Browsing the blog archives for January, 2008.


They Tried It at Home

torture

Yochi Dreazen reports for the Wall Street Journal that three young men in New Mexico tried out waterboarding to see if it is torture.

In a nutshell, these three guys were debating whether waterboarding is torture, and one of them suggested they try it out to see. So they filled a 2-liter Coke bottle with water, grabbed a small towel, and headed out to the desert. Then one guy was tied down while another guy poured water on his face. The third guy, I assume, made the video.

Mr. Larroque, who will move to Uganda in February to begin his Peace Corps work, says it was clear from the beginning that he would be the one waterboarded. Mr. Toulouse, who is studying psychology in Canada, didn’t want to be the subject. Mr. Gaspar, who works as a waiter in Albuquerque, participated reluctantly.

“I just didn’t like the idea of waterboarding my best friend,” Mr. Gaspar says. “It seemed a little outside the realm of Saturday-night antics.”

That left the question of where to do the waterboarding. Mr. Larroque, who wanted to film the experiment, proposed doing it in Mr. Gaspar’s house, where the lighting would be best. Mr. Gaspar vetoed the idea. “My fiancée would be a little unhappy with me if she found a huge puddle of water in the house with Jean-Pierre passed out next to it,” he recalls reasoning.

They all survived.

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Demographics

Democratic Party, elections, Republican Party

At the Boston Globe, Scott Helman writes,

They are younger, more diverse, and less rigid in their party loyalty. More of them are women. And they are coming out in droves.

The voters who are shaping the Democratic primary race form a very different electorate than the one that awarded Senator John F. Kerry the party’s nomination in 2004. But while it is evident that voters this year are changing the face of the Democratic Party, the beneficiary of their influence is difficult to predict.

The spike in Democratic voter turnout in primaries and caucuses from 2004 to 2008 is staggering – a 90 percent increase in Iowa, 30 percent in New Hampshire, and 83 percent in South Carolina. Florida Democrats were on pace last night to more than double their turnout from four years ago, while Nevada, whose noncompetitive 2004 caucuses drew only 9,000 people, this year saw 118,000 people vote.

This is great news for America. But there are other demographic groups out there not being heard from. Like, Republican women. Emily Bazelon writes at Slate,

Gender has mattered a great deal in the Democratic race, with women tilting between Hillary (New Hampshire and Nevada) and Obama (Iowa and South Carolina), and voting in larger numbers and by different margins than men. But they haven’t been the key to any Republican victories. In Florida, tonight, they accounted for 44 percent of the vote in their party, compared to 60 percent among Democrats. …

… The virtue of a party without a gender gap is that it’s not dodging the potholes of identity politics. The downside is that it’s muddling along without thinking much about what its women want. Listening to Romney’s and McCain’s speeches tonight, I don’t hear anyone wooing the ladies. Not even in a throwaway sentence or two. …

… What do Republican women want, anyway? They support the Iraq war in far greater numbers than their Democratic counterparts. But they’re just as worried about the economy. Beyond that, and the obligatory pro-life nod, no one seems to ask them.

One suspects the loyal Republican woman, like the loyal Republican gay or the loyal Republican African-American, is so full of self-loathing she’s afraid to ask herself what she thinks.

And then there’s the ignorant yahoo demographic. New York Times reporter Adam Nossiter visits Columbia, Tennessee.

“I wish there was somebody worth voting for,” said Buford Moss, a retired Union Carbide worker sitting at the back table of Bucky’s Family Restaurant here, with a group of regulars, in a county seat that — as the home of the 11th president, James K. Polk — is one of the ancestral homelands of Jacksonian Democracy.

“The Democrats have left the working people,” Mr. Moss said.

“We have nobody representing us,” he continued, adding that he was “sad to say” he had voted previously for Mr. Bush. He was considering sitting out this election altogether. “Anyone but Obama-Osama,” he said, chuckling at a designation that met with mirthful approval at the table.

In interviews around the courthouse square, voters stuttered over Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama in matchups with Republicans, particularly Senator John McCain, whose military credentials give him solid regional armoring. Some white voters voiced outright alarm over Mr. Obama, and though he is a Christian, allusions to his supposed Muslim ties were frequent, as were suggestions that he remained a disturbingly unknown quantity.

White men, in particular, expressed general fearfulness — over a possible terrorist attack, over an unnamed threat from Muslims, over Hispanic immigrants and over the weakening economy. These fears led them to reflect positively on Republican candidates, perceived as more hard-line on most fronts.

“I think our greatest fear is our terrorist enemies,” said Waymon L. Hickman, senior chairman of First Farmers & Merchants bank, whose headquarters building dominates Main Street here.

“You get Peloski up there and they say we’ve lost the war, and that just fuels our adversaries,” said Mr. Hickman, incorrectly pronouncing the name of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

We could spend all day speculating why America’s rural and small town white men are such a fearful lot, or why anybody in Columbia, Tennessee, spends more than 30 seconds a year worrying about terrorist enemies. Part of the problem is that these guys get all their information from Rush and Faux News, obviously. And their heads will explode before they’d vote for either a woman or a black man. These are the guys who will make John McCain a viable contender for the presidency, I fear.

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Edwards Out

Democratic Party

News media report that John Edwards will be dropping out of the presidential race. I regret he didn’t do better. What next for him? A lot of us would like to see him as the veep candidate, but consider also — John Edwards, Attorney General. That would be awesome.

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Bye Bye Rudy

elections, Republican Party

McCain wins Florida and is looking like the eventual GOP nominee. Rudy is going to drop out and endorse McCain, they say on MSNBC.

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Reactions

Bush Administration, Congress, Democratic Party

Via Matthew Yglesias — Alexander Bolton writes for The Hill

When Bush proclaimed, “Ladies and gentlemen, some may deny the surge is working, but among terrorists there is no doubt,” Clinton sprang to her feet in applause but Obama remained firmly seated. The president’s line divided most of the Democratic audience, with nearly half standing to applaud and the other half sitting in stony silence.

In one instance Clinton appeared to gauge Obama’s response before showing her own.

When Bush warned the Iranian government that “America will confront those who threaten our troops, we will stand by our allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf” Obama jumped up to applaud. Clinton leaned across Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.), seated to her left, to look in Obama’s direction before slowly standing.

The Illinois senator strongly criticized the former first lady last year when she supported a resolution calling for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to be designated a terrorist organization. Obama supporters and other Democrats charged the vote would give Bush political cover to begin military operations against Iran.

There also appeared to be some division among Democrats Monday over whether to continue to pump money into the Iraq war effort. When Bush said he would “ask Congress to meet its responsibilities to these brave men and women by fully funding our troops,” Obama and Clinton remained seated while Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) stood up behind them to applaud.

Make of this what you will.

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Bush’s Bliss

Bush Administration

What Steve M. says about the SOTU:

I don’t think it’s just the mountain biking — tonight as I watched his speech and watched him transition from domestic matters, which clearly bore him, to the parts about Iraq and Iran, which seem to send a jolt of bitter, angry energy right across his neck and shoulders, it became obvious to me (if it wasn’t already) that these have been great years for George W. Bush, because he feels he’s doing vitally important things, he feels all kinds of people hate the way he’s doing those things — and he just loves both those feelings.

Clinton often radiates utter glee on the campaign trail; Bush’s bliss doesn’t manifest itself in glee but, rather, in smugness and defiance — in looking down at his enemies and thinking, “I won. You lost.” His victory, of course, is permanent war — he’s a Really Important Person now and nobody can take that away from him.

Spot on.

Ian Williams at the Guardian:

In the annals of doublespeak there can have been few such impressive achievements as George Bush’s final state of the union address. It was a bit like listening to the emperor Honorius give his self-congratulatory state of the empire speech around 410 – just before Alaric had his Roman holiday.

Walter Shapiro:

This was scant reason to miss the debut of HBO’s “In Treatment” or to delay the thrill of cleaning out the medicine chest.

On a more serious note, the Los Angeles Times:

Two themes ran through President Bush’s final State of the Union address Monday night, as he made the case for his continued relevance: Trust the American people, he said — again and again — and empower them to run their own lives. Trust the people with their money, and the economy will come around. Trust them to demand better schools, and schools will improve. Trust scientists to think big about global warming, and they will hit on solutions. All of that is fine, and yet for all of Bush’s trust in the American people, he also made clear that he lacks essential confidence in their government — his government. …

… Americans have many troubles, and they are asking their government for help. Healthcare has become unaffordable for millions. Bush hears those woes but rejects sensible solutions for ideological reasons — favoring “consumer choice, not government control.” …

… Government is not the passive instrument of bureaucrats. It is the active agent of a democratic people. When the people genuinely need its help, the government should act, not merely encourage. In this, Bush has failed to give his nation what it needs. Too many Americans face the loss of homes, too many are in prison. Afghanistan is unstable, Iran threatens. Osama bin Laden is still at large.

Ours is, a great president once proclaimed, “a government of the people, by the people, for the people.” This president has done too little to uphold that conviction. His trust in America’s people is undoubtedly genuine, but his unwillingness to act on their behalf is responsible for our fading trust in him.

See also Dan Froomkin and Richard Wolffe.

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The Last Bush SOTU: Live Blog

Bush Administration, Congress

I don’t want to listen to the creep, mind you, especially since I have yet to recover completely from the flu. But since this is the last State of the Union speech he’s going to give I thought it might have some comic moments.

FYI, if you’re watching on C-SPAN, stay tuned after the speech ends to listen for Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerrilla. She should be giving her comments about 10:30.

Show Time

9:00. The Cabinet is shuffling in. Tweety is gushing about how much everybody loves Condi Rice. He thinks she’ll be a veep candidate. Please.

9:05. Apparently some people actually want to be seen with the Creep on national television. No shame.

9:07. Ted Kennedy and Barack Obama are sitting together.

9:09. OK, here we go.

He’s calling for bipartisanship. This is like Heidi Fleiss calling for chastity. He admits there is short-term concern about the economy. Now he’s talking about the worthless stimulus package and saying that the Senate had better pass it as is and not tweak it.

9:13. Tax relief. Tax relief. He told a joke on people who say they don’t mind their taxes rising. The Dems sit on their hands. Make the tax relief permanent, he says. Standing ovation from Republicans, stone silence from Dems.

He promises to veto any bill that raises taxes.

He says that the government should spend tax dollars wisely. Iraq, anyone? Balance the budget? What a joke.

9:16. Earmarks. Where did I read today that Bush’s earmark policy is a scam? Here it is.

9:19. Health care reform by “expanding consumer choice.”

I have proposed ending the bias in the tax code against those who do not get their health insurance through their employer. This one reform would put private coverage within reach for millions, and I call on the Congress to pass it this year.

What bias? I deduct all of the cost of my health insurance from my taxes.

9:20. He’s claiming that No Child Left Behind has been a success. Amazing.

9:22. Oh, I like this. He wants to give Pell grants to primary and secondary students to go to private schools. The debts they graduate from college with aren’t high enough.

If we fail to pass this agreement, we will embolden the purveyors of false populism in our hemisphere.

Look in a mirror, chimpy.

Trade brings better jobs, better choices, and better prices. Yet for some Americans, trade can mean losing a job, and the Federal Government has a responsibility to help. I ask the Congress to reauthorize and reform trade adjustment assistance, so we can help these displaced workers learn new skills and find new jobs.

Education for jobs that don’t exist.

9:26. Now he’s talking about the environment. What I said above about Heidi Fleiss calling for chastity.

I saw a couple of Democrats clapping. Somebody take their names.

So I ask the Congress to double Federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on earth.

But don’t raise taxes to pay for it.

9:29. Embryonic stems cells. Keep ’em frozen.

9:30.

On matters of justice, we must trust in the wisdom of our Founders and empower judges who understand that the Constitution means what it says.

Heidi Fleiss, etc.

9:31. Volunteers for America! Cause the Gubmint won’t help you!

Tonight the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast. America honors the strength and resilience of the people of this region. We reaffirm our pledge to help them build stronger and better than before. And tonight I am pleased to announce that in April we will host this year’s North American Summit of Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the great city of New Orleans.

No shame.

Now he’s going to call on Congress to save Social Security and Medicare. Republicans applaud. Two Dem programs the Republicans want to destroy.

Secure the border. Guest workers. Tepid applause.

9:35.

Our foreign policy is based on a clear premise: We trust that people, when given the chance, will choose a future of freedom and peace.

And we’ve seen to it they don’t get that chance.

In the last 7 years, we have witnessed stirring moments in the history of liberty. We have seen citizens in Georgia and Ukraine stand up for their right to free and fair elections.

Well, send the Republican Party over there. That’ll stop those free and fair elections.

Since September 11, we have taken the fight to these terrorists and extremists. We will stay on the offense, we will keep up the pressure, and we will deliver justice to the enemies of America.

Running out of time, dude.

9:38. We’re spreading the hope of freedom, he says. He’s adding 3,200 Marines to our forces in Afghanistan. A bit late; people have been asking for this for years.

He’s talking about Iraq. And, y’know, there’s nothing on television at all tonight. There’s a Law and Order rerun on TNT, but that’s about it.

There’s wrestling on USA. A guy in blue trunks just jumped all the way over a guy in brown trunks.

9:44. Chimpy is saying al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq. Except the al Qaeda in Iraq is not the same al Qaeda that hit us on 9/11. He always fails to mention that.

9:46. Nancy Pelosi looks as if she’s struggling to stay awake.

9:47. 20,000 troops are coming home, he says. Biggest applause of the night.

9:49. Commercials on USA. I wanted to see what the wrestlers were doing.

9:50. He says he’s not going to rest. He must have lost his pet pillow.

9:51. He’s calling for a Palestinian state by the end of this year. Like nobody ever thought of that before.

9:52. He’s past the halfway point in the speech, but unless he starts reading real fast he’s not going to be done by 10:00.

9:54. I’ll say one thing; he’s only mentioned 9/11 about three times, I believe.

9:56. Back to USA. A big guy in red trunks with “Samoa” written across his belly is about to take on two other guys. This could be fun.

9:58. Bush has five more paragraphs to get through.

10:00. Animal Precinct! New York City! 8 million People! 5 million Pets! (Animal Planet)

10:02. He’s on the last paragraph. It’s almost over.

He’s done. Keith Olbermann is saying the SOTU was all about Bush’s unfinished business; oldies but moldies. This thing’s going to be torn apart.

I guess I missed the part in which he called on Iran to stop its nuclear program. I thought we’d been through that already.

Well, I may comment further, or not. As I said, I’m still recovering from the flu and find I get tired very quickly. I need an Alleve.

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Tonight’s the Night!

Bush Administration

Stock up on the beer and pretzels, children, because tonight is the very last ever State of the Union Address by His Royal Highness Prince Clusterbleep. And it will be liveblogged here! Let’s celebrate the end of an error together!

The Washington Post says the speech will focus on the Iraq War and the economy. My question is, does anyone still care what he says about anything?

At the New York Times, Jacob Weisberg recalls Bush’s first SOTU. I’d like to see highlights of all of ’em. Let’s recall the Axis of Evil, the Weapons of Mass Destructed-Related Program Activities, the switch grass. Good times. Not.

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Obama Blowout

Democratic Party, elections

Barack Obama’s landslide in South Carolina is being called a repudiation of what has been perceived, rightly or wrongly, as race baiting on the part of the Clinton campaign. Apparently there has been a lot of movement toward Obama in the last three days.

One of the bobbleheads on television — don’t remember which one — said the Clintons are still running a campaign as if it were the 1990s. This may be why younger and better educated voters in particular are being turned off to the Clintons. It will be interesting to see what adjustments they make.

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The Process Matters

Democratic Party, elections

More on the Clintons from today’s newspapers — Bob Herbert writes,

Bill Clinton, in his over-the-top advocacy of his wife’s candidacy, has at times sounded like a man who’s gone off his medication. And some of the Clinton surrogates have been flat-out reprehensible.

Andrew Young, for instance.

This week, while making the remarkable accusation that the Obama camp was responsible for raising the race issue, Mr. Clinton mentioned Andrew Young as someone who would bear that out. It was an extremely unfortunate reference.

Here’s what Mr. Young, who is black and a former ambassador to the United Nations, had to say last month in an interview posted online: “Bill is every bit as black as Barack. He’s probably gone with more black women than Barack.”

He then went on to make disgusting comments about the way that Bill and Hillary Clinton defended themselves years ago against the fallout from the former president’s womanizing. That’s coming from the Clinton camp!

And then there was Bob Kerrey, the former senator and another Clinton supporter, who slimed up the campaign with the following comments:

“It’s probably not something that appeals to him, but I like the fact that his name is Barack Hussein Obama, and that his father was a Muslim and that his paternal grandmother is a Muslim. There’s a billion people on the planet that are Muslims, and I think that experience is a big deal.”

Pressing the point, Mr. Kerrey told CNN’s John King: “I’ve watched the blogs try to say that you can’t trust him because he spent a little bit of time in a secular madrassa. I feel quite the opposite.”

Get it?

Let’s start with the fact that Mr. Obama never attended a madrassa, and that there is no such thing as a secular madrassa. A madrassa is a religious school. Beyond that, the idea is to not-so-slyly feed the current frenzy, on the Internet and elsewhere, that Senator Obama is a Muslim, and thus potentially (in the eyes of many voters) an enemy of the United States.

Mr. Obama is not a Muslim. He’s a Christian. And if he were a Muslim, it would not be a legitimate reason for attacking his candidacy.

The Clinton camp knows what it’s doing, and its slimy maneuvers have been working. Bob Kerrey apologized and Andrew Young said at the time of his comment that he was just fooling around. But the damage to Senator Obama has been real, and so have the benefits to Senator Clinton of these and other lowlife tactics.

Jonathan Chait:

Something strange happened the other day. All these different people — friends, co-workers, relatives, people on a liberal e-mail list I read — kept saying the same thing: They’ve suddenly developed a disdain for Bill and Hillary Clinton. Maybe this is just a coincidence, but I think we’ve reached an irrevocable turning point in liberal opinion of the Clintons. …

…The big turning point seems to be this week, when the Clintons slammed Obama for acknowledging that Ronald Reagan changed the country. Everyone knows Reagan changed the country. Bill and Hillary have said he changed the country. But they falsely claimed that Obama praised Reagan’s ideas, saying he was a better president than Clinton — something he didn’t say and surely does not believe.

This might have been the most egregious case, but it wasn’t the first. Before the New Hampshire primaries, Clinton supporters e-mailed pro-choice voters claiming that Obama was suspect on abortion rights because he had voted “present” instead of “no” on some votes. (In fact, the president of the Illinois chapter of Planned Parenthood said she had coordinated strategy with Obama and wanted him to vote “present.”)

At the Boston Herald, Michael Graham quotes Dick Morris:

“If Hillary loses South Carolina and the defeat serves to demonstrate Obama’s ability to attract a block vote among black Democrats, the message will go out loud and clear to white voters that this is a racial fight. That will trigger a massive white backlash against Obama and will drive white voters to Hillary Clinton.”

No matter what happens in South Carolina today – even if Obama wins a plurality among white voters – the Clintons and their media stooges have turned South Carolina into “the black primary.”

To me, this isn’t about whether Clinton or Obama or Edwards would make the best nominee. It’s about the process of Democracy. This style of scorched earth, divide and conquer politics might win elections but it leaves a nasty residue of resentment and distrust that harms all of us.

Update: What Josh Marshall says.

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