Goodreads Profile

All my book reviews and profile can be found here.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Liberalism as Pragmatists. Nader a Leninist?

Eric Alterman's new book, Why We're Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, provides a welcome review of what it means to be a liberal and discusses the evolution of how Americans view liberalism. (In his view the last true liberal was FDR.) Nixon bragged about being a liberal, and George Bush believes in big government but just not paying for it. Under Clinton the size of government fell by 1%; under George W Bush, it has grown by 3%. Liberals believe in individual freedom, but know they need government in order to protect those freedoms from societal forces; so they have become pragmatists. The charges against liberals actually fit the media conservatives better than the liberals, he argues, but the conservatives have set the agenda.

Alterman said some interesting things about Ralph Nader during an interview with Leonard Lopate on WNYC. When asked if Nader was a liberal, Alterman replied Nader is a Leninist who believes that things have to get better before they will get worse and therefore really wanted Bush to win because he knew things would be bad and that was the only way to get the country back on track.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Finally someone says something sensible about Jeremiah Wright and Patriotism

From Salon

Russert, Nigger, and Race

No comment is necessary. Taken from Salon's Gregg Greenwald. The entire post is here.

UPDATE II: Instapunk's far-from-uncommon thoughts on race illustrate another significant point. What explains the media's Obama/Wright fixation while virtually ignoring McCain's embrace of people like Rod Parsley and John Hagee is the assumption that the controversial behavior of any one black person is easily attributed to black people generally, while white political leaders aren't held accountable for the views of others solely by virtue of shared race. That dynamic is what explains this -- Tim Russert interviewing Barack Obama, January 22, 2006:

MR. RUSSERT: I want to talk a little bit about the language people are using in the politics now of 2006, and I refer you to some comments that Harry Belafonte made yesterday. He said that Homeland Security had become the new Gestapo. What do you think of that?

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Belafonte went to Venezuela, as you well know, some time ago and met with the Hugo Chavez, leader of that country, and said some things that obviously were noted in this country and around the world. Let's listen, and come back and talk about it. . . . Is it appropriate to call the President of the United States "the greatest terrorist in the world"?

Barack Obama has nothing to do with Harry Belafonte and yet, out of the blue, Tim Russert demanded that he opine on Belafonte's statements -- just as Russert demanded that Obama renounce Louis Farrakhan's. Here, to my knowledge, is the only other time Russert ever asked anyone about the statements of Harry Belafonte -- Tim Russert interviewing Colin Powell, May 4, 2003:

MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned criticism of Castro. In fact, some artists and writers from the United States of America, led by Harry Belafonte, said that the United States has been guilty of harassment of Cuba, and this is a pretext for invasion.

By stark contrast, there is never any assumption that John McCain shares the radical and vehemently "anti-American" views of his "spiritual guide" Rod Parsley or John Hagee, whose endorsements he sought and with whom he has shared a stage and lavishly praised. What accounts for that extreme disparity in media treatment? (That Obama has a closer relationship to Wright than McCain does with Parsley/Hagee is a separate issue, for the reason explained in the first paragraph here). Instapunk's observations shed significant light on the reasons for that disparity.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Prominent Republican Attorney Endorses Obama

The following is the text of Republican Doug Kmiec's endorsement:
"Today I endorse Barack Obama for president of the United States. I believe him to be a person of integrity, intelligence and genuine good will. I take him at his word that he wants to move the nation beyond its religious and racial divides and to return United States to that company of nations committed to human rights. I do not know if his earlier life experience is sufficient for the challenges of the presidency that lie ahead. I doubt we know this about any of the men or women we might select. It likely depends upon the serendipity of the events that cannot be foreseen. I do have confidence that the Senator will cast his net widely in search of men and women of diverse, open-minded views and of superior intellectual qualities to assist him in the wide range of responsibilities that he must superintend.

This endorsement may be of little note or consequence, except perhaps that it comes from an unlikely source: namely, a former constitutional legal counsel to two Republican presidents. The endorsement will likely supply no strategic advantage equivalent to that represented by the very helpful accolades the Senator has received from many of high stature and accomplishment, including most recently, from Governor Bill Richardson. Nevertheless, it is important to be said publicly in a public forum in order that it be understood. It is not arrived at without careful thought and some difficulty.

As a Republican, I strongly wish to preserve traditional marriage not as a suspicion or denigration of my homosexual friends, but as recognition of the significance of the procreative family as a building block of society. As a Republican, and as a Catholic, I believe life begins at conception, and it is important for every life to be given sustenance and encouragement. As a Republican, I strongly believe that the Supreme Court of the United States must be fully dedicated to the rule of law, and to the employ of a consistent method of interpretation that keeps the Court within its limited judicial role. As a Republican, I believe problems are best resolved closest to their source and that we should never arrogate to a higher level of government that which can be more effectively and efficiently resolved below. As a Republican, and the constitutional lawyer, I believe religious freedom does not mean religious separation or mindless exclusion from the public square.

In various ways, Senator Barack Obama and I may disagree on aspects of these important fundamentals, but I am convinced based upon his public pronouncements and his personal writing that on each of these questions he is not closed to understanding opposing points of view, and as best as it is humanly possible, he will respect and accommodate them.

No doubt some of my friends will see this as a matter of party or intellectual treachery. I regret that and I respect their disagreement. But they will readily agree that as Republicans, we are first Americans. As Americans, we must voice our concerns for the well-being of our nation without partisanship when decisions that have been made endanger the body politic. Our president has involved our nation in a military engagement without sufficient justification or clear objective. In so doing, he has incurred both tragic loss of life and extraordinary debt jeopardizing the economy and the well-being of the average American citizen. In pursuit of these fatally flawed purposes, the office of the presidency, which it was once my privilege to defend in public office formally, has been distorted beyond its constitutional assignment. Today, I do no more than raise the defense of that important office anew, but as private citizen.

9/11 and the radical Islamic ideology that it represents is a continuing threat to our safety and the next president must have the honesty to recognize that it, as author Paul Berman has written, "draws on totalitarian inspirations from 20th-century Europe and with its double roots, religious and modern, perversely intertwined. . . .wields a lot more power, intellectually speaking, then naïve observers might suppose." Senator Obama needs to address this extremist movement with the same clarity and honesty with which he has addressed the topic of race in America. Effective criticism of the incumbent for diverting us from this task is a good start, but it is incomplete without a forthright outline of a commitment to undertake, with international partners, the formation of a world-wide entity that will track, detain, prosecute, convict, punish, and thereby, stem radical Islam's threat to civil order. I await Senator Obama's more extended thinking upon this vital subject, as he accepts the nomination of his party and engages Senator McCain in the general campaign discussion to come."

Posted Sunday, March 23, 2008 9:18 AM by Doug Kmiec on Slate

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Dream Ticket - You Heard it Here First

I have despaired more and more recently watching Hillary and Barack (whom I admire greatly) snipe away at each other. Hillary cannot win the delegate or popular count even if she wins overwhelmingly in PA and some other primaries yet to be held. That means the nomination is in the hands of the Super Delegates. If they don't decide things decisively in June after Puerto Rico, I predict the convention will deadlock and go to multiple ballots. Barack will argue he has the most votes and most delegates; Hillary will argue that Barack can't get elected (and that may be largely true if race continues to be an issue and the Clinton camp seems determined to continue to make it one.)

The only solution if the Democrats really want to guarantee victory in the fall is if they settle on a compromise candidate: Imagine a Gore/Obama ticket. Unbeatable.

Friday, March 21, 2008

FOX Lies!! Barack Obama Pastor Wright

YouTube - FOX Lies!! Barack Obama Pastor Wright

So what else is new. Fox et al lie. Here's Wright's whole sermon in which he made the supposedly infamous remarks. He was actually quoting someone else, Ambassador Peck, a "white" guy no less. Wright's whole congregation is rallying to his defense.

Personally, I'm tired of Romney's religion, Obama's religion, etc. Let's go with Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and dump all of them. It's time to start thinking rationally.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

What would post-Saddam Iraq have looked like without a coalition presence? - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine

What would post-Saddam Iraq have looked like without a coalition presence? - By Christopher Hitchens - Slate Magazine

While I disagree with Hitchens regarding the manner of US involvement, his analysis that we are still in the throes of a war that began in 1914 makes some sense. If we could just have a continuity of policy that wasn't always so short-term and solipsistic and used means other than military, perhaps we might have made more progress in 1953.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Republics, Democrats and Family Values

The following is a post to Slate regarding another post discussing Democrat's immorality:

"Your post would make somebody think that all democrats are pretty bad people. I thought I'd help you track down some from the republican party, just to disabuse you of the thought that you are a member of the party of purity.

Look up Ted Klaudt. He is now serving time for raping his two underage foster daughters.

He was a republican member of the South Dakota House of Representatives until 2006.

Just the most recent example of people from the party of family values....

Scum? You want to talk about really disgusting excuses for a human being? Take a look around you at the republican convention. See if you recognize any of these people.....

Republican anti-abortion activist Howard Scott Heldreth is a convicted child Rapist in Florida.

Republican County Commissioner David Swartz pleaded guilty to molesting two girls under the age of 11 and was sentenced to 8 years
in prison.

Republican judge Mark Pazuhanich pleaded no contest to fondling a 10-year old girl and was sentenced to 10 years probation.

Republican anti-abortion activist Nicholas Morency pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography on his computer and offering a bounty to anybody who murders an abortion doctor.

Republican legislator Edison Misla Aldarondo was sentenced to 10 years in prison for attempted rape of a juvenile.

Republican Mayor Philip Giordano is serving a 37-year sentence in federal prison for sexually abusing 8- and 10-year old girls.

Republican campaign consultant Tom Shortridge was sentenced to three years probation for taking nude photographs of a 15-year old girl.

Republican racist pedophile and United States Senator Strom Thurmond had sex with a 15-year old black girl which produced a child.

Republican pastor Mike Hintz, whom George W. Bush commended during the 2004 presidential campaign, surrendered to police after admitting to a sexual affair with a juvenile.

Republican legislator Peter Dibble pleaded no contest to having an inappropriate relationship with a 13-year-old girl.

Republican activist Lawrence E. King, Jr. organized child sex parties at the White House during the 1980s.

Republican lobbyist Craig J. Spence organized child sex parties at the White House during the 1980s.

Republican Congressman Donald "Buz" Lukens was found guilty of having sex with a minor and sentenced to one month in jail.

Republican fundraiser Richard A. Delgaudio was found guilty of child porn charges.

Republican activist Mark A. Grethen convicted on six counts of sex crimes involving children.

Republican activist Randal David Ankeney pleaded guilty to attempted sexual assault on a child.

Republican Congressman Dan Crane had sex with a minor working as a congressional page.

Republican activist and Christian Coalition leader Beverly Russell admitted to an incestuous relationship with his step daughter.

Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had sex with a 16 year old when he was 28.

Republican congressman and anti-gay activist Robert Bauman was charged with having sex with a 16-year-old boy he picked up at a
gay bar.

Republican Committee Chairman Jeffrey Patti was arrested for distributing a video clip of a 5-year-old girl being raped.

Republican activist Marty Glickman (a.k.a. "Republican Marty"), was taken into custody by Florida police on four counts of unlawful sexual activity with a juvenile and one count of
delivering the drug LSD.

Republican legislative aide Howard L. Brooks was charged with molesting a 12-year old boy and possession of child pornography.

Republican Senate candidate John Hathaway was accused of having sex with his 12-year old baby sitter and withdrew his candidacy after the allegations were reported in the media.

Republican preacher Stephen White, who demanded a return to traditional values, was arrested after allegedly offering $20 to a
14-year-old boy for permission to perform oral sex on him.

Republican talk show host Jon Matthews pleaded guilty to exposing his genitals to an 11 year old girl.

Republican anti-gay activist Earl "Butch" Kimmerling was sentenced to 40 years in prison for molesting an 8-year old girl after he attempted to stop a gay couple from adopting her.

Republican Party leader Paul Ingram pleaded guilty to six counts of raping his daughters and served 14 years in federal prison.

Republican election board official Kevin Coan was sentenced to two years probation for soliciting sex over the internet from a 14-year old girl.

Republican politician Andrew Buhr was charged with two counts of first degree sodomy with a 13-year old boy.

Republican politician Keith Westmoreland was arrested on seven felony counts of lewd and lascivious exhibition to minors under 16 (i.e. exposing himself to children).

Republican anti-abortion activist John Allen Burt was charged with sexual misconduct involving a 15-year old girl.

Republican County Councilman Keola Childs pleaded guilty to molesting a child.

Republican activist John Butler was charged with criminal sexual assault on a teenage girl.

Republican candidate Richard Gardner admitted to molesting his two daughters.

Republican Councilman and former Marine Jack W. Gardner was convicted of molesting a 13-year old girl.

Republican County Commissioner Merrill Robert Barter pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual contact and assault on a teenage boy.

Republican City Councilman Fred C. Smeltzer, Jr. pleaded no contest to raping a 15 year-old girl and served 6-months in prison.

Republican activist Parker J. Bena pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography on his home computer and was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison and fined $18,000.

Republican parole board officer and former Colorado state representative, Larry Jack Schwarz, was fired after child pornography was found in his possession.

Republican strategist and Citadel Military College graduate Robin Vanderwall was convicted in Virginia on five counts of
soliciting sex from boys and girls over the internet.

Republican city councilman Mark Harris, who is described as a "good military man" and "church goer," was convicted of repeatedly having sex with an 11-year-old girl and sentenced to
12 years in prison.

Republican businessman Jon Grunseth withdrew his candidacy for Minnesota governor after allegations surfaced that he went
swimming in the nude with four underage girls, including his daughter.

Republican director of the "Young Republican Federation" Nicholas Elizondo molested his 6-year old daughter and was sentenced to six years in prison.

Republican benefactor of conservative Christian groups, Richard A. Dasen Sr., was charged with rape for allegedly paying a 15-year old girl for sex. Dasen, 62, who is married with grown children and several grandchildren, has allegedly told police that over the past decade he paid more than $1 million to have sex with a large number of young women."

The original post has links to citations.

More campaign observations

Just some observations:

1. Regarding the Samantha Power "monster" remark. Obama should not have accepted her resignation. Aside from the fact that she had asked the reporter not to report the remark, it was clearly her opinion, if hyperbolic, and all of us should be entitled to express our opinions -- that's what free speech is about, Obama could have distanced himself, but encouraged Power to stay. By all accounts she is a shining light in the human rights movement and author of some seminal books on the subject. The same is true for Geraldine Ferraro's silly remark, The fact that she said the same thing about Jesse Jackson in 1988 tells you a lot about Ferraro, not Clinton.

2. I am tired of the "experience" nonsense. Even when Clinton talks about her "experience" in helping to negotiate peace in Ireland -- a claim since denigrated by others who were there -- she has been careful to say, "under the direction of her husband," which sounds like she is building a resume for Secretary of State, not president. If you want an example of experience, just look at James Buchanan, considered, "Mr. Government" at the time, and he turned out to be one of the worst presidents. Not to mention all the experience Cheney and Rumsfeld had -- look where that got us. It seems to me a president should be chosen for his ability to lead and bring people together, not for his/her ability to micro-manage. And speaking of micro-managing, Clinton needs to manage her campaign a lot better. Either that or find out where all the money is going. If you want an example of a president with little or no experience look at Bill Clinton. The Obama campaign is a mirror of Bill's first campaign.

3. I am very worried that Clinton is enclosing herself in a box. Her campaign ads suggesting Obama is not qualified to be Commander in Chief -- but John McCain is -- is like writing McCain's TV ads for him, and it makes a mockery of her silly suggestion that Obama could be a good VP. The VP is supposed to be able to take over from day one. I also fear that in any contest where national security is the dominant topic, McCain will crush Clinton. The Democrats will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

A Ferraro flashback - Ben Smith's Blog -

A Ferraro flashback - Ben Smith's Blog -

The Clinton campaign is beginning to sound like a bad record.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hillary in a box

Despite the vague (perhaps not so vague) hints by the Clinton campaign that the American public might get a chance to vote for a Clinton/Obama ticket, she has effectively shut Obama out as a running mate. The red phone ads (ironically, the baby in the video, which was taken years ago, is now grown up and an Obama supporter) that suggest Obama is not up to the task of being commander -in-chief, make it almost impossible for her to pick Obama as a running mate unless she backs off from the ads.

A further irony is that the more she defines herself as the national security candidate the more likely she is to be crushed by John McCain should she become the nominee.

I was disappointed that Samantha Power, author of A Problem from Hell, was forced to resign from the Obama campaign for the "monster" remark. Obama should have said that he values opinions from all the spectra and that Power is a dedicated human rights advocate, a professor at Yale, and that while her remarks did not perhaps reflect his, she was certainly entitled to them. We need more free speech, not less. The Goolspee NAFTA remark falls in a different category, because he was apparently speaking for the candidate about an issue that concerns many of us.

Another irony, in a year filled with them, is Clinton's antipathy toward NAFTA, viewed as one of the crowning jewels of her husband's term in office. Both candidates are being disingenuous. NAFTA has provided a net surplus of jobs in the US since it was enacted and has immeasureably helped workers in other countries. It has hurt US manufacturing jobs, but you win some and lose some. Clinton and Obama need to be more honest about that. McCain admits he knows nothing about economics so he's irrelevant.

Classic Quote

Ari Fleischer on not finding WMD:

"I think the burden is on those people who didn't think he [Saddam Hussein] had weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they are?


Saturday, March 08, 2008

Rambling discouragement

This blog is going to ramble more than usual. I remember going to buy a car several years ago and after getting most of the paperwork done, we had to sit down with the financial guy who tried to sell us an extended warranty on the car. His technique was to tell us all the things that were bad about the car; all the things we could expect to go wrong with it. I should have said, "if you don't think this is a good car, then I won't buy it." But, of course, I didn't and after some uncomfortable arguing we got out of there without the extended warranty.

That's a little the way I'm beginning to feel about the Democratic primary. We started with a lot of enthusiasm, with a bunch of great candidates, and now we are deluged with all the things that are wrong with both Hillary and Obama. Each will be a disaster we are being told. The problem the Democrats face is that people may actually start to believe them and, unlike me, decide that the car is so flawed they need to shop around for something different.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

What are you politically? Take the test.

Official Website of the Libertarian National Committee

Take the test and see where your political leanings lie. This site also has one of the best descriptions of the terms liberal, conservative, etc.

Daydream Believers

Question of the Day: Who was both the youngest and oldest Secretary of Defense? (answer below)

Daydream Believers: How a Few Grand Ideas Wrecked American Power by Fred Kaplan is a fascinating book regarding the false assumptions made by Bush et al in going into Iraq. One of the great ironies of the fall of the Soviet Union is that it made the United States less strong rather than more, according to Kaplan, and this is something that was completely missed by the administrations following 1991. Because the world was no longer divided into two spheres of influence, which dominated the political landscape, countries were now free to basically ignore the wishes of the United States and go their own way. It was impossible, politically and militarily, to field a large enough imperial army to dominate. It was thus imperative that we develop alliances and coalitions to achieve our goals. This both Clinton and the Bushes failed to do. This made our influence much weaker.

The prevailing theory was that we could fight the same battles we had prepared for under the old Soviet threat. But we failed to allow for rebuilding what had been destroyed.

Donald Rumsfeld: 32 under Gerald Ford and 68 under George W Bush.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Now things will get messy

I know the pundits will laugh themselves silly, but then again they laughed at my prediction I made over a year ago that McCain would be the nominee. With Hillary's win in Texas and Ohio, the super delegates will be much less likely to commit to Obama and risk pissing off Bill to whom many of them owe their allegiance. Hillary and Barack will trash each other over the summer, much to the delight of McCain et al, and they will go to the convention with no clear leader in delegates but lots of negatives about each other. The convention will deadlock on at least the first ballot with neither side willing to concede and guess who will come riding to the rescue: the man who has run the most subtle campaign for the last 4 years - Al Gore. He beat Bush once and has turned himself into the statesman for environmentalism. He will be acceptable to everyone and a Gore/Obama tkt will look unbeatable. He will also have the advantage of forcing the McCain campaign to completely change tactics.

Plausible? I think it's very likely.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Relevant quote from George Carlin


The closest I can get to that [anger] is to say that, at some point there leading into the '90s, I divorced myself from any stake in the human adventure or the American adventure. That sounds kind of pompous so let me just break that down. What I decided was that I didn't give a fuck about what happens on this planet to these people. I mean, I see the nice things in people, I see the good things, but I also see what a depraved, sick species we are, the only species that kills its own for personal gain.

I'll go back to square one on this: We squandered a lot of gifts. Human beings were given a lot of great gifts. We were given the ability to reason, this extra-large brain, walking erect, having binocular vision and the opposable thumb, and all of these things, and we had such promise, but we squandered it on goods and superstition. We gave ourselves over to the high priests and the traders, and they are the ones we allow to control us. I think that's a huge mistake and it's disappointing to me. Now, the corollary is, America was given great gifts, this ideal form of government, this most improved form of self-government that has ever come along up until that time, and we squandered it. And once again, on the same two things: gizmos and toys and gadgets -- goods, property, possessions -- and also this country is far too religious for its own good.

So at some point, I drifted away from feeling any allegiance. Abraham Maslow the psychologist once said, "The fully realized man does not identify with the local group." Boy, when I read that, I said, that's me. I don't identify with city, state, government, religion, association, county, organization or species, even. And what I realized was that this feeling of alienation from all that gave me a kind of emotional detachment that was very valuable artistically. To be able to look at things and not give a fuck. To not have a rooting interest in the outcome. I don't really care what happens in this country. I'll be honest with you. I don't give a fuck what happens. I don't give a fuck what happens to this earth, because it's all temporal and it's all bullshit."

The full interview is at: