Thursday, August 31, 2006

More On Minds

I've got my rebuttal to Ponnuru here.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Doing what they do best

Matthew Yglesias calls bullshit on Iran alarmists.

Ezra Klein takes on libertarians who like small expensive government better than big cheap government.

Amanda Marcotte goes off on virginity fetishism.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Big Iron World

I just bought Old Crow Medicine Show's Big Iron World, and it's really good. I was awaiting this album for months because of "I Hear Them All", which I heard once at SXSW in March. The song wasn't available anywhere until yesterday when the album came out, so I was going nuts trying to figure out where I could get it:

I hear the crying of the hungry
in the deserts where they're wandering
hear them crying out for heaven's
own benevolence upon them
hear destructive power prevailing
I hear fools falsely hailing
To the crooked wits of tyrants when they call
I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all

I hear the sounds of tearing pages
and the roar of burning paper
All the crimes in acquisition
turn to air and ash and vapor
And the rattle of the shackle
far beyond emancipators
and the loneliest who gather in their stalls
I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all

So while you sit and whistle Dixie
with your money and your power
I can hear the flowers a-growin'
in the rubble of the towers
I hear leaders quit their lying
I hear babies quit their crying
I hear soldiers quit their dying, one and all
I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all

I hear the tender words from Zion
I hear Noah's waterfall
hear the gentle lamb of Judah
sleeping at the feet of Buddha
and the prophets from Elijah
to the old Paiute Wovoca
Take their places at the table when they're called
I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all
I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all
I hear them all, I hear them all, I hear them all


Old Crow is a string band from North Carolina. At SXSW they had two banjos, a fiddle, a stand-up bass, and a guitar. I've gone sort of anti-drum over the last few months -- to put it strongly, what's the big deal about this instrument that contributes nothing to melody and can't make any actual notes? So the fact that drums only appear on four tracks, and most of the rhythm always comes from the strings makes me happy. Their cover of Woody Guthrie's Union Maid is particularly energetic. On the other side of things, "James River Blues" is the loveliest song about being an out-of work boatman that I'm ever likely to hear.

Well, it's time to get to sleep so I can write more dissertation tomorrow and hopefully respond to Ponnuru's response to my review. If I can tear myself away from this...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

My review is up!

I've written what I think is the first liberal review of Ramesh Ponnuru's "The Party of Death." It's up right now at The American Prospect.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Write-in candidates with long names

With Tom DeLay dropping out of the race and no Republican on the ballot, the GOP is going to have a really hard time retaining DeLay's district. Especially since their write-in candidate has the long name of "Shelley Sekula-Gibbs" and voters will have to enter it with a funny little tracking wheel.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Snakes on a Senate

The DSCC (the official Democratic group trying to win back the Senate this year) has this thing for setting up goofy webpages. Snakes on a Senate is their most recent attempt. It's not all that impressive, but I will give them points for trying.

Their page on Tom Kean's plan to cut gas prices was really good, though.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

I love me my Kung Fu Monkey

His post on terrorism is a joy to read.

FDR: Oh, I'm sorry, was wiping out our entire Pacific fleet supposed to intimidate us? We have nothing to fear but fear itself, and right now we're coming to kick your ass with brand new destroyers riveted by waitresses. How's that going to feel?

CHURCHILL
: Yeah, you keep bombing us. We'll be in the pub, flipping you off. I'm slapping Rolls-Royce engines into untested flying coffins to knock you out of the skies, and then I'm sending angry Welshmen to burn your country from the Rhine to the Polish border.

US. NOW: BE AFRAID!! Oh God, the Brown Bad people could strike any moment! They could strike ... NOW!! AHHHH. Okay, how about .. NOW!! AAGAGAHAHAHHAG! Quick, do whatever we tell you, and believe whatever we tell you, or YOU WILL BE KILLED BY BROWN PEOPLE!! PUT DOWN THAT SIPPY CUP!!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

How Did You Think It Would End?

The cease-fire isn't making right-wing bloggers very happy. Andy McCarthy titles his post "Hezbollah wins" and K-Lo agrees. Paul from Powerline isn't happy either. They're right to be displeased. Hezbollah comes out stronger now than it was three months ago. Says McCarthy: "How hard must Ahmadinejad, Assad and Nasrallah be laughing at all this?"

This is a bad outcome that you could've predicted after reading hilzoy. Israel couldn't stop Hezbollah even with an 18-year occupation of southern Lebanon, and they aren't going to do it with anything short of that. There really aren't any productive military solutions available here -- read her excellent post for a more in-depth discussion. She tells us what will work:

Personally, I think (as I've said before) that in the long run, the solution to this problem will have to involve the creation of a strong and stable Lebanese state with a monopoly of force within its territory. This is not the sort of solution that one brings about by striking decisive blows

The Cedar Revolution showed us that there was hope for Lebanon eventually getting things under control. Maybe not in the short term, but over time a strengthened Lebanese state might be able to break free of Syrian influence and disarm Hezbollah. But instead of supporting the Lebanese, Israel dropped bombs all over them and drove hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. How do you think these people will feel about Israel when they return to their blown-up houses and dead friends? That's the kind of thing that encourages somebody to join Hezbollah and take up arms against Israel.

Michael Totten's Lebanese friend, to be sure, isn't doing that. He was reasonably pro-Israel and solidly anti-Hezbollah before Israel started bombing his country. In other words, he's exactly the kind of guy that we need to achieve our objectives in the Middle East. But reading what he wrote in July gives you some idea how the bombing has affected the political situation:

You've made this country unliveable for the people fighting to disarm Hezbollah.

Guess what? I'm leaving. Yep. Me.

Where am I going? Syria. Didn't want to, but I have to. The people we marched against are the ones you sent us begging to. The people who assassinated our leaders, kept us from having an operating democracy, and who armed Hezbollah are laughing it up because they've won the game because of you.

Bashar Assad said Lebanon would be destroyed if he left. I didn't know the Israelis would play into his game. It's not surprising that Syrian-allied Hezbollah started the mess, but you guys are just vicious.

All my Hezbollah supporting friends are sticking around. They call the rest of us cowards. I guess we are. We want to do scientific research. We want our children to learn how to play the piano. We want to watch our stock porfolios burgeon. We can't do that here any more.

I tried to sympathize with you. I didn't support Hezbollah, and if you look at the posts before this conflict began, I was maligning the political parties that oppose Hezbollah for not doing enough.

I even gave you guys the benefit of the doubt at the beginning of this, as did most Lebanese. Even the Shia, Christians, and Druze in South Lebanon understood your position. Not any more.

Oh, well. I'm a refugee.

This isn't what I want, and it isn't what the folks at the National Review want either. I wish they knew that it's what dropping bombs on civilians will get you.

Friday, August 11, 2006

You're Invited to Our Party! Bring Friends!

In my travels through the blogosphere, I've encountered lots of people who have some interest in third parties. This includes jedmunds (wherever he is) and some people at Shakes' place -- though perhaps not Shakes herself. Especially after the exciting events of this week, I'd like to offer them some advice and an invitation.

Any movement big enough to make a third-party candidate remotely competitive in a general election can easily win a Democratic primary. This is mostly because there are far fewer Democratic primary voters. 283,055 people voted in Tuesday's primary; 1,253,571 people voted in Lieberman's 2000 general election victory. Democratic primary voters, furthermore, are more accepting of left-wing views than general election voters are. So if you have a movement that's big enough to be competitive in a general election, you can easily swing through the Democratic primary and pick up the nomination on your way. When the general election comes, you'll get the votes of all the straight-ticket Democratic voters, and you'll be the clear choice for every left-of-center voter. It's a lot easier to take over the Democratic Party and win elections that way than it is to build a successful third party.

Look at how it happened in Connecticut, where Ned Lamont is going to be the Democratic nominee. He'll most likely win the election. Over the last half-century, 24 incumbent Senators have been denied renomination in primaries. None have gone on to win the general election, which bodes pretty badly for Lieberman. The only one who tried to keep campaigning all the way to November got 11% of the vote. Instead of sending your third-party candidate into the general election, go for the Democratic nomination, and make these numbers work for you.

There's an important flip side to this. If a left-wing candidate can't win a Democratic primary, that candidate clearly doesn't have a movement big enough to win a general election. Then there's no point in running a third-party candidate in the general. The Democrats won't move left to prevent a third-party candidate from stealing their votes -- for them to break even with this strategy, they have to win 2 votes on the left for every one that they lose in the center. (Losing a centrist voter to the Republicans means they need one left-wing voter to make up the loss and then another left-wing voter to match the Republican gain.) And while moving left will turn out Democratic base voters in larger numbers, it may turn out the Republican base in larger numbers as well, and Democratic incumbents know that.

Running third-party candidates in general elections, then, won't substantially change Democrats' behavior. But especially with Lieberman's defeat fresh in their minds, the possibility of a primary challenge will. Take a look at this post from mcjoan, where she talks about how Jane Harman came out against war with Iran and warrantless wiretapping after Marcy Winograd challenged her from the left in a primary. That's a strategy that can succeed in several different ways, and it's one that I invite progressives who are unhappy with the Democrats to try.

The Trend Is Your Friend

At this point, there's no doubting that the Iraq War is an issue that helps Democrats and hurts Republicans in the 2006 elections. You can see it in the polling on which party people trust to do better on the war -- the last year's polls show people consistently picking the Democrats. September 2004 was the last time a majority of Americans thought the war was worth fighting. Probably the neatest piece of polling comes from New Jersey -- when you mention Iraq, the Democratic candidate's advantage goes from one point to eight points!

Things have, in their slow and steady way, changed a lot between 2003 and now. It's reasonable to extrapolate these trends forward to 2008, because the mechanism that drives them will most likely remain intact. Iraq is deteriorating and Americans are slowly becoming aware of that. I'm pretty confident that in two years, whether it was right to go to war in Iraq will be a more divisive issue within the Republican Party than among Democrats. Already Michael Steele has been talking down the Iraq War under a bizarre veil of faux-anonymity.

I like how Mark Schmitt said it:

But consider that at the time of the 2004 primaries, the war was less than one year old! By the time of the first primary votes in 2008, it will be almost five years of war. We’re now in the fourth year of the war; does anyone seriously think that by the sixth, absent some enormous change, that “antiwar activists” won’t be the vast majority of people?

There's more to be said about the passage of time. By the time of the 2008 general election, 9/11 will be more than twice as distant as it was in 2004. The defining foreign policy experience of the past years won't be the stark terror of planes crashing into the World Trade Center, it'll be the slow horror of watching events fall out of our control in Iraq and the Middle East. We won't be looking so much for somebody who can lead us into a glorious head-to-head conflict with the terrorists, but for somebody who can salvage a respectable conclusion out of the bloody mess that 8 years of Bush has left us in. Under these conditions, it's really important that Democrats focus on fighting the next battle and not the last one. The politics of national security in 2008 are going to be substantially different from 2004.

This doesn't mean that we should run to some kind of pacifist foreign policy. But we should recognize that what Americans need to be promised in foreign policy isn't corpses -- it's victory. The key to finding a pro-withdrawal message that Americans will approve of is fitting it within a larger strategy that comes with a credible promise of victory. The model for a Democratic position that I'd recommend to anyone was set out in Wesley Clark's 2004 article, Broken Engagement. America will overcome its foes in the Middle East the same way we overcame Communism -- not by invading other countries, but through a policy of containment and engagement that remakes the Arab world in our own image over a period of several decades. We did it, we won, and we should do it again.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Very Edwards Weekend

Yeah, that's what it was at the Ezra blog. I kicked things off with my lone non-Johnny piece, which was on the successful Democratic filibuster.

Then I posted on how Edwards would beat McCain. I've expressed this view better before, but the new version has some cool stuff in it.

Ezra responded with a post criticizing Edwards' debate performance. So I posted on how Edwards won the Cheney debate.

Finally I quoted the Middle East remarks from his chat transcript at the Edwards blog.