Friday, August 29, 2008

How Sarah Palin is like Alan Keyes

This Sarah Palin VP choice reminds me a bit of the time, in 2004, when Jack Ryan had to drop out of his Senate race because of something to do with Seven of Nine, and so at a rather late-in-the-game moment the Republican Party needed someone to challenge Barack Obama. And apparently they decided that they needed a to put a black guy up against a black guy, so following a national search they very wisely drafted the extremely well-qualified and not-at-all-insane Alan Keyes, a bona fide Republican black guy, who promised to take the fight directly to the Democratic black guy.

In the end, of course, Barack Obama managed to eke out a narrow victory in that race with only a 43-point margin.

How is Palin like Keyes? Republican essentialism! Keyes was a way of saying, "We have black guys, too!" Palin is McCain reacting to Hillary Clinton candidacy by saying, "We have women, too!"

Listen, there is something significant about having a woman on a national ticket, period. It's even possible that Palin could turn out to be a tactically smart pick -- if Palin does a bang-up job, or (more plausibly) if Democrats overplay their hand in attacking her.

I just think it's not great politics for a party to allow the machinery of its decision-making to be quite this transparent. Like Keyes, Palin fits one essential characteristic but comes with a whole menu of more serious political problems. My gut feeling is that this right now is the best day of publicity McCain will get out of his choice.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Kucinich requested the pierced tongue!

Okay, this is not exactly firsthand or verifiable, but I cannot keep it to myself, as it is perhaps the biggest scoop of my career. We have a delegate from Wausau who is attending the DNC and blogging about it for the Daily Herald. Today, she called in, and in the course of chatting, said that she sat behind Dennis Kucinich's hot wife while Kucinich was about to give his speech. And according to our woman in Denver, Elizabeth Kucinich was overheard to say:
Yeah, Dennis told me to get my tongue pierced because he thought it would be better for sex.

How boring was Kathleen Sebelius?

Excruciatingly boring! This is the problem with experiencing politics mostly on paper, as an internet observer, which is what I do. I believed Sebelius could have been a good VP choice because of all sorts of stats and figures and policies and attributes I knew about her -- all things that seemed to make sense in the abstract. But I literally had no idea that she was so boring.

Not that it takes away from any of her policy accomplishments, but my goodness, I am sleepy just remembering that speech...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Most eybrow-raising line I read today

"Fewer people visited Barcelona in 1992, its Olympic year, than in 1991."
From Tim Harford's post on what London can expect from the next Olympic games. He goes on to write:
"If a sporting spectacle was all that was promised, the games would be an unproblematic affair. The Los Angeles games in 1984 focused on the sport, using existing facilities and renting student dorms instead of building an athletes’ village. It turned a huge profit."
I always suspected the economic effects of an Olympics are vastly overblown. But perhaps the diplomatic effects still make it worthwhile in some cases, hence China's heavy lobbying for this year's games. Read more of his column here. Here is one article skeptical of optimistic claims. Here is one convinced Atlanta hit the jackpot in 1996.

Oh Scarborough...

Shuster has always been a very appealing talking head to me, and this clip makes me like him even more. The basic structure of this argument seems akin to any number of drunken bar debates which, as far as I understand, were not broadcast nationwide. I always felt like Scarborough, with his 6 hour morning time slot or whatever it is, was an otherwise sensible man driven to talk radio like antics because of the need to fill dead air.

If you make it through, dig the clip at 8:30 where Joe tries to reconcile, while still insulting Shuster.

Meanwhile RNC fundraising ticked noticeably upward

"Bill Clinton appeared to undermine Sen. Barack Obama again Tuesday.

"The former president, speaking in Denver, posed a hypothetical question in which he seemed to suggest that that the Democratic Party was making a mistake in choosing Obama as its presidential nominee.

"He said: 'Suppose you're a voter, and you've got candidate X and candidate Y. Candidate X agrees with you on everything, but you don't think that candidate can deliver on anything at all. Candidate Y you agree with on about half the issues, but he can deliver. Which candidate are you going to vote for?'"

Monday, August 25, 2008

"In order to create a more perfect union..."

My insider contacts tell me this video will will be prominently played at next week's Republican National Convention.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden and me

Obama's choice of Joseph Biden as VP candidate has a mixed reflection on AMillionMonkeys. I was touting his foreign policy knowledge back in fall 2006, and by December 2006 I was proposing him as a potential Obama VP candidate.

By all rights, this should be a day of triumph for me, and I should be crowing and touting my prescience to everyone who will listen. But then in March 2007, probably as Biden was getting in trouble for one or another verbal gaffe, I wrote that "My idea that he'd potentially make a good VP candidate surely ranks among this blog's most embarrassing errors in judgment." Noooo! I snatched pundit defeat from the jaws of pundit victory.

(The only thing that keeps that post from being an utterly embarrassing error in judgment is that I was still pushing Biden as Secretary of State.)

Lesson: Never, ever change your mind!

The Old Man and the "B"

So as I'm reading the early AP stories about Barry's run with Biden, I come across the usual blather about other short-listers -- Sibelius, yadda yadda, Bayh, yadda yadda, Kaine....Chet Edwards!??

Apparently I wasn't the only one who had this reaction. Drudge linked to another story with the teaser "Chet?" Am I the only one who missed this name? CNN has this line in their Veep story: "This month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touted Edwards as a dark horse contender for the No. 2 spot on the ticket."

Really? Where was I? Man, not having a TV is really making me feel out of the loop. I mean, did his name even show up at Wonkette? If not then this is some seriously deep cover shit.

Friday, August 22, 2008

game changer?

we all know obama's crew registered loads of new voters... but a 72 percent increase in registered democrats in ohio?

that's pretty heavy.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Lame comeback

Today on a political story published on my paper's site, someone posted a rather passionate comment about the number of Americans without health insurance, the slowing economy, the war in Iraq. Passionate but not without some thought behind it. And someone else responded this way:
Yeah what a crappy country. Why don't you abort some babies you'll feel better!
And some people say the Internet debases the discourse...

Angry debate guy

Sure, we've seen the angry debate coach who moons a classroom:

We've even seen the remixed version...

Here is that same guy, in a somewhat more contemplative mood, about how the whole thing is really just about the magic of debate and keeping hegemony from marginalizing and running over the opposing viewpoints and so on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Let's everyone stop comparing homosexuality to pedophilia, from now on, forever. Homosexuality is one thing, pedophilia is another thing -- a different thing. Everyone is perfectly comfortable keeping it that way: two different, not-related things. People, for the last time, not everything is a slippery slope.

There are worse jobs than yours

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I am like Michael Phelps

My column about the many striking similarities between myself and Michael Phelps can be read here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Job Opening

This job posting has been making the rounds on the Hill recently:

Staff Assistant Congressman Hova’s Office has an immediate opening for a Staff Assistant. Responsibilities include running the streets, stacking cheese, and assisting House offices in tasks such as rain making and “tricking hoes in polo clothes”. Applicants should be motivated, detail-oriented, possess excellent knowledge of gangsterness. Please send resume to H to the Izzo V to the izzay at NO SNITCHES!

[HT: FamousDC]

Sunday, August 10, 2008

R.I.P. Isaac Hayes

Great singer, also an underappreciated songwriter. With David Porter, Hayes wrote a slew of Sam & Dave's best songs, including "Soul Man":

And of course there was also "Chocolate Salty Balls"...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Obama should not have thrown Mazen Asbahi under the bus

My friend Aziz at City of Brass asks the Obama campaign, if it is going to keep firing Muslims for no real reason, "why even have a Muslim outreach advisor?":
Mazen Asbahi, appointed as national coordinator for Muslim American affairs by the Obama campaign, has resigned from his volunteer position because of claims that he has "ties" to the Muslim Brotherhood, and served on the board of advisors for an Islamic fund at the same time (8 years ago) as another member, Jamal Said who is a fundamentalist imam. Asbahi actually resigned from that position after only a few weeks, once he learned of allegations against Said. In other words, Asbahi got the jihadi cooties, which are kind of like a mixture of anthrax and herpes.

Obama continues to disappoint on this score. He still remains unable to state publicly that "no, I am not a muslim but it would make no difference even if I were." It would have truly been a hope-inspiring change to see him defend Asbahi and take on the whisperers, because caving to them makes them all the stronger. That would be audacity I can believe in.
I guess I am a bit less optimistic than Aziz when he says, later in the post, that "If any politician had the power or the pulpit to take on the ugly, dark side of American culture that Islamophobia represents, it's Obama." I think maybe no politician has that power -- and even if Obama it's possible Obama has it, right in the middle of a hard-fought campaign might not be the time to find out.

But that's not a defense of firing Asbahi, and it's not a defense of Obama's overall approach to dealing with "The Muslim Issue."

The campaign is right to have poured resources into combating the misperception that Obama himself is Muslim. But he needs to couple that with a statement -- at least one statement -- that although he is Christian, his fight-the-smears campaigns should not be understood to mean that all Muslims everywhere are bad.

I very much doubt that saying so would have a significant political cost, but it would have real benefits -- political, and even better, moral.

UPDATE [8/8 5pm] ... This wasn't just a bad call, it was a terrible call, as detailed by an emailer to Five Thirty Eight. (Thanks Matt for pointing me to this.)

Look, I think the moral case has to precede the political one here. But the political question raised by Haahnster is a fair one, and it's one addressed by the emailer directly:
If Obama doesn't want to stand up for Mazen on principle, how about standing up for him on pragmatism? Maybe he doesn't feel he needs to, since it's not like Michigan is a tipping point state in this election or anything. And it's not like Michigan has one of the highest concentrations of Muslims of any state in the union. And it's not like Mazen is from Michigan and his resignation is certain to depress turnout in the state from one of the Obama campaign's most reliable demographic bases. Seriously, who made this decision? Karl Rove?
By most measures (FiveThirtyEight's, prominently), Michigan is among the very most important swing states in this election. So besides having the effect of furthering a form of bigotry, this decision should be counted as a serious political fuck-up by the Obama campaign.

Monday, August 04, 2008

It could still be Kathleen

Like TNR's Eve Fairbanks, I also think Kathleen Sebelius is probably a better VP choice than Tim Kaine. Not only that, she has also been my official guess for who Obama will choose at least since Jim Webb dropped out. (My thinking is that Obama seems not at all worried about reinforcing his foreign policy bona fides -- sorry, Joseph Biden -- that he wants to aggressively make inroads in red states, and he seems to just really like Sebelius a lot.)

So for now at least, I am willing to buy into the Five Thirty Eight "Sebelius Shell Game" theory, that all these Kaine rumors are just a head-fake. Anybody else think this is at all a possibility?

R.I.P. Solzhenitsyn

Reading Solzhenitsyn's obituary, it strikes me that the existence of his entire career can be traced to a single decision made by, of all people, Nikita Khrushchev:
Mr. Solzhenitsyn owed his initial success to Khrushchev's decision to allow "[One Day in the Life of] Ivan Denisovich" to be published in a popular journal. Khrushchev believed its publication would advance the liberal line he had promoted since his secret speech in 1956 on the crimes of Stalin.
Khrushchev personally read and decided to permit "Ivan Denisovich" to be published as a part of the anti-Stalinist period of liberalization referred to as the "Khrushchev Thaw." Had he decided the other way, Solzhenitsyn probably would have had no career at all -- no Cancer Ward or The Gulag Archipelago or any of the other works that would end up alienating him from Khrushchev's successors and ultimately contribute to the downfall of the Soviet Union itself.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Jessica Kasten's story

I spent many hours over the past week and a half working on a long, difficult story about a family's history of alcoholism and drug abuse that is out today. Not very light Sunday reading, but I hope it is a worthwhile story.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

A good column by Bob Herbert is nothing unusual, and this is a very good one.