Thursday, October 26, 2006

Rove: Not As Confident As Advertised?

Over at Crooks and Liars, we see this piece (drawn from Raw Story) on Karl Rove's confidence about the upcoming election:

During a National Public Radio interview, White House Deputy Chief of Staff "duked it out" with the host over polling data[..].

After midterm election interviewer Robert Siegel stated that "many might consider you on the optimistic end of realism" regarding Republican hopes to retain both Houses in November, Rove suggested that the NPR host was biased.

"Not that you would be exhibiting a bias or anything like that," Rove said. "You're just making a comment."

"I'm looking at all the same polls that you're looking at every day," Seigel responded

"No you're not!" Rove exclaimed.'

How many times do we got to tell you, Karl? Reality has a liberal bias.
Good points, but there's a deeper story here. Check out this later exchange from the Raw Story piece:

MR. SIEGEL: How then do you read -- or how then do you look ahead to the election in terms of Iraq policy? If the Republicans maintain majorities on the Hill it's a ratification of the Iraq policy?

MR. ROVE: Well, I think Iraq and the economy play a role in virtually every race, but there are also local considerations in the local contests between two individuals that at the end of the day matters for a great deal of the contest.

It's not a -- and there's a natural human desire to simplify everything to one big thing. You know, Curley's (sp) line from the movie, "One thing." But that's not the way politics really is. Politics is a complex equation which voters are going to be examining a variety of issues and a variety of characteristics as they arrive at their decision.
Bolding mine. Notice it? Rove is subtly yet clearly acknowledging that, nationally, Republicans are weak. This focus on "local contests" and "local considerations" only makes sense if he knows that the broader issues don't favor his party. Otherwise, he'd simply say that the Dems are wrong on the issues and wrong on character and leave it at that. On a facile level he's right of course- American elections are very localized affairs. As the chief political strategist for the president, however, Rove shouldn't be focusing on that, as it says that his man is weak and his party is weak.

Even IF he is right and there are different local situations that favor the Republicans, a broad trend is a broad trend, and everybody's going to know the direction of that trend. That trend doesn't favor the Republicans at all, and for Rove to even hint at acknowledging that is more "reality based" than I would have suspected.

Rove's dream of a persistent Republican majority is coming down around his ears, and he knows it. Now he's just trying to survive this election, so that he can maybe snatch that long-term victory from the jaws of defeat. His bluster aside, his failure is pretty good news for the Dems and, to be honest, good news for America.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm "Sucking Up" Again

Maybe, maybe not, but either way Wells gets to the fundamental problem with the whole Quebec seperation issue: that Quebec is assumed to be inviolate and indivisable, whereas Canada is not.

That the Cree Indians have long maintained that they would not accept annexation of their lands by a Quebecois government is never quite discussed or acknowledged. That's worrisome, because if they don't want to leave Canada, isn't it the duty of the Canadian government to defend them?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Riverbend and The Lancet

And with one post, any remaining doubts I had on the "600,000 dead" figure on Iraq from a Lancet study gets knocked away.


The latest horror is the study published in the Lancet Journal concluding that over 600,000 Iraqis have been killed since the war. Reading about it left me with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it sounded like a reasonable figure. It wasn't at all surprising. On the other hand, I so wanted it to be wrong. But... who to believe? Who to believe....? American politicians... or highly reputable scientists using a reliable scientific survey technique?

The responses were typical- war supporters said the number was nonsense because, of course, who would want to admit that an action they so heartily supported led to the deaths of 600,000 people (even if they were just crazy Iraqis…)? Admitting a number like that would be the equivalent of admitting they had endorsed, say, a tsunami, or an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 on the Richter scale, or the occupation of a developing country by a ruthless superpower… oh wait- that one actually happened. Is the number really that preposterous? Thousands of Iraqis are dying every month- that is undeniable. And yes, they are dying as a direct result of the war and occupation (very few of them are actually dying of bliss, as war-supporters and Puppets would have you believe).

For American politicians and military personnel, playing dumb and talking about numbers of bodies in morgues and official statistics, etc, seems to be the latest tactic. But as any Iraqi knows, not every death is being reported. As for getting reliable numbers from the Ministry of Health or any other official Iraqi institution, that's about as probable as getting a coherent, grammatically correct sentence from George Bush- especially after the ministry was banned from giving out correct mortality numbers. So far, the only Iraqis I know pretending this number is outrageous are either out-of-touch Iraqis abroad who supported the war, or Iraqis inside of the country who are directly benefiting from the occupation ($) and likely living in the Green Zone.

The chaos and lack of proper facilities is resulting in people being buried without a trip to the morgue or the hospital. During American military attacks on cities like Samarra and Fallujah, victims were buried in their gardens or in mass graves in football fields. Or has that been forgotten already?

We literally do not know a single Iraqi family that has not seen the violent death of a first or second-degree relative these last three years. Abductions, militias, sectarian violence, revenge killings, assassinations, car-bombs, suicide bombers, American military strikes, Iraqi military raids, death squads, extremists, armed robberies, executions, detentions, secret prisons, torture, mysterious weapons – with so many different ways to die, is the number so far fetched?

There are Iraqi women who have not shed their black mourning robes since 2003 because each time the end of the proper mourning period comes around, some other relative dies and the countdown begins once again.
I thought that the objections to the original Lancet study (the 100,000 one) were fishy, borne out of the twin desires to minimize the damage and ignore any research that doesn't follow a specific Platonic Form of structure and design in a situation where that is impossible. I can understand both instincts, but at some point you have to face up to the truth, and the truth is that America (and, more specifically, the Republican party and its sympathizers and agents) has been directly and indirectly responsible for the deaths of 600,000 people over the course of about 4 and a half years. That's 200 9/11s, based on the only metric of casualties that the Usual Suspects seem to care about.

Billmon asks "what more should I have done."

I opposed the invasion -- and the regime that launched it -- but I didn't do everything I could have done. Very few did. We may have put our words and our wallets on the line, but not our bodies. Not when it might have made a difference. In the end, we were all good little Germans...

...It's easy to think up excuses now -- we were in the minority, the media was against us, the country was against us. We didn't know how bad it would be.

But we knew, or should have known, that what Bush was planning was an illegal act of aggression, based on a warmongering campaign of deception and ginned-up hysteria. And we knew, or should have known, what our moral and legal obligations were.

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principle VI is a crime under international law.
We were all complicit. I was complicit. Because I was afraid -- afraid to sacrifice my comfortable middle class lifestyle, afraid to lose my job and my house, afraid of the IRS, afraid to go to jail.

But not nearly as afraid, of course, as the thousands of Iraqis who have been tortured or murdered, or who, like Riverbend, are forced to live in bloody chaos, day after day. Which is why, reading her post today, I couldn't help but feel deeply, bitterly ashamed -- not just of my country, but of myself.
I understand this sentiment, but let's be honest here- self-flagellation is counterproductive, because those who actually are responsible for the creation and continuation of this travesty are precisely those who deny that they've even done anything wrong, let alone are culpable for mistakes.

Yelling "I could have done more" doesn't make sense, because he really couldn't have done more. Getting himself arrested by trying to put his "body" into it wouldn't have changed a damned thing. In fact, it would have empowered the supporters, who are the ones letting this travesty go on and started it in the first place.

If you want someone to blame, look towards them. Whether in the media, in government, or in the "heartland", look towards them. Look towards the conservative "movement", its horrifying track record, and the damaged little cultists that it's raising in those creepy "conservative leadership training retreats" that were in this month's Harpers. Look towards the "reasonable Liberals" that enable it, too, and remind them of what they sat back and let happen, for no electoral gain whatsoever, because they let the Republicans' tools and enablers convince them that they had to be trembling cowards in the face of Republican talking points.

But most of all, look towards the President, because shit flows uphill and he's at the top of the pyramid for a reason.

There will be no insurrection; no violent revolution. Change has to happen within the system. Throw your body into that.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Atrios liked this comment on Feministe about attempts to "out" one of the bloggers there. I did too, so I'll reproduce it and Atrios' response. Feministe in italics.

Yeah, that’s probably true, but it leads to a different interpretation. AB’s argument is that pseudonymity is bad because it gives people license to do things for which they would be held responsible if they were posting under their real names. But even posting under her real name, AB is pretty much immune from consequences. She can behave like a batshit loon and not worry about losing her job. The bothersome effect of pseudonymity is that it gives the rest of us the privilege that AB takes for granted. And that’s the real problem: not that it gives others impunity, but that it creates a situation where impunity ceases to be her special privilege.

This is absolutely correct. The ability to participate in the public discourse is something which previously was available only to a select few, and is now open to everyone. Part of what allows that is the ability of people to not attach their name to everything they write. People who have job and income stability (say, tenured professors) take for granted that they can say just about anything in a public space (such as the internets) without fear of consequence. Many other people, not so much.

The only reason to care about the identity of the person at the other end of the internet is to allow for real world consequences for online activity, consequences that some people are largely shielded from.

There's no reason people should worry that their boss is going to get called if they make some whiny asshole upset on the internet, or that their phone number will get posted, or their children brought into the discussion. But there are assholes on the internet who happily do such things on a regular basis, and it's perfectly sensible to hide a real world identity which has nothing to do with what goes on in the virtual world.

If I'd blogged under the name "Roger Smith" instead of "Atrios" no one would have been the wiser. Knowing what they believed to be a real name would they have been entitled to know all of my personal details? Of course not. And, if not, a name really confers no meaningful information.

Certainly anonymity lets people be bigger assholes than they might otherwise be, but for the most part who cares. It's the internets.
In fact, that latter bit about "Roger Smith" and "Atrios" is why I chose such an obvious pseudonym- because if you are using one, it is fair (I think) to make it apparent. Aside from that, I'll just add that I believe the same thing now that I did in 2002- that there's a tradition of pseudonymity and anonymity online that goes back further than the Internet, and the reason is simply because it's not supposed to matter who you are, where you are, or what your background is. All that matters is what you write.

Yes, it means that you have the same kind of impunity that "opinion journalists" generally enjoy (at least those that are patriotically correct), but the tradeoff is that you can't rely on your background for validation either. You could have a doctorate or never have finished high school. You could be a captain of industry or the lowliest worker. You could, as the saying goes, "be a dog". If the dog has something to say, more power to him.

One thing I do disagree with, though; the whole "it's the Internet, nobody cares" thing is growing passe. Newspaper editors wouldn't be wetting themselves at their circulation stats were that still the case. This isn't 1997, or even 2002, when I started this damned thing. Things have changed.

(Among other things? Libertarianism isn't anywhere near as dominant as it was, and the conservative bloggers are nowhere near as important as their liberal counterparts. There is still a hegemonic conservative discourse out there, but it's not the same world it was. Maybe I'll make OSC happy and change the site name to something more appropriate.)

(A GRRM title maybe? His books are pretty damned good too.)

In any case, the internets DO matter. And, thus, so does the tradition of pseudonymity.

Friday, October 20, 2006

“There is no state in the city right now”

The Mahdi army has taken over the city of Amara in Iraq.

A Shiite militia that has been accused of a wave of sectarian attacks on Iraq’s Sunni minority has seized control of the city of Amara in southeastern Iraq, attacking police stations and erecting checkpoints, witnesses in the city said today. At least 15 people have been killed, health officials said.

The takeover of Amara by the militia, the Mahdi Army, was a broad act of defiance against the authority of the central government, which has been trying to impose order and curb sectarian violence. The incident also raised questions about whether Iraq’s militias can be reined in....

Sheik Abdul Kareem al-Muhammadawi, a prominent tribal leader, said in an interview by telephone today that the Mahdi Army responded [to an attack on Shiites in the city] by deploying its troops in the city. He said the police were outgunned, with insufficient weapons and ammunition.
He followed with the quote in the title.

To be fair, a British commander pointed out that this was unlikely to have been intended- they didn't go in expecting to take over the city, but did it in response to the violence. This is not conquest. What is striking for me, however, is that the Mahdi Army appears to be successfully following in Hezbollah's footsteps of providing a Shiite alternate military that is capable of checking--and even defeating--the state's forces. Even if they have no designs on seizing power, this localized power makes an enormous difference.

Two thoughts immediately arise:

1) This is a boon for Iran. Every quasi-military Shiite organization in the region is a bonus for them, even if they have no designs on regional dominance. It makes it that much more likely that the "Shiite crescent" will become a de facto reality.

2) The United States is both more likely to attack Iran and less likely to succeed. DoD will want to prevent Iran from gaining a solid hold on the region, but the hold they already have will allow Iran lots of opportunity to cause havok.

Neither of these ideas are new, of course. They still bear repeating.

As for Amara, I hope that this is a temporary state of affairs at best. Having a city be militia-held is a recipe for further instability. A presence is probably inevitable, but Mahdi should relinquish control as soon as possible.

This post was written with Internet Explorer 7, by the way, which has the dubious distinction of feeling just enough like Firefox that I really feel the absence of my various Firefox extensions. Tabbed browsing without mouse gestures just feels...wrong. No other way to explain it.

Nice browser otherwise.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The October Surprise

Voter purges, apparently.

According to this Daily Kos diary, the same Republican-friendly firms that purged the Florida voter rolls of reliable Democratic voters (read: blacks) are doing the same thing to reliable Democratic voters in Ohio (read: the poor.)

Supposedly the purge was deliberately set up to catch as many Dems as possible, and the "please confirm" letters were deliberately made to look like simple information, when they had an (obscured) action element that required people to go register or they wouldn't be able to vote on election day.

(Well, wouldn't be able to vote without provisional ballots. Guess which districts aren't going to be given enough of those? If you guessed "Republicans", you'd be wrong!)

That's why Rove is so confident. Sure, the polls aren't helping him, but if this is widespread, what do polls matter? He'll win anyway. Sure, people might complain, but he just needs to trot out a few pissant cases of voter fraud and he'll be able to innoculate himself against the charge of widespread voter suppression.

Yet another reason why I've developed a healthy respect of the Canadians. At least their system works.

So Much for "Empire Lite"

Looks like Iggy is harshly critical of the United States, its president, and its foreign policy, according to this Lawrence Martin piece in the Globe and Mail.

Sure he's critical! This week. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

(Seriously, I'm not going to criticize him for taking a stand against Bush. Everybody's doing it these days. It's just that this would have had more credibility had it not smacked of damage control. Seems like Ignatieff's busier putting out fires than Joe Volpe and Dennis Hastert these days.)

A Latest Example of Charity

As found on Cerberus, Ignatieff is absolutely right to say that he doesn't support "ballistic missile defense or the weaponization of space":

''I do not support ballistic missile defence or the weaponization of space,'' Ignatieff, a freshman Toronto MP, said Monday in a statement to CanWest News Service.

''We should not participate in these measures. Canada must continue to work with our international partners and allies to ensure that our sovereignty is respected and that our national interests are represented in any multilateral discussions regarding continental security.'' [...]

Rae's comment that talks on the matter should not be a current government priority appeared to endorse the status quo. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who has promised a free vote in the Commons should negotiations take place, said in the summer that he was not reopening the issue. [...]

Gerard Kennedy, fourth-ranking candidate in the leadership race, declined comment until he has had time to study McKenna's submission.
Quote is from here.

Rae seemed to be taking much the same position, albeit with (unfortunately) somewhat weaker language. Kennedy I'm somewhat more disappointed in- McKenna's position (that Canada should join America BMD to mollify Americans', and by that I mean Republicans', irrational fears) is untenable on its face, so why hold off? Ignatieff certainly didn't. He deserves some credit for that.

(Here's hoping certain parties don't think I'm just saying this to ingratiate myself or suck up or whateverthehell. Credit where credit's due.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So much for Conventional Wisdom

Apparently the Liberal leadership candidate best suited for taking on Harper (whose numbers are drooping badly) is the warmed over social democrat.

The Muscular Liberal Hawk finishes well behind, especially in the province of Ontario, where Bob Rae is supposed to be a liability.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Larry Craig is apparently gay. More power to him, except that he's yet another one of those guys with an "R" beside his name and an "FU" for those who share his orientation.

I'm not a huge fan of "outing", never have been, but considering this congress seems to have had little trouble poking into other people's bedrooms, well...

Went to go see An Incovenient Truth again

With a friend. The quote from Mark Twain about "what we need to fear isn't what we don't know, it's what we know that just ain't true" thus rang in my mind when I read this piece by Digby about the hideously flawed books that the right uses as sources for their foreign and military policies. Of particular interest are wild frothing tomes about Saddam being responsible for the 1994 WTC bombing, and a lovely text called "the Arab mind" which purports to show that Arabs "only understand force, and...that the biggest weakness of Arabs is shame and humiliation." It's about as popular as polio with academics, yet is a widely-referenced text in both the conservative movement and high-level segments of the US military.

I'm starting to understand both why Iraq was such a disaster, and why the people on the ground were so flabbergasted at the reactions of their higher-ups. If you have an expectation of behavior, it'll affect your decisionmaking- if it's wrong, then it'll be disastrous.

Thus I, kinda like Twain, almost wish that they had gone in there completely ignorant. Maybe they could have learned themselves some reality, instead of a racist fantasy.

For the Record:

BMD is a horrible idea, the Canadians were right to stay out of it, and Frank McKenna is just as wrong about it now as he was in 2004.

As for whether McKenna would be condemned for taking the same positions as Ignatieff is now... possibly? He didn't let the Liberals find out.

A Little Bit of Confusion

Props for Paul Wells, as mentioned below, for correctly calling the debate (with the exception of that continuing insistence that non-Iggy candidates will be able to control the bleeding if they try to throw to Mr. "Four positions, one week".

Warren Kinsella, well, not so much. I know I harp on the guy a lot, but he illustrates something amusing. First, this quote:

Okay, I think I’ve got it all figured out. Call it my pre-Halloween Political Analysis©. After attending the Liberal leadership thing in Toronto – and after reading the learned assessments of the punditocracy, wherein you will find as many opinions as there were journos in attendance...
See, that's the interesting part, especially for those of us who are interested in damage control. There really only seems to be two interpretations out there of the debate on Sunday.

The first is that Bob Rae won the debate. Even if it doesn't help his position, pretty much everybody in every camp and most of the journos I've read have said as much.

(Don't have much personal contact, so maybe Warren is up on me that way. He's the experienced insider, as he so often reminds us.)

He not only won it, but Ignatieff lost it, and badly, thanks to that foolish little whinge on foreign policy that Wells highlighted.

The other interpretation? You can see it over here on Redtory's site, but Warren provides a pithier version: "Who won? Beats me." Thing is, the only people who I've read this from are outspoken Ignatieff supporters like Red Tory. I suppose Warren is in that camp now, too.

Except the TRULY odd thing is that atop of that little "yawn" spin, we read this:

[Liberals are afraid]

-That Michael Ignatieff is too right wing, like Turner or Martin, or too academic, like Kim Campbell;

-That Gerard Kennedy is too bland, like Al Gore, or too incapable of French, like Preston Manning or John Crosbie;

-That Stephane Dion is too French, like Gerard Kennedy is too English;

-That Bob Rae is too much like an NDP Premier who lengthened and deepened a recession, laid off thousands of nurses, oversaw countless businesses shutting down, caused massive economic and social dislocation, seemed indifferent to one of the most scandal-plagued administrations in Ontario history, and only tore up his NDP membership card when it had taken his ambition as far as it could reasonably go. You know, that Bob Rae is, um, still Bob Rae.
Ok, now let's look at the rest of that other comment:

Went to the Liberal leadership forum thingie at Roy Thomson Hall. I walked in with Ignatieff's convention co-chair, stood with the Dionistas and loitered with the media.
Notice who's missing? That's right! Kennedy and Rae. The clear appeal to impartiality falls down, and were Kinsella backing Dion, he wouldn't be pulling that ridiculous "beats me" stunt or trying to assert that there wasn't a clear consensus. After all, the consensus isn't just that Rae won, but that Dion put in a pretty fine performance, yet we see not a word of that on Mr. K's little site.

What we do see is a loud invective against Bob Rae, blaming him for a recession which, according to pretty much everything I've read about Ontario's economy, has more to do with soft American demand for Canadian manufactures than anything else. Rae was in the unfortunate position of being in the wrong place at the wrong time; kind of like Kinsella's nemesis Paul Martin, who was left to clean up the dirty laundry that Kinsella's boss left behind.

I mean, were Kinsella at all inclined towards critiquing Ignatieff, he wouldn't have tried to play the "ambition" card against Rae, of all people. Ignatieff is the one most vulnerable to that charge; the only way this sort of ploy makes sense is as a kind of Rovian innoculation against criticism by going after the other guy for the same thing. Nice, although I doubt it'll stick in this case.

So what causes that "little bit of confusion"? Well, this last bit here:

The problem is that Stephen Harper doesn’t really scare Canadians anymore, or possibly never did. That’s the Grits’ problem.
That latter assertion is just silly. Yes, the Liberals did successfully paint Harper as scary in 2004, and that fear of an "agenda" is probably a major reason why Harpers' minority is as utterly weak as it is. That's not what's confusing, though. What's confusing is that this is yet another indicator that Kinsella's true loyalty is to Harper, as (as is always the case) he never wastes a breath that could be used praising Steve to the high hills.

So he's, apparently, cryptically supporting Ignatieff (the most right-wing Liberal candidate) while at the same time talking up Harper, and going after Rae for daring to have once been a Social Democrat during a recession. He certainly claims to be a "Calgary communist" and a small "l" liberal, yet appears to be doing his best to make sure that the Conservatives retain power and the Liberals shift in a conservative direction.

So I guess that leads to the big question: am I confused about his liberalism, or is he?

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Props Where it's Due:

Great bit by Paul Wells:on the latest Canadian Liberal Party debate:

Then came the clip of the night. Iggy, MHF and Rae on Afghanistan. The question might as well have been, "Please tear each other to shreds over Afghanistan," because that's what they did. Ignatieff said he doesn't know where Rae stands on the file. Rae was, uh, kind of ready for that one: "For a guy who's changed his mind three times in a week..."

Ignatieff was furious. "You know that's not true. You've known me for 40 years." Ineffectual as a debating point, Ignatieff's response got to the heart of the most interesting human dynamic in this leadership race: precisely the deterioration of the relationship between these old UofT roommates. There's a Russian novel in there somewhere.
Considering the Dems still seem to be winning by default, the Canadian Liberal race is remaining a very interesting affair.

(Somewhat Apropo: I can't wait until Blair goes down. For many reasons, but partially because Labour may have to go through the same sort of trial, especially if Brown remains as relatively weak as he is now.)

By the Way

I haven't been doing much on the American congressional elections. Not much to say- it's going to be a bloodbath of biblical proportions. For the skinny, you should already know to go Here.

One thing I WILL say, though: this election worries me, because the Dems aren't going to win for anything they've done, really. There is no "contract with America" this time. There's no consistent message. There's just "we ain't Republicans", with a Republican party bad enough that that actually WORKS. Foley was a gift (as well as a tragedy) but that doesn't have anything to do with the Democrats.

We still don't really know what a Democratic Congress will actually DO.

The promised post on the DPRK

(That's the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, or "North Korea" for the rest of the planet.)

I had promised a post, but I probably don't need to make it long. Here's the short of it: Kim Jong Il isn't crazy, and isn't likely to start raining bombs down on either his Asian neighbours or the United States.

(Forget the silly ploy of saying that the US might commit an "act of war" for a moment)

He has nukes for two reasons. First, because he pretty much depends on not being ignored, for both political and economic reasons. He needs aid to have his country stay afloat, and needs the threat of the dissolution of his regime to carry enough of a penalty that other actors in the region will keep it from happening. That means South Korea and China. As long as he continues getting at least some support, he's gold. Hence the "act of war" comment- it's to keep attention.

Second, because of Iraq and Iran. He knows full well that the United States has never attacked a nuclear-armed country, no matter how belligerent they've been. As long as there's easier targets, the United States won't do so, either. This gives him a level of certainty and predictability in his negotiations that hadn't been there before- without the short- to medium-term threat of an American-led invasion of the North, he can start aiming his foreign policy towards long-term goals (whatever those might be.

There are other reasons, like personal prestige, but I think those two are the most important. They're why he won't give them up easily, and why (oddly enough for most people's understanding of warfare) he's not particularly dangerous right now. (Since he's not going to worry about a strike, he won't preempt it.)

Not that the situation shouldn't be watched, particularly for the Japanese reaction, but it's not as dire as you'd initially believe.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Bloggers and Parties

Henry Farrell has a very strong analysis of the "netroots" in the Boston Review; particularly the tension between liberal bloggers' attempts to be "non-ideological" and their constant citing of the Goldwater Republicans as a model, whose success was built on a ideological foundation.

It's actually quite ironic. Described as ideologues by their opponents, the one thing that high profile bloggers like Markos Moulitsas seem to agree on is that the drive to win should be non-ideological. Markos is quite well known for being quite impatient with policy and ideological discussions, and is laser-focused simply on having the Dems be more forthright in expressing their views, whatever those views might be. Farrell is right, though, when he points out that that can only go so far- there needs to be an underlying core of belief in order for any mass movement or political party to operate, and it must be more than a belief in "the people" or "the grassroots" or some other nostrum.

(After all, you can't please all of the people all of the time. You need to know where the big tent stands so you can figure out who doesn't belong in it, and you need to know that to know who does.)

Look: the Foley thing is a gift, no doubt. It'll probably give the House to the Dems. What it doesn't do is give the Democratic party its raison d'etre- that bedrock of belief that sustains the organization. A lot of that is because the Republicans have successfully pushed the discourse to the right, and the traditional Democratic bedrock beliefs go against that discourse. Moving the party clearly doesn't work; at this point, the mountain needs to come to Mohammed. Foley's follies have given the Dems the opportunity- now that they're within striking distance of finally having an official voice again, they need to use it for something.

As the Canadians can attest, a liberal party that doesn't govern as a liberal party just isn't going to be able to keep things going, no matter how weak the opposition.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Jonathan Ross Asks:

"Why do you think that [Stephane Dion and Bob Rae] can beat Stephen Harper's Tory government, who for the most part have very few weaknesses?"

Instead of bothering to answer a loaded question, I'll ask one in return:

"Why do you think that Michael Ignatieff's policies won't drive every left-leaning Canadian either away from the polls or into the arms of the NDP?"

His supporters may apologize over and over again, but the fact remains: Ignatieff has irrevocably associated himself with Bush's disastrous war in Iraq, Israel's disastrous war in Lebanon, and the disastrous idea that torture is effective. (Ignatieff's professed distaste notwithstanding.)

Any Canadian that looks beyond the borders of Canada and sees something more than bad guys to be clubbed into submission is going to be very, very leery of the man.

(Yes, I'm aware of the North Korean situation. I'll get to that in a bit. First thing's first though: yes, Virginia, there is such a thing as international law, and it does serve a role. If it didn't, there wouldn't be an international economy.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"Outing" Pages

I realize I belabour the point a bit, but once again, we can see damned good reasons to keep one's self to oneself.
The FBI is investigating a possible threat against the north Louisiana teenager who was on the receiving end of suggestive e-mails from disgraced former Rep. Mark Foley, a Louisiana congressman said Tuesday.

Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, said Tuesday that the young man's life wasn't threatened, "but close to it."

"There are people out there who feel like he is the one who (accused) Foley," Alexander said. "There are some bloggers out there who sent him some ugly stuff." (emphasis added)
Naturally, the guiding lights of the right, Insty and Roger Simon, were only too happy to aid those desperate to find the page and "learn 'im" a little.

Yes, this is very real, it's endemic on the right (including, no doubt, the supporters of Warren Kinsella's new bestest friend), and they see it as perfectly justified. Witness this rant from a comment posted on the above site:
BWAHAHAHAHAH!!! the left talkinga bout intimidating and trying to destroy witnesses and victims….hahahaha!!! oh you young, dumb Liberals.

You little one’s seem to forget that the Clinton administration would destroy the life and reputation of any woman who dare come out in public and say that Clinton had raped her or taken advantage of her.

The Liberal hypocrisy is beyond pathetic!!! You fake outrage is laughable at best!

As usual, the “pro-law” liberals want to pass verdict and sentence on people they hate with a passion without giving them a trial. How typical of left wing communists who hate the law and our Constitution.

What Foley did is disgusting and he should be punished to the full extend of the law IF he broke the law. We will find out if he broke the law after the FBI investigation is over and if the Justice Department decides to take this to court. Until then, remember Liberals who hate our Constitution, in the United States of America you are innocent until proven guilty. I know, i know, you guys hate that part of our laws as much as the 2nd Amendment.
Do you honestly think that a movement that embraces shit like this--especially the Killer Klinton stuff, the subject of dozens of books that were lavishly praised by all the right wing's glitterati--is going to balk at doing whatever's necessary to ensure that something like the Foley scandal doesn't put the Dems in power?

Me neither. And, as Stevie is probably aware (even if Warren ain't), where the Republican party goes, the Conservatives are going soon after.

Liberals, whether Canadian Liberals or American liberals, should remember that freedom of speech doesn't come with ID cards.

Wells and Ignatieff

Apropo of my earlier analysis of the Canadian Liberal leadership results, Paul Wells believes that Ignatieff will take it, and argues as such in a recent blog entry.

(That an Ignatieff win would be an indirect bonanza to the Canadian right, who would get to shift the whole discourse rightward, was not discussed. Man's gotta eat, and Whyte runs the store.)

(Saying otherwise might also screw up his good friend Warren Kinsella's bizarre mission to help Stephen Harper in any way, shape, or form that he can, despite what would supposedly be ideological differences.)


(Edit: In comments, "Ben" points out that Wells did say something that might fit along this line:

I suspect Ignatieff will face Stephen Harper at the next election. Which means the NDP will have room to thrive; the new Liberal leader will stand offside his party's base on the central foreign-policy issue of the moment; and no attack against Stephen Harper for militarism or coziness with the Bush White House will hold water.
I didn't read this as having much, if anything, to do with conservatism as a whole. At least upon first reading, it struck me as more a tactical comment than one about the ideological discourse. An Iggy win would validate the center-right in the Liberal party, and it is precisely due to the inability to attack on militarism et al that things would skew rightward- Iggy would have to try to exploit that lack of difference to try to bleed away soft Conservative votes, and more importantly, all the conservatives that aren't part and parcel of a political party would crow about how left-liberals and the NDP are out of touch.

It's those conservatives who aren't partisan operatives, such as Wells' boss, that would reap the biggest benefit from an Ignatieff win, and it's those conservatives and those effects that struck me as being ignored in the piece.)

(Anyway, again...)

He points out that with the various and sundry non-elected delegates that are backing Ignatieff, Ignatieff has about 32% of the delegates backing him, and that means he only needs about 18% to win. Paul's argument is that it ain't that tricky for him to do so, because supporters WILL break off.

So Ignatieff needs 18 points' growth to win. That's just a shade more than one-quarter of delegates who vote for someone else on the first ballot.

So Ignatieff doesn't need anyone's endorsement; he just needs support to bleed to him at the rate of one delegate in four. And he's been getting that all through this piece: when Hedy Fry and Carolyn Bennett went to Bob Rae, they failed to bring all their support with them. In the normal course of events, Ignatieff can expect to lure one previously unsympathetic delegate in four. Which means he can expect to win this.

The only way to stop him is to interrupt the normal course of events.

One of the second-tier candidates (Rae Kennedy Dion) would have to turn this race into a referendum on whether it is acceptable for Michael Ignatieff to become the Liberals' next leader. And the only way to demonstrate that the whole campaign should turn on that single question would be to pull out of the race immediately and throw to another second-tier candidate.
Ok, we've already run into our first problem here. Paul seems to have forgotten that, yes, the race has become about whether Ignatieff is acceptable as the Liberals' next leader. As I pointed out, that's the reason why we haven't seen any kind of snowball effect behind the leading candidate, when we damned well should have at this point.

Wells is forgetting (or not mentioning) that thanks to his positions on torture, Iraq, and the Israel-Lebanon conflict, Ignatieff has now associated himself not with the Canadian right, but with the American right, most specifically with George W. Bush. Kinsella dodged around that reality by stating that Ignatieff was just obsessed with the Kurds; the fact is, though, that Bush is deeply, deeply unpopular with Canadians, and even more so with Canadian liberals, and the 30% showing reveals that this does indeed matter.

(I'll leave aside the folderol about who finished where in each province. It's inside baseball, more a function of organizing and exploiting the membership rules than electioneering. If you think Kennedy couldn't win ANY seats in Quebec, you're dreaming.)

So the first problem is that people are very much aware of the necessity of stopping Iggy, and appear to have already made that decision. Second problem- will a quarter break for Ignatieff over Dion/Rae/Kennedy? Why would they? You can't haul a number out of some dark, smelly crevasse like Wells just did and say "oops, clearly he's going to win"- you have to justify it. The delegates are human beings, a mix of party hands (who will stick with whichever candidate is likely to benefit them, and that candidate is NOT Ignatieff, bloated as he is with organizational supporters), partisan idealists (so long, George W. Iggy) and representatives of multicultural communities (who tend to be extraordinarily loyal to their organizers, and you get back to the "benefits" problem for the organizers.) Why would a Dion supporter throw to Ignatieff, precisely, when he has no financial or moral incentive to do so? Is he just going to throw up his hands and say "well, what the heck?" Hardly.

Third problem is simpler- why is it that Ignatieff keeps ALL of his delegates, and nobody else does? If a quarter of Ignatieff's people melt away, everything's evened out. If it's even half that, all of a sudden things start looking better for, say, Rae, or any other anti-Iggy.

Fourth, there's no good reason to pull out of the race in order to turn things into a "referendum", and in fact, Wells should be aware of that. Stop and think about it, Paul. If a candidate pulls out now, his supporters are just as free as they are during the second ballot at the convention. Their names are known, and they're easily contacted them. By pulling out, all you ensure is that the Ignatieff team is going to be working them for months, while your direction to go to various candidates loses any and all credibility with time. If you want control, you keep them until the convention.

And, as this lowly, pseudonymous, yet game-theory-cognizant blogger pointed out a little while ago, bleeding an inordinate amount of delegates would be absolutely disastrous for the candidates' future careers. They're not going to do that. Instead, they'll try to mitigate the bleed by directing their supporters to go to whoever they were generally going to go to anyway, and the group-think that you know will be in effect will take care of those who might relent. Ignatieff is not that candidate. It is, I believe, either Rae or Dion, unless Kennedy gets over the Quebec thing.

So the question is not whether they stay in the race (they must, and have absolutely no good reason not to), but how and whether they choose someone amongst themselves to be the Anti-Iggs. That'll probably be whomever Findlay, Volpe, Brison and Dryden pick, as the combination of the four will put any of the three second-tier candidates over the amount needed to start the momentum.

(Well, that said, Brison might throw to Ignatieff, and Volpe's mostly useful because his loyal base absolutely guarantees that you won't need more than about 45% to beat Ignatieff. So it's mostly Dryden.)

In any case, the sequence seems pretty clear. The lower-tier people choose. Ignatieff stays well under 50%- probably about 45% or so, as only Brison would possibly throw to him, and he'll lose some people too. Then the second tier guys have a chat, and decide on their man. The guy who wasn't going to win anyway--but wants to avoid the ignominious fate of directing his people to go to Ignatieff and having them tell him where to shove it--throws to the leading anti-Iggy, and his followers cheerfully follow suit. That leading anti-Iggy scoops up the next lowest guy, and it's a two-man race.

And, although I rag on the guy, I agree with Cherniak on what would happen on the final ballot if Ignatieff were up against a single candidate (Dion, naturally, in the eyes of Cherniak.) He'd get beaten, quite handily, because the other candidates' supporters don't want him and have made that perfectly clear. That's the hurdle that Ignatieff faces that Wells ignores- if he doesn't win by the fourth ballot, he's not going to, because the anti-Ignatieff leader will be decided, and he'll quite probably win. And I really, really don't think he'll get enough bleed to win by the fourth ballot.

The only way this doesn't happen is if a candidate has an inordinate amount of control over his delegates AND wants to throw to Iggy. I know I acknowledged that possibility, but who the hell IS that, exactly? Rae would never do so. Kennedy would lose enough of his delegates to look like a laughingstock. Dion is probably a little of both.

It just doesn't seem likely, so it's probably fourth or nothing, Ignatieff.

It's still quite possible he'll win, but Wells is being far, far too forthright on far too little evidence, and a whole swath of dubious suppositions. Here's hoping his new "Steve-o's gonna be the next Reagan!" book is a bit better thought out.

(Any regular readers wish to take bets on Paul's glib comment-thread reply? My money's on something to the order of "mmm, Ken's store has the best fresh sourdough" or some such thing. I always kind of hope that Paul's response is going to be "well, guess I'll have to ask my employers to do what seemingly every other publication does, and open up a comments box on my blog", but I suppose he's going to get sued by whoeverthehell is going to sue Warren for comments that clearly aren't his own, yet NOT club him over the head for being eponymous and glib. Pity, that.)

(Edit: Ok, I do have to admit that as descriptors go, "Eponymous and glib" ain't bad.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

First you get a monopoly, then you put the screws to 'em

Happens just as much in the job market as any other. Just ask Wal-Mart, who are now apparently putting the screws to their workforce.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, is pushing to create a cheaper, more flexible work force by capping wages, using more part-time workers and scheduling more workers on nights and weekends.

Wal-Mart executives say they have embraced new policies for a large number of their 1.3 million workers to better serve their customers, especially at busy shopping times — and point out that competitors like Sears and Target have made some of these moves, too.

But some Wal-Mart workers say the changes are further reducing their already modest incomes and putting a serious strain on their child-rearing and personal lives. Current and former Wal-Mart workers say some managers have insisted that they make themselves available around the clock, and assert that the company is making changes with an eye to forcing out longtime higher-wage workers to make way for lower-wage part-time employees.

Investment analysts and store managers say Wal-Mart executives have told them the company wants to transform its work force to 40 percent part-time from 20 percent. Wal-Mart denies it has a goal of 40 percent part-time workers, although company officials say that part-timers now make up 25 percent to 30 percent of workers, up from 20 percent last October.
They do, of course, claim that investment analysts and the like are strongly encouraging them to do so. That make be true, but they're Wal-Mart- they aren't in the same position is many (or any) of their competitors. They're often an important if not vital source of jobs in many communities, making things like this unacceptable:

In the confidential memo sent to Wal-Mart’s board last year, M. Susan Chambers, who was recently promoted to be Wal-Mart’s executive vice president in charge of human resources, questioned whether it was cost-efficient to employ longtime workers. “Given the impact of tenure on wages and benefits,” she wrote, “the cost of an associate with 7 years of tenure is almost 55 percent more than the cost of an associate with 1 year of tenure, yet there is no difference in his or her productivity.”

The memo said, “the shift to more part-time associates will lower Wal-Mart’s health-care enrollment” even though Wal-Mart was reducing the amount of time to one year, from two, that part-time workers would have to wait to qualify for health insurance.

Workers say there is some evidence that the goals outlined in Ms. Chambers’ memo are being put into practice. At several stores in Florida, employees said, managers have suddenly barred older employees with back or leg problems from sitting on stools after using them for years while working as cashiers, store greeters or fitting-room attendants. Wal-Mart said it had no companywide policy on stool use and did not have enough information to comment.
Of course, that last bit about taking away stools for people with back or leg problems is downright evil. The sentiment of "kick out the people who've been here long enough to get benefits" isn't much better, though- I've seen what it does to other retail operations, and it ain't pretty. Wal-Mart makes their margin from the fact that they don't play by the same rules as everybody else- they're too big to work like an ordinary retailer. Where they go, the country follows.

If this takes place, the labourers of the country are going to become a very restive bunch indeed.

Rice: "I don't recall"

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she cannot recall then-CIA chief George Tenet warning her of an impending al-Qaida attack in the United States, as a new book claims he did two months before the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

''What I am quite certain of is that I would remember if I was told, as this account apparently says, that there was about to be an attack in the United States, and the idea that I would somehow have ignored that I find incomprehensible,'' Rice said.

Rice was President Bush's national security adviser in 2001, when Bob Woodward's book ''State of Denial'' outlines a July 10 meeting among Rice, Tenet and the CIA's top counterterror officer.

''I don't know that this meeting took place, but what I really don't know, what I'm quite certain of, is that it was not a meeting in which I was told there was an impending attack and I refused to respond,'' Rice said.
Hah! If this were a cartoon, she'd have been saying "er, ah, um, well, y'see" and yanking her collar around. Funny stuff.

(Or, well, it would be, were it not for the subject matter. Damned Republican arrogance.)

Meanwhile, in South America

Lula's in trouble.

The "Super Weekend" and the Prisoner's Dilemma. Plus- What This Says About Liberalism

Well, this isn't totally unexpected, but it IS fascinating. According to the online breakdown of delegates, the number of delegates runs roughly as follows:

29.9% Ignatieff
19.8% Rae
16.9% Kennedy
16.6% Dion
4.6% Dryden
4.4% Volpe
3.9% Brison
1% Hall Findlay
2.8% Undeclared

With most of the meetings reported in. Assuming this ratio holds, we end up with pretty much everybody but Ignatieff in a classic prisoner's dilemma position. See, any of the three post-Iggy candidates can easily become Liberal leader, by absorbing the support of their fellows and the candidates like Dryden, Volpe, and Brison. (Who, seperate or together, don't have QUITE enough support to be kingmakers.) All Ignatieff needs to do is absorb the supporters of any of the three, and he's got it won, provided that he can scoop up Brison and Findlay.

(Volpe is out of the question- his bloc is pretty much totally unavailable to Ignatieff, so chalk that 4-5% up to "whoever is the Not Iggy candidate.")

If they band together, they can take Ignatieff down. BUT, if even one defects, Ignatieff will probably end up with enough support to be leader. Whoever defects will become a minister and his various supporters will be welcomed into the new regime, whereas those who DON'T defect will likely get frozen out, except for the most high-profile supporters. (Ignatieff will bring them in to "reach out", but the rest will be out in the cold.) Yet if more than one defects, or ALL defect to crown him, there will be little in the way of spoils.

So the classic prisoner's dilemma logic would suggest that at least one, if not two, will defect to Ignatieff, while insisting to their fellows that they won't. That makes Ignatieff (groan) the likely new leader of the Liberal party.

(Warm up the thumbscrews and start pumping that waterboard water.)

But... things get MORE complicated, because after the first ballot, supporters aren't necessarily going to go where they're told, and they'll know as much as anybody else that if everybody backs Ignatieff, nobody benefits, and if somebody else DOES pull it off, Rae/Dion/Kennedy will rise to power with a hell of a lot less people that Ignatieff to hand out spoils to. Plus, thanks to the "Volpe 5", you really only need about 45%, because Volpe will direct his (likely intensely loyal, considering their support existing despite the negative press) delegates to vote for whoever is the non-Iggy candidate, as payback for dropping the paid membership bomb on him right before delegate selection. That may be made up for by Brison breaking for Ignatieff, but might not.

Thus, they both have a smaller hurdle to jump than Ignatieff does, and stand the significant possibility that they might lose too many delegates to the non-Iggy alternative to be the kingmaker. That would be disastrous, as it would mean a non-Iggy candidate will probably win, and they will have played no part in that win. A lot of the Liberal left, quite simply, will not support Ignatieff. That has to be kept in mind.

So the question is, then, whether Dion, Rae and Kennedy can sit down and agree amongst each other, before the convention starts about how things are going to work. If they can come to terms, considering they know how difficult it will be holding on to delegates, then the one they choose amongst each other will likely overcome Ignatieff's initial advantage.

(A Classic prisoner's dilemma solution- work it out beforehand. Hence the famous Mafia code of silence and loyalty, among other things.)

If these negotiations break down, though, then whichever thinks that his followers won't break will likely try to back Ignatieff. Then it comes down TO said delegates- if they go with him, Ignatieff probably wins, but if they don't, the precedent will be set and the OTHER guy will likely win, thanks to the Volpe anti-Iggy bump.

(So if somebody blinks and has loyal supporters, they'll likely split and give Iggy the win, but if everybody is either not sure about the support and/or resolute in their anti-Ignatieff position, he loses.)

As for what this says about Canadian liberalism? Too soon to say yet, although the enormous success of the Rae campaign, despite the grumblings about the on-the-ground machine, suggests that the leftward shift that I'd been perceiving is very much real. No, Rae isn't a social democrat, or at least not anymore- but he does carry that aura, whether he wants it or not. The millstone around Ignatieff's neck that is foreign policy is likely to have hurt him too, and turned this from a coronation into a real race. The fact that Ignatieff is far ahead (which would seem to mean that he'd attract a majority from a "nothing succeeds like success" perspective) but hasn't attracted over 50%, and the sheer number of other credible candidates, suggests that liberals want a candidate who represents progressive, non-Americanized foreign policy- Ignatieff's other policies simply don't differ enough from his counterparts to explain it.

This is fairly similar to what's going on in the United States. I believe it reaffirms the idea that liberalism is becoming about more than simply intra-state economic divisions and structures. It's about the actions of of a country as a whole on the world stage- those sticky questions of shared values and identity that a laser-focus on economics often misses. It's also going to be a serious problem for Ignatieff, should he win. He is NOT in step with his party on foreign policy, and once the self-interested apologias by his backers become unnecessary, he'll probably start hearing it more.

Whether he watches his left flank disintegrate and get absorbed by the NDP depends entirely on how he reacts.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"The Only Way He'd Lose His Seat Is If He Were Found in Bed With a Dead Girl or a Live Boy"

Never thought it'd actually come to pass- but not only has it, but it looks like the Republican leadership kept the whole thing under wraps.

(It wasn't actually "relations", but an "overfriendly" email between a congressman and a page. Still.)

Best part?

They "kept the matter secret and allowed Mr. Foley to remain head of a Congressional caucus on children’s issues, Republican lawmakers said Saturday."

Er, yeah. I know that IOKIYAR is still in effect, but this seems to be pushing it somewhat.