Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My Prediction

A couple of weeks ago, I was thinking that it looks pretty solid that Obama will hold the Kerry states and pickup Florida and Ohio which would give him 299 electoral votes. Now I think I will expand that and make my 2008 prediction. Obama will get 341 electoral votes: the Kerry states plus Ohio, Florida, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia and North Carolina

Update (1/31/08):
I meant the union of Gore and Kerry states, plus the ones I listed. I missed Nevada, Indiana (I still think, wow, Indiana) and, of course, the 2nd Congressional district of Nebraska. But that's 17 more, so I must have added wrong.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Standard Operating Procedure

Speaking of The New Yorker and continuing on with my obsession with superior orders...

A while back I read Errol Morris and Philip Gourevitch's article on their movie Standard Operating Procedure. The article was about the M.P. company at Abu Gharib and specifically about Specialist Sabrina Harman. She's the subject of the infamous thumbs up photos. The article was actually pretty sympathetic to Harman and the other M.P.'s, but that's not what set my radar off. Harman's unit, the 372nd M.P. company was a combat M.P. unit. They were trained to support front line units and earlier on their deployment they had trained Iraqi police. But they ended up as prison guards at Abu Gharib. Why? Gourevitch and Morris say:

The new assignment [...] bewildered the company. Combat units don’t run prisons. That is the province of another cadre of M.P.s, known as internment and resettlement M.P.s, who are trained according to the Army’s extensive doctrine on handling all manner of wartime captives and displaced persons. The 372nd M.P.s had no such specialized experience.

This is what we call a feature, not a bug. Their lack of experience in handling prisoners and they ignorance of proper procedures, including the Geneva conventions, was just what the officers running Abu Gharib wanted. The brass deliberately staffed the prison with people they knew, or at least hoped, would be amenable to helping them torture the prisoners.

The The New Yorker Cover

Since it's now day 3 of the outrage, I guess it's time to weigh in.

To call the cover satire is incorrect. Wikipedia has a pretty good rundown on what satire is and isn't, and this isn't. It is, however, ironic. Here's what I think the Obamas' fist bump symbolizes:
We really are 60's era radicals and Muslim terrorists who burn the flag for fun. We fooled all those liberals and the MSM. Only the right wing lunatics, who everyone scorned, were right! Ha Ha Ha!!
Oh, I guess I should say I thought the cover was funny. And it's Wednesday I haven't got the issue in my mailbox yet.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Book Review: What's the Matter With Kansas

What's the Matter With Kansas, by Thomas Frank

Frank chose to look at Kansas for a number of reasons, not the least of which was it was where he grew up. Another is Kansas is often seen as authentically middle American. It has seen the economic damage done by Republican policies as much or more that any other area. The downtowns of the small towns are virtual ghost towns, while Mission Hills, has returned to the glory it was in the 1920's. In the early 1990's there was a grass roots revolt of socially conservative voters that transformed the state's politics. Finally, Frank claims that racism has virtually nothing to do with the economic inequality. He does say that race does have an effect elsewhere, but due to Kansas' history as a free state counterweight to slave state Missouri, it doesn't have much of an effect.

Before reading the book, my impression was that the fiscal conservative branch of the Republican party (or moneycons for short) were some how subverting the the social conservatives (or theocons) into voting against their own economic interests. But, it Kansas, it didn't turn out that way. It was the theocons, as a grass roots movement, that drove out the more socially liberal moderate Republicans out of the party. Kansas Republicans had a history of moderation and pragmatism. This was all kicked to the curb. The theocons pushed all sorts of religious kookery, which when you get down to it is basically ineffective. All along they kept the moneycon issues of taxation, breaks to corporations, etc, intact. This in contrast to a 100 years ago where you had William Jennings Bryan, a fundamentalist Christian, but economically quite progressive. This is a political area (social conservative, fiscally liberal) that is empty now a days. This was all helped along by conservative pundits pushing the idea that these authentic Kansans were victimized by the liberal bogeyman. Frank doesn't really get to the root of the issue until the last chapter. Here he blames the New Democrat movement. The DLC's idea of triangulation on fiscal issues made the only way to differentiate between Democrats and Republicans was on social issues. So wedge issues were a successful way to capture potential Democratic voters. He does concede that with Democrats in charge you won't get screwed quite as badly as with Republicans.

I'd still like to see some explanation of why socially conservatives, buy in to the full moneycon party line. These are the issues that I don't see as having a particular Christian viewpoint: taxes, global warming, environmentalism, war in Iraq, socail spending. It's almost as if liberals are for it, then conservatives (of all stripes) have to be against it.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Superior Orders Revisited

In a previous post, I discussed my take on the superior orders defense, sometimes called the Nuremberg Defense. I had seen various discussions dismissing the "just following orders" defense since it was not accepted at Nuremberg. My point in the post was that the Nuremberg tribunals did not summarily reject the superior orders defense, but considered and rejected it on the merits. I thought that CIA operatives who had performed torture may have a plausible case in using the superior orders defense. Now I'm reconsidering that. The crux of the defense is that the person did not know that the actions were illegal, that is they were excusably ignorant. The Detainee Treatment Act states that "good faith reliance on advice of counsel should be a important factor" in deciding whether the person knew the acts were illegal. The phrases "advice of counsel," "Bush administration" and "good faith" don't exactly go together. I don't find it plausible that executive branch attorneys would exactly be acting in good faith in this situation. Again, experience shows to expect the worst in the Bush administration. And then ratchet it down a little.

Update (Apr. 2):
I wrote this post before I saw that the infamous John Yoo memo authorizing torture had been released. That's what I'm talking about: when a ideological hack like Yoo can say the president can order torture with no legal repercussions, that's not exactly good faith. Glenn Greenwald says it better that I ever could:

This incident provides yet more proof of how rancid and corrupt is the premise that as long as political appointees at the DOJ approve of certain conduct, then that conduct must be shielded from criminal prosecution.

Missing Manual

I saw this on O'Reilly's feed today, so I'm not sure if it's for real. I do like the idea, though.