Monday, June 30, 2008

Stanley Fish is bored

Stanley Fish argues that the general election campaign has been "totally uninteresting." But what does he cite in evidence? He's glad you asked:

"I cite in evidence the desperate efforts of cable-news commentators to fill out an hour or even 15 minutes arguing about whether Bill Clinton’s statement of support for Barack Obama was so brief and pro forma that it amounted to a slap in the face, or about whether Obama (or a staff member) was wise to banish women wearing head scarfs from photo-ops, or whether Michelle Obama came across as a regular – that is, all-American and not angry – person on “The View,” or whether John McCain could or should separate himself from George Bush."

I was ready to be persuaded, but my first reaction to this list was: Why is he naming the big stories? In fact, I'd say all four have been Big Stories and I think a case can be made for each one being a legitimately interesting story.

1) Clinton's statement was obviously so brief as to be a slap in the face. There wasn't really an argument to be had there. And the relationship (rivalry?) of the still extant and vital 42nd president and his party's nominee to be the 44th president is prima facie interesting.

2) This one was embarrassing as an Obama supporter, but it's the kind of story that the NYT is right to always be pushing. How can the campaign deflect the Muslim "smears" without themselves smearing Muslims by failing to make clear that they don't consider that a bad thing, or by telling them BO can't be seen with too many of them? I give them pretty poor marks in this department, personally, but are they just being pragmatists? Discuss (or get bored if you're Stanley Fish)

3) How is the marketing of the first black first lady not interesting?

4) Whether and to what extent McCain distances himself from Bush is sorta a key question. He's shown the capability of doing both (supporting forcefully and running away from), so he remains free to do whichever he deems more advantageous electorally.

I can only wonder what kind of stories Stanley Fish is hoping for. By cable news standards these are gold.

What is the Obama camp thinking?

I think we learned something pretty important about the Obama camp today, but I can't tell if it's that they're petrified of John McCain or they think he doesn't have a chance.

So Wesley Clark said something insufficiently reverential about John McCain's military record: namely that his experiences as a pilot and POW don't hew especially closely to the responsibilities of the presidency.

As could have been expected, both the right wing outrage machine and mainstream press are going bananas. The "Swift Boat" comparison is being made all over the place despite the fact that what Clark said wasn't even really disparaging of John McCain let alone a catalog of blatant lies about him.

What does Team Obama do? It rejects, denounces, and otherwise disassociates himself from those remarks.

First let's dispense with the unfairness to Clark, who must have missed the memo that he was supposed to fawn over Obama's opponent when being interviewed on TV. That's obviously not factoring in one way or th'other.

But why is Obama so unwilling to take even the slightest poke at the balloon of McCain hero worship? I'll stipulate that it would be stupid to try to make the "McCain's not really a war hero" case... even though the Republicans executed the strategy successfully in 2004 (the common argument is that because the strategy worked for Bush, and Bush sucked, it won't work in 2008). But surely he could argue that while McCain served heroically, that doesn't automatically qualify him to be president, right? Well it's too mean for the McCain fluffers like Joe Klein, who clearly wish to partake of his warrior-hood by defending it from any who dare question its significance. But I don't think it's necessarily too mean for the voting public, and would be worth making.

One obvious explanation for their decision not to is that they don't want to make an issue of McCain's war record at all. The problem with this is by denouncing Clark's statement, they're admitting that it was disrespectful of McCain's war record, when it really wasn't at all. This is a perfect example of not taking your own side in a fight.

I see two potential explanations for their decision not to do so:
  1. They think that their side of the fight would be doomed. McCain is obviously a living god, and if Obama so much as tries to put his status as a tortured POW in perspective he will lose the election.

  2. They think their side of the fight is so good there's no percentage in having it. People don't need to be given "permission" to vote against John McCain. They're going to do so anyway in huge numbers. In order to win his hoped-for blowout, Obama needs to do it while bowing and scraping before the much beloved but dottering war hero who was unfortunate enough to be caught standing on the electoral train tracks.
The press is going to report this as if Option 1 drove the decision, but I think Option 2 is more likely. There remains the issue of fairness to Gen. Clark, but I suppose he's tough and will get over it. He may have moved off the Gang of 500's VP lists, but he moved up several notches on mine.

Eric Savitz calls out CNBC manipulation

Oh wait. False alarm. It seems that the Rediff owner on CNBC was recommending that people buyRediff, sending the stock up 21.1%. And when investors talk their long book and the stock responds dramatically, Eric doesn't get the queasy feeling he gets when they talk their short book.

Keep up the good work, Eric!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Things that are not musical instruments

Ann Althouse tells parody to take a hike:

I love music played on things that are not musical instruments and on toy instruments and instruments made out of nonstandard materials. Here's an old post about that.

That's the genuine article, not the joke site. I guess one could find the childlike sense of wonder endearing...

Mets lose. I get rained on.

Well for the first five innings it was pretty pleasant. Santana pitched well, except for one shaky inning. The persistent drizzle was actually kinda nice in the heat. Got to see Ramon Castro just crush a line drive over the center field fence. I love Ramon Castro. I don't understand why we keep acquiring other catchers to play in front of him. He was better than Paul Lo Duca.

In the 6th inning things took a turn for the thunderstormy, so we headed out thinking it would be a long delay. We missed the Wright home run, but got home in time to see Mariano slam the door in the 9th.

Jose Reyes does seem to have a weird and unfortunate habit of getting picked off second base.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Joe Klein gives relationship advice

In a post entitled "Call Him, Barack", Joe Klein writes that it's on Obama to extend the hand of friendship to Bill Clinton:

Obama has been making a lot of the right moves since nailing down the nomination--and it's probably time to swallow his pride and give the Big Dog a call, perhaps under the guise of asking specific policy advice... and then Obama should casually let slip that he doesn't at all consider Clinton a racist, and never has. Maybe a joke, "I'm looking forward to becoming the second black President..."

My first reaction to this was to imagine Joe hunched over his desk with the little Barack and Bubba dolls, working the whole scene out. But then I think back to the totally chickenshit statement Bill put out the other day, presented in its entirety:

"President Clinton is obviously committed to doing whatever he can and is asked to do to ensure Senator Obama is the next President of the United States."

As Hillary supporter Ed Rendell said, it's time for Bill to get over it. The Clintons ran an incredibly dishonest, nasty campaign, not so much on the race front but on the "we'd be better off with McCain" front, so yeah their image, at least among Democrats, has taken a bit of a hit. Them's the breaks.

The vast majority of Marc Ambinder readers choose a middle way: "Obama should ask Bill Clinton politely [to campaign for him], but if Clinton says no, Obama should ignore him." As opposed to groveling or ignoring him totally.

I guess that's probably reasonable, but I think there's something to be said for letting Bill know that it's not his party anymore, and it's for the best that it isn't. He's been completely useless to the Democratic Party for the last eight years. He was an "elder statesman" (read: quiet as a churchmouse) while Bush was running the country into the ground, and then he suddenly became a petty hatchet man when it was his wife's turn to run.

Sure, he's still powerful enough so that it would be best for Obama not to make an outright enemy of him, but this notion of Klein's that he should call and "casually let slip" that he doesn't think Bill's a racist and make with the jokes seems like a more degrading exercise than is really necessary for him. He's probably going to be president with or without the full-throated support of Bill Clinton.


This is outstanding.

by presto change-o, via Avedon

Friday, June 27, 2008

Carlos Delgado goes buckwild on Yankees

He just had 9 RBI in the first game of the Subway doubleheader. That's more like it. I regret anything I may or may not have posted that suggested any loss of faith in him on my part.

This was the Yankee Stadium leg of the twinbill, and the short right field fence is why the Yankees are so keen on lefthanded sluggers like Giambi and Matsui. Sure enough, both of Delgado's home runs and the double were to right, but Gary Cohen said both were legitimate bombs.

Trot Nixon catches the last out. NYM 15 - NYY 5. Sweet.

In defense of Hugh Hewitt

There's been a fair amount of outrage at Hugh Hewitt's remark that he looks forward to enjoying one last Ohio State game because it will be "probably the last football game we'll ever get to see before the United States gets blown up by the Islamists under Obama."

Now I disagree with this, clearly, as an Obama voter who considers himself strongly anti-getting-blown-up. But I don't see how this comment is really beyond the pale. If someone describes "national security" as a key campaign issue, and one which favors John McCain, that's not a controversial statement. But what is national security these days except the matter of which candidate minimizes voters' chances of dying in a fiery terrorist attack?

I think it's worth distinguishing between the real smears (e.g. Obama as a Nazi appeaser, "not anti-war, just on the other side", wants to give Ahmedinejad a foot rub, etc.) and forthright statements of why hawkish McCain voters prefer John McCain. These people really seem to believe that but for the iron codpiece of George W. Bush, we'd all be speaking Farsi by now. They're not kidding.

Plus, I want to be free to list
increased risk (or at least continued high risk) of terrorist attacks as one of the top 30 or so reasons John McCain's election would be a bad thing, and I'd hate to be vulnerable to charges of hypocrisy.

Jonathan Martin

You have to keep your expectations reasonable when you're talking about the Politico's lead correspondent on the McCain campaign. As long as you do, you can find those expectations occasionally exceeded. For example, a few weeks ago, he wrote a piece which included McCain's denial of having criticized the media for their treatment of Hillary Clinton, without noting that he definitely did do that and we know because he was on camera at the time. That was frustrating. This was a classic example of John McCain lying, confident that no one would call him on it or care, and being proved correct. So I, presumably along with lots of other rabid partisans, sent Martin an email pointing this out to him... and not only did he correct the error, he did so in a whole separate post, rather than taking the less embarrassing route of appending an update to the old post where fewer people would see it.

But today Bad Jonathan is back with a vengeance, telling his readers that John McCain doesn't often talk about his experience as a POW (being so reluctant to wring political benefit from it). Carpetbagger has what appears to be the comprehensive response.

MLB suspends Runge

Excellent. It's good to see an institution that can enforce its own rules. Jerry Manuel could have totally taken him, too. He didn't want any of that.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Congress is a joke

The video of David Addington's "testimony" in front of the House judiciary committee is pretty gruesome. There was definitely a time when someone who acted so contemptuously of the ruler or ruling body of a large country would have their head put on a spike and publicly displayed. I'm not saying that would be appropriate for Addington, Yoo, former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre, Bradley Schlozman, Alberto Gonzalez, or any of the dozens of Bush apparatchiks who either refused to answer questions or outright perjured themselves before Congress, but it has a certain appeal... You could space them evenly around 495...

At a minimum, our non-medieval laws provide for those people going to jail. These are prosecutable crimes. But the perpetrators have absolutely no reason to fear any repercussions beyond a sternly worded letter from Patrick Leahy. And if they scoff at that, they'll get another one just like it in a couple months.

It's not purely my opposition to the policies these morons implemented that makes me wish there were (not necessarily beheading-oriented) real disincentives to lie in front of Congress. It's that the president of the United States is scary-powerful enough without being free of any meaningful Congressional oversight whatsoever.

As things stand now, the reason Harriet Miers and Karl Rove got to disregard subpoenas is because President Bush says they don't have to. They're in contempt or something, but Rove's on television every night, and he doesn't look anxious, so I guess everything's cool.

Anyway here's Addington:

Bob Barr on the FISA legislation

In 57 seconds, Bob Barr makes the odds of my voting for him go from 0.00% to 0.05%.

Senseless Einhorn-bashing

This is a couple weeks old, but Whitney Tilson went all line-by-line on the NYT's ass for their idiotic coverage of David Einhorn and his position in Lehman Brothers.

For those who don't know, David Einhorn is a hedge fund manager who has been an outspoken critic of some of the companies whose stocks he is betting against, including Lehman, which is especially controversial given the "run on the bank" collapse of Bear Stearns back in March. Even though most of his $6b fund is invested long (i.e. in stocks) he is known more for his short selling and totally uncouth truth-telling about the shittiness of the companies in question.

Anyway I read his book about Allied Capital ("Fooling Some of the People All the Time") and finished it in two sittings. It's awesome, and the NYT needs to leave David aloooooone!

Right about oil. Spectacularly wrong about the Swift Boat Vets

T. Boone Pickens has reneged on his $1 million reward for anyone who could provide evidence that the Swift Boat Lying Scumbags for Bush were in fact lying scumbags. From the NYT's Caucus blog:

A group of Swift boat veterans sympathetic to Mr. Kerry sent Mr. Pickens a letter last week taking him up on the challenge. In 12 pages, plus a 42-page attachment of military records and other documents, they identified not just one but ten lies in the group's campaign against Mr. Kerry. They offered to meet with him to provide Mr. Kerry's journals and videotapes from Vietnam and a copy of his full military record certified by the Navy – a key demand of Mr. Pickens and veterans who believe Mr. Kerry lied about his service to win his military decorations.

I suspect Pickens' decision to welsh had less to do with the money, which I can assure you is not a problem, than his unwillingness to admit that he and lots of people like him supported a completely bogus misinformation campaign in order to get their boy king reelected.

Personally I take some comfort in the fact that he seems to have tried really hard to get Rudy Giuliani elected in '08. Proof that you can get obscenely rich by having your bullishness on oil be completely vindicated while still being an ignorant clown.

h/t TPM

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Big John

John Cornyn, ladies and gentlemen.


It appears Ralph Nader has fully emerged from the rock he hides under between presidential elections to question Barack Obama's authenticity as a black man.

"I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white?"

Now there are stupid statements, there are racist statements, and there are self-righteous statements. But I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone hit the trifecta like this.

More on that Beltran ejection

So the ejection that turned the Mets lineup card into a grab bag of bench players from the late 90s was not entirely Carlos Beltran's fault. Matt Cerrone at MetsBlog has the SNY video. I'd say it shows that while Beltran did some pretty serious muttering about the (bad) called strike, umpires aren't supposed to take off their masks and get in players' grills like that.

My favorite part is the moment at which Jerry Manuel goes from angry to superangry. It happened in a kind of spasm that almost knocked his cap off his head.


San Francisco is shrill.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A dramatic rendering of Carlos Delgado's 2008

Why must they lose to the Mariners?

Seriously. This is embarrassing. Oliver Perez getting smacked around by the likes of Kenji Johjima (who is a catcher) and Raul Ibanez (for whom it was his first home run the year off a lefty).

David Wright had the night off, and Carlos Beltran was tossed in the fourth inning for arguing, so the lineup card behind Reyes is pretty grim.

10-0 now. Awesome.

Talk to'em Russ

Though Russ Feingold's decision to stay out of the presidential race was driven by a clear-eyed appreciation for the fact he almost certainly wasn't going to win, I was pretty disappointed anyway. Obama didn't look like he was going to take this stuff seriously and now I think it's pretty clear he won't. If Russ had stayed in a few primaries he might have been able to raise the issue's profile; maybe enough to entice Barack to join him on the right side of the Constitution. How hard is it to be anti-illegal wiretapping?

Via Kos.

What Digby said

I'd been getting a little sketched out by Digby recently, owing largely to the fact that her estimation of the injustice done to Hillary Clinton in the primaries was much greater than my own.

But when the need arises to kick The Politico in the teeth, which is often, and one of the highest callings a blogger can answer, she does excellent work.

While the "What Digby said" concept is of course a registered trademark of the Baby Blue Cherub, I actually beat him to the approving link by 13 minutes, and didn't just steal his post wholesale and flesh it out a little. Apparently everybody and their mother (at least those mothers who are aware of the internet) linked to that Digby post. Got memeorandum on lock.

Las Vegas Sands and Tom DeLay

I know, it's hard to believe that a billionaire casino magnate and an unbelievably corrupt Republican congressman could have anything to do with one another, but Connie Bruck of the New Yorker says it's so.

Sheldon Adelson is the CEO and majority shareholder of Las Vegas Sands, which is worth almost $20 billion, which makes him the third richest man in America. The article is primarily about his tireless advocacy for (right-wing views of) Israel, but it also has good backstory on the deal that made his company what it is, namely the first and the biggest casino in Macau. They were not the only casino company willing to build a casino where China goes to gamble, but it appears they got that privilege in part because Adelson and DeLay are friends.

Sands was angling for the casino concession at the same time the Chinese were angling to host the 2008 Olympics. Though his city was considered the favorite, the mayor of Beijing was concerned about a bill being pushed in the House by a Democrat (natch) calling for Congress to oppose the selection of Beijing on account of human rights abuses or some noise.

Here is the account of the president of the company in a sworn deposition:

“About three hours later DeLay calls and he tells Sheldon, ‘You’re in luck,’ ” he continued, “ ‘because we’ve got a military-spending bill. . . . We’re not going to be able to move the bill, so you tell your mayor that he can be assured that this bill will never see the light of day.’ So Sheldon goes and he goes to the mayor and he says, ‘The bill will never see the light of day, Mr. Mayor. Don’t worry about it.’ ”

All else equal, that conversation probably didn't hurt Sheldon's chances of becoming a multi-billionaire.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Eric Savitz is clueless

There's a news item from today that isn't strictly baseball or politics related, but I'm going to write about it anyway because it's interesting and I have pretty broad editorial freedom.

There's a company called Microvision (ticker: MVIS) which makes, or rather is planning to make, little projectors that go into cell phones, allowing them to work like little projection TVs. Cool? Possibly, but that's neither here nor there.

What's interesting is that today someone wrote a post at finance blog aggregator SeekingAlpha which argued that (and I haven't done any fact checking here) Microvision is going to get crushed by a much bigger company (Texas Instruments) which is working on a similar product and is closer than Microvision to having it ready for mass production. Apparently a lot of people found it convincing, because the stock was down almost 12 percent today.

Despite the fact that the author, a Mr. Liam Mulcahy, disclosed at the end of the post that he worked for a hedge fund that is short (i.e. betting against) Microvision, the in-house tech blogger at Barron's, Eric Savitz, decided it was worth having a little hissyfit over.

"[Mulcahy's assertions] may well be true, but the fuzzy ID for Mulcahy - and the willingness of Seeking Alpha to post material of unclear origin - makes me a little queasy."

Anybody with an even passing familiarity with Seeking Alpha knows that the vast majority of the content there is "material of unclear origin." They'll publish just about anybody, and nobody complains until someone makes a short case convincing enough to send the stock down 12 percent.

I have no idea whether the guy is right or wrong, but this is a prime example of the business media's incredible bias against short sellers. If some guy writes something hyping the bejesus out of some crummy stock, no one cares. And if he's convincing enough to move the stock, nobody at Barron's gets all huffy about the author's murky origins. But short sellers are presumed to be so nefarious and all powerful that some shmoe at a hedge fund will probably get investigated by the SEC for market manipulation because he wrote something negative on a website... even though he disclosed his position!

What should make Eric Savitz queasy is that this no-name is providing market-moving analysis for free while Savitz gets paid by the country's most hallowed financial magazine to write blog posts that consist of mostly, and I'm not kidding here: "What's up with [Tech Stock X]? It's down a lot today and I don't see any news!"

When Savitz does track down this evildoer, maybe he can get some research tips.

Makes him look older

Dana Goldstein sees in a NYT interview reasons why Charlie Crist won't be John McCain's VP pick, and they basically boil down to him not being sufficiently socially conservative. There's also the speculation that Gov. Crist is teh gay, which I suppose is the very antithesis of social conservatism (at least in theory).

I happen to agree that Crist is not a real possibility despite his invitation to McCain's veepstakes BBQ (why not make Florida voters happy?), but it has nothing to do with his political views.

It's that deep, deep, orangy tan of his (almost Mozilo-esque). And the white hair makes it worse, because unlike Tim Pawlenty, who is clearly a much younger man than John McCain, Crist looks like an extremely well preserved older man... which makes for a less flattering comparison.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Pelfrey has solid outing at Coors

Despite walking five in 5.2 innings, Mike Pelfrey kept the Rockies off the board and the Mets held on to win and move back to .500 for the season.

Respectable 4.30 ERA aside, it's hard to get excited about Pelfrey with those peripherals. 43 K/37 BB in 81.2 IP is pretty horrible. The secret seems to be allowing extremely few home runs. He's only given up 4 so far, which makes sense given that he's a sinkerball pitcher. Unfortunately, his GB/FB ratio is a decidedly un-Webb-like 1.48, so the home runs could come after all.

But today, he was good.


I have a new least favorite pundit tic: that John McCain really should be trailing by at least 10 points due to the "headwinds" of Republican unpopularity, the unpopularity of the war, and the economy. Both John Harwood and Andrea Mitchell used the term this morning on MTP, in the course of explaining why Obama really should have a massive lead because he's got the unfair advantage of being a Democrat.

Now, the economy is a legitimate headwind for a Republican, in that I think the incumbent political party does not deserve to be held accountable for it to the extent they are. But John McCain was an enthusiastic supporter of the Iraq War, and his only criticism of it was that we hadn't committed enough troops. So if the majority of Americans believe it's been a disaster and was a bad idea to boot, as they do, it's not "bad luck" for John McCain. It's a rejection of John McCain's foreign policy.

But he said mean things about Donald Rumsfeld, so he's been "less wrong than most."


By watertiger, via Thers.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mets hire Wayne Krivsky as a "special assistant"

Former/sacked Cincinnati general manager Wayne Krivsky has been hired by the Mets to act as a special assistant to Omar Minaya.

When Krivsky was fired back in late April after a 9-12 start, I emailed my Reds fan uncle to inquire as to why. His response:

I think you can explain the Krivsky firing with one word - Mike Stanton. There has been speculation that the owner, Castellini, was really peeved that they had to eat his millions before the season started. And overpaying Patterson, even though he is a Baker guy, probably did not set too well either.

I've got nothing good to say about giving Mike Stanton serious money or (over)paying Corey Patterson, and it was actually made worse by the fact that he's a Baker guy, but the reason Patterson's presence in center was so galling was because of Jay Bruce, and Krivsky was the guy who drafted Bruce. He also knew that current league ERA and strikeout leader Edinson Volquez was someone worth acquiring, even though the purchase price (Josh Hamilton) turned out to be much higher than expected.

Whatever his talents as a baseball executive, it does seem strange that at a time when the Mets seem to be in housecleaning mode, they've brought a guy who was very recently a major league GM into the front office to "assist" Minaya.

Nate Silver has a political blog

Last night I ran across a link to a post at, a political blog by Nate Silver. The same Nate Silver who wrote for Baseball Prospectus and designed the industry-leading PECOTA projection system? The same! I'm quite excited. Apparently he blogged anonymously until May 30 of this year, when he unmasked himself as a necessary precursor to getting wider distribution by some big media enterprise or another.

For those who don't know, BP's core product is a quantitatively-oriented baseball analysis, and when you click on one of their player pages you see a lot of charts like the one above.

That's from Milton Bradley's page, and shows the distribution of historical seasons for the players he most closely ressembles, with the y-axis representing playing time (plate appearances) and the x-axis representing quality (in the form of a catch-all offensive statistic they call Equivalent Average).

His political analysis gives the same treatment to polling data. As he put it in the aforementioned post: "What we do over there and what I'm doing over here are really quite similar. Both baseball and politics are data-driven industries." And it's very true, at least if you're just talking about horserace politics. Policy seems to have a way of being less data-driven, but in baseball as in horserace, the key question is Win Expectancy. All subcategories (home runs, steals, white women, hispanic seniors) are all fodder for the overarching question of how likely a given team or candidate is to win.

Having been a BP reader for many years, I have a lot of faith in his quantitative game, and he apparently gives Obama a 76.3% chance of victory. That's slightly higher than I would have guessed, but I don't know how much it fluctuates with new polling data. If it's in there, the new Newsweek poll that has him up by a whopping 15 may be juicing that a little bit.

He's also an Obama supporter, which means to whatever extent there's an editorial slant (and my guess is it will be minimal) it will probably make the blog more enjoyable. So he's in the ol' RSS reader already.

This morning he did a post on yesterday's FISA vote, and found that the 32 House Democrats in districts designated as competitive voted overwhelmingly for capitulation while the rest of the caucus voted 120-82 against. That in itself is not at all surprising. Districts that were competitive in 2006 tend to be pretty darn reddish, and the blue seats tend to be held by Blue Dogs like Shuler, Carney and Ellsworth. The kind of Democrats that electoral pragmatists would have us live with and not challenge from the left.

The more interesting point was relating the votes of this subgroup to Obama's decision to support the bill: "Was he really going to run afoul of the Blue Dogs when they are probably his swing voters in passing some version of national health care legislation?" He also points out that Pelosi herself was very much on board with capitulation, and she's no Blue Dog. So there's the intramural explanation for his position that focuses not on Obama's reluctance to alienate swing voters in November but Congressional swing voters in early 2009, and it gets more appealing as a justification the more you discount November swing voters' awareness of the FISA issue at all.

My problem with it is that it could be used in any circumstance to justify agreement with the right wing of the Democratic party. On any unambiguously liberal legislative effort, the Blue Dogs are going to be the whiny ones who worry about being called Communists. That goes for health care, taxes, Social Security, carbon emissions... you name it. How big a Congressional majority will he need before he'll be comfortable telling the Blue Dog Caucus to get bent? Because that's what it comes down to, for me.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Worse than I expected

Yesterday I wrote that while I hoped Barack Obama would come out against the FISA "compromise" legislation, I didn't think he would do it. Well today he made a statement on the bill's passage in the House and boy did he not do it. It was enough to earn Atrios' "Wanker of the Day", for I believe for the first time ever, and deservedly so.

By way of throwing a bone to his anti-illegal spying base, he acknowledges the obvious:
"There is... little doubt that the Bush Administration, with the cooperation of major telecommunications companies, has abused that authority and undermined the Constitution by intercepting the communications of innocent Americans without their knowledge or the required court orders."
Then he moves on to previous positions he's taken that we agree with:
"That is why last year I opposed the so-called Protect America Act, which expanded the surveillance powers of the government without sufficient independent oversight to protect the privacy and civil liberties of innocent Americans. I have also opposed the granting of retroactive immunity to those who were allegedly complicit in acts of illegal spying in the past."
Operative phrase: "in the past." But if he supports today's bill, it must have some pretty great stuff in it:
"Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance - making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people."
The thing is, though, that FISA doesn't really need "restoration" as the exclusive means to conduct (electronic) surveillance. It has this thing in it called an "exclusivity provision," so it kind of came pre-restored. And to just about everybody outside the Bush administration, and a goodly number of people in it, including his Attorney General, it was already pretty clear that the president can't "circumvent" it.

It's time to break the news:
"It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses."
Hmmm... Wouldn't a good way of seeking full accountability for past offenses be to oppose any legislation that grants retroactive immunity? I mean that may be a little inside the box, butI think there's something to it.

Anyway as I said I didn't expect him to take a stand against the bill, so I shouldn't act all shocked, but right at the end the statement takes a hard turn from the ineffectual to the pernicious:
"It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise..."
Emphasis mine, because it's so awful. The problem, of course, is not that he believes we face legitimate threats. It's that everyone believes we face legitimate threats! After claiming to share the very concerns of the people who oppose the bill, he turns around and depicts the debate over it as being between terrorism believers and terrorism skeptics, with the latter endangering America.

So yeah, wankery indeed. I'm setting pretty modest expectations here, Barack. I sure hope the estimates for political courage don't need to be revised further downward.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Brian Williams to host MTP on Sunday

The LA Times is reporting that NBC anchor Brian Williams will host Meet the Press this Sunday. The president of NBC News says that they are still mulling their options for a permanent successor, and Williams isn't necessarily it.

I really hope it's not. I'm having a hard time putting my finger one really good justification for my dislike of Brian Williams, but the individually insufficient reasons include pomposity, scraping deference to Republicans, overeagerness to ingratiate himself to the audience personally, and make-your-teeth hurt corniness.

Of the frequently talked-about candidates, I have to say Matthews would be my preference. His tendency to say surprisingly sexist and/or racist things is a drawback, to be sure. Still, he's the only other "tough interviewer" in the bunch. Well there's David Gregory, but all the stuff I don't like about Williams applies to him, too, just with slightly less Republican-love and more(!) pomposity. Sometimes I think Joe Scarborough has finally seen the light, but it burns and these days he's too angry to be on camera for very long.

Anyway regardless of the merits Matthews would seem to be the heir apparent and he already does The Chris Matthews show in the slot before MTP. They wouldn't even have to play musical chairs with any other shows.

However it shakes out I hope they give Rachel Maddow a damn show.

"First since Watergate"

So Obama's opting out of public financing. No real surprise here. He had said he wouldn't, but then started raising cash by the truckload and had second thoughts. This is on balance an excellent thing, but it does require giving John McCain a golden opportunity to turn the sanctimony meter to 11.

I doubt that this is going to be a big deal, but it's kind of unfortunate that the AP (no link in solidarity with bloggers everywhere) is running the subhead "First since Watergate" which is prominently featured on Drudge, and which McCain used in his response. It's just bad luck for Obama that the rule happened to have been implemented in the wake of the original "-gate," as what he's doing, even though he said he wouldn't do it, is perfectly legal.

Unlike, say, what John McCain did when he opted into matching funds (to get the money and bypass the signature requirement) and then tried to get out once his campaign was solvent again. His request wasn't granted, but he continued to spend beyond the limit anyway! Sure, Obama didn't do what he said he'd do, and that's bad. But it's absurd that McCain can still play offense on the issue of campaign finance. He may have broken the McCain-Feingold Act.

FISA Capitulation

Well it looks like retroactive immunity for the telcos is locked and loaded, which is great because we really don't want private companies having any qualms about breaking the law if they're asked to do so by the executive branch. We want the rails to be greased the next time an administration decides it wants to completely flout duly enacted laws but needs the private sector's help in doing so.

Greenwald is all over this, as he has been since the warrantless surveillance program was reported by the NYT in 2004, and a lot of people are joining him in calling on Obama to come out and call this the travesty it is. 

I'd love it if he did. I'm betting that he won't. It's completely fucking wrong, and he knows it, but he may not deem it worth spending any capital on. Caring about the preservation of the Constitution has somehow become the province of the lunatic fringe in American politics, as defined as Daily Kos readers and Ron Paul supporters, and Barack's got a general election to win. C'est la guerre.

Mets win?

When I retired for the evening, Oliver Perez had just coughed up the lead and was threatening to put on one of his patented fireworks displays. But lo, it appears that Damion Easley capped a comeback late in the game, and established that Jerry Manuel knows how to win games in a way that Willie Randolph never did... or at least the first part.

I got the happy recap from Amazin' Avenue, which has improved a lot since last time I was posting regularly. I'm a sucker for win expectancy charts.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Menomena: Evil Bee

I discovered this video on, a relatively new site which I frequent partly to scout out the fresh idie jams and partly to build up a tolerance for hipster culture, which is becoming a necessity in my neighborhood. A lot of the content they put up is long-form documentaries on bands which are now defunct but, the viewer learns, used to kick 10x more ass than any current bands ever could.

Anyway these guys are good, and it's apparently pronounced "meh-NOM-eh-NUH."

Night of the Long Knives

Well, it's over. The Mets are kind of a dysfunctional organization, as it turns out. They called Willie in for that meeting which they said publicly was largely because of his "they're after me because I'm black" comments. (His most hilarious evidence: Everyone wants Isaiah Thomas fired, too!). They apparently wanted to assure the "white working class" segment of the fanbase that such insolence would not be tolerated, but they also said Willie was staying, even though that was obviously not going to be true if they kept losing on even a semi-regular basis. The headline I saw this morning was "Mets Handle Randolph Firing Like a Bunch of Cowards", which seems right.

Anyway I'm happy about it because I really don't care who the manager is, just as long as I don't have to hear a lot of manager controversy, and I think Willie was kind of a buffoon and not a great tactician.

Friday, June 13, 2008

MN - Sen

TPM has an update. I hadn't realized that Jesse Ventura was thinking of joining Coleman and Franken in a three-way race. If that were to happen, I wouldn't envy Coleman's campaign manager. How do you gameplan for a Senate race against Stuart Smalley and The Body? Talk about uncharted territory.

"Vote for Norm Coleman: No Speedos, No Jokes"

"Coleman: Because Novelty Wears Off"

"Keep Minnesota Norm-al"

So I guess I do envy Coleman's campaign manager. That'd be fun. Of course, he may very well lose. Franken seems to have stubbed his toe pretty badly with this back taxes thing, and yet he's still well within striking distance in a two-man race. Plus, he's a very smart guy, and he can do earnest without seeming like he's really smirking on the inside. So it would be nice if Ventura sat it out, because the race could be pivotal and it wouldn't redound to Al's benefit to have it turn into a full-blown circus.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wagner and other reasons for despair

Three blown saves in a row? It's not like they were all one run leads, either.

Things are looking pretty bleak. As good as Wright, Santana and Reyes are, this just doesn't look like a team that's woefully underperforming its potential at 31-34. Beltran has spent too much of his career as a Met making outs to think he's a lock to turn things around. Delgado is done. Even with Pedro ostensibly "back," we're relying on Oliver Perez, Mike Pelfrey, and the Brewers' leftovers to fill out our rotation. As for depth at the power positions? We've started Damion Easley at first base, and some guy from Binghamton who I'd never heard of in left field.

And the Phillies are looking pretty good. I'm not saying they can't come back and make the playoffs, but they need vastly improved production from their non-elite players, and I have a hard time seeing it happening.

In short: Booooo!