Browsing the blog archives for March, 2008.

Irrelevant in Iraq

Bush Administration, Iraq War

As usual, Juan Cole provides a succinct explanation of what’s going on in Iraq. Here’s the most critical bit about the fighting in Basra:

The southern parties have essentially defied al-Maliki and Bush to make a separate peace.

The entire episode underlines how powerful Iran has become in Iraq.

Way to go, Bushies.

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Bleep Bleep Bleep

Democratic Party

For reasons that need not concern anyone but me — and maybe not even me — I’m not having one of my more coherent writing days. Here is something to discuss until I pull my head back together.

Gallup Poll says Obama is extending his lead over Clinton. Is the scorched-earth campaign backfiring?

See Josh Marshall, “All the Way to Denver.” Steve Benen says that at some point Dem party leaders are going to have to intervene and stop the nomination fight.

Frank Rich says
the Clinton campaign is clueless about the Web, among other things.

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Tibet: All Alone


The headline here is bleaker than the one on the other blog, where I explain why western powers have their hands tied and cannot — well, will not — help Tibet.

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Update on Tibet


From what I can piece together from a distance, it appears that during the violence that broke out in Lhasa two weeks ago, a mob of mostly young Tibetan laypeople did kill and injure Han Chinese. However, I don’t believe monks were involved in that.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been in exile for 49 years. My understanding is that younger Tibetans may still revere him, but they don’t necessarily listen to him.

There’s a good background article on Tibet in the Wall Street Journal. Basically, Chinese government officials are idiots.

It should be no surprise that beatings of monks and closings of monasteries naturally stimulate civil unrest, or that civil unrest, spawned in this way, can turn violent.

Why aren’t these simple truths more obvious? Phuntsog Wanggyal, a Tibetan now retired in Beijing who for years was a leading Communist official in Tibet, has observed that a doctrine of “anti-splittism” has taken root among Chinese government officials who deal with religion and minority affairs, both in central offices in Beijing and in Tibet. Having invested their careers in anti-splittism, these people cannot admit that the idea is mistaken without losing face and, they fear, losing their own power and position as well.

Their ready-made tag for everything that goes wrong is “hostile foreign forces” — an enemy that justifies any kind of harsh or unreasoning repression. When repeated endlessly, anti-splittism, although originally vacuous, does take on a kind of solidity. Careers are made in it, and challenging it becomes impossible.

Sounds a lot like the Bush Administration. Who needs reality when you’ve got a good talking point?

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The Threat

Democratic Party

Just one more reason to support Senator Obama — some deep-pocket Dem Party backers are trying to gag Nancy Pelosi by threatening to withhold support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee if she doesn’t watch her words. Pelosi had urged superdelegates to support the candidate with the most pledged delegates by the time of the nominating convention this summer. Twenty donors who have given the DCCC nearly $3 million since 1999 have implied that they will stop being so generous if Pelosi doesn’t keep her opinions to herself.

This came up on last night’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Jonathan Alter speaks:

ALTER: Well, they‘re saying we are the rich people in the party and it‘s almost like a little bit of a threat to Nancy Pelosi, but it carries a lot less weight than it would have in the past. And here‘s why. I know a lot of these folks. This is the financial backbone of the Democratic Party. These are long time Clinton backers who are very upset right now that their candidate seems to be going down the tubes.

They used to, essentially run the finances of the Democratic Party. Now, you have a situation where you have a candidate who has raised so much more than any other candidate in American history and his average donation, Barack Obama‘s, is $109.

So, he has tapped into hundreds of thousands of small donors who made this crowd of wealthy donors much, much less relevant in the Democratic Party, and their threat to Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean and the rest, much, much less relevant than it would have been, say four years ago.

OLBERMANN: Right. Human beings versus dinosaurs, it sounds like if you have that comparison, if that were biologically possible.

Notice that Pelosi hasn’t endorsed either candidate. She’s just saying what she thinks is good for the party. She’s the bleeping Speaker of the bleeping House, and the money people are trying to shut her up.

The twenty donors probably are not evil people, but who can say what they expect for their money?

One of the reasons the Dem party hasn’t been worth a bucket of warm piddle since the 1970s is that, once the old New Deal coalition broke up, the Dems have had to crawl to Big Money special interests to get the funds to run for office. As others have said, the Dems have had to get in line for the second biggest checks. That has put a big limit on how “progressive” they can afford to be, if you catch my drift. It’s the reason why so-called “liberals” like the Clintons never seem to accomplish much that’s all that, y’know, liberal. In the past several years sorta moderately not too far Right is the best we’ve been able to hope for. has an online petition. says,

A group of millionaire Democratic donors are threatening to stop supporting Democrats in Congress because Nancy Pelosi said that the people, not the superdelegates, should decide the Presidential nomination.
They’re Clinton supporters and they’re trying to use their high-roller status to strong arm the Democratic leaders.
So let’s tell Nancy Pelosi that if she keeps standing up for regular Americans, thousands of us will have her back.
A compiled petition with your individual comment will be presented to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic leadership.

The online Clinton supporters, meanwhile (no links; you know who they are) are outraged that Pelosi would meddle with the political process and defy the will of the people. I’m serious. I guess the only people allowed to have “will” are the ones with money.

And look who’s been reduced to quoting Karl Rove. This is so sad. Please, everybody, get a grip.

Update: Obama “raised $91 million in the first two months of 2008 alone, most of it in small amounts over the Internet.” Somehow that not quite $3 million in nine years doesn’t seem so grand.

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Iraq in Meltdown?

Asia, Bush Administration, Iraq War

It’s CNN’s headline, folks — “Al-Sadr in trouble, Iraq headed for meltdown.” The Independent has another alarming headline — “Iraq implodes as Shia fights Shia.” And if you need further alarming, read Juan Cole.

Professor Cole says that violence is breaking out in many parts of Iraq, including Baghdad and Najaf, the latter of which is often mentioned in President Bush’s Iraq success myths.

But even though Iraq is either melting down or imploding, or both, the warbloggers are curiously not on top of this so far. In fact, the only thing worrying the gang at the Weekly Standard site is a trip taken to Iraq in 2002 by some Dem senators that was bankrolled by Saddam Hussein’s government. Nothing going on in Iraq now is, apparently, interesting to them.

In other news, this morning about 30 monks disrupted a carefully controlled tour of Lhasa being conducted by the Chinese government for foreign tourists. The resistance is not completely crushed, it seems. You can read about it on the other blog.

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Still Catching Up

Democratic Party

A few weeks ago, on a listserv from which I have since removed myself, Clinton supporters were raising hell because, they said, Obama supporters were “losers” who could not be counted on to support the eventual nominee, Clinton, in the general election. Their evidence for this was entirely anecdotal, but never mind. This was proof, you see, that Obama supporters were more like cult followers than political supporters, and that they did not understand the pragmatic realities of politics the way Clinton supporters did.

Further, Clinton supporters are real Democrats, I was told, whereas Obama supporters include more Independents and even moderate Republicans.

Now we have actual poll numbers that show it’s more often Clinton supporters, not Obama supporters, who will abandon the Dems in November if their candidate isn’t on the ballot.

I’m a little sorry I dropped off that listserv. I’d like to know if any of the Clinton supporters are acknowledging this today.

I suspect the splitters on both sides are mostly what are euphemistically called “low-information voters.” Once they get a better look at McCain — a scary and possibly demented old man who will continue the worst of Bush’s policies — many are likely to get over their disappointment and come home to the Dems.

Still, it’s going to take some time for these voters to process a loss and move on, and the longer the Dem nomination fight drags on, the less time they will have.

Meanwhile, Senator Clinton is so desperate to take down Obama so that she can move ahead of him that it appears she’s dealing with the Devil Himself — Richard Mellon Scaife.

A couple of days ago Paul Lukasiak posted some numbers he crunched to show that in a general election, Senator Clinton would lose more votes because of sexism than Obama would lose because of racism. As you may know I have a huge aversion to numbers, so I cannot comment on his analysis, but you might find it interesting.

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Catching Up

blogging, conservatism, Democratic Party, Iraq War, liberalism and progressivism, Republican Party

The problem with getting behind in my blogging is that, when I do get back to the blog, so much stuff has happened that I don’t know where to start. And, unfortunately, I have a huge amount of Other work to do today and cannot linger here writing something artful. So I’m just going to sort of free associate for a bit and run through some current items.

Leila Fadel and Nancy A. Youssef write for McClatchy Newspapers, “Is ‘success’ of U.S. surge in Iraq about to unravel?” I knew the surge — as a public relations tool, anyway — was in trouble last night, when I was half listening to Hardball. I heard Tweety ask something along the lines of “Is the surge working?” When Tweety’s catching on to something, you know it’s pretty damn obvious. See also Fester at Newshoggers.

The bobbleheads are beginning to write off the Clinton campaign again, for at least the third time. The Vegetable has her chances of winning the nomination at 5 percent, which makes it a near certainty she’s about shoot up in the polls.

Journalist and brother blogger Will Bunch scored a major coup yesterday with this story. (Senator Clinton is exaggerating? Who knew?) See also “Clinton: Pledged delegates are ‘like superdelegates.’ ”

I have to disagree with E.J. Dionne. He writes,

What’s the matter with conservatism?

Its problems start with the failure of George W. Bush’s presidency …

The problems of conservatism are intrinsic to conservatism. Bush’s failed presidency is just a manifestation of the internal failures of conservatism.

I don’t have any problems with what used to be moderately conservative positions, such as being cautious about raising taxes, spending the people’s money, and getting entangled in foreign problems we would do well to leave alone. A moderately conservative perspective needs to be represented in government as a counterweight to some of the flightier impulses of progressivism. By the same token, conservatism needs progressivism and its flightier impulses to keep it from being utterly stuck in the mud. And democratic government itself can only survive when it respects the values of liberalism.

The problem with conservatism is that, when taken to extremes and logical outcomes, it turns into a nasty, brutish thing that destroys everything it touches. And the problem with the Republican Party is that, in the 1970s, it was infiltrated and taken over by hard-core ideologues who were determined to take the GOP and the rest of the country to those extremes and logical outcomes.

And once the extremists had complete control of all branches of government, with no effective counterweights, they proceeded to destroy everything they touched.

You can argue — hell, I’ve argued — that any ideology, taken to extremes, will implode and self-destruct. Ideology is a bit like medicine; a bigger dose is not necessarily a better dose. One pill every four hours might cure you, but four pills every one hour might kill you.

Well, Other duty calls. Gotta go.

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How Romantic

Bush Administration, Iraq War

Erica Goode reports for the New York Times:

BAGHDAD — The shelling started just before 6 a.m., mortar fire shaking buildings and sending early risers in the Green Zone here running for shelter. Sirens went off, and loudspeakers blared, “Duck and cover! Duck and cover!” A thick column of gray smoke rose above the embassies and government buildings in the area.

The early morning onslaught on Sunday was one of the fiercest and most sustained attacks on the Green Zone in the past year, and it ushered in a day of violence that claimed the lives of at least 51 Iraqi civilians and soldiers, including two children.

How ’bout that surge, huh? And what was it the President said the other day about how romantic war is?

Nicolas Kristof writes,

The Iraq war is now going better than expected, for a change. Most critics of the war, myself included, blew it: we didn’t anticipate the improvements in security that are partly the result of last year’s “surge.”

The improvement is real but fragile and limited. Here’s what it amounts to: We’ve cut our casualty rates to the unacceptable levels that plagued us back in 2005, and we still don’t have any exit plan for years to come — all for a bill that is accumulating at the rate of almost $5,000 every second!

Why did we invade Iraq, again? Something about aluminum tubes?

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Happy Bunny Day


© Ferenc Szelepcsenyi |

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