Sunday, December 30, 2007

Lambert on Obama, Krugman, the Conservative Movement...

Pretty much everything, really.

I'll drill it down, though. Obama's followers are pissed off at Paul Krugman's criticism of their chosen candidate. Yet Krugman has a point: Obama's rhetoric of national reconciliation runs smack into the reality of the conservative movement, which has spent something like 30 years injecting billionaire-friendly anti-New Deal policies into the national discourse through thoroughgoing partisanship. "Reconciliation" between the public position on issues and the CM position on issues may well be impossible, and Obama naive about its likelihood. In order to do what he needs to do, Obama may need to fight, instead of reconcile.

Yes, it's not as popular as "gee, aren't we all Americans!" But because politics is driving economics, and American politics in the modern era is dominated by the CM, successful progressivism may require a bit of confrontation. Attempts at "reconciliation" will just be exploited to attack progressives and inject more CM positions into the discourse. The sons and daughters of the Lewis Powell memo aren't interested.

(Of course, Hillary sort of has this problem as well, but nobody really believes she'll be conciliatory with the CM. She can't be. She's Hillary Clinton. They, er, kind of don't like her.)

And then there's this problem:

And here I have to say that this passage—

… there’s no shortage of anger and bluster …

—grotesquely trivializes the experience of any aware citizen under Bush’s rule. Is it wrong to be “angry” that the Bush administration has turned us into a nation of torturers? Is it wrong to be “angry” that the Republicans took us to war under false pretenses? Is it “bluster” to say that Cheney’s claim to be the Fourth Branch of government is absurd? Is it “bluster” to demand our Fourth Amendment rights back?

And who might these angry blusterers be?

Surely not those “principled” Republicans, since Obama wants to “reach out” to them. Surely not Reid and Pelosi; they’ve been nice as nice, going off to the slaughter like lambs. Surely not Rahm Emmanuel or Chuck Schumer! And surely not Kristol, Broder, Brooks, or Sullivan!

Could the angry blusterers be …. Progressives? Harshing the mellow with their demands for accountability and the restoration of Constitutional government?

Do we really need the kind of politics that tells us to lay back and enjoy it?
This is it, isn't it? Too many progressives and independents and non-political types are being swayed by the relatively calm demeanor that a lot of CM operatives have on television, and the discomfort they feel at the (entirely justified) anger by, well, pretty much everybody in America who pays attention and has a liberal bone in their body. They want somebody who can make them feel better about being American, and let them feel like, heh, "the long national nightmare is over".

Sorry, but this ain't a nightmare, it's a battleground. Progressives need to pick their asses up and retake some lost territory. And Obama's followers need to listen carefully to what Krugman's saying, even if he is viciously attacking their Chosen One. To be blunt, that man's got a lot more liberal/progressive cred than Obama. A LOT more. "Audacity" in spades. Ignore him at your peril.

(Edit: my apologies to lambert from corrente for mixing him up with Tim Lambert. Both are fine writers but not, in fact, the same guy.)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Eyes Pop Out"

I do wonder sometimes what goes through the minds of many journalists. Take this Wells bit, f'r instance. I can understand why a journo-slash-columnist would applaud anybody who increases the number of eyeballs running over the pages of the site (or newspaper, or magazine) that he writes for. Perfectly understandable.

But, at some point, doesn't credibility come into it? Doesn't said journalist-slash-columnist say "wait a minute. This guy is demonstrably full of shit and inclined towards a little light race-baiting besides. Perhaps there's a good reason why people are pissed off at him?"

Yeah, you don't generally say that your fellow columnists are full of shit--though if you're at the NY Times, you might hint at it--but you can certainly do better than chattering excitedly about "a columnist who excites the right while making the left's eyes pop out". Augusto Pinochet did the same damned thing in his time, too, but if I were a managing editor circa 1994 I wouldn't be giving him a column either.

Weird, too, because lately Wells has been pretty good. Guess it's some odd Canadian variant of the whole Village thing, where no matter where they stand, you praise the "insiders" because you identify with them. Or maybe he just believes that credibility is unimportant as long as you have an equal amount of right-wingers and left-wingers attacking you. And that's just stupid. Contradicting people saying the sky is blue by insisting that it's red doesn't make the damned thing purple, now, does it?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Shorter Matt on Racism:

The Dems were racist a long time ago. They gave it up, losing Southern white males. The Republicans became racist a little while ago to attract those Southern white males. They haven't given it up.

Easy, no?

"The Résumé Factor"

Yeah, I've always kind of wondered how 8 Years as First Lady is supposed to count as credible foreign policy experience too.

Yes, ok, they chatted about his foreign policy decisions on a regular basis. Yes, she went on diplomatic trips and such.

She still wasn't cleared, she still never heard the debates, she still was alienated from him during critical foreign policy moments, and she's still never been in a decision-making position on this sort of thing. She's never even read the President's Briefing, apparently. She got almost everything from conversations with her husband, but that's just one man's interpretation and one man's opinion.

I'm not saying she didn't contribute, and I'm not saying that she wouldn't make a better president than any of the Republican field. (Even if Huckabee is funnier.) But she has to stop playing this game. Saying "I learned it at my husband's table" is one step away from "I learned it at my father's knee". And that way lies dynasty.

Finally (Trade Benefits Edition)

Krugman writes a blurb on trade:

Although the outsourcing of some high-tech jobs to India has made headlines, on balance, highly educated workers in the United States benefit from higher wages and expanded job opportunities because of trade. For example, ThinkPad notebook computers are now made by a Chinese company, Lenovo, but a lot of Lenovo’s research and development is conducted in North Carolina.

But workers with less formal education either see their jobs shipped overseas or find their wages driven down by the ripple effect as other workers with similar qualifications crowd into their industries and look for employment to replace the jobs they lost to foreign competition. And lower prices at Wal-Mart aren’t sufficient compensation.
A LOT of people don't understand this basic point. The weird thing, though, is that the Krugman of olde probably wouldn't have agreed with it either. Sometimes the slighly greater overall ability to consume that comes from increased trade just ain't worth it. Yes, cheaper video cards are nice, but they aren't worth the expense and (more importantly) uncertainty that comes from losing your job and having no guarantee whatsoever that you'll be able to find one. People don't like to gamble with their livelihoods, they're minmaxers, and they're not necessarily going to go "woo, I can retrain and make not as much money as I was doing something else that might get outsourced in a year, while most of the real benefits accrue at the top!"

And that's the other issue: consumption benefits are generally accompanied by productive benefits. That money has to go somewhere, to somebody; even if it is traded with another country, the trade itself must create benefits for producers in your own country for them to bother. Where does that money go? Well, it goes to the top. It goes to the people with the liquid capital, to the people managing that liquid capital, or to that small, lucky group that can't be outsourced.

It's honestly kind of rich watching economists slowly discover the idea that intra-economy distribution matters. I like Paul a lot, even if he still vaguely calls for a "social safety net" that nobody wants to fall into as a way of solving a problem much, much more basic... but man is it frustrating playing the Cassandra on trade.

Bhutto Killed by AQ?

Definitely possible, but look at the BBC bit:

Pakistan says it has strong proof that al-Qaeda assassinated opposition politician Benazir Bhutto at an election rally on Thursday.
The interior ministry said it had intelligence indicating Baitullah Mehsud, whom it called an "al-Qaeda leader", was behind the killing.

Baitullah Mehsud is a wanted pro-Taleban militant leader based in the South Waziristan tribal region.

Ms Bhutto has been buried in her family tomb amid scenes of mass grieving.
Nice way of saying "Pakistan is on fire." Not the most stable country right now, and a lot of people are really, really angry at The General-Slash-Dictator over this.

But did he do it? Probably not. Still, again, here's the problem: any announcement of "intelligence" out of Pakistan is very, very suspect. The ISI has enough people with pro-Taliban, pro-AQ leanings that the people feeding this information might be somewhat-to-entirely suspect... and if there was a connection to the Pakistani government, there's pretty much no way that anybody in said government is going to admit it. Whistleblowers are in short supply in dictatorships.

I still think that the MO of AQ doesn't fit this case. Maybe it was just the individual in question, but generally Islamists don't execute this sort of "hit". They usually just explode, or shoot, not this sort of thing.

It may well be what it seems at first glance. I'm fully willing to accept that. I'm just concerned whether enough Pakistanis will believe so.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

More on Bhutto

A couple things. First, it's theoretically possible that this might not be an Islamist attack, but a military one. The gunshot to the neck is an odd addition, certainly; Islamic extremists usually count on the explosion to do its work, and don't carry out this sort of "hit". If it comes out that Musharraf IS behind this, of course, all bets are off. Pakistan will erupt.

It's kind of doing so right now, though. Riots are taking place as we speak, and show no sign of stopping. A police crackdown might be inevitable, but if it's too violent, it will itself exacerbate things.

And then there's the creepy parallel people are making: 9/11 started off with an assassination of an anti-Taliban leader in the region too. No reason to become paranoid unless you work for the CIA or NSA... but if you do, I wouldn't expect too rockin' of a New Years.

Bhutto Assassinated

Damn it.

Ok, a bit of analysis. Short term: war on terror is reinforced, as is (possibly) Musharraf's position. While supporters of the opposition will treat Bhutto as a Martyr, this only reinforces the perception that nobody is safe in Pakistan, and people will likely rally to whatever security they can find. That's the former General. The Islamists within and outside the government are also strengthened, as they've just proven that they can take out one of the most carefully guarded targets in the world, and have removed a "third party" from the conflict between them and Washington's supporters.

Medium term, that's the key dynamic here. Whoever wins the next election, we've just seen the assassination of someone who was a key symbol of many people's desire to cast a pox on both their houses. She wasn't Washington's pawn, and wasn't an Islamist either. She was something else- a positive indication that the dynamic can be changed. No more. It's Americans vs. the "terrists" again, maybe even more so.

The thing is, this might also blow back up in the Islamists' faces. She's a martyr, there's no doubt about that. If someone else in Pakistan can take up her standard, this could lead to widespread revulsion towards the Islamist movement as a whole, and those that live in Pakistan specifically. People will rally around what security they can find out of fear, but if someone can transform that fear into outrage, it could be a very, very bad time to be an Islamic extremist in Pakistan.

(The Islamic political parties are likely to have a very bad time in the next election--the MMA is going to have some serious issues--thoughthe ones who spurn electoral politics aren't going to care about that.)

That person might be Nawaz Sharif. Maybe not. Might be Riaz Khan, too, don't know much about him.

One other thing: this has been condemned as "a senseless act". It's nothing of the sort. It's a very deliberate move to reinforce the battle lines as being between Musharraf (and Washington) and the Islamic extremists. Both hate each other, but both reinforces the others' positions through their actions: Musharraf's crackdowns only help the theocrats' position. Bhutto was screwing that up, and a powerful woman besides. So Bhutto was killed. A contemptible act, yes, but if you don't admit that something can have reasons, you can't figure out what those reasons are.

Sunday, December 23, 2007


Don't recall the media making a big thing out of THIS study: Most kids 'unaffected' by violent games

Murdoch is your Lord and Master Now!

Now that the FCC has approved broadcasters owning newspapers, that is. Many U.S. newspapers are hanging by a thread, but would be very tempting targets for, say, an Australian guy just hankering to get his popular-but-derided news station more credibility by scooping up the credibility of various newspapers.

Or, and here's the better part, now the Rev. Moon can start buying up broadcasters. Before it'd be a problem because he owned the Washington Times, but there's no reason why this sort of acquisition can't go the OTHER way around. I wonder how long it is before the Times will get a news channel with Moonie money?

(Or maybe some kind of joint venture, possibly named the Republican channel for convenience?)

Lovely. Especially the part where this came out around Christmas so nobody would pay attention.

By the by, in case I don't get the chance: Happy Holidays, folks. (Yes, even Hanukkah, though I know that was a little while ago. Happy belated, I suppose.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

I'm Mike Huckabee, and I Approve Christmas

Huck wants to wish you a merry Christmas. No, none of those pagan, Godless, holidays. CHRISTMAS, dammit.


Nobody tell him about Saturnalia. His head would quite likely explode. Yeah, it's be a folksy, Christmassy explosion, but it'd still get Huckabits all over the nice clean carpet.

Edit: Speaking of exploding heads, you might want to wrap your own up tightly with some duct tape or suchlike before you read this story, which has Catholic League prez Bill Donahue freaking out over a windowpane that looks kinda crossish, because he thinks that the ad is too overtly religious.

Er, yeah. Steve Benen found it pretty silly too.

That said, look at this response:

Huckabee said the bookshelf is just a bookshelf and shrugged off the controversy: “I will confess this: If you play the spot backwards it says, ‘Paul is dead. Paul is dead.’”
That's, er, kinda witty. Really witty.

Anybody got any duct tape?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Addendum to That Last Post

Here's the Post Story in Question

And I'm wondering... If violent media makes teens (theoretically) more likely to be dysfunctional, but early (again, consensual!) sex may make them less likely to be dysfunctional (theoretically)...

...then maybe the solution for the former is the latter?


Blogging's been a bit tricky recently- I haven't been able to as often as I wished. As you probably noticed from the gap since my last post. This is probably the last post for at least today, so I leave you with a game.

First, go read Pandagon, where Amanda Marcotte wrote a great piece about "midnight basketball", the use of scare quotes to frighten wingnuts about it, and the way its used to attack scientific research.

Then go read Townhall, and the article that she's responding to. It's attacking the notion that the earlier you have (consensual!) sex, the likelier it is that you will neither be delinquent nor suffer from sexual dysfunction. Some of the criticism is valid: they suggest that the connection may be spurious, and both may be connected to a third or fourth confounding factor. Great! No disagreement here. That's always a problem with social science research.

But then there's this:

As for the study finding that those engaging in consensual teen or pre-teen sex are less likely than their abstinent cohorts to be delinquents, it ignores one important fact right at the outset. Because the age of consent across America is 16 or older, a substantial portion of teen and all pre-teen sex is illegal – and thus constitutes delinquent behavior on its face.
This is hilarous. It's delinquent because we made it illegal, and delinquents break the law, so HAH!

So here's the game: modify this paragraph to justify ANYTHING.

Here's one that I like:

As for the study finding that those engaging in gay sex are less likely than their abstinent cohorts to be delinquents, it ignores one important fact right at the outset. Because we have laws against sodomy, gay sex is illegal – and thus constitutes delinquent behavior on its face.

Too sexy? Ok, how about this, more Republican friendly version:

As for the study finding that those engaging in target shooting are less likely than their gun-free cohorts to be delinquents, it ignores one important fact right at the outset. Because children aren't allowed to possess firearms, target shooting is illegal – and thus constitutes delinquent behavior on its face.

Or, hell, how about those beloved kitties? They're bad too!

As for the study finding that those engaging in petting kittens are less likely than their catless cohorts to be delinquents, it ignores one important fact right at the outset. Because our state constitution clearly states that cats are the tools of Satan, petting kittens is illegal – and thus constitutes delinquent behavior on its face.

Go ahead! Try your own. Do something about alligators, I don't know, they're pretty cool. If we make alligators criminal, only criminals will have alligators, whatever.

Until next time.

Go Dod

Glenn Greenwald has the full breakdown on how Chris Dodd (at the very least) significantly delayed the FISA bill. Reid wanted it passed quickly, ignoring long-standing Senate procedures and traditions to do it. You can see why: holding it up would provide a bludgeon for the Republicans against purple-state Dems, and having it be visible for any longer than necessary would increase the likelihood that the Dem base would notice it and go absolutely berserk.

Well, more so.

Still, sometimes you have to let principles trump political maneuvering. That's exactly what Dodd did here. It's sad that this probably made it impossible for him to be a serious presidential candidate, as the very people who loved this bill still define "serious" in the eyes of beltway Dems, but he still did something positive, and useful, and gave a rare win to a team that was getting dispirited by all the defeats snatched from the jaws of victory.

Japan is Working on Their Theatre Missile Defense

And, yes, this is about China. KJI seems almost anxious to get rid of his nuclear weapons, and ballistic missiles really aren't that useful for anything else: Other WMDs are crapshoots at best with chemicals or bioweapons standing a real chance of ending up blowing back to the Korean Peninsula, and you don't mount conventional weapons on ballistic missiles.

China, on the other hand, has a fair number of nuclear missiles, has been a wee bit belligerent to Japan in the past, and is very, very interested in Taiwan- a country that could easily be put under a Japanese BMD shield. Not that anybody will say anything concrete to that effect. They'd be idiots to do so. But just keep it in mind.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

On Mandates

Paul Krugman is being attacked by Obama supporters (such as here on Daily Kos) because he believes "mandates" are necessary.

What are mandates?

Well, they're simple. They say that you have to have some kind of health insurance. Public, private, whatever, you have to have one. Edwards' and Clinton's plans have them, Obama's doesn't.

Krugman, rightly, points this out as a problem. If someone doesn't have to pay for something they don't immediately need, they probably won't. They might be too poor, or they might be too poor because they're buying something else, but they'll find a reason not to pay. Unfortunately, that means that the system really doesn't work: healthy people subsidize unhealthy people in any insurance system, and those healthy people who become suddenly sick and end up in emergency will end up bleeding the system dry, especially in situations where inexpensive preventative care is ignored because it's "too expensive", leading to far more expensive work later.

Obama's supporters are yelling about this, because they say that people without a whole lot of expendable income can't afford the insurance. I'm sympathetic to this, and I'm sure Paul is too. But let's be honest: health care costs have to come from SOMEWHERE. He's in favor of single payer, and you better believe I am too, but the only way to get to single payer is if EVERYBODY is in the system. That's the whole reason why single-payer works; "single-payer" could just as easily be called "everybody-payer".

And, yes, that will cost money. Taxes in, say, Canada are a little higher than they are in the U.S., principally because of socialized health insurance. Whether or not it comes from taxes or mandates, universal health care will have to be universally paid for, just like private insurance. It isn't a free lunch, and shouldn't be sold as such- it's just cheaper per capita than privatized insurance is.

And, no, you can't dodge around this simple point like Daily Kos diarist Eugene does here. Yes, private insurance doesn't cover everything and is often a hassle. So is socialized insurance; no system is perfect. Eugene pulls out this endless wankery about "neoliberalism", when it has nothing to do with that, and everything to do with the problem of programs costing money, and the bog-standard game theory problem that is the tragedy of the commons. That Krugman pointed this out makes perfect sense: he didn't stop being an economist when he started his NY Times column, and it doesn't make you a "neoliberal" to know what the hell a tragedy of the commons is.

I mean, look at this:

Finally, there is an economic argument against these subsidies - they're wasteful and ineffecient. Wouldn't those subsidies be better spent by government paying for low-income folks' health care itself, instead of giving subsidies to health insurers in the hopes that those insurers will, against all evidence, actually spend it on patient care?
And government money comes from where? Taxes! And what are taxes? MANDATORY.

And look at this:

Look, the point of a mandate isn’t to dictate how people should live their lives — it’s to prevent some people from gaming the system. Under the Obama plan, healthy people could choose not to buy insurance, then sign up for it if they developed health problems later. This would lead to higher premiums for everyone else. It would reward the irresponsible, while punishing those who did the right thing and bought insurance while they were healthy.

Krugman is saying here that we who cannot afford insurance but are "healthy" (I am 28 and uninsured) are "gaming the system." He's calling us cheats! He's engaging in classic conservative rhetoric by ignoring the financial problems causing us to forego insurance and then castigating us for daring to need public assistance when we do get sick. I find this to be a personally offensive statement right there - and if you recall the fact that health insurance is no guarantee of health care, this part of Krugman's column becomes totally indefensible.
Let's leave aside that nonsense about "health insurance isn't health care", because it's irrelevant to the question of how to pay for said health care. Yes, if you don't pay for insurance and then benefit from it later (presumably by hitting the ER when something bad happens), you ARE a drain on the system. This isn't "conservative rhetoric", it's a basic problem with the American system. They aren't going to leave you dying on the street because they aren't monsters, but you're still going to get that care, even if you aren't paying for it. Under a UHC system, you ARE paying for it. Whether you can "afford it" or not. If you are advocating UHC...and eugene is... then you are advocating everybody paying for it. As I said, taxes are mandatory.

But, I should point out, there's a difference between being irresponsible and being a "cheat". Irresponsible people will convince themselves that they cannot do something that they really should. A cheat knows what he's doing. Nobody is saying that eugene is a cheat. People ARE saying that some people (perhaps not eugene) will find a way to convince themselves that they can't or shouldn't pay for health insurance. Again, that's exactly why public health care is "universal": because everybody pays in.

(He goes on to castigate "market" rhetoric. Socialized health care is not "market" in any way, shape or form. That's the strength. I'm not even sure what he's about there.)

I like Obama. I like a lot of Obama supporters. But I'm sorry, guys, Krugman has a point here. "Universal" doesn't mean "free".

Edit: By the way, Krugman advocates single-payer as the best solution. I don't disagree, which is why I'm a little frustrated by the Obama people talking about how Krugman seems to be all market-oriented. He's not: what they don't get is that Krugman is using economic arguments in favor of something OTHER than raw capitalism. That's pretty rare, I know, but it does exist, and it certainly does here.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Cheap Entertainment: Set Up Obama Against Krugman

...and watch your comment thread explode.

What prompted this dogfight was the ongoing conflict between Paul Krugman and Barack Obama over health care and social security. Krugman's been pretty critical of Obama's DLC-esque positions on both, and Obama's campaign responded with an Oppo piece that was pretty unfair to the Professor.

Leaving aside the wonkish aspects, I have to say that I think Obama made a misstep here. While Krugman man not be "the most progressive voice in American media", as Ezra describes him, but he is absolutely revered among progressives for speaking out against the Bush administration during the 2002/2003 period, when criticism was hard to find and quickly slapped down when it appeared. Attacking Paul is like attacking Jon Stewart; you CAN do it, as he can be criticized on a number of issues, but if you do it too openly and too harshly than is warranted, you're going to step on a lot of progressives' toes.

I think I see the problem, too. The Obama campaign has always been a kinda-sorta centrist one. That's where all that "no red states, no blue states" stuff comes from. The problem is that they think that their success is due to this centrist tone. Thing is, Hillary already has the centrist ground well staked out, and has had it staked out since long before Obama became a serious contender. Obama is unlikely to be able to get much traction coming in from her right, but they seem to think their attempts to do so are bearing fruit.

They aren't.

Let's be honest. He's partially successful because he's a good speaker, but he's really successful because of that prominent progressive position that he's taken: his opposition to the war in Iraq and to the upcoming war in Iran. Hillary took her centrism too far, on an issue dear to Dems where "centrism" is totally immoral and unwarranted, and she's being punished for it. Obama went progressive, and has reaped the benefits.

This does not suggest that coming in from the right on domestic issues is going to help you. Far from it: it suggests that progressivism works, and that it's probably a good idea to have more of it.

Hopefully he'll get it, but in the meantime, he should lay off Krugman. Trust me: it ain't gonna help.

Oddly Enough

This blog entry by N'Gai Croal is the best thing I've read all week. It's about the symbiotic (or perhaps parasitical) relationship between electronic game publishers and the magazines and websites that cover them, and how that relationship is slowly breaking down in the age of Metacritic scores dominating all other considerations. Well, well worth a read, even if you don't play them video thingies.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

"Et tu, Vladimir"?

I'm starting to think that we'll need to figure out what "Caesar" would mean in Russian. Even if Putin keeps on playing at refusing the crown.

This, Kids, is What "Momentum" Looks Like

Clinton lead narrows in New Hampshire poll, sez Reuters. The difference between them is down to single digits: 35 to 29%, with Edwards at 17.

Somebody at Hillary HQ is losing their mind over this. If NH is a squeaker and she loses Iowa, it's a whole new ballgame.

Then again, it already is. If Hillary squeaks by in all three early states (Iowa, NH and SC), the main news story is going to be that "it's a race" and that Clinton's aura of inevitability has faded. That will be disastrous for her; that inevitability is the cornerstone of her campaign, as she neutralizes prospective opponents that are wary of being left on the outside of a prospective Clinton administration. She was as close to a sure thing as has ever existed in politics. Why get in her way?

Take that away, and she has to run on her record, and her merits. While those exceed the current officeholder, they sure aren't the weapon that inevitability was.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

"Free speech has it’s legal limits. That’s life."

So sez this guy.

(Yes, it's another Canada story, but nicely illustrative. Besides, Australia got way more boring now that the Liberals are out on their arses, and the biggest story out of Europe seems to be that the only people in France who AREN'T buying an iPhone are the ones on strike.)

Who is he? Well, he's John Wright, and he got his knickers in a twist about comments that this guy made, suggesting that his polling firm might be a in its methodology.

Here are the actual complaints:

But we do care more about other things…

“Just a note for those of you who aren’t up on your statistical theory, polls with a 1000 person sample have a margin of error (MOE) of roughly +/- 3.1%. Thus it is almost statistically impossible that Ipsos-Reid could be so far off the mark of every other polling firm merely by chance or coincidence. It other words, given the numbers, it’s almost statistically impossible that Ipsos’s recent methodology isn’t radically flawed.”…that is dafamatory and could be actionable.

“The whole problem, of course, is that polls do seem to influence voter behaviour, at least to some extent, and if the polling firms are getting things wrong due to faulty methodology, they could be really screwing us around (eg. pushing the country into another election soon, because the conservatives think they will get a majority).”…this is actionable as well…

And this too: “Two things about polls, first, look at who pays for them. Ipsos is not a public service utility-somebody pays the cheque. Two interesting things about that is that sometimes parties will hire them-but everything stays confidential (although parties usually do their own polling, the tories called me the other day).”

And this as well: “Just an update, most of these surveys at Ipsos seem to be sponsored by Global and Canwest, who are quite noticeably conservative. It’s a ‘family company’ and so its easy to see why this view is portrayed, the National Post is hardly a beacon of objectivity, and Canwest is commonly known as the ‘Fox’ of Canada. So there you go.”

So, folks, let’s not waste time and words on “freedom of the web” and anything that says we are trying to “intimidate you”…honestly, good political discourse is fun…but when this stuff gets said and is now posted and defacto endorsed by a national political party, it is over the line.
Fun part about this quotation is that it's from the complaint he wrote, so I assume that repeating his own complaint by way of illustration is kosher.

(Though I'm getting a distinct "I'll sue you in England!" vibe here.)

Now, is this actually defamatory? Sure doesn't seem like it. The early stuff is suggestive, perhaps, but it suggests is not that the methodology is malicious, but that it's "flawed". There's a world of difference there. Trying to sue over that would be roughly equivalent to Apple suing over complaints that pre-OSX macs crashed too often: that doesn't imply that Apple is deliberately screwing their consumers, but that they've made a faulty product. Apple didn't sue anybody over that because they'd be laughed out of court.

The other part, suggesting that Ipsos' ties to conservative-leaning Canwest-Global might have pushed them towards leading polls, is a little more questionable. Here's the thing, though: while free speech may have "legal limits", political speech almost always does not. And, yes, discussion of political polling is definitely political speech. If Ipsos-Reid IS cooking their polls, or even slightly misleading, that is of gigantic importance to Canadian democracy, far more so than whether or not, say, Nike is buying their shoes from particularly sketchy Indonesians. Yes, it is embarassing for Ipsos-Reid, but that's life too. I'm sure Mike Huckabee would love to sue the Huffington Post, but he can't do that either.

To me, without prejudice, this smells of SLAPP. It's abundantly simple these days to publish poll comparatives that can reach however many people care to pay attention, and the sort of variation in polling numbers that might be glossed over by media outlets that can (and do) commission firms like Ipsos-Reid are going to be hauled out and displayed in the bright light of day. All this sort of intimidation tactic (if that is what it is) can do is rip down the discussion to basic facts, but those facts remain; and the facts suggest that, for whatever reason, Ipsos-Reid's polling numbers are far out of line with every other national polling firm in Canada.

Oh, one other fact. Anybody who argues this:

Second, if you believe that the Green Party is at 14% nationally–ahead of the NDP–then please tell your friend the tooth fairy to drop by…it is just possible that the over representation in some of those polls are causing this; it’s also possible that some questions are put at the end or that the data weighting is not done like ours.
...needs to get his ass to Europe for a while. Or maybe Australia, where a small-"c" conservative government just got handed their walking papers because of green issues. Yes, Virginia, green issues matter.

Statements like this do more damage to your credibility than anything some Saskatchewan blogger says.

Whom Huckabee Loves

Ok, remember how Huckabee was the guy without significant, crippling negatives?

Yeah, today's a new day.

In short, Huckabee aggressively pushed for the early release of a rapist who went on to rape and murder another woman. Why did he do it? Because the woman he raped was a distant cousin of Bill Clinton, and conservative activists pushed him to do it because of their foaming hatred of the Clintons.

No, really. This isn't some fantasy of the most odious Republican you can possibly imagine. This is REAL. Not some Internet bullshit about "Bush derangement". This is releasing a rapist because the victim was tied to Clinton. I honestly can't believe I'm reading this.

All of a sudden, Huckabee/Clinton becomes a foregone conclusion. Huckabee/Obama becomes pretty obvious, too, as Obama can use this to woo Clinton supporters that might be peeved he won the nod by showing his empathy towards the Clinton family.

And this is assuming that he still gets the Republican nod. I doubt it. If he did, it'd do more damage to the party than anything short of a Ron Paul nomination.

(Which, of course, isn't going to happen.)

I can see the Republicans being that stupid, but not easily.

N. Korean nuke shutdown 'going well'

I swear, if this sort of thing keeps up, I'm going to end up an optimist.

North Korean efforts to disable its plutonium-producing reactor are going well but the work needs to continue if deadlines are to be met, a top U.S. nuclear envoy said Wednesday.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill spent three days in North Korea and visited the Yongbyon nuclear complex, becoming the highest-level American official to go there.

"The disablement activities are going well and on schedule," Hill told reporters before leaving Pyongyang and heading to Beijing. "I'm satisfied with the results."

"But we have to keep working because we have more to do to meet our deadlines," said Hill, who also met his North Korean counterpart, Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan.

North Korea had promised to complete the disabling by the end of the year, but South Korean nuclear envoy Chun Yung-woo said last week it would take longer to remove about 8,000 spent fuel rods from the reactor.
Funny thing about all this; it seems that engagement, well, works. Hill is (according to the USA Today) the "first high-level U.S. official to visit the secretive country in more than four years", and the United States had been notorious about keeping all ties cut. Hill visited the Hermit Kingdom about six months ago, and within less than a month they had a denuclearization deal.

Which reconfirms what I believed about North Korea: the bomb wasn't intended as the core of some mad scheme to blow up Tokyo or whatever people had been dreaming up, but as a goad to get the United States to stop pretending that Pyongyang was going to collapse any time now, and start acting like grown-ups about the peninsula. Once that had been accomplished, Kim was probably happy to ditch the damned thing anyway.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

As Foxes Sigh With Relief

Ok, this dog? This dog right here? Yeah, it won't hunt.

Michael Ledeen, almost certainly losing his mind at the prospect of his pet war sailing out the window, had what amounts to a tantrum, complaining that there was no good reason for the Iranians to give up their nuclear weapons program. Yeah, ok, it would be a completely rational decision, but the Iranians are so kaaaaraaazy(!) that there's simply no way they'd ever do anything rational. So he assumes they didn't.

Personal experience, I suppose.

A more cogent complaint is "what's different now than in 2005, when we all thought they were ready to blow things up?" Well, lots of things are probably different. Sources and methods change and are improved, for one, but even better is the simple fact that the CIA et al probably aren't as worried about competing with stovepipes as they were, so they were able (and probably happy) to engage in "a 'very rigorous scrub' of 20 years of information, some of which informed the 2005 N.I.E."

See, unlike Ledeeen, the intelligence community appears to be trying to learn from its mistakes. Learn, and apply what it learned. And it would appear that in all that learning and application, it changed its position. I know the concepts I italicized are shocking and confusing to someone like Ledeen, who learned what his opinions were going to be when Scaife ponied up the dough, but the point of intelligence is speaking truth to power, instead of twisting everything to reconfirm your agenda.

He probably takes comfort in the knowledge that Israel is also disputing the report, but if the contradictions are as weak as this:

Mordechai Kedar, who served in Israel's military intelligence for 25 years and is a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, said Israel's intelligence community disagrees with the latest estimate.

"This is a matter of interpretation of data. I do believe that the U.S. and Israel share the same data, but the dispute is about interpreting the data. … Only a blind man cannot see their efforts to put a hand on a nuclear weapon. They are threatening the world."
It's probably not much to put faith in. Aside from the fact that Kedar is pretty openly poisoning the well with that "only a blind man" stuff, the US and Israel do not necessarily share the same data: while the UK and the United States have (allegedly) a total information sharing deal, the United States and Israel do not.

Besides, the same problem exists as ever did for trying to dispute this sort of thing: were such a response really legitimate, Bush would have made it already.

Changin' the Subtitle

I might have to, considering that the latest NIE makes war with Iran much less likely. Since the Iranians ended their nuclear weapons program back in 2003, rhetoric about "stopping their program" isn't going to have much effect.

Clearly Bush doesn't quite get how to handle it now, though. Just saw his press conference, and at a few points he chewed around the edges of his "working together to stop their nuclear program" talking point, even though he knows he can't actually use it. At one point, earlier on, he pretty much said "They stopped the program, so we need to put pressure on them to stop the program". Don't think anybody called him on it, but that's not exactly a big surprise, is it?

What WAS a big surprise was his reaction to a question involving a 19-year-old girl who was gang-raped and is getting lashed for her "impropriety". He "um"ed and "er"ed for something like thirty seconds before giving a lame answer referencing his daughter. He didn't, apparently, think it was important enough to mention to King Abdullah though.

Anyway, I doubt too many people are buying what he's selling. The headlines are going to be about his lost credibility and how ludicrous military action has just become. Considering how badly the neocons have been chomping their teeth to attack Iran, this has to be a HUGE setback.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Writers Kicking Ass

So sez the Kos. They're winning the PR war, even though the media isn't about to start singing the Internationale anytime soon.


Well, because they are continuing to write awesome things about their strikes, including awesome blogs like this one. Which you should go read, because everybody else is doing it.

(What? Don't you want to be popular?)

Choices, Choices

I can't decide which title for Giuliani's scandal is better: The Shag Fund, or Sex on the City. (From TPM and Kos respectively.)

Yes, in one of your more spectacular scandals that a Republican has been involved in since, oh, last month, it would appear that Rudy Giuliani was baggin' his mistress on the taxpayer's dime. Which isn't going to sell him too well to the Republican faithful.

Yet none of the other big Republicans appear to be doing so well either. His putative opponent, Mitt Romney, is on the edge of losing Iowa to breakout Chuck Norris fan Mike Huckabee, mostly because Huckabee has been playing this primary like a Stradivarius while Romney has been too busy taking potshots at loyal American Muslims to do anything other than smile pretty for the cameras. Fred Thompson is napping through the whole thing, and John McCain is, well, John McCain.

I find it hard to care, because I'm still convinced that almost everybody in this mob would get their butts handed to them by any given Dem that isn't Mike Gravel, but I have to admit that the Republican battle is becoming quite the entertaining tossup. EVERYBODY's been taking hits, but SOMEBODY has to become the nominee, so it's a question of relative strength, not absolute strength.

Except for one thing: I'm becoming more and more convinced that Huckabee is the one to watch. He's the only one that hasn't been screwing up much, and while I find his "I'm a christian and they aren't" ads more than a little disturbing, I do have to admit that they're exactly what the sole viable protestant Republican should be doing if he wants to have a serious shot at this. He did well in the last debate, too. Yes, he has tons of weaknesses, particularly on taxes, but they aren't as glaring as those plaguing Romney and Giuliani.

That said, Obama would crush him, and I think the question now on the Democratic side is whether Obama's momentum and Clinton's continuing slide will happen quickly enough to make things a horse-race. Hard to say.

Tell you one thing, though: If Hillary keeps on pulling attacks this weak, I'd say that Obama's momentum might be stronger than we thought. They stink of desperation.