Voter Fraud

The Republicans’ obsession with voter fraud illustrates the contempt the Republican party has for voters. Another example that sticks out in my mind is the special election in South Dakota to replace the Republican congressman who was arrested for drunk driving and hitting someone. They pointed out that “except for” the indian reservations they had won the state, as if the indian voters were somehow subject to an asterisk.

And then there’s Ohio and Florida, but….

Correct Strategy on Funding

Bill Scher has it.

Contrary to McCain’s suggestion, setting the timetable will increase odds of success since so much of the insurgency is based on resisting permanent occupation.

Plus, McCain’s “second year Westpoint” student comment about setting withdrawal dates… I wonder what other by the book suggestions Westpoint students would have about this fucked up war!

Why They Hate California

This is genius.

When our neighbors think of “Californians” they’re thinking of Berkeley and Marin County. When Middle America thinks of California, they’re thinking of the Castro and West Hollywood. When New Yorkers think of California, they’re thinking of La Jolla and Santa Barbara. No one’s thinking of Bakersfield, Yreka, Salinas, Victorville, Stockton, El Centro, or Watts.

Honestly, I knew people hated California, but I wasn’t aware that people from other states were real–I thought you just stepped into the matrix out there.

Iraq Supplemental

Here’s what’s gonna happen.

The conference will report out a bill with some kind of withdrawal language, and the President will sign it with a “signing statement.” He will insist that the conduct of war is part of the President’s Article II powers, and therefore the language in the bill is meaningless.

As much as I hate to say it, that’s a non-trivial argument. Full-on defunding is really the only thing I can see that’s Constitutionally perfect.

DVR Strangelove Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bombastic TV

It was a rationalization that started it. I was moving and my 34″ Sony Wega was heavy as a hippopotomus and and about as awkward to carry up three flights of stairs. I had just finished my closing ceremony, and after wishing away chunks of the money I had saved here and there over the years in $25 and $35 increments for couriers, flood insurance, and other miscellany putting a grand and a half on a credit card for a new TV and accessories no longer felt foolish.

I did it: the 42″ LG Plasma TV (the better to watch ice hockey on!), the mondo Comcast package (I had no other provider to choose from) and the Digital Video Recorder. I had tried taping hockey games for some time, but it was a pain, occasionally backfired, and the demands of the workaday world kept me in my office cube until well past five most days. A typical Devils game starts at 4 or 4:30 PST. Why put the game on HD only to view it on VHS?

There are signature moments in everyone’s life. You can convince yourself that the decisions that brought you to these moments are more sophisticated than those of Joe SIxpack and Jane Winecooler. Ultimately though, you are either staring at your monsterous HDTVDVR or you aren’t. My first tet-a-tet with the rectangle TV was proof positive that I was a man with a TV megaplex. I was not sure how I felt about that.

There is a common understanding that an excess of TV viewing is bad and that the “more” your television is in terms of size and definition the more of it you will watch.

I believe that at its best TV is about the equivalent of film or radio. The Sopranos or, at times, 24 are as visceral and stimulating an entertainment as a good flick. Real Time with Bill Maher packs more worthwhile commentary into an hour than NPR manages in a month. A TV broadcast of a live event — 95% of the time sports — is the only alternative to being there. Bad TV is watching nothing; that is, zapping through the channels with no purpose while snippets of sound and picture chop at your attention span and the venal catch calls of odious advertisements invade your neurons like brain lice.

After one fortnight I discovered why the DVR is so great. It eliminates Bad TV. No more waiting for the good TV to come on. No more timing meals and chores to end on the half hour. Best of all no more commercials. Just Devils hockey and a few other select choices when I am ready for them. By letting you control TV DVR liberates you from Bad TV.

Labels: TV, HD, DVR

Webb on Iraq vs. Vietnam

After a speech he gave last week at the National Press Club, [Webb] was asked about parallels between Iraq and Vietnam, and said that he must be the only guy in town who didn’t really see any: “I don’t believe there are parallels between Vietnam and Iraq. I may be one of the few people serving who still believes the Vietnam War was sustainable; it was important that South Vietnam not fall to the communists.” Whereas in Iraq, “we have tied down our troops in what I called years ago a strategic mousetrap.”


The Vietnam war was not sustainable because it had energized the entitled Baby Boom generation to become the first group of young people to mobilize politically. In a military sense, we probably could have garrisoned Saigon for a long, long time.

One problem with these discussions is mixing up hindsight with foresight. In 1973, it wasn’t clear that we would win the Cold War, or that it would ever end. (It wasn’t even clear in 1989!) One thing that should have been clear by then, though, was that in our fight against Stalinist regimes (I’m careful to use the term Stalinist because it reflects the totalitarian version of “communism,” a descriptor you wouldn’t apply to “socialist” France or Sweden) was the terrible allies we chose.

At least somebody knew we had to do better. The CIA funded Castro after Batista had the Mexicans imprison most of his guerillas, and, again later after he returned to Cuba. (Castro was a member of the anti-communist “ortodoxo” party at first.) And we finally turned our back on Diem. But at the same time we supported a whole Rogue’s gallery of tinpot dictators who weren’t Stalinist, but Fascist. Somoza, Pinochet, etc.

Minus that mistake, I think it was the right thing to do, even though they weren’t Europeans, to keep half of Korea out of the hands of Kim Il Sung and his psychopathic son. I think it would have been important to keep South Vietnam out of a similarly brutal regime–except Ho wasn’t worse than Diem!

It’s important for our generation to have a deep understanding of the Cold War. Enough so that the nuances are known to people. Because I believe that the number one mistake (of an overall successful policy) was the strange bedfellows we chose.

We are repeating that mistake in the “war on terror.” We prop up Musharraf to the point where we won’t go get bin Laden. We prop up Mubarrak, the Saud family, et al. Meanwhile, we are barely paying attention to the democratically elected governments in Lebanon and Palestine because someone with those same party names once was a suicide bomber. Imagine if we had tried to rebuild Germany not just by de-Nazification, but by denying the vote to anyone who had been a nazi!

I believe the USSR was a real threat. I believe Stalin and Mao were just as big of monsters as Hitler, if not bigger (just by sheer body count). I also believe that Iran is a real threat today. I am even less comfortable with a bunch of shiite ayatollahs on the nuclear trigger than I am with a bunch of KGB men. But if we are going to win this one, we can’t make the same mistakes.

If I was President, I would support Lebanon and Palestine (and Israel!), demand democratic reform in Saudi Arabia, get a pan-Arab force to keep some peace in Iraq, get the US troops out of there, turn up the heat on that dipshit in Pyongyang (assassinate him), and do something to get leverage over Iran.

It’s like the Bushies are trying to make the world be full of nuclear armed terrorists!

Stoller's Brain Dump

The beauty of blogging is that it is raw. You might edit a little bit, but it basically just comes out. In that regard it is very personal. Matt Stoller today went off about the Iraq war spending bill, and basically dumped his timeline of recent political history.

In a nutshell, he thinks the New Deal Dems sold out to fight the Cold War and didn’t have the nuts to shut down segregation. The result was a “national security state” that has brought us Vietnam and Iraq. That’s an interesting narrative, but his historical turning point is the Taft-Hartley Act.

To me I think this sort of typifies the glossing over of the Cold War by a lot of liberal narratives. It’s easy enough to say with 20/20 hindsight that the Soviet Union was never going to attack us or Western Europe, that the military spending and infrastructure created to stave them off was a waste, and getting into the arms race was nuts.

But I think it’s always instructive to look at how the Cold War ended. It ended when the Hungarians took down their fences, and people began to vote with their feet. Even after decades of tyranny and propaganda, people were willing to leave everything behind them to escape. It’s also tough for liberals to admit that Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II were key figures in that victory, but they were. (Reagan remains the only US president to ever publicly call for a worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons.)

So, the whole we sold out the poor to fight the commies theory, even if correct, might not have been such a bad trade in the long run, even for the poor. And the selling out the blacks theory? LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act, after all. So, I’m not sure how that theory carries much water.

The reason it took so long to get the US out of Vietnam was simply that “peace” was not a comprehensive foreign policy at the time. It was the misidentification of the organic revolution in Vietnam with Maoist and Stalinist totalitarianism that was the problem. Hell, the Vietnamese communists even went to war to stop the most evil regime in history, the Khmer Rouge. Would we really wish to let millions of people succumb to a totalitarian, genocidal regime like that of Hitler or Stalin or Mao? As unpopular as the Korean War was at the time, it is not easy to see what the end result was for those in the North.

In other words, Vietnam was a botched, failed, and misinformed implementation of an overall sound, winning policy: containment of “communism” (by which we meant totalitarian communism).

The Iraq war has no such grounding. It is not grounded in an overall sound policy, nor in a winning one. It is not the logical extension of a 20 year historical arc serving America’s interest in promoting a bizarre yet stable world order.

It is just a vehicle for the enrichment of the few.