Saturday, August 30, 2008
Here's others. Why did they bankroll her? What faction of Alaskan politics did she embrace when she was attacked by Murkowski's crowd? Why did they embrace her back?
Forget all that bullshit about shooting moose and whatnot. Who is she really?
Friday, August 29, 2008
Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention was seen by more than 38 million people.People have to be feeling gobsmacked right now. First the best political speech in a decade, at least, and now the strangest VP pick in what may be American history.
Nielsen Media Research said more people watched Obama speak than watched the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing, the final "American Idol" or the Academy Awards this year. Obama talked before a live audience of 80,000 people in Denver.
His TV audience nearly doubled the amount of people who watched John Kerry accept the Democratic nomination to run against President Bush four years ago. Kerry's speech was seen by just over 20 million people.
Obama's audience might be higher, since Nielsen didn't have an estimate for how many people watched Obama on PBS or C-SPAN Thursday night.
They'll think "why is this [insert epithet about unintelligent, attractive women here] supposed to represent me? Is this what I'm supposed to care about? Is this the person I'm supposed to identify with? HER?"
In this way, I think her beauty—and yes, she is that—might actually work against her. Any woman who has seen another woman gain power through exploiting her attractiveness, despite a lack of intelligence, is going to have a real problem with McCain's VP choice. Would she have become governor if she weren't a former beauty pageant winner? Not a chance. That's what seperates her from Hillary: Hillary worked for it, and has been working for it for a long time, and even if she screwed up her campaign this year, nobody can say that she was handed the position.
Palin? I suspect people may not be so sure.
Fair? maybe. Maybe not. It doesn't matter. This is perception, not reality. No Republican has ever given a rat's ass about "fair", as Obama so eloquently reminded us last night. They made this choice, and now they have to deal with it.
A completely unqualified creationist who has only served as Governor of a poorly-populated state for one and a half years could become the President of the United States.
I still get a little "weirded out" by Obama's success; he's risen so far, so fast, that it's dizzying sometimes. But he's fought for it every step of the way, and has the kind of story that makes it possible. He may be young, comparatively speaking, but he's earned it.
Palin is nobody. She's a small-town mayor who managed to get into the Alaskan Governor's Mansion in 2006 for being less somewhat less corrupt than Alaskan Republicans. That's it. People were ticked off at Republican corruption, she positioned herself as a non-corrupt Republican, and got voted in in a traditionally Republican state. I could see her becoming a good Governor in time, better than most Republicans at any rate, but this is not that time.
And she could have her finger on the button if anything happens to McCain. It would be like that one Heinlein story in Expanded Universe, except somehow LESS plausible.
This election just became immeasurably weirder.
Edit: A social conservative neophyte. A social conservative neophyte who thinks that creationism should be taught in schools as science.
As president of the United States.
First: McCain is making a play for Hillary supporters. He's putting a woman on the ticket because Obama didn't; he's hoping that these women's loyalty to their gender is greater than to Hillary herself. Considering the politics of the run, that's not a bad assumption.
But there's another aspect. Everybody's been concerned with his age, right? The logical implication of that is that his VP might end up president if something happens to him. At the very least, it's very possible he'd only run for one term. Then you have a woman VP ready to run for the nomination of the Republican party; and she'd likely win that nomination, thus neatly cutting off Hillary's main case for support in 2012. I doubt Clinton would even get nominated.
And since everybody knows all this, what McCain's really doing is saying "vote for me, women and you have a pretty good shot at a woman president within the next five years." It's not even that objectionable a tactic; the Dems can't easily rip him up for it, or face blistering questions about why setting things up for a woman's presidency is a bad thing, exactly.
She's a dark horse, and I doubt she's been as vetted as thoroughly as she could. She may have skeletons, and it's even possible she's tied to Ted's shenanegans. And there are going to be men in the Republican party who are not happy voting for a woman. But I think this "vote for McCain, possibly get a woman in the Oval Office" trick is what he'd be going for.
Edit: Her big problem with women is going to be her anti-abortion stance. It will limit her appeal to feminists, I'm sure, but disconnected independent women who don't care about anything but a woman in the White House might well overlook it. Her environmentalism might also alienate the economic conservatives a bit, but if she really is anti-abortion, that'll probably make up for it.
Edit 2: Ok, according to Kos, she's also a big creationist. And she's only been in office since 2006? I really do wonder what's in her past.
Even aside from the bullshit hack mind-reading, or namedropping Ayers and Wright, trying to describe Obama as a "stranger" when his life story has become one of the most familiar in American politics is just...ludicrous.
Not even "partisan" ludicrous. More like "off my meds" ludicrous. "Lemme just get my tinfoil hat" ludicrous. "Space Commies built the pyramids" ludicrous.
Sure, Krauthammer is a hack. We all know this. But you'd think he was a better hack. Apparently not.
I mean, yeah, anybody who named themselves after a Ayn Rand character is going to react poorly when somebody says that "fuck you, Jack, I've got mine" isn't the way to run a country. It's not like her response wasn't predictable. It was just, well, uninteresting. "Jane Galt" remains a third-rate mind at best.
Then again, considering Douthat's equally sad reaction, perhaps I should just chalk it up to "the Atlantic Monthly, it doth sucketh" and give my thanks that Matt got the hell out of there.
(At least Matt, unlike Ross, knows what a paragraph is.)
Oh, and he said the one damned thing that I've been waiting for for ages: that Democrats fight wars, and win wars, and Republican claims to the contrary are lies. Dems run away from foreign policy, and security policy. But they're the party that won both world wars and face down the Russians over Cuba. They shouldn't forget that.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
But it was still a good speech, aimed directly at the PUMAs and resentful women, and that's what the party needs right now.
And then all it took was one woman on CNN to drag it down. Hoo-ee, there's a producer at CNN who's absolutely ecstatic over that find. Singlehandedly managed to bring down a whole stage-managed production with one interview with one Dem who, honestly, probably shouldn't have been there if she couldn't toe the line. Almost every Dem in that room waving "unity" banners and they find one who wasn't. Typical.
But effective, I'll give it that, and it keeps their treasured Hillary narrative alive.
Edit: Ok, Ezra Klein makes a good point:
The criticism of Clinton's speech largely argues that she should have spoken more about Barack Obama. His talents, experience, vision, and leadership. I disagree. Clinton didn't want Barack Obama to win the Democratic primary. She is on record making this point. A fulsome speech praising her opponent would have come off as insincere, forced, the convention equivalent of a taped confession. And it wouldn't have converted the constituency she was speaking to that night: Her supporters. In order for her speech to be effective, it had to read as authentic. And that meant a tincture of sadness, and a focus on the parts of Hillary Clinton's campaign that were not specific to her person but reside in her party. Even the best speech last night wouldn't convert her diehard supporters over to wholehearted support of Barack Obama. But then, she didn't need to. All she needed to do was remind them of their place in the Democratic Party.Considering how many Republicans are already saying "bah, she didn't mean a word of it", I think Ezra probably has it right here. And let's be honest, the Republicans were going to pounce on ANYTHING that happened here. They probably had the talking points all laid out:
If Hillary praises Obama to the hills: "insincere. She didn't really believe it, and that's why she was contradicting herself."
If Hillary didn't really praise Obama at all: "See? The Dems are divided. C'mere Hillary supporters, she doesn't like him either."
If Obama had picked Hillary as VP: "Hey Republicans! Do you hate the Clintons? Oh yes, yes you do. And now they're coming BACK, because Obama's too weak to lead without them!"
Hell, they probably already had ads cut for all of these. The only wildcard was that crying anti-unity Hillary delegate, and that's why she's so notable.
I mean, I can understand that they'd be shocked and surprised, considering his past history of puffing up their Dark Lord. But for whatever reason (shurely not his parting with the Posties!) he's been letting Harper have it with both barrels. And MAN are they ticked. Probably a little afeared, too: they were probably counting on his crypto-support for that election Canada might have coming, but as it is...
(As for America, well... All I'll say is that CNN might have managed to cut the Republicans' next commercial when they hauled that one Clinton supporter in front of the camera, to tearfully say that she's "not sure if she's going to vote". A whole night's worth of careful stagecraft, quite possibly ruined by one distraught woman. Impressive.)
Monday, August 25, 2008
Biden needs to be held to account, and Obama needs to address these issues. But come on. McCain knows nothing about the Internet that telecom lobbyists haven't told him. He'd be disastrous.
If you hear that, quote this bit from DSL Reports:
Industry analyst Dave Burstein has an interesting (but margin blown) post over at the interesting people listserv discussing the reality of congestion (or lack thereof) on AT&T's network. While industry lobbyists use P2P congestion as a bogeyman to justify all manner of policy, AT&T data suggests P2P is actually declining on AT&T's network. Upstream P2P on cable networks remains a capacity problem, but it's one that may be resolved by a migration to DOCSIS 3.0. Burstein suggests the debate over throttling is all but dead:This makes perfect sense. YouTube-style user generated video is phenomenally popular, and it looks like network-hosted broadband video sites are a hit as well. Anybody who was trolling the P2P sites for this content has a compelling reason to just hit the websites and watch it there, where there's far less of a hassle involved.Easily a third of AT&T's downstream traffic is now "web audio-video," far more than p2p and the gap is widening rapidly. Hulu and YouTube are taking over, while p2p is fading away on DSL networks. One likely result is that managing traffic by shaping p2p is of limited and declining use, perhaps buying a network 6 months or a year before needing an upgrade. The p2p traffic shaping debate should be almost over, because it simply won't work very much longer.
AT&T writes off that decline in P2P use as a statistical anomaly created by a heavy mix of new customers who don't use P2P. Still, it suggests that P2P isn't quite the network demon it's often painted as. AT&T says that as of June, AT&T traffic was about 1/3 Web (non video/audio streams), 1/3 Web video/audio streams, and 1/5 P2P. Most interestingly, Burstein suggests that capacity upgrades should more than handle growth, without throttling or raising capex, while actually lowering AT&T's per bit cost per user. On upgrades:
AT&T has sensible plans to handle the load without disruption. They are already moving from 10 gig to 40 gig in the core, and planning a transition to 100 gig in a few years. The current projections are they can do these upgrades without raising capex, bringing per bit costs down along a Moore's Law curve and keeping bandwidth costs per user essentially unchanged.
So if the capacity costs of keeping pace with demand are nominal, does that still make AT&T's push into metered billing "inevitable?" One gets the feeling that there's no greater chasm than the one between a lobbyist and network engineer describing the same network.
This isn't about usage, P2P or otherwise. Broadband metering is about setting a precedent on metered Internet, and (this is the important part) creating a big incentive for non-neutral Internet provision. All they have to do is say "content from these sites won't count towards your cap", and quicker than you can say "Microsoft partnership" you've got the content bias that all the net neutrality people have been complaining about. All they have to do is ratchet down the "free" bandwidth, raise the price on the "overage" bandwidth, and users are stuck.
Don't be fooled. This will happen. It's simply too lucrative not to, and they'll count on a public backlash against politicians "not letting us get our deals on free websites" to do their work for them. Advocates of "net neutrality" will be forced to apologize for a metering system they didn't want and know isn't necessary, all the while getting tagged with the "pirate" label.
And, naturally, while Asia leaps ahead, with Internet too cheap and fast to meter.
Short-ish answer: Imagine if Jack Thompson were president, and GTA5 were coming out.
Yahoo! News has the long answer:
But back to the Delaware senator's tech record. After taking over the Foreign Relations committee, Biden became a staunch ally of Hollywood and the recording industry in their efforts to expand copyright law. He sponsored a bill in 2002 that would have make it a federal felony to trick certain types of devices into playing unauthorized music or executing unapproved computer programs. Biden's bill was backed by content companies including News Corp. but eventually died after Verizon, Microsoft, Apple, eBay, and Yahoo lobbied against it.
A few months later, Biden signed a letter that urged the Justice Department "to prosecute individuals who intentionally allow mass copying from their computer over peer-to-peer networks." Critics of this approach said that the Motion Picture Association of America and the Recording Industry Association of America, and not taxpayers, should pay for their own lawsuits.
Last year, Biden sponsored an RIAA-backed bill called the Perform Act aimed at restricting Americans' ability to record and play back individual songs from satellite and Internet radio services. (The RIAA sued XM Satellite Radio over precisely this point.)
All of which meant that nobody in Washington was surprised when Biden was one of only four celebration of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act hosted by the MPAA's Jack Valenti, the RIAA, and the Business Software Alliance. (Photos are here.)invited to a champagne reception in
Now, it's true that few Americans will cast their votes in November based on what the vice presidential candidate thinks of copyright law. But these pro-copyright views don't exactly jibe with what Obama has promised; he's pledged to "update and reform our copyright and patent systems to promote civic discourse, innovation and investment while ensuring that intellectual property owners are fairly treated." These are code words for taking a more pro-EFF ( ) than pro-MPAA approach....
...On privacy, Biden's record is hardly stellar. In the 1990s, Biden was chairman of the Judiciary Committee and introduced a bill called the Comprehensive Counter-Terrorism Act, which the EFF says he was "persuaded" to do by the FBI. A second Biden bill was called the Violent Crime Control Act. Both were staunchly anti-encryption, with this identical language:
It is the sense of Congress that providers of electronic communications services and manufacturers of electronic communications service equipment shall ensure that communications systems permit the government to obtain the plain text contents of voice, data, and other communications when appropriately authorized by law.
Translated, that means turn over your encryption keys. The book Electronic Privacy Papers describes Biden's bill as representing the FBI's visible effort to restrict encryption technology, which was taking place in concert with the 's parallel, but less visible efforts. (Biden was no foe of the NSA. He once described now-retired NSA director Bobby Ray Inman as the "single most competent man in the government.")
Biden's bill -- and the threat of encryption being outlawed -- is what spurred Phil Zimmermann to write PGP, thereby kicking off a historic debate about export controls, national security, and privacy. Zimmermann, who's now busy developing Zfone, says it was Biden's legislation "that led me to publish PGP electronically for free that year, shortly before the measure was defeated after vigorous protest by civil libertarians and industry groups."
While neither of Biden's pair of bills became law, they did foreshadow the FBI's pro-wiretapping, anti-encryption legislative strategy that followed -- and demonstrated that the legislative proposal later that decade for banning encryption products such as SSH or PGP without government backdoors, which was approved by one House of Representatives committee but never came to a vote in the Senate.)was willing to be a reliable ally of law enforcement on the topic. (They also previewed the FBI's
There are a lot of good things that Biden brings to the table, and Obama's policy proposals on this are by-and-large one of the best parts of the campaign. But there will be tension.
Edit: Here's CNET's take on it too.
This does make me wonder about what an Obama administration's relations with the Netroots is going to be like. He's already made it pretty clear that he has no time for bloggers who aren't doing it on my.barackobama.com, and certainly has no time for those who raise and spend money outside his campaign. I'm confident that he's better than the Republicans—they're the Republicans, after all—but the Biden choice raises some questions.
Even if he rips up Romney, us users want proof he won't rip us up, too.
(You know what else raises questions? Trying to do a damned emdash in a blog. I'm moving away from using double dashes, but typing out a control code each time gets very, very old.)
Saturday, August 23, 2008
But the guy voted for the bankruptcy bill. That won't go over well.
(He'd be a better VP than anybody that McCain could prop up in front of a lectern, but still a trifle disappointing. Not Lieberman disappointing, but hardly "change".)
As someone who's constantly decrying how Dems don't know how to handle media as well as Republicans, this was a breath of fresh air. He knew the talking points, knew how to refute them, knew how to fluster Corsi, and knew how to control the discussion. It was awesome. They should use it as a teaching aid in campaigning schools.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Once you gather together the chunks of your surely-exploded head, here's some fun links. Mostly from Kady O'Malley, who is really way too good for Macleans.
Edit: These guys are also co-opting the entire postal service, too. Hark:
In order to let my constituents know about the Town Hall meeting I held Wednesday night with Dion, I decided to use my ability to send mailers, called “ten percenters” to residents. Each one can cover only 10% of the riding, and each has to be different. So, I prepared ten of them, rushed them into the print shop and ensured they could be in mailboxes in time for people to book a seat.
In all, there were 60,000 pieces of mail, and getting this project done was a major task. The printing was done by August 6th, and they went to Canada Post the next day, marked for immediately delivery in Halton.
Sadly, on the day of the event – August 20th – not a single resident in Halton had seen one of these. Instead, skids of the mailers were sitting in Canada Post substations in Milton, Oakville and Burlington.
But at the same time, just prior to my meeting, two Conservative ten percenters arrived by mail to blanket the riding, sent by MPs in eastern Ontario, and Alberta.
So, my printing was garbage – expensive garbage, since it had all been paid for with tax dollars and was now worthless. And yet MPs that my constituents can never speak to and will never see, also used tax dollars to send them mailers on the benefits of Conservative policies.
Obviously, we called the postal service to get an explanation. Human error, said Gilles Campeau, our Canada Post liason. Sorry.
But M. Campeau also made it known that because of the barrage of mailings by out-of-town MPs, the agency’s workload has increased, “by 500%.” He also let it slip he’d been pressured by CRG (the Conservative Research Group – the marketing arm of the Harper caucus) to give it preferential treatment. Finally he told us that, “trucks are pulling up non-stop from printers all over the city (Ottawa)” full of MP literature, and they can’t keep up.
One can only speculate on what that "pressure" amounts to. It's almost impressive: having learned from the Republicans, these Canadian Repub-lites have arguably surpassed them. The apprentice has become a master.
(Kind of like Sith. Except with more evil.)
And they should be. Yes, bittorrents (which are the issue here) are associated with piracy right now. That makes sense: hackers and pirates tend to employ whatever they can get their hands on, not being encumbered by things like patents and copyrights and whatnot. But that doesn't mean it's inherently a pirate technology; as companies like Blizzard and now EA have realized, it's an inexpensive and speedy way of updating stuff.
But, of course, it creates a problem, in that it requires people to actually use their internet connections. And the telecoms never wanted that, oh no they didn't. They don't want that at all. They want you surfing, which only needs to be fast for a very brief time, and then stays blissfully static whilst you read whatever it is you have on your browser. Or gaming, which is a constant connection, but a pretty low-impact one. It needs low latency, but it requires relatively little bandwidth. Or maybe even downloading music from single servers; it soaks up bandwidth, but it's all downstream, which is much easier to apply than upstream.
But bittorrenting? A system which rewards you handsomely for actually using that upstream you're paying for? HEAVENS no! It must be stopped! Using the bandwidth you paid for would force them to actually give you a connection that fits their promises! They might have to use that money the government gave them to give fibre to everybody for something other than mergers, branding, and buying expensive endorsement deals! What are they paying all those
So, uh, consider me somewhat flabbergasted that the FCC is actually doing its job. Sic 'em.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Sorry, bud, but if you hadn't been flooding the zone with triumphalism about globalization back in the 1990s, you might have realized that it was going really, really badly in Russia.
You might have noticed that the privatization that you guys were so gleefully advocating had been turned into a game of "who can funnel resources out of Russian hands into private bank accounts the fastest" by Yeltsin's cronies and their American enablers. You might have figured out that your Lexuses and olive trees isn't going to impress somebody who hasn't been paid for months because his boss sold the factory for pennies on the dollar to a guy who was cutting said boss in on the take.
Had you done any of that, you might have also figured out that the Russian response would eventually be to say "blow this for a game of soldiers", kick out the thieving privatizers, and bring in someone who could restore their perception of national greatness. The "choking of Russian democracy" wasn't because of NATO, it was because Russians saw what elite citizens of the most powerful democracy in the world had done to them and thought "why would we want to emulate those assholes?"
But then again, all that would require you to admit that you were wrong about globalization. And I know that you'll never, ever do that. There's just too much money in pretending otherwise, isn't there?
I think the best question now is whether anybody still actually believes the long Democratic primary was a brilliant event that really helped the party. All those Democratic registrations seem a little unimportant these days.
“He’s a bright young man, but he got ahead of himself,” McCain says. “He needs to be taught a lesson, and we’re the ones to do it. Have you seen the new Bloomberg poll? Obama’s dropped and we’re even again. The Bullet’s getting all the credit, but you and I know, Hillary, that it’s these top-secret counseling sessions we’re having. And thanks again for BlackBerrying me the Rick Warren questions while I was in the so-called cone of silence.”
“Oh, John, you know I love you and I’m happy to help,” Hillary says. “The themes you took from me are working great — painting Obama as an elitist and out-of-touch celebrity, when we’re rich celebrities, too. Turning his big rallies and pretty words into character flaws, charging him with playing the race card — that one always cracks me up. And accusing the media, especially NBC, of playing favorites. It’s easy to get the stupid press to navel-gaze; they’re so insecure.”
“They’re all pinko Commies,” McCain laughs. “Especially since they deserted me for The Messiah. Seriously, Hill, that Paris-Britney ad you came up with was brilliant. I owe you.”
Looking pleased, Hillary expertly downs another shot. “His secret fear is being seen as a dumb blonde,” she says. “He wants to take a short cut to the top and pose on glossy magazine covers, but he doesn’t want to be seen as a glib pretty boy.”
McCain lifts his glass to her admiringly. “If I do say so myself, while the rookie was surfing in Hawaii, I ate his pupus for lunch. Pictures of him pushing around a golf ball while I’m pushing around Putin. Priceless.”
“I have a little secret to tell you about that, John. Bill made it happen. He loves you so much. He called Putin and told him that if he invaded Georgia, he could count on being invited to the Clinton Global Initiative every year for the rest of his life.”
“Wow. Should I call him? I saw your husband’s kind words about me in Las Vegas on Monday, saying I’d be just as good as Obama on climate change.”
“I think he’d like that,” Hillary smiles. “He’s still boiling at Obama. And you don’t have to worry about my army of angry women. We’ve spread the word in the feminist underground — as opposed to that wacky Obama Weather Underground — that ‘catharsis’ is code for ‘No surrender.’ My gals know when I say ‘We may have started on two separate paths but we’re on one journey now’ that Skinny’s journey is to the nearest exit.”
But as for MoDo, well... at least it seems like Obama has one opinion journalist thoroughly backing him, now.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I suppose that's why it got remade the way it did. Guess Lucas can't stand the idea of something good attached to his name, or a Star Wars-related trademark that isn't irrevocably polluted. Pity.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Under pressure over impending impeachment charges, President Pervez Musharraf announced that he would resign Monday, ending nearly nine years as one of the United States’ most important allies in the campaign against terrorism.Yeah, that's pretty much the question, isn't it? The reason why Musharraf lasted as long as he did was because of fears that he was the only thing between the West and an "Islamic Bomb".
Speaking on television from his presidential office here at 1 p.m., Mr. Musharraf, dressed in a gray suit and tie, said that after consulting with his aides, “I have decided to resign today.” He said he was putting national interest above “personal bravado.”
“Whether I win or lose the impeachment, the nation will lose,” he said, adding that he was not prepared to put the office of the presidency through the impeachment process.
Mr. Musharraf said the governing coalition, which has pushed for impeachment, had tried to “turn lies into truths.”
“They don’t realize they can succeed against me but the country will undergo irreparable damage,” he said.
In an emotional ending to a speech lasting more than an hour, Mr. Musharraf raised his clenched fists to chest height, and said, “Long live Pakistan!”
His resignation came after 10 days of intense political maneuvering in Pakistan, and cleared the way for the four-month-old coalition government to choose a new president by a vote of Parliament and the provincial assemblies. But there were intense concerns in Washington that Mr. Musharraf’s departure would open a new era of instability in Pakistan, a nuclear-armed country of 165 million people, as the fragile coalition jockeys for his share of power.
More as it happens, I suppose.
Well, with the G8, it's a point of prestige to be in there, but it's hardly necessary. It serves its purposes, but its more of an economic forum. Russia already has all the prestige it needs from its leadership role in the United Nations; and even if you discount the U.N., Russia has lots of other burgeoning economies in the "third world" to play with.
As for the WTO... please. Like Russia cares. They're an energy exporter, for heaven's sake, they already have all the markets they need for their products. The WTO is about agriculture and manufactures- energy doesn't really enter into it, at least not to the extent that those things do. Russia will always have a market for its energy, and will always have someone to sell them manufactures. A trade deal between China and Russia would take care of that. That would be Russia's logical trade focus, not the hapless WTO.
Ok, sure, it's also about IP, and first-world countries protecting their patents and copyrights and whatnot, but why on earth would Russia be interested in TRIPS? There's a reason movies come out on Region 5 DVDs almost immediately after hitting theatres; because they know that they'll hit the streets anyway. Giving the U.S. a strategic advantage by telling Russia which generic drugs it can and cannot produce doesn't sound like Putin's style anyway, not when he can make friends in China, India, and ASEAN by pissing off the D.C. pharma lobby.
(The silly-ass Olympics stuff is beneath discussion.)
Anyway, all this is vintage neocon, isn't it? It won't do anything real, it's all symbolic, and it betrays the touching belief that Russians give a damn whether the U.S. is mad at them or not. They can't invade or bomb—which they already mostly treat symbolically anyway—and they don't really know how international trade or law works, so they're forced to rely on this nonsense.
I wouldn't even write on this, probably, except that McCain appears to have been parroting this crap at that faith forum thing, which suggests that he still has a critical mass of neocons in his campaign. Sucks for him, worse for America.
Sunday, August 17, 2008
As any number of his commentators have said, the problem is not necessarily so much the Republicans as the media. Half the reason Dems don't "do that sort of thing", is because they know that they'll get called out, whereas Republicans are almost pathetically dependent on a press corps that chortles at the attacks and repeats them, safe in the knowledge that they didn't write them.
I heard about Jerome Corsi's book a few weeks ago from my mother, who said that her great fear--that Barack Obama has covert Islamic associations--had been confirmed by a new book. I told her not to worry, that many reputable people had looked into the matter and Obama was more likely to be spotted in Whole Foods than praying in a mosque. (Since my mother has never been to Whole Foods, so she didn't quite get my wry allusion.) "I hope so," she said, dubiously.
So we know the market for trash is there, and not so far from home. And we know, that Mary Matalin, who appears regularly on mainstream media programs like Meet the Press called the Corsi book in the New York Times today:“a piece of scholarship, and a good one at that.”
But hey, Mary stands to make big bucks off this scholarship, which I'm sure was submitted for peer review and otherwise held to the highest editorial standards--and I'm sure her reputation and mediagenicity won't be damaged by this poisonous crap, and we're all friends here, aren't we? And, yknow, they say politics ain't beanbag...and it's all in the game to tell innocent, well-intentioned people that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim or that John Kerry wasn't really a hero in Vietnam. Or, as George W. Bush, once told a rightly outraged John McCain--whose wife and daughter Bush's minions had smeared--"It's just politics."
Back in the day, John McCain was the sort of politician who would stand first in line to call out this sort of swill. (As, I'm sure Barack Obama or John Kerry would do, if some hate-crazed, money-grubbing left-winger published a book claiming that McCain had been successfully brainwashed in Vietnam--as Kerry did indeed do when a group of spurious Bush-backing Vietnam vets tried to claim exactly that about McCain during the 2000 Republican primary in South Carolina.)
But we're not seeing those sorts of claims being made about McCain this year...because Democrats tend not to do that sort of thing. They are the sorts of claims that Republicans--Bush Republicans--make. They range from the blatantly extra-curricular, like Corsi's book, to the official McCain-sanctioned introduction made by Joe Lieberman--of all people--yesterday: that Obama doesn't "put America first."
I know that people like me are supposed to try to be fair...and balanced. (The Fox mockery of our sappy professional standards seems more brutally appropriate with each passing year.) In the past, I would achieve a semblance--or an illusion--of balance by criticizing Democrats for not responding effectively when right-wing sludge merchants poisoned our national elections with their filth and lies. And it is true, as John Kerry knows, that a more effective response--and a bolder campaign--might have neutralized the Swiftboat assault four years ago. It is also true that Corsi's book this time is far less effective than his Swiftboat venture, since it doesn't come equipped with veterans willing to defile their service by telling lies to camera.But there is no excuse for what the McCain campaign is doing on the "putting America first" front. There is no way to balance it, or explain it other than as evidence of a severe character defect on the part of the candidate who allows it to be used. There is a straight up argument to be had in this election: Mcain has a vastly different view from Obama about foreign policy, taxation, health care, government action...you name it. He has lots of experience; it is always shocking to remember that this time four years ago, Barack Obama was still in the Illinois State Legislature. Apparently, though, McCain isn't confident that conservative policies and personal experience can win, given the ruinous state of the nation after eight years of Bush. So he has made a fateful decision: he has personally impugned Obama's patriotism and allows his surrogates to continue to do that. By doing so, he has allied himself with those who smeared him, his wife, his daughter Bridget, in 2000. Those tactics won George Bush a primary--and a nomination. But they proved a form of slow-acting spiritual poison, rotting the core of the Bush presidency. We'll see if the public decides to acquiesce in sleaze in 2008, and what sort of presidency--what sort of country--that will produce.
But, hey, one step at a time, right?
Thursday, August 14, 2008
One of the weird things about this conflict is how divided perceptions on it are. Russians see it as straight-up peacekeeping, whereas the West sees it as clear Russian aggression. Part of that is because of nationalism, of course, but a lot more is because Saakashvili has managed to sway the western media very, very skillfully. Case in point:
Can't disagree with this. They know how to play the game. They know how to manipulate the media's perceptions. They know who to call, and what to say. They know their talking points, and how to adjust them to shape facts on the ground.
DoD definition: Psychological Operations (PSYOPs) are focused on the cognitive domain of the battlespace. PSYOP seeks to induce, influence, or reinforce the perceptions, attitudes, reasoning, and behavior of foreign leaders, groups, and organizations in a manner favorable to friendly national and military objectives. PSYOP is just another way to say that P word no one likes to use anymore, propaganda.
Analysis: This here is a no brainer. Georgia has dominated the psychological playing field from the beginning. As Mark Ames discovered, Georgian leaders were making collect calls to just about every influential person on Wall Street, convincing them that Georgia was the victim of Russian aggression even as Georgian rockets were leveling Tskhinvali. And that was before Russia officially entered into the fray. Saakashvili then made himself available for round-the-clock CNN and BBC interviews. He repeated the same simple lines in near-perfect English, and always flanked by an EU flag: “Russia is an aggressor. We are a small democratic country. Please help us.” Georgia was putting the “CNN effect,” as the military types like to call it, to extremely good use. The pro-Georgian CNN effect was so strong, in fact, that CNN used footage of Tskhinvali for a report on the destruction in the Georgian town of Gori. Check it out:
All the Russians did was call an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to try to pass a resolution demanding that Georgia and the S. Ossetia lay down their arms. It wasn’t much of a psychological operation, one that the U.S. didn’t even back.
Psychological Operations Grade: Georgia: A+, Russia: F+
If anything, this certainly gives credence to the assertion I've read in several places that Saakashviki is intimately tied with the neocons. He's just like them: hasn't the faintest idea how to conduct a field operation, but hot DAMN does he know how to spin it.
In the summer of 2004 the conservative gadfly Jerome R. Corsi shot to the top of the best-seller lists as co-author of “Unfit for Command,” the book attacking Senator John Kerry’s record on a Vietnam War Swift boat that began the larger damaging campaign against Mr. Kerry’s war credentials as he sought the presidency.Apparently this is one of the "unfit for command" guys. Whoopee. Well, he's just a patsy. The real point is that machine discussed in the section I bolded above. People have been talking about the "mighty Wurlitzer" for nearly a decade now, but what's shocking is that it still hasn't changed. We've still got the same suspects cranking out the same lies from the same machine, because the left still hasn't really got its act together.
Almost exactly four years after that campaign began, Mr. Corsi has released a new attack book painting Senator Barack Obama, the Democrats’ presumed presidential nominee, as a stealth radical liberal who has tried to cover up “extensive connections to Islam” — Mr. Obama is Christian — and questioning whether his admitted experimentation with drugs in high school and college ever ceased.
Significant parts of the book, whose subtitle is “Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality,” have already been challenged as misleading or false in the days since its debut on Aug. 1. Nonetheless, it is to make its first appearance on The New York Times best-seller list for nonfiction hardcovers this Sunday — at No. 1.
The book is being pushed along by a large volume of bulk sales, intense voter interest in Mr. Obama and a broad marketing campaign that has already included 100 author interviews with talk radio hosts across the country, like Sean Hannity and G. Gordon Liddy, Mr. Corsi said on Tuesday.
The publisher is Threshold Editions, a division of Simon & Schuster whose chief editor is Mary Matalin, the former Republican operative turned publisher-pundit. And it is a significant, early success for Ms. Matalin’s three-year-old imprint, which is also planning to publish the memoirs of Karl Rove, President Bush’s longtime political guru. Threshold says it has undertaken an extensive printing effort for anticipated demand, with 475,000 copies of “The Obama Nation” produced so far.
“The goal is to defeat Obama,” Mr. Corsi said in a telephone interview. “I don’t want Obama to be in office.”
(How bad? Well, if you want to know, go read Matt Bai's The Argument. It remains one of the most important (yet overlooked) books out there, because it details exactly why liberals haven't been able to build their own machine or tear down the other one. That imbalance is at the heart of modern American politics, and a lot of people realize it: but thanks to the divisions between those who are writing, those with the money, and those with the Congressional and State Houses seats, the right still manages to trump its opposition.
It's not as bad as it used to be. I remember 2002-2003- it's definitely not as bad as it used to be. But damned if this book doesn't show how the Wurlitzer is still very much operational.
Edit: And, naturally, it doesn't matter if every word in the book is disproven. One of the facts that's been rather difficult for many people (including myself) to accept is that, a lot of the time, whether you're right or wrong has little to do with whether people accept what you say. If you reconfirm their biases, they'll do all the hard work of convincing themselves for you. If you challenge them, it'll be an uphill struggle to get them to listen. The right knows they can tap into the fears about a black president with a "funny name" to play up all manner of underlying stereotypes and biases, and know exactly which ones they're after.
(Why do you think the book makes such a big deal out of Obama's purported drug use? It ain't because he's a liberal, folks.)
That's as true for the media as it is for everybody else; they have their own prejudices and biases. Hence The Real McCain getting overlooked by the McCain-friendly media, who think that he's the genial "maverick" he purported to be, while Obama Nation gets widespread coverage, as it gives them the secret little shiver of malicious delight at watching Republicans beat up on Democrats.
(They don't really want to like it, but those evil old men are just so good at it, and those liberals just think they're soooo smart.)
Sucks, don't it? Still, it could be worse. Imagine what they would have done to Hillary.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Well, that's what DDay is saying anyway.
So Russia starts bombing targets inside Georgia, the United States huffs and puffs to no avail. Then French President Sarkozy hops on Easyjet and stops off in Moscow, and within a matter of hours, in fact just after he lands, Russia calls a cease-fire.Ah. So he didn't necessarily do it. But it's not outside the realm of possibility, either. And certainly a European figure has more sway than Americans do; there is still a substantial contingent of Russians who want to be seen as a European country, rather than as some autocratic backwater. It's unlikely that Putin or Medvedev care too much about their perceptions, but it is something that may be an issue going forward.MOSCOW — President Dmitri A. Medvedev of Russia announced Tuesday that he had ordered a halt to his country’s military operation in Georgia, although he did not say that troops were pulling out and he insisted that Russian forces were still authorized to fire on enemies in South Ossetia.Now, there are scattered reports of continued fighting here and there. And Sarkozy was just beginning cease-fire talks and didn't exactly provoke this. But basically, what you have is a country that maintains good relations and holds a little thing called influence, and another country that has, well, nothing of the kind.
The president said Russia had achieved its military goals during five days of intense fighting, which has seen Russian troops advance into Georgian territory and which brought strong denunciations from President Bush and other Western leaders.
I should note that, according to Jonathan Landay at McClatchy, (h/t K-Drum) we begged Saakashvili not to attack Georgia (which I don't totally believe) and we "had an understanding" with the Russians that they would limit themselves to fighting in South Ossetia and not beyond those borders. That's just kind of stupid, to expect the Russians not to want to dominate their sphere of influence.
Monday, August 11, 2008
This incursion has shifted the onus on this completely. Back when Russia was just aiding the South Ossetians it was plausible as a defence against Georgian incursion. Now that Russian troops are on undisputed Georgian ground, though, that's gone.
Not that that justifies the "ARRGH LET'S GO KICK SOME BUTT" brigade. But that's the situation.
Because you can huff and puff all you want about dictators (which seems to be a slight mischaracterization of the situation both Hu Jintao and Vladimir Putin are in, but anyway), but Russia isn't Syria, Libya, Iran or Iraq. You can't bully it, and you sure as hell can't invade it.
This is a whole different level, now, and your yapping, irritating toy poodle of an discredited ideology isn't equipped to handle it. Go back to prattling about Lebanon or something.
Edit: Hahaha, this stuff is all over the place. Robert Kagan is prattling on about how this is clearly just like 1938, proving once again that if you took away WWII analogies from a neocon, the poor man would be absolutely lost. Yglesias makes the valid point that making these comparisons is irresponsible if you aren't planning to declare war, and declaring war in this case is impossible.
But then again, when all you have is a hammer...
(Further Edit: Didn't realize Yglesias had moved over to ThinkProgress. Good for him. That pretty much removes any interest I have in The Atlantic these days, though. Sully has his moments, but it's still the outfit that signs McArdle's paycheck.)
One thing, by the way. Georgia shelling South Ossetia was a fantastically dumb move. Saakashvili was overreaching, and should have known there was no chance of meaningful American intervention. But that doesn't change the overall issue here. This isn't about South Ossetia, or Abkhazia, or even Georgia. It's about Russia, Putin, and his aspirations to regional control.
But I can't shake the feeling that this idea takes it a little too far, and that there's maybe a reason for the "press conference with glowing candidates shaking hands" bit.
No surprise. Georgia can't stand up to Russia, and they know it. They want this over.
Hasn't seemed to make a difference, though:
Russia ignored calls for a truce and continued to bomb targets deep in Georgia, with little apparent opposition, drawing new condemnation from the United States and other Western countries. President Bush spoke of his "grave concern about the disproportionate response," and the White House warned of serious setbacks in relations with Russia if the onslaught against a close U.S. ally did not end.Russia is doing this to send a message, and the message is "we control this region, no matter what you may think, and never ever forget it." It's gunboat diplomacy, except more so.
Russian airstrikes Sunday evening hit the international airport and a military factory in the capital, Tbilisi, as well as Georgian-held positions in Abkhazia, another breakaway region on the Black Sea. Russian warships were reported to be blockading a Georgian Black Sea port and to have sunk a Georgian gunboat.
It remained unclear Sunday how far Russian troops intended to advance. Georgian villages just outside South Ossetia were shelled Sunday, clouds of smoke and burning fields visible on the horizon as artillery barrages echoed loudly. Georgians fled the villages, bedding loaded into the backs of their cars. Residents of one village outside South Ossetia, Kekhvi, said advancing Russian troops had entered their homes.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili told CNN in an interview that the people of his country "are not crazy" and "have no interest whatsoever in pursuing hostilities."
Western reporters entering South Ossetia with Russian troops, meanwhile, saw Georgian soldiers' bodies lying uncollected in the streets of Tskhinvali, the region's capital, and heavy damage to the city. Georgian troops launched an offensive to take control of the breakaway region early Friday. Civilians told the reporters that Georgian tanks had fired indiscriminately during the two-day seizure of the city, killing and wounding many city residents.The West was never going to enter into Russia's backyard. Certainly the United States wasn't going to antagonize a nuclear power that's also a major oil exporter, and the Europeans don't have the muscle to do so even if they wanted to, either.
Georgia's retreat is translating into popular anger among Georgians against the United States and the European Union, and a widespread sentiment that this small, pro-Western country has been abandoned to face Russia alone. Georgian officials said that the West's credibility is on the line and that failure to stop the continuing attacks could embolden Russia to threaten other countries in the region.
"Russia has applied unprecedented military power . . . and it is of such amplitude that it would have scared much bigger states," Alexander Lomaia, secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, said in an interview. "This war has changed the whole system of values of pro-Western, liberal-minded people. I don't want to be a bad prophet, but why would Russia stop here? There are other countries where Russia thinks it has a claim to territory."
So, yes, that message has been heard loud and clear. The Russians once again have satellite states, and will not brook interference or disobedience, no matter how friendly they are with the West. If the United States doesn't like it, they are free to intervene... but the Russians are clearly confident that the United States won't do anything, for the reasons I just mentioned.
It's also a clear rebuke for advocates of democracy and the rule of law in the region, too. Never mind the fact that Russia has interfered in a fellow sovereign state's internal affairs based on dubious claims of genocide, or the challenge to the democratic "system of values".
Let's just count down the contradicted core democratic principles here:
But such statements appeared to be having little impact on Russia. In a conversation with Georgia's foreign minister, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov replied, "What bombings?" when asked to halt raids on the military factory in the capital, which was struck twice Sunday, in the morning and evening. The conversation was described by a Georgian source who heard the exchange.Governmental honesty and transparency? None.
In Russia, where public opinion is inflamed against Georgia, state television has aired almost no reports that military action and airstrikes on Georgia proper continue.A free, fair, and honest press? Nope.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who cut short a visit to China to meet with military commanders near the Russian border with Georgia this weekend, appears to be driving Russian policy even though the constitution specifies that the country's new president, Medvedev, is the commander in chief.A transparent chain of command and rule of law, as embodied by someone like Putin actually, um, giving up the reins to the "president"? Yeah, not so much.
Like I said, nobody wins here. Not the Georgians getting the holy hell bombed out of them, not Western advocates of democracy, and certainly not the Russians, who look like two-bit thugs. Nobody's won. It's just a question of who's lost the most.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
And no, not the Chinese Games. I was thoroughly impressed by the choreography of the opening ceremonies, particularly of that last run-around-the-ceiling torch ceremony, but it was created by the guy who made Hero. Impressive wirework was pretty much guaranteed.
No, it's this Russia/Georgia thing. Now let me get this straight: we've got an American-backed state, bristling at any thought of being dominated by Russia, attacking a smaller Russian-backed breakaway province.
Then the Russians start bombing Georgia to defend the province, ensuring that all the Georgian preconceptions about Russia's attitudes towards them are completely validated, and the Russians look especially imperial. Again.
Oh, and at least according to the BBC's Kevin Connolly, Georgia is trying to draw the "West" into it:
He compares Russia's military actions today with the German invasion of Poland in 1939, or the Soviet intervention to crush Czechoslovakian liberalisation in the Prague Spring of 1968.I agree with Kevin that it's incredibly unlikely the west will intercede. Honestly, I can't see how they could without this turning into some sort of nuclear-tipped WWI scenario.
In both cases of course, the democracies of the West were unwilling or unable to contain aggression - and Mr Saakashvili is hoping to shame them into reacting more strongly this time around with those carefully chosen examples.
But honestly, everybody is going to come out of this disappointed.
The Russians will be disappointed because the rest of the world will think that they're one bad day away from reenacting that bit from the Simpsons where Lenin busts out of his glass chamber.
The Georgians will be disappointed because they'll learn that, yes, Russia still pretty much has a veto over their security policy.
The Americans will be disappointed because they'll have their monomaniacal focus on the middle east shoved in their faces, as they learn that the Caucasus probably should have got more attention than it did.
And I'll be disappointed because I'd actually like to see some progress towards peace and democracy in the former Soviet Union, and I'm seeing precious little of that right now.
(Edit: And the Chinese will be disappointed because it looks like brotherhood is in short supply these days, and the spectacle of Putin and Bush arguing with each other isn't one the Chinese wanted those billion or so viewers to be watching.)
Friday, August 08, 2008
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Yes, apparently I got one of those emails giving some dire warning about how the site is a source of spam and will be shut down forever unless I request a reset. I figured it for spam of its own, but was a bit curious, and discovered a lot of other people actually getting shut down.
And then there's this:
You knew that already, and now we do too. We have now restored all accounts that were mistakenly marked as spam yesterday. (See: Spam Fridays)Obviously I'm not affected, or you wouldn't be able to read this.
We want to offer our sincerest apologies to affected bloggers and their readers. We’ve tracked down the problem to a bug in our data processing code that locked blogs even when our algorithms concluded they were not spam. We are adding additional monitoring and process checks to ensure that bugs of this magnitude are caught before they can affect your data.
At Blogger, we strongly believe that you own and should control your posts and other data. We understand that you trust us to store and serve your blog, and incidents like this one are a betrayal of that trust. In the spirit of ensuring that you always have access to your data, we have been working on importing and exporting tools to make it easier to back up your posts. If you'd like a sneak peek at the Import / Export tool, you can try it out on Blogger in Draft.
Our restoration today was of all blogs that were mistakenly marked as spam due to Friday's bug. Because spam fighting inherently runs the risk of false positives, your blog may have been mis-classified as spam for other reasons. If you are still unable to post to your blog today you can request a review by clicking Request Unlock Review on your Dashboard.
But it has made me realize that I take this a bit for granted. I've probably got one of the oldest continually-running political blogs out there at this point, and it'd be unfortunate if it all disappeared overnight. (I'd certainly miss the stuff with ol' Steve Den Beste, wherever he got to.) I'll have to see about using that tool to back this thing up.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
So, yeah, I don't think anybody's actually surprised, but it's still kind of incredible that it's actually come out that the White House said "jump" and Fox said "how high?"
Edit: Oh, and the White House is implicated in attempted fraud, too.
Saturday, August 02, 2008
But I do think you should read it for yourself.