Archive for February, 2008

McCain’s Boeing problem

Friday, February 29th, 2008

Whatever the merits of the Pentagon’s decision to award a multibillion dollar refueling tanker contract to a European company, instead of Boeing, this is political dynamite. My guess is that a lot of people living in the insular little world of inside the Beltway Washington, DC don’t see this: but they will see it soon enough.

(NY Times) Northrop and EADS Win Refueling Tanker Deal

In a surprising reversal for the Boeing Company, the Pentagon on Friday awarded a multibillion-dollar contract for refueling tankers to a partnership between Northrop Grumman and EADS, the European parent of Airbus.

The deal, which puts a critical United States military contract into the hands of foreigners, at least in part, calls for spending up to $40 billion on the first phase of a multidecade program to replace the nation’s aging aerial tanker fleet, which dates back to the Kennedy and Eisenhower era. The fleet, which now numbers about 535 refitted Boeing 707’s and DC-10’s is one of the largest but oldest fleets of jets in the world. Yet the tanker planes are essential to keeping Air Force and allied fighter jets, bombers, cargo planes and other military

So let’s add things up: the United States is on the cusp of a recession, our trade balance is in the toilet, the dollar is nose diving and our government’s response is to ship billions of dollars and thousands of jobs overseas. Oh, and by the way, the contract in question is for a critically important military aircraft, raising whole other issues, whether valid or not, regarding national security.

To state the obvious, this is not going to go over well, even if the foreign corporation in question managed to buy a few Southern Senators with promises of a few jobs in Mississippi and Alabama.

I’ll be interested in seeing how Obama and Clinton play this. Again, I can’t speak to the technical merits of the decision, but politically, the smart move has to be to say no freaking way. Then let McCain, who (for good reasons it turned out) squirreled the deal for Boeing, explain why this is a good thing.

Good luck on that, Senator.

Update: Following up on my comment about “people living in the insular little world of inside the Beltway Washington, DC” not recognizing how much controversy this will cause, check out the Washington Post’s take on the story. Of all the reports I’ve read, it’s the only one that doesn’t even discuss the issue of the government outsourcing of jobs to Europe (although it does mention new jobs being created down South). Talking about the concerns of workers is just so non-insider.

Update two: According to the Pentagon, “the Air Force had made its decision without regard to the number of American jobs at stake.” I wonder if most Americans will agree with its priorities.

Barack Obama and the “white man’s burden”

Friday, February 29th, 2008

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Another fine day for my Democratic Congress

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

The let’s bitch about Tim Russert thread

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

But first the appetizer: go here, to TPM, and check out their “fun” collection of Russert attack dog moments from last night’s debate. It makes for an astonishing montage.

And while you’re watching, for God’s sake, never forget this — Tim himself, not the candidates or even the election, is the story.

Perhaps I can sum it up this way:

There once was a man name of Tim
Who thought it was all about him
Though he just loved to attack
He had the flair of a hack
And Tim’s tongue, all agree, needs a trim.


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Why Obama is the new Teflon Man

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I think I’ve finally figured it out. The reason mud never seems to stick to Barack Obama (in addition to the fact that it’s been such crappy mud thrown at him) is that most people don’t want it to stick. They want him to succeed.

The politics of division and fear, as it’s been practiced by George W. Bush and the GOP Congress for over seven years, may be effective for awhile from an electoral standpoint, but it sucks the life out of people.

You get tired of being afraid.

You get tired of the smallness of hate.

You get tired of feeling helpless.

Then along comes an unlikely guide out of the morass, in the form of an inspiring young black senator from the Land of Lincoln, and he tells you what you already know in your heart: he tells you there’s a better way.

This, I think, was the fatal flaw in the Clinton campaign’s attempt to ridicule Obama’s use of the language of hope — trying to recast it as empty air next to Hillary’s substance. At times like these, hope is substance, because it’s an essential element to moving forward.

And people don’t want to give that up. And you don’t have to be an Obama supporter to understand why. 

So I’m increasingly optimistic about Obama’s chances in the general election, assuming, as seems highly likely after last night’s debate, he becomes the nominee. The right wing sound machine can huff and puff and lie until Armageddon draws nigh — and no doubt will — but few people will hear them. Few people will want to hear them.

And until that changes, whatever mud they throw will just continue to slide right off.   

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Mukasey’s reputation is on the line in the Siegelman case

Monday, February 25th, 2008

If you didn’t see the 60 Minutes report on the Don Siegelman case, go to TPM Muckraker to check it out. In an Internet full of must sees, this is a MUST SEE.
There is simply no room left for doubt that the Bush Administration, in a glaring violation of well established ethical precepts, not to mention common decency, used the Justice Department to take down the Governor of Alabama for political reasons. And in the process, it appears very likely they sent an innocent man to prison.

I don’t practice criminal law, but I’ve been involved in peripheral ways in cases where the feds have been out to get someone, and I have to tell you, it’s a terrifying specter. The raw power, not to mention bottomless resources, the federal government can bring to bear against a citizen who’s subject to a criminal prosecution, or even just an investigation, is almost a force of nature. It’s like having an F-5 tornado bearing down on you, except this tornado is much more dangerous, since it’s being driven by human intelligence. 

To misuse such power in a calculated effort to game the democratic process would be one of the worst public crimes imaginable.
All of which leads us directly to the doorstep of Michael B. Mukasey, Attorney General of the United States. Remember that Mukasey, whose nomination was, of course, extremely controversial, was confirmed by the Senate based largely upon his pledge to keep politics out of the Department of Justice.

Well, Mr. Attorney General, it’s fish or cut bait time.
I don’t think that it’s too strong a statement to suggest that Mukasey’s entire professional reputation is on the line here. If he acts dishonorably, the rest of his very successful (if radically conservative) career will disappear into the fog of disrepute.

Mukasey is left with two choices: first, he can order a full, aggressive and independent investigation into the department’s actions in the Siegelman case and, if appropriate, go into court and move to have the conviction set aside; or, second, he can allow the ongoing cover-up and associated rot at Justice to continue, then pay the price in the damage to his own reputation.
What might seem like the obvious third option — a successful cover-up — just isn’t in the cards on this one. The noble stand taken by the 52 former attorneys general, representing 40 states and both political parties, who are demanding action in response to this injustice makes that impossible.


Shame on The Times for publishing this crap

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Or am I being unfair? After all, what mere mortal could ever have guessed that by making a right wing shrill with a long history of being both consistently dishonest and consistently wrong a columnist you’d end up with this sort of garbage?

Clearly only a psychic could have foreseen that!

Yes, Ralph Nader did cause Bush’s election in 2000 (updated)

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

After almost eight years, it’s probably time to stop fighting the Nader battles of 2000, even if Nader himself seems determined to keep them alive.

To begin with, despite some gnashing of teeth among Democrats, there’s very little chance Nader’s running again this year will hurt us in the election. The last time he ran, in 2004, he garnered only .38% of the vote. And this year he’ll be lucky get a third that many votes.

Besides, even if Nader were somehow to win enough votes in a close state this year to make it appear as though he made a difference in the outcome, it would be an illusion: unlike 2000, in 2008 the only people who will vote for Nader are confirmed vote protestors. Nader won’t be stealing their votes from Obama or Clinton; he’ll be stealing them from some other third party or write-in candidate.

Still, for the sake of historical accuracy, I do have to take exception with one of the arguments we continue to hear from Nader supporters — the claim that he didn’t really cost Gore the election in 2000. 

Here’s how the argument goes: you can’t blame Nader for the outcome in Florida, it begins, because Gore didn’t really lose the state. It was stolen by corrupt officials in Florida and by the Supreme Court. Besides, the argument continues, if Gore had run a better campaign, he would have swamped Bush by a big enough margin to win regardless of the Nader vote; thus, it’s really his own fault, not Nader’s.  

The problem here, of course, is with the implicit assumption that there was only one cause for this electoral cataclysm. Unfortunately for Nader apologists, however, that simply isn’t true. There were several causes for Bush’s “victory,” one of which was Ralph Nader, and all of which share responsibility.

In the law, for example, there’s a concept known as joint and several liability. It’s defined in this way:

Legal obligation under which a party may be liable for the payment of the total judgment and costs that are associated with that judgment, even if that party is only partially responsible for losses inflicted, whether bodily injury and/or property damage.

Simply put, even if you’re only one of several people responsible for an accident, you’re still liable (joint and several liability has been replaced in most states by comparative negligence, a change that doesn’t impact this analogy, since comparative negligence also recognizes culpability on wrongdoers who are only partially at fault for a loss).

To push the analogy to its logical conclusion, Ralph Nader is jointly and severally responsible for Bush’s election. Sure, others bear responsibility as well, but that doesn’t get Ralph off the hook. If he hadn’t run in 2000, the election wouldn’t have been close enough in Florida for either the GOP or the Supreme Court to steal it. End of story.

One can fairly argue over whether there’s anything blameworthy about Nader’s actions, but trying to argue that he did not, in fact, cause (in part) Bush’s “election” in 2000 is silly.

Update: To be clear, if I wasn’t before, I’m not slamming Nader voters. As I’ve said before, “They had every right to vote for whoever they wanted (as misguided as even many of them now concede that decision was).” There were legitimate, if in my view misguided, reasons for choosing that path in 2000.

No, my anger — or such of it as remains — is directed at Nader himself and some of his more vocal “celebrity” supporters. And to be honest — a lot of it relates to the ridicule they repeatedly heaped on those of us who warned of the risks posed by Nader’s campaign. A spattering of this abundant ridicule of non-Nader supporters may be found at the link immediately above.

And by the way, if you do check the link, you’ll find that one of the offenders is none other than today’s neoconservative darling, Christopher Hitchens. And as you’ll recall, Hitchens was every bit as contemptuous of those of us who opposed the war in Iraq as he’d earlier been of Democrats for their “servile” support of Gore.

Am I not supposed to give Hitchens a hard time on Iraq either?

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Is there nothing too low for Fox News?

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Yeah, I know, it’s a stupid question. But be honest, aren’t you just a little surprised that even Fox would go this far?

From a Fox News’ report on a Fox News’ poll.

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Who does Usama bin Laden want to be the next president? More people think the terrorist leader wants Obama to win (30 percent) than think he wants Clinton (22 percent) or McCain (10 percent). Another 18 percent says it doesn’t matter to bin Laden and 20 percent are unsure.

The pathetic truth is, if Obama does end up with the nomination, the wingnut-media complex really is going to push the Manchurian Candidate angle. I guess we can call it a test of our competence to live as citizens in a democracy. If anyone other than the far right nutcases buys into it, we flunk.

Weekend non-political reading

Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

If you have a few extra minutes, Dick Cavett’s touching essay in The Times about deceased chess legend, Bobby Fisher, is definitely worth a look. (It’s a couple of weeks old: I found it through a brief follow-up piece Cavett recently posted).

It’s a good reminder, in light of Fisher’s erratic behavior and offensive comments, especially in his later years, not to jump too quickly in making judgments about people.