Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mitch Daniels' Social Values Truce

When Mitch Daniels' implored his fellow Republicans to declare a truce on social values, he probably had access to polling similar to Gallup's May Morality poll. The poll asks Americans whether they find a variety of practices (e.g. polygamy, medical research) and things (e.g. pornography, fur coats) morally objectionable. The Gallup top-line finding is that the most controversial moral issue in America is physician assisted suicide.

More relevant for the Daniels camp (in which I'm lazily including all of the socially libertarian elements of the Republican party), is that Gallup breaks out their findings for the top-three issues by partisan self-identification:

It doesn't take rigorous statistical training to see what's going on here. Democrats and Independents generally are pretty similar groups to one another on social issues. Republicans as a group are "different" from the rest of Americans on social issues. As my statistics professor would say, use the intra-occular impact test:

As a group, Republicans differ sharply from mainstream Americans on social issues.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Attention: Palin Isn't Running for President

The take-away from this Memorial Day news is that Sarah Palin isn't running for President. She's pissing off local supporters in Pennsylvania, along with her media targets. Also, her advance team forgot the first rule of political advance work: Never let the principal be photographed in a potentially embarrassing hat.

Palin's team is hardly even trying. Or maybe they're trying very hard to disqualify their candidate.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Closed for Memorial Day Weekend

Friendly heads-up: Don't expect any new content till at least Memorial Day.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Palin's Docudrama

Scott Conroy, a reporter at Real Clear Politics, broke the news that Palin is producing a film explaining her abrupt departure as governor of Alaska. The former-half term governor fled her responsibility to her state amid a flood of complaints of multiple and flagrant ethics violations, including using state resources for family travel. Similar complaints would be aired after the 2008 presidential campaign, when she abused staffers' credit cards and donations to purchase clothes and accessories for herself and her family.

Joshua Green at the Atlantic thinks that the film will be a disaster. I would tend to agree with him, but for different reasons. He sees a missed opportunity of showcasing pragmatic non-ideological leadership during Palin's half term, although I'm not sure that bridging differences between Alaska Republicans and Alaska Democrats is quite as impressive as the President's accomplishments of bridging differences between North Dakota Democrats and Vermont Democrats. Palin's audience is the Republican base, which is mostly interested in finding a candidate who is least like a democrat. Showcasing bipartisanship is not a winning strategy in the 2012 Republican primaries.

Gingrich Now Cheerleading Radical Right-Wing Social Engineering

I was willing to give Newt Gingrich some substantial credit for foreseeing the electoral problems that Ryan's Folly would walk the GOP through. Last week when Mr. Gingrich came out against the "radical" plan to remove medicare coverage and replace it with an annual check to insurance companies, it seemed like the sane political move. After all, Americans have about as much taste for "right-wing social engineering" as they do for using the metric system. The public resentment of Ryan's Folly was evident in the Republican forfeiture of a traditionally very conservative upstate New York congressional seat yesterday, in a race that revolved primarily around Medicare.

So you can imagine my surprise that after Newt Gingrich was proven right that Ryan's Folly is a Randian-phantasm too far for the American public, he flip flops and comes out with support for the disastrous Republican budget. In his letter today to the Republican House caucus, who pursued a lemming-like plunge in its unanimous April vote to end Medicare, Newt Gingrich pledged his support (and epistemic closure) to the House Republicans:
“Paul Ryan and the House Republicans are trying to save Medicare in a period of enormous economic and fiscal difficulties,” Gingrich wrote to lawmakers after the GOP suffered a loss in a special election in upstate New York Tuesday night. “THE ROAD AHEAD: CHEERFULLY KEEP TELLING THE TRUTH.”
That'll work- cheerfully keep telling Americans that a single-payer system like Medicare can be replaced by sending checks to insurance companies without serious losses in coverage, decreased efficiency, and skyrocketing debt for individual families.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Goldberg's Defense of Ryan's Folly Raises More Questions Than Answers

Jonah Goldberg's right-wing fan fiction knows no bounds. His Tuesday op-ed in the LATimes, "Run, Ryan, Run," is a particular disaster. Any aware political commentator could only mean this headline as a warning to Paul Ryan to get as far away from his disastrous budget proposal as he can. Goldberg unironically asks the Folly author to run for Presdient.

Not suprisingly, Goldberg's lyricism runs into several problems. This is the general argument:
  1. The Ryan's Folly will be the defining issue of the 2012 election.
  2. Ryan's Folly is massively unpopular, even among Republican candidates. Paul Ryan alone would be motivated to defend it.
  3. Only someone defendnig a far-right plan could pose as a credible alternative to President Obama.
  4. Therefore Paul Ryan should run.
You know, I was going to do a more in-depth debunking of some of the lies and hyperbole in Goldberg's piece, but that about sums up exactly where the conservative intelligentsia stands at this point. They are so out of touch with reality that they think that hurling insults at cost-control mechanisms in the Affordable Care Act will make everyone forget that the Republican party's only "big" plan is to end Medicare and replace it with a voucher that doesn't cover the cost of health insurance.

And then they throw in some class-baiting lines just to make sure you can't take them seriously.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Eric Cantor Has Lost Touch with Reality

I've been reading a lot of interesting articles today. The conversion of Media Matters founder from Conservative hit man to truth-arbiter, the absolute failure of leadership in the GOP House caucus, and the already-astounding success of Affordable Care Act implementation all seem worthy of note. None of those stories wraps up in a nutshell like this story that Pajamas Media (a right-wing propaganda outlet) drops in my lap:
Eric Cantor dropped this line in his speech to AIPAC, the largest American apologists for Israel's far-right regime:
Yet today the two-thousand-year-old dream of the state of Israel is in jeopardy. There is no other nation on Earth so routinely denied its right to exist and threatened with destruction.
I'm sorry, but what? Is Eric Cantor looking at a post-1948 map? Israel's Knesset would certainly be shocked to find that it presides over an imaginary state. It must be awfully terrible to be a Jew in Palestine right now, living under a Hamas-Fatah government.

Perhaps Eric Cantor simply mispoke (and misprepared his remarks). Palestinians of course have no permanent state, and Israelis would do well to find a partner for peace amongst their leaders. Palestinians would do well to support such a leader. And Israelis would do well to find a leader that actually wants to start a peace process, as Netanyahu clearly isn't interested in the job.

We learned last night that Eric Cantor also isn't interested in becoming that leader.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Harold Camping and the Tea Party #Rapture

It would be difficult to resist the urge to comment on the people who believe that May 21 represents the end of the world. So I won't. I'm looking forward to this weekend when Doomsday experts will have to pack up their crazy tent and go home. Harold Camping, will face transparent rebuttal from the universe, followed by the abandonment of most of his followers. Like many (but not all), false prophets, he'll become a footnote in the long history of also-ran Messianics and cult leaders.

You have to feel sorry for the friends and relatives of the Rapturists, who have to put up with a futureless nihlism:
Kino Douglas, 31, a self-described agnostic, said it was hard to be with his sister Stacey, 33, who “doesn’t want to talk about anything else.”

“I’ll say, ‘Oh, what are we going to do this summer?’ She’s going to say, ‘The world is going to end on May 21, so I don’t know why you’re planning for summer,’ and then everyone goes, ‘Oh, boy,’ ” he said.
Everyone else knows that their actions have consequences; the Rapturists will not be influenced by possible outcomes of their choices, leaving their friends and family members to manage their affairs as much as they can. This must be at least an annoying burden for the non-believers.

The relationship clearly parallels the dynamic tearing apart the Republican electoral coalition. Radical anti-government Tea Party voters, activists, and elected officials have little to no regard for consequences. John Boehner and classic Republican leadership have an interest in the continuation of the GOP as a viable party. They're like the religious family members of the Rapturists. They share the same belief structure of faith in the free market, but they haven't allowed their ideology to carry them out of this world. They still believe in consequences, but need to appease the crazy family members in order to feel secure in their own belief. Democrats are Kino Douglas here; they're willing to believe in the free market insofar as the belief doesn't actually impinge on the freedoms, dignity, and wellbeing of the country.

Christianity is many things to the Republican party, and while the religion's actual teachings on social responsibility don't seem to factor into GOP policy positions, the rapture framework certainly predicts Republican behavior. The radical anti-responsibility of the Tea Party makes a lot of sense if (and only if) policy doesn't have consequences. George Bush can run up a $10 trillion deficit and launch a recession because the nation doesn't need to survive past 2011. Climate change can continue unabated because it won't cause any problems for at least 20 years (excpet for the record tornado season and flooding this year). Tea partiers are asking, "Why are we talking about paying for Medicare and Social Security in 2035 when the world ends tomorrow?" At least family members of Rapturists will be able to get on with their lives when their loved ones return from the destructive path of self-righteousness. Americans might not have the same luck with the Republican leadership.

Footnote: I vaguely remember a story that George Bush cited the coming apocalypse/rapture as a tenet of his beliefs, but haven't been able to verify that exactly. I did, however, find that Bush White House officials reached out to Rapture preacher Jack Van Impe in 2004 in hopes of shaping contingency strategies based on biblical apocalypse scenarios. Ironically, of course, they overlooked the story of the great flood and totally mismanaged Katrina.

Apocalypse Now Redux: Just Like Another Other Day

Cult-like evangelical believers who predict that May 21 marks the end of teh world plan to spend tomorrow like they spend every other day:
Gary Daniels, 27, said he planned to spend Saturday like other believers, “glued to our TV sets, waiting for the Resurrection and earthquake from nation to nation.” But he acknowledged that his family was not entirely behind him.
Is that really what you would want to do with your last day on earth? Really?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why Mitch McConnell Should Heed His Own Advice

Senator Mitch McConnell is out with an anti-Liu screed "Why the Senate should reject Goodwin Liu. It decries the "leftward drift" of the nation, which is ironic because confirming the center-left jurist to the 9th circuit would actually make it more conservative on average. Of course, McConnell is ignoring the fact that the Republican caucus won't allow the Senate to reject Goodwin Liu; they're holding his nomination in limbo by filibustering the law professor.

There's certainly an argument that filibustering of judicial appointments is unconstitutional. The judicial nomination process is the only process in which all three branches of government are necessarily involved. The stranglehold of 40 senators over the other two branches' structural right to operate seems like an imbalance not intended by the framers. Whereas most inter-branch controversies are not amenable to suits, Goodwin Liu might actually have standing against the Senators holding his nomination (or conspiring to hold it), who are irreparably damaging his career prospects.

Also, the most curious line from McConnell's op-ed in the Hill:
Another part [of Obama's agenda] was making sure government calls the shots over private industry and elections
Because if there's one aspect of public or private life in which the government has no business, it's in ensuring free and fair elections. Damn democrats and democracy.

See New Yorker for Background

Today I read the New Yorker article on the war in Khost, including some background on the Haqqani Network, the K-G Highway, and the Zadran tribal leaders. Tonight, Haqqani-linked insurgents attacked road crews working on another road project in Patkia province. Security guards, workers, and engineers were attacked in their encampment at night. Of 80 men, 35 were left dead. Only 8 survived unscathed, with another 17 missing and 20 wounded, according to the Globe article.

Boehner Cuts

Tea party organizers don't believe that Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is willing to cut spending:
Boehner, in a May 9 speech in New York, did insist that any increase to the debt limit include "cuts in trillions." But conservatives expect the Republicans will not uphold his demand.
The "I pay enough taxes" party simply doesn't think that John Boehner is good on his word to cut spending from the federal budget. I wonder if they got that idea from the CBO report this week that the Republican budget increased spending this year. After they promised to cut $100 billion from federal spending this year.

Enter into the American political lexicon "Boehner cuts", a noun meaning "rhetorical cuts in spending that increase actual spending."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Smart Politics or Smartest Politics?

Here are some headlines for you:

Ryan Transforming Medicare Into Corporate Welfare

Representative Paul Ryan released a budget proposal in February which intends to turn Medicare, the government-administered single payer health care plan for American seniors into "premium support." The plan has the federal government cutting checks to private insurers, who will charge seniors even more money for the care that the insurance companies will ultimately deny for profit. Even Newt Gingrich called Ryan's Folly "radical" and "right-wing social engineering." The bizarrely abrupt and poorly considered plan has driven the NY-26 special election from a conservative cakewalk to a race in which the NRCC is dumping money to defend safe Republican territory.

Today, Ryan made a stunning admission about his plan, though staying far away from details to the Economic Club of Chicago:
Ryan reframed the entitlement cuts in his budget as "strengthen[ing] welfare for those who need it," and accused Democrats who have attacked his budget as engaging in class warfare.
The only recipients of benefits under Ryan's Folly are insurance companies. They receive a whole generation of customers who are kicked out of Medicare. For those Medicare recipients (those currently over 55 theoretically) who aren't directly affected by Ryan's Folly, the strength of the program's bargaining power in the marketplace (one of the few forces holding prices down in the health market) will dissipate. That means insurance companies will enjoy more customers with higher premiums. HMOs will receive additional corporate welfare under Ryan's Folly, receiving surplus funds from the federal government in addition to the premiums that they'll charge America's seniors. Ryan's plan to tax Americans to pay health insurance company bureaucrats is an enormous transfer of wealth into corporate pockets.

Ryan attacks critics of his plan--ostensibly me--as engaging in a class war. I suppose it's true; if people want to oppose an assault on the middle class that will artificially transfer wealth into the hands of a few insurance company executives, that pits them into a class war against Ryan's Folly. His plan is an attempt to plunder the middle class to unfairly benefit the wealthy and powerful. His critics are waging a battle to protect the modern American social compact against crony capitalism. It's a class war of necessity, whereas Ryan engaged in his attack as a class war of choice. To paraphrase Barack Obama, I am not opposed to all class wars, just dumb ones.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What the Constitution Doesn't Say

I've been absent from the debate about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act for a few months now. As the question has gained traction in the courts, it's become increasingly clear that my initial commerce clause analysis is a useful lens through which to view the controversy.

With Virginia v. Sebelius pending before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, it's a good time to reflect on the debate thus far. The anti-Affordable Care Act argument is either that it is not "necessary and proper" to regulate health insurance by levying a tax against those who do not carry health insurance or that Congress's power to regulate "interstate commerce" does not include the power to regulate health insurance.

Either way, the argument goes that regulation of an individual's inactivity of not buying health care is a bridge too far for Congressional power. I'm not sure what differentiates commerce power, under which inactivity is taxed, from military power, in which inactivity is criminalized. After all, where is the corollary argument that the draft is an unconsitutional usurpation of individual liberty?

The inactivity/activity distinction is a trivial semantic flip (i.e. opponents of the Affordable Care Act would be forced to say that Congress could raise taxes on everyone but provide credits negating the tax to people who purchase health care). It is pointless distinction, as the Constitution doesn't say anything nearly so silly.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Romney's Campaign: Incompetent or Sinister?

James Wimberly over at the Reality Based Community notices typology incompetence in Romney's logo:

Poor kerning? as he notes:
Somebody in the campaign put a lot of effort into getting this wrong.
The thing that strikes me about the text is that the the squished E and Y combine to set off the "omney" from the R. This visual trick very easily makes me misread the grey letters as "money." Possibly Romney's team has been reading too many pop-psychology subliminal messaging books.

It certainly wouldn't be the first time a campaign did something like this. George Bush's campaign released the "rats" ad in 2004 that included a single frame of that epithet mixed into images of prominent Democrats.

So I think my post is actually a trick question: Romney's campaign is incompetent and sinister.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Spending Cuts

Does anybody remember 2000, when America had lots of money?

A massive federal surplus promised to provide a solid financial foundation for national growth for years to come. Vice President Gore ran on the platform of protecting that surplus from wasteful spending, pledging to put the suprlus in a "social security lockbox," a phrase which became synonymous with the Gore campaign due to the SNL debate sketches.

Then George Bush became President. He directed Mitch Daniels to spend that surplus on tax giveaways to corporations and individuals who make more than a quarter million dollars in a year. At the same time, he plunged America into two costly wars, one unnecessary, that the military (and our national budget) is still fighting its way out of.

Now the Republican party wants Americans to trust them to cut spending. It's crazy. It's desperate. It's pathetic. But most of all, it's crazy desperate pathetic.

Trump's Collapse, Glenn Reynold's Idiocy

Two weeks ago, the President made some jokes about Donald Trump at the White House Correspondents' Association Dinner. At that time, Trump seemed like the frontrunner for the Republican nomination. The most biting line was when the President praised the tough choices that Trump faced on Celebrity Apprentice, whether to fire Gary Busey or Meatloaf; "These are the decisions that would keep me up at night. Well done, sir."

Glenn Reynolds predicted that this attention would "embiggen" Donald Trump. Instead, Donald Trump's support collapsed precipitously in the past two weeks. Here is what I wrote on the Sunday when Reynolds' piece appeared two weeks ago:
Reynolds made the seriously deranged argument that giving Trump attention is bad for the President. After all, Trump thrives on attention, right? Actually, Trump thrives on licensing royalties and real estate speculation. He also thrives under a ridiculous mullet toupee.
But I couldn't prove him wrong, and I only had my intuition to back up the fact that Trump could not bogart national media attention for long. In fact, Trump's general decline has now become the focus of media reports, starting with his removal from the Indianapolis 500 pace car, and then with the decline in Celebrity Apprenticeship viewership.

One major intervening event prompted Trump's downfall, the killing of Osama Bin Laden. When President Obama remarked, "Those are the decisions that would keep me up at night," he had already ordered the commando raid on Bin Laden's compound. He was constantly worried about the lurking possibilities of mission, intelligence, logistics, mechanical failures that could hand the United States a serious counter terrorism setback. This single moment underscores the shallowness of Trump's experience.

The lack of serious leadership on display from the Republican field makes them all vulnerable to this comparison with the President. While the President carried ordered the raid on Bin Laden's compound, Republican candidates have avoided entering the political fray. The Republican cowardice on display in the past three months disqualifies all of these candidates from challenging one of the most deliberate and decisive Presidents we have had since Roosevelt.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Credit Where Credit Is Due

Last sunday, an American commando team stormed Osama Bin Laden's compound, killing him and the couriers who sheltered him. This is without a doubt the single largest achievement in the international war on Al Qaeda and its affiliates. This week, President Bush and his national security team have claimed credit for the killing of OBL.

It's a piteously selfish move, based on the pretense that they put in motion the events that led to OBL's death. And to some degree this is true; the Bush national security team allowed OBL to survive in Tora Bora and failed to focus singlemindedly on Al Qaeda. The failure of the Bush Administration's 'Global War on Terror/Struggle Against Islamic Extremism' led to this moment precisely because it had not achieved the goal that President Obama secured. Similar logic tells us that the economic recovery over which Obama is presiding is a result of President Bush's economic policies for encouraging the Great Recession.

Success has many fathers, but in this case the only ones who contributed to it are the intelligence officers, soldiers, military leadership, and analysts who focused on the capture or killing of OBL. Toppling Saddam Hussein's regime did not net Bin Laden. Nor did torturing key Al Qaeda prisoners. In fact, waterboarding merely succeeded in providing a flat denial of intelligence that eventually did lead to OBL, the involvement in Al Qaeda of the courier.

The death of Osama Bin Laden is due to the counterterrorism policy that President Obama and his national security team put in place. It is not due to the President personally, or even his team as a whole. The killing of OBL is a vindication of every national security thinker, intelligence operative, and military leader who supported a traditional intelligence/law enforcement/targeted strategy of focusing on Al Qaeda.

President Bush and his team failed to do that, choosing unnecessary wars and torture over the tactics that brought us the death of America's most influential enemy.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Giuliani Praises the Lunatic Fringe

The President travels to New York today to view Ground Zero. President Obama will not be offering remarks only four days after he ordered the targeted assassination of Osama Bin Laden. The event is a watershed event in the war on terror, providing a treasure trove of intelligence on Qaeda operations as well as removing the ideological leader of the terror group. There are those, of course, who don't think it's a watershed event because they think it didn't happen.

Giuliani provided crucial support to these nut-case 'Deathers' with this statement on the decision not to release of a photo of Osama Bin Laden after two bullets tore apart the man's skull:
"Then you just relive the intensity of all this a month from now, two months from now, three months from now. Why not put them out now, satisfy at least the rational people who have questions about it," Giuliani said.
I wonder who the rational people are who don't believe that a JSOC operation launched on a compound in Abottabad succeeded in killing Osama Bin Laden after the U.S. military as well as the man's family confirmed the killing. Calling anybody with "questoins" about whether Osama Bin Laden was killed "rational" is completely absurd. I wonder if this is a misquote, and Giuliani meant to say "irrational." Sounds like a good follow-up question for him at his next dozen public appearances, doesn't it?

Remember When Republicans Wanted to Destroy Medicare?

Because I do, and so does the Congressional Record. 235 Republicans voted to end medicare two weeks ago. Now Republicans abandoning their principles. You just can't say these two sentences enough.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Peter King: Not All Bad

I'm definitely impressed by Peter King's apolitical sincerity today. His profile in the National Review regarding the killing of OBL is what we should expect from top American officials, elected or otherwise:
For the past two years, the Long Island Republican has been one of President Obama’s leading security critics on Capitol Hill. But this week, as he has heard more details about the Navy SEALs’ mission, he has been increasingly impressed by the president’s leadership. “I think that the president handled everything very well,” King says. “Think about this: There was no direct evidence that bin Laden was in that compound. Nobody saw him.”

“It could have been anything; it could have been a set-up, full of civilians, women, and children,” King surmises. “It could have been full of weapons and explosives to blow our helicopters out of the sky. Or it could have been absolutely nothing.”

“I understand that there were a number of people in the president’s circle who were opposed to the decision,” King observes, his eyebrow raised. “But with this operation, he never flinched, he never blinked. If it went the wrong way, it would have ruined his presidency, in the same way the helicopters in the desert did to Jimmy Carter.”
Whereas Palin has been attempting to take cheap, self-defeating shots at the President, and Republican presidential hopefuls provided obligatory homage to the military and intelligence agencies without acknowledging the leadership involved in actually making this momentous decision, Peter King provides an honest appraisal of the risks involved. Note to Republican politicians: more of this please.

It also appears that the ever-Republican-concerned National Review wheedled out a "Bush was responsible" quote from the Congressman, even though they couldn't get him to endorse the conservative line that torture played any role in delivering the intelligence that brought the U.S. to Bin Laden's doorstep.

To fully critique the article, I should mention this quote, which to me seems totally unwarranted:
“Giuliani is the only [potential Republican candidate] capable,” King says. “He is the one who has the credibility. Rudy, on terrorism, is the full deal. He would be strong on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen. He would also be strong on Guantanamo,” and on threats in “downtown New York and Minneapolis.”
What exactly is Giuliani's counterterrorism portfolio or expertise? I forget- was Times Square inhabited mainly by terrorists or strip clubs before Giuliani pushed them out of midtown?

Republican Cowardice, Part 2

Political junkies have noted that the first official Republican primary debate (this Thursday at 9pm EST) will be lacking the top four contenders for the Republican nomination. Gingrich, Palin, Trump, and Romney are shying away from the event. This forces Reuters to label Tim Pawlenty a "top-tier candidate," clearly indicating that they've never heard him speak. Regardless, these are the Republicans who aren't too chicken to show up for a preliminary debate:
Joining Pawlenty at the debate will be Representative Ron Paul, former Senator Rick Santorum, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and former Godfather's Pizza executive Herman Cain.
"Out with the old, in with the who?" indeed.

Undeclared candidate Mitch Daniels is fully candid that hiding at this point in the election cycle is a good strategy. Leadership is difficult, so why should Republican presidential candidates try their hand at it? Mitch Daniels himself is a keen Washington insider who helped President Bush turn the largest American budget surplus in history into the historic amount of debt the nation is digging itself out of. The former head of the Office of Management and Budget says he is shocked that May 4th isn't too late to start running for President, but because of the cowardice of the field, the opportunity remains for him to jump in.

All this avoidance of public scrutiny, debate moderators, and voters isn't preventing the candidats from taking cheap shots. Sarah Palin accuses President Obama of pussyfooting from her twitter hidey-hole. Palin apparently has split with her neocon advisers, who have been at her side since she was a vice-presidential candidate. Arguably, this is a good move, as McCain's foreign policy stance included that he would not launch the type of raid that President Obama ordered in Pakistan. So maybe Palin has learned something in the last three years.

All in all, it's been a bad week for Republican candidates. Donald Trump was mocked for nearly a quarter of an hour (if you include all the birther jokes) at the White Hosue Correspondents' Association Dinner, all the while the President had just ordered the killing of Bin Laden. Palin is projecting her "pussyfooting" onto the President, showing some serious psychological strain. Romney and Gingrich have attracted maybe a dozen headlines put together in the last week. Maybe they should follow in former Florida Governor Charlie Crist's footsteps and get a real job.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Taxonomy of Deatherism

Since President Obama's announcement on Sunday that the United States had found and killed Usama Bin Laden, a new conspiracy has erupted. Call it Deatherism, the basic tenet is that President Obama was not responsible for the death of Usama Bin Laden. As with Birtherism, the perisistent and demonstrably false ideology holding that President Obama is not a natural born American Citizen, Deatherism has many taxonomical groups that seem to be appearing.

Many of the same American conservative figures who have played a roll in spreading the Birther Cause are involved here. Rupert Murdoch, Pamela Geller, World Net Daily, et al. just want to embarrass President Obama. This time, they are joined by supporters of Al Qaeda and violent anti-American extremists who are hoping to discredit the American forces and the country as a whole after a visible and stunning victory in the war on terror. The Death Eater taxonomy has three main kingdoms.

There is the rejectionist approach, which appeals mostly to foreign anti-American sentiment and the less credible domestic Anti-Obama sentiment. Rejectinist Deatherism involves the belief that Usama Bin Laden is still alive, somewhere, likely chilling with Biggie, Tupac, and Elvis. This strain has the added attraction of calling the President a liar, which seems to be the ideology underlying Birtherism as well. The more strenuously the President provides evidence for a point, the less likely Republicans are likely to believe it. The Rejectionist Death Eaters: the Pakistani Taliban and Free Republic bloggers.

Marijuana Sensitization, a Media Hypothesis

Editors at the Seattle Times bothced this headline about a Rhode Island state legislator losing his leadership position. The headline reads "RI GOP lawmaker in Conn. pot bust loses top job." This is the first two paragraphs of the story:
The top Republican in the Rhode Island House has lost his leadership position over a recent arrest in Connecticut on charges of driving drunk and possessing marijuana.

Republican lawmakers Tuesday decided Rep. Robert Watson will be replaced as minority leader by Rep. Brian Newberry.
The Seattle Times apparently think the more sensational story here is for a legislator to possess marijuana, not to stupidly endanger lives by driving drunk. Why might the Seattle Times push the pot angle? It appears that the legislator has cover from the Rhode Island medical marijuana law:
>Police say they found marijuana in his pocket. He says he wasn't drunk and he uses pot to treat pain related to his inflamed pancreas.
No word yet on whether Rep. Robert Watson is actually a registered medical marijuana patient. my guess is that it has something to do with the Medical Marijuana Dispensary bill that was just stomped by Washington Governor Christine Gregoire.
Seattle Times editors saw an opportunity to put "Marijuana" in more than one headline today, and they took it, regardless of the underlying story. It's an interesting, if bald-faced, example of how newspapers attempt to create coherent narratives within their coverage of disparate events. In this case, it does appear to be inartful at best and inappropriate at worst.

Monday, May 2, 2011

That Settles It

A law enforcement strategy killed Osama Bin Laden. The intelligence and law enforcement approach to counterterrorism allowed for the collection of billions of bits of information at the core of Al Qaeda's operations, whereas a missile strike would have prevented collection of Bin Laden's computer, hard drives, and USB sticks.

It was a bold decision by the President to put American boots on the ground in Pakistan if only for 30 minutes, but one that paid off. Training, dedication, and no small measure of luck allowed for a successful mission that will send shockwaves through both al Qaeda and enabling networks the world over.

Any financial agency that laundered Qaeda money, counterfeiters, or smugglers that had contact with any Islamic Terrorist group is now at risk of having that shred of information; a contact, a bill, or an account number, in the hands of the United States government. Al Qaeda was enmeshed not only in the violent, terrorist world, but in the broader ilicit market place that thrives with the destabilization of states, chaos, and vacuum of law.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Wonky Jokes from Seth Meyer

Two jokes stand out from Seth Meyer's address at the White House Correspondents' Dinner last night, not because they were particularly funny, but because they were uncannily wonky.

This above dig at the Heritage Foundation (at 16:45) is excellent. Here is also a highly technical joke about financial firms: You might also want to hang in there till 4:00 for the Jon Kyle joke.