Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hillary Was Not Enthusiastic About NAFTA in 1993

According to an analysis I heard this morning, Hillary might be the choice over Obama for free trade skeptics. More on this as I research it, but from the analysis I heard, based on available biographies, Obama is a lot more accepting of free trade than Hillary is.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Can Barack Attack?

Can Barack Attack?

I reiterate that I think Hillary could do better in a debate versus McCain.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Post-Autistic Economics

This is very promising. The title is classic, and sums up a huge amount of my own reflections on the topic:
Post-Autistic Economics

Barack Obama's Iraq War Speech

Update posted below.

I'm still a bit on the fence about Obama, mostly just because I don't know how he'd fare in the crucible of national partisan politics (whereas I have no doubt about Hillary's ability to maintain the front lines against Republicans). But I do want to recognize that I think this speech was pretty awesome:

Barack Obama's Iraq Speech

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don’t oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.

I don’t oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not – we will not – travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

One thing that I'm curious about, having attended an Anti-War Rally at that very same spot in Chicago, in 1990, where only about 50 people showed up, is how many people were at that rally. Anyone know?

Another thing I'd like to point out is that when anyone insinuates that WWII was fought to save the Jews, I get annoyed, because that was not why the US entered the war and generally most Americans did not know about the genocide until about 1944.

There were about 1000 people at the rally. Jesse Jackson was the headliner.
See: NPR Morning Edition, March 25, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008


Today's Boston Globe's editorial is the most persuasive I've seen so far on the matter. Here's an excerpt:

"In 1901 in the United States, the military court-martialed and sentenced to 10 years hard labor a US major who had waterboarded a prisoner in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. The United States officially outlawed the practice after World War II, when the Germans and Japanese had both used it against Allied troops. The Allies executed eight Japanese officers for waterboarding British prisoners and sentenced another to 15 years hard labor for waterboarding a US civilian, among other crimes."

Republicans Kill Heating Assistance

Those heartless bastards. From:
Senate Breaks Stimulus Stalemate

Senate Breaks Stimulus Stalemate

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republicans and Democrats agreed Thursday to add rebates for 20 million older people and 250,000 disabled veterans to a House-passed economic aid plan, ending a partisan stalemate.

The breakthrough came when Democrats, under pressure from party colleagues in the House, agreed to drop their insistence on adding jobless benefits, heating aid for the poor and business subsidies. Senate Democrats said they would allow a vote on a proposal that extends the tax rebates to Social Security retirees and disabled veterans.

Democrat Who Will Fare Best Against McCain

One of my points below about electibility in my previous post is now obsolete. The Republicans pretty much as locked into McCain, so now questions of electibility are not as problematic; its no longer shooting a missile with a missile.

I still think that of all the years to be worrying about electibility in the general election, this is not the year. Folks, we are dealing not only with the vestige of one of the most unpopular and unsuccessful administrations here, but also the fatigue of 8 years with said administration. And then, there's the economy! If this isn't a perfect storm for a Democratic victory, I don't know what is.

With that caveat, I think a case can be made that Hillary would fare better versus McCain than Obama. My reasoning is based on the fact that year after year, McCain has one because of a single trump card, his military service. That's how he won his first election, and it has been easy sailing for him ever since. His famous quote in response to a challenge in his first debate was essentially, to paraphrase, "where were YOU while I was out fighting for our country?". The past 30+ years of strides in gender equality not-withstanding, the visceral reaction for non-Democrats is going to be kinder to a woman than a man, where neither has a record of military service. There might be an additional onus on Obama because so many African-Americans are in the military (not sure how that might figure into the calculus of public perception).

Plus, Hillary has a similarly pseudo moral smirky line with equal weight as McCain's. She was giving birth and raising a child.

There is another more subtle and abstract reason I think Hillary will fare better versus McCain. It follows from the fact that, however likeable McCain may seem to be, it is not because of his suaveness. He is not charming. In fact, he is a bit awkward, and carelessly speaks and then apologizes, and considers such gruffness a token of sincerity (or "straight talk"). When put next together someone who is almost the complete opposite, that is, charming and suave, as I consider Obama to be, it is going to likely highlight McCain's likeability. Maybe not, but I think there is considerable chance that McCain will be able to take advantage of this sharp contrast in demeanor.

Hillary, on the other hand, has the same awkward graces has McCain, but not on such a clumsy level. Next to Hillary, McCain just looks dumb. Next to Obama, McCain looks "authentic".

Monday, February 4, 2008

Democratic Primary: Choice Between Two Messages

My Thoughts on Primary Voting
1. I'm not a big fan of the primary season because I like to keep focused on the main goal, beating the Republicans. That being said...

2. Americans tend to underestimate the importance of political party. Whoever wins in November, no matter what their individual style may be, matters far less than what party they are in. Their party affiliation determines advisors, cabinet, and a zillion other things. Therefore, it used to make sense to me that the number one issue in a primary is....

3. Electibility. That was until 2004. I backed Kerry on ELECTIBILITY. So much for that notion. Actually, don't throw ELECTIBILITY out the window, but just realize that it is not a guarantee. Especially this year when the opponent is not known (and electibility is always RELATIVE to the other candidate), it is like trying to hit a misssile with another missile.

4. Obama's message is UNITY among Republicans and Democrats. Some folks might have a short memory, but I recall how Bill Clinton had that message in the first years of his presidency. He was bending over backwards to include the Republicans (he put REPUBLICANS in his CABINET!!). How did they pay him back for this? I would squirm when he was attacked by Republicans and did not fight back (at least publically)...

5. Hillary's message is we have a lot of repair to do after the damage of the Bush years. This is the mood I am in.

I swear, I had not read Paul Krugman's January 28 Op-Ed before I posted the above. Amazing coincidence, though. So, I encourage a reading of Lessons of 1992.

Friday, February 1, 2008

MoveOn's endorsement

Today MoveOn endorsed Obama. What irritates me about their announcement is their characterization of "Progressives" rallying to Obama...for what? Hillary is much more to the left in terms of rhetoric and domestic policy. There are two reasons why this endorsement makes sense*, but it reveals a shallowness and ignorance about domestic policy that saddens me.

*1) MoveOn was originated with the zeitgeist of "fogetting about Al Gore" and the '90's (hence the moniker MoveOn as a reaction to the other zeitgeist of challenging the 2000 election), and
2) The most extreme left of the party probably can be characterized as being a bit more idealistic (naive?) than the rest.

The fact that this is the first time MoveOn has endorsed a candidate in the primary is especially troubling, especially after the unity in the Democratic party so many have talked about after last night's debate.