the importance of civil liberties and personal freedom and how both of these things relate to the Constitution and the legacy of older documents like, say, the Magna Carta for example. Naturally this leaves you really bitter and resentful but also well-educated on exactly why your earlier position was so outrageously dumb. At this point I’m starting to run out of unspeakable fury so I do that same thing from before where I break all the rules of space and time and ride a desk back home.

So that, in conclusion, is how listening to Michael Savage makes me feel.

* Libertarians actually concerned with civil liberties, that is, not crazy people struggling against the overwhelming tyranny of the F.D.A. or Republicans too ashamed to admit their partisan affiliation anymore.

The Train of Thought Lounge: Radiohead

Howdy folks, it's another long-overdue installment of The Train of Thought Lounge, this time featuring one of the classic music videos of all time. It's Radiohead's "Just" off of 1995's "The Bends," widely seen as the band's breakthrough record in the U.S. If you aren't familiar with this video, just follow it all the way through to its particularly chilling ending. The song also kicks ass, might I add, and was covered by British superproducer Mark Ronson, who also made his own spoof version of the video.

Radiohead - Just

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

BARACK OBAMA salutes BIN LADEN while reading KARL MARX!?!

If you haven't seen one of the actual "Obama is secret MUSLIM" viral emails, this won't be quite as funny, but Slate decided to put their own email together, and it's brilliant:

From: [Redacted]
To: [Redacted]

There are many things people do not know about BARACK OBAMA. It is every American's duty to read this message and pass it along to all of their friends and loved ones.

Barack Obama wears a FLAG PIN at all times. Even in the shower.

Barack Obama says the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE every time he sees an American flag. He also ends every sentence by saying, "WITH LIBERTY AND JUSTICE FOR ALL." Click here for video of Obama quietly mouthing the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE in his sleep.

A tape exists of Michelle Obama saying the PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE at a conference on PATRIOTISM.

Every weekend, Barack and Michelle take their daughters HUNTING.

Barack Obama is a PATRIOTIC AMERICAN. He has one HAND over his HEART at all times. He occasionally switches when one arm gets tired, which is almost never because he is STRONG.

Barack Obama has the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE tattooed on his stomach. It's upside-down, so he can read it while doing sit-ups.

There's only one artist on Barack Obama's iPod: FRANCIS SCOTT KEY.

Barack Obama is a DEVOUT CHRISTIAN. His favorite book is the BIBLE, which he has memorized. His name means HE WHO LOVES JESUS in the ancient language of Aramaic. He is PROUD that Jesus was an American.

Barack Obama goes to church every morning. He goes to church every afternoon. He goes to church every evening. He is IN CHURCH RIGHT NOW.

Barack Obama's new airplane includes a conference room, a kitchen, and a MEGACHURCH.

Barack Obama's skin is the color of AMERICAN SOIL.


Barack Obama says that Americans cling to GUNS and RELIGION because they are AWESOME.

In other news, this is proof that Jack could write for slate, and probably should. The pay would sure be higher than the flavored rum and Dr. Pepper stipend he gets from this blog.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Future of Boumediene v.

There's been a lot of focus on Scalia's Boumediene v. Bush dissent over the last few days, in part because the enemy combatant clause in the 5th amendment is the constitutional grounding for Bush's case, and Scalia focused on that issue directly and immediately.

Roberts's dissent was interesting too, though. He also considers the detainees "alien" "enemy combatants," but leaves it to Scalia to lay out that side of the conservative position.

Instead, he argues that habeus corpus is a poor way to get at the central issue of the case, which is whether the rights of these people are infringed by Bush's rules. Specifically, he finds it problematic that the court never specified precisely which rights the detainees have, which will create further legal problems in the future (and presumably grant "terrorists" rights that he doesn't want them to have). Here's an excerpt from his introduction, which I got from FindLaw:

The Court does eventually get around to asking whether review under the DTA is, as the Court frames it, an "adequate substitute" for habeas, ante, at 42, but even then its opinion fails to determine what rights the detainees possess and whether the DTA system satisfies them. The majority instead compares the undefined DTA process to an equally undefined habeas right--one that is to be given shape only in the future by district courts on a case-by-case basis. This whole approach is misguided.

It is also fruitless. How the detainees' claims will be decided now that the DTA is gone is anybody's guess. But the habeas process the Court mandates will most likely end up looking a lot like the DTA system it replaces, as the district court judges shaping it will have to reconcile review of the prisoners' detention with the undoubted need to protect the American people from the terrorist threat--precisely the challenge Congress undertook in drafting the DTA. All that today's opinion has done is shift responsibility for those sensitive foreign policy and national security decisions from the elected branches to the Federal Judiciary.

I don't know enough about the law to say whether he's right about habeus corpus being too procedural to get at the question of these people's rights: it seems, to me, like precisely the place where an argument should take place.

Nevertheless, much of the commentary (and even the court itself, if Roberts is to be believed) has treated this as a complete indictment of Bush's policies regarding Guantanamo detainees. But Roberts is definitely not thinking along those lines, and anticipates more and more difficult casework in the lower courts – casework that will probably strip away rights that progressives will not be comfortable with stripping away, and ultimately keep things the way they were before this ruling.

So, cause for celebration, yes; outright victory, no. We shouldn't forget that these successes only undo some of the damage caused over the last eight years, and the ideas and sentiments that drove the acceptance of Bush's policies are alive and well in this country.

Still, at least there's a judge and jury involved now.

Vote Donna Edwards! Update: She wins!

If you're in MD-04, be sure to get out and vote in the completely-not-publicized-nearly-at-all special election being held today. It's basically a formality, but it's still important to get out there and do the do the damn thing.

And for more reasons why Donna's race is important on a national level, here is a great piece by David Sirota from a few days:

Arianna is right that "It wasn't elected officials who led the struggle for civil rights or the drive for women's rights or the fight to end the war in Vietnam or the war in Iraq - it was the people." More specifically, it was the people making politicians more scared to support the status quo than to support change.

Yes, we're back to the concept of fear - and how to make it work for positive ends.

Progressives too often assume - probably because we are optimists - that Democrats will do the right thing if they just have power. We want to believe - even as Democratic politicians have undermined our hopes time and time again, whether it was Bill Clinton ramming NAFTA through Congress, or congressional Democrats giving the most unpopular president in history blank checks for the most unpopular war in history.

But that's not how political power works.

Politicians react to fear - fear of being thrown out of office. And so fear is the fuel of change. If we want real change - if we want Democrats to stand up on the war - we have to make them fear for their jobs if they continue supporting the war.

Ned Lamont proved this thesis. When he defeated Joe Lieberman in the 2006 Connecticut Democratic primary, he made every other Democratic incumbent afraid - and suddenly, more Democrats started echoing Lamont's strong antiwar messages. It was a big change.

Of course, many of these same Democrats have continued supporting the war through their votes. And so that means we have to ramp up the accountability machine. We have to make Democrats fear for their jobs should they keep supporting this war. To put it in FDR terms, for those of us who want an end to this war, we have nothing to fear but a lack of fear itself.

Just like Ned Lamont, Donna Edwards also represents a warning to the rest of these Democrats. Keep acting like a punk and get tossed out on your ass.

Update: She wins with 81% of the vote! Did not know this at the time, but she is also the first African American woman elected from the state of Maryland!

Welcome to the Big Show, Donna. Do us proud!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Train of Thought Field Trip: The Wonders of Conservapedia

These are truly dark days for the modern American conservative. Just two years ago the Republicans lost both the House and the Senate, and their chances in the upcoming Presidential election look grim. Their voice in the media has been largely silenced, as long as you ignore talk radio and Sunday morning politics shows and a lot of cable news programs and major newspapers. George Bush can’t even get away with ignoring habeas corpus anymore, thanks to activist judges with an insistence on protecting civil rights! It’s enough to shake even the strongest persecution complex. Now, however, their enemies have opened yet another front: the internet.

Lately it has been argued that Wikipedia, for example, has become biased. At first it might be tempting to say that people making these claims should just go to Wikipedia itself and edit the articles- after all, anyone can do it. The only problem is that you’ll need to cite your edits, which as it turns out is rather difficult for some people. Want to delete everything in the Obama article and replace it with a poorly written all-caps rant about how he’s a secret Muslim terrorist radical anti-white sleeper cell Black Panther jihadist? Fine, but you’re going to have to cite a source somewhat more reliable than an NRC press release.

Luckily the brave men and women of have risen up to defend their right to write insane things on the internet. First, they started by pointing out examples of the liberal bias wikidemonstrated on wikiwikipedia:

Wikipedia gives favored treatment to anyone who promotes the homosexual agenda.

Wikipedia has an entry on "Gun Politics in the United States" that falsely claims that "Gun politics as a political issue dates to the earliest days of the United States."

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is listed under the category "American propaganda films."

Wikipedia has an extensive entry on "Creation myth"… and although the theory of evolution satisfies Wikipedia's definition of "myth", Wikipedia never describes it as a "myth".

Wikipedia described the People for the American Way, which is a liberal advocacy group, as a "progressive advocacy organization"

Wikipedia allows hundreds of thousands of obscure and offensive entries, such as unsuccessful punk rock groups and silly television shows.
Tolerance?! History?! Classifying an unabashedly anti-science propaganda film as… propaganda?! The word progressive?! Articles about punk rock bands?! Not on my internet! The entire list is 121 items long and located here, and is well worth a read if you have 8 hours to spare and deeply masochistic personality. Long rambling lists of Wikipedia wikifaults isn’t the only thing Conservapedia is good for, though. Get a load of truth as presented for the first time without the liberal filters, distortion fields, and facts that you’re used to.

First, and perhaps most baffling, consider the article on the kangaroo. The media has stifled the red-hot topic of kangaroos for some time now, allowing liberal lies to obfuscate the true nature of the animal. You see-
Consistent with their view that the fossil record as a whole does not support the evolutionary position, creationists state that there is a lack of transitional fossils showing an evolutionary origin of kangaroos… According to the origins theory model used by young earth creation scientists, modern kangaroos are the descendants of the two founding members of the modern kangaroo baramin that were taken aboard Noah's Ark prior to the Great Flood.
Here I was, worried that kangaroos support gun control or perform abortions or something! It’s safe to say that when one is curious about the specifics of evolution, the best source to go to is young earth creationists. Along those lines, questions about eating meat should be forwarded to JJ, questions about sports to me, and keep in mind that John McCain is great for computer problem troubleshooting.

Ever found a statement by Ann Coulter offensive? Anything will do, from hoping for a terrorist attack on the US to calling John Edwards a faggot to saying that liberals are driven by Satan.
Her comments are frequently controversial and her critics often feign being offended.

Ah, turns out you weren’t really offended, you were just faking! A few short clicks from the Ann Coulter page is the Hollywood values article, which waxes poetic about the inexplicable hatred Hollywood has for the rest of the country, and includes this gem:
Trashing hotel rooms is a favorite form of offensive behavior by Hollywood types. Many examples are readily available on the internet.

I’m honestly not even sure where to start with that one, so instead of writing about it I’m off to watch some videos of “Hollywood types” engaging in “a favorite form of offensive behavior.” Try not to waste too many hours browsing this fantastic addition to the internet.

To Russert, with love

Tim Russert was everything I aspire to be as a journalist, and more. The outpouring over the weekend speaks to why he was so good at his job. Russert just gave off the sense that he would be just as personable face-to-face as he seemed to be on television. He seemed like the kind of guy that could be your friend if you met him in real life, while simultaneously treating his job with the utmost respect and professionalism.

Many of his colleagues have spoken about his dedication and passion for political journalism, both of which shined through whenever he was on. 

Simply put, Tim Russert was a damn good journalist, and evidently an even better human being.

Another reason it was so easy for me to identify with Russert was his passion for sports, which he would frequently mention during important political coverage (how gangsta!). Born and raised in South Buffalo, he loved the Bills and constantly repped them to the fullest. Not only that, but living in Washington, he adopted the re-born Nationals as his own and was a season ticketholder of theirs and the Wizards. 

As linked to on Japers' Rink, here is one of his signature sports-related sign-offs on Meet The Press that held a particularly special place in my heart.

I'm gonna miss you, Tim.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Friday, June 13, 2008

What part of Vassal State didn't you understand?

Some good news out of Iraq:

AMMAN, Jordan - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says talks with the United States on a longterm security agreement have reached a "dead end." Al-Maliki says the talks slumped because each side refused the other's demands.

He says the initial framework agreed upon was to have been an accord "between two completely sovereign states." But he says the U.S. proposals "do not take into consideration Iraq's sovereignty."

The prime minister said Friday "this is not acceptable." The American demands "violate Iraqi sovereignty. At the end, we reached a dead end."

Washington and Baghdad have been negotiating behind closed doors a deal that would give U.S. troops legal grounds for an extended stay in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires Dec. 31.

Fucking savages, thinking we'd let them have their own sovereign country! The nerve, after all that we've done for them.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

It's been a long time comin'

A historic moment occurred for Capitals fans tonight, as Alexander Ovechkin became the first player in team history to win the NHL's Hart Trophy, given annually to the league's most valuable player. In addition to Ovie's milestone, coach Bruce Boudreau was honored with the Jack Adams trophy for coach of the year, the first given to a Caps coach since Bryan Murray in 1984. Furthermore, Ovechkin won the Lester B. Pearson award for MVP, as voted by the NHL players themselves, joining his Maurice "Rocket" Richard (most regular season goals scored) and Art Ross (most regular season points) trophies in his total awards cache.

It's not as if this man could become any more impressive going into the awards ceremony, but somehow, that's exactly what he did. Ovechkin just defies logic at every possible turn. A 22-year-old, hard-working, polite, humble, team-oriented superstar in this current climate of athletes is simply not something you see very often. I've been in attendance at the Verizon Center when he receives the puck in the midst of play and the buzz that resonates throughout the building at that very moment is unlike anything I've experienced before. The whole crowd is just expecting him to do something unexpected. With a haul of 65 goals and 47 assists last season, they had every reason to do so.

Granted, the Washington Capitals have only been in existence since 1974, a relatively short lifespan compared to other clubs in the league. In that short history, the Caps can claim a few truly great players, or players that would go on to achieve greatness after having played with us.

But Ovechkin is something entirely different.

For the first time ever, the Caps have, without a doubt, the best player in the league (and the world, for that matter). Really, when has any Washington sports team ever had the best player in its respective sport? The Wizards had Jordan, but way beyond his prime. The Bullets won an NBA championship led by Wes Unseld, but in no way was he the best player in the league. Honestly, I can only think of Sammy Baugh for the Skins and maybe Walter Johnson of Washington Senators fame, each one of them playing decades upon decades ago.

What I'm trying to say is that Alexander Ovechkin is truly re-writing history in the here and now. I feel like it will be a really significant thing to say you got to see him in person one day. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I hope tonight's haul of trophies will lead to Ovie lifting the most prestigious one of them all in the future.


Labor and Progressives responds to Obama's Furman Hire

This is fantastic news:
WASHINGTON -- Labor union officials and some liberal activists were seething Tuesday over Barack Obama's choice of centrist economist Jason Furman as the top economic advisor for the campaign. The critics say Furman, who was appointed to the post Monday, has overstated the potential benefits of globalization, Social Security private accounts and the low prices offered by Wal-Mart -- considered a corporate pariah by the labor movement.

Officials from several labor organizations phoned the Obama campaign to complain about the appointment and circulated e-mail messages containing quotes from some of Furman's work. Campaign officials responded that some of the quotes were inaccurate or out of context. They expressed confidence in Furman's abilities and said that Obama would be listening to an array of advisors.

The dispute is a fresh reminder that sharp divisions on economic policy remain in the Democratic Party, even though the bruising fight for its presidential nomination has ended. Those divisions are likely to present a recurring problem for Obama, especially as he tries to ward off GOP accusations that he is too liberal.

And Obama is not the first Democratic presidential candidate to confront the problem. Sen. John F. Kerry faced it in 2004. Going farther back, liberal activists resented former President Clinton's support for free trade, deficit reduction and other centrist policies.

Furman, 37, is linked closely to Robert Rubin, a Wall Street insider and Clinton economics aide who eventually became Treasury secretary. Rubin's views on global trade and deficit reduction riled liberal economists and labor activists, though his presence gave the Clinton administration valuable credibility in the business and financial communities.

"We are very much taken aback that Furman has been put at the head of this team," said Marco Trbovich, a senior aide to United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard, whose support is considered crucial to Obama's success in heavily unionized areas of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Minnesota and other battleground states.

Trbovich worked with Furman during Kerry's presidential campaign, in which Furman was also an economic advisor.

"He is a very bright fellow, but he is an unalloyed cheerleader for the trade policies that have been very destructive to manufacturing jobs in this country," Trbovich said. "There are very serious concerns" about his appointment.

Perhaps the most enraging part of the record, according to Trbovich and others, were comments attributed to Furman on Wal-Mart.

In a paper presented in Washington, he suggested that there were some economic benefits from the company's low prices and other policies at a time when major labor unions had launched an anti-Wal-Mart campaign.

Furman worked most recently as a budget expert at the Brookings Institution in Washington heading the Hamilton Project, an economic policy research group. It was founded by Rubin, who now chairs the executive committee of Citigroup Inc.

Lori Wallach, a lawyer and leading opponent of free-trade policies, said the appointment was jarring from a policy and a political perspective.

"Furman seems like a liability, given his anti-worker writings and statements about Wal-Mart, fair trade and other middle-class issues," said Wallach, director of Public Citizen's global trade watch division.
From The New York Times:
Labor union leaders criticized the move, and said that “Rubinomics” focused too much on corporate America and not enough on workers.

“For years we’ve expressed strong concerns about corporate influence on the Democratic Party,”John J. Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, said Wednesday in a statement implicitly critical of the symbolism of the appointment, no matter Mr. Furman’s economic skills.

The Obama camp has cast Mr. Furman, 37, as an experienced operator in Democratic election campaigns, whose task is to tap the expertise of economists representing a broad spectrum of views. “My own views, such as they are, are irrelevant,” Mr. Furman said.

The Democratic Party often struggles to balance the conflicting demands of corporations and labor, and Mr. Furman’s appointment rang some alarm bells that Mr. Obama might be tilting toward the corporate side — a tilt that Mr. Rubin says does not exist. He argued in an interview on Wednesday that his views were essentially in line with Mr. Obama’s already stated policies.

“I totally support Obama,” Mr. Rubin said, acknowledging his long allegiance to Hillary Clinton. “I was not going to leave Hillary until she pulled out,” he said, adding: “I think Barack Obama is very well equipped to provide the presidential leadership that the country very badly needs in a rapidly changing world.”

Mr. Furman, who served as an adviser in John Kerry's 2004 campaign for president, came to his new post suddenly on Monday, moving hastily to Chicago, where Mr. Obama has his headquarters. Until Friday, he was director of the Hamilton Project, a policy research operation founded by Mr. Rubin, who is now chairman of the executive committee at Citigroup. Mr. Rubin provides financing for the project, along with other wealthy Democrats.

Of particular concern to labor is the Hamilton approach to trade. While labor wants restrictions that would preserve jobs, the Rubin camp wants free trade that might cost jobs but would be offset by a broader safety net channeling more income support and job training to the job losers. Mr. Obama talks of “fair” trade agreements that include labor and environmental standards, a position that falls short of what Mr. Sweeney has in mind.

In his statement criticizing Mr. Furman’s appointment, Mr. Sweeney said, “The fact that our country’s economic policies have become so dominated by the Wall Street agenda — and that it is causing working families real pain — is a top issue we will be raising with Senator Obama.”

This is a very good sign for the labor movement, we'll see how Obama moves from here to see if it's also a good sign for progressive economic politics in an Obama administration. One of organized Labor's problems has been it's inability to pressure the democratic leadership on labor issues, and stop the party from siding with big business interests. Well, clearly as this story shows that divide is alive and well, but the good news is that the labor movement is making their displeasure known, and hopefully that can serve as a warning the Obama campaign to stop fucking up.

Like I said, doing this isn't just the right thing to do, it's smart politics. It bothers becayse I think this stuff is horrific policy wise... but it bothers me just as much that he's associating with clods who think republican-lite economic policy will help him win elections. That's really dangerous, because these fucks obviously have trouble adding up their own win-loss records.

Here's how he recovers. At the start of next week, he goes to Ohio or Michigan, and he announces that he will co-sponsor a truly progressive bill, the TRADE Act. That would assure labor that he isn't selling them out (and making sure they give 110% to elect him) in addition to giving star power to an important piece of legislation. There's not a chance in hell of this happening, but hey, more free advice can't hurt right?