Monday, December 31, 2007

Between Bad and Also Pretty Bad

Could we think of anyone worse to run the country of Pakistan than the corrupt, power-mad Musharraf?

Well, not quite, but ...:
Benazir Bhutto's 19-year-old son Bilawal has been chosen to take over her Pakistan People's Party, after her assassination on Thursday.
Bilawal, who will be a titular head while he finishes his studies at Oxford University, said: "My mother always said democracy is the best revenge."

Ms Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, who will run the party day-to-day, said it would contest upcoming elections.

But it is unclear whether the vote will go ahead as planned early next month.
So on one side we have a man who will suspend elections in order to prevent a challenge to his office, and on the other we have a party whose leadership can be passed by matrilinear succession. One is a tyranny, the other a dynasty.

Okay. Just so we're clear who the hero is.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

All For One

When you vote for a party candidate, you are doing your best to strengthen the success of that party. This matters if the leadership of that party openly espouses corruption and torture.

Like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi:
In September 2002, four members of Congress met in secret for a first look at a unique CIA program designed to wring vital information from reticent terrorism suspects in U.S. custody. For more than an hour, the bipartisan group, which included current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), was given a virtual tour of the CIA's overseas detention sites and the harsh techniques interrogators had devised to try to make their prisoners talk.

Among the techniques described, said two officials present, was waterboarding, a practice that years later would be condemned as torture by Democrats and some Republicans on Capitol Hill. But on that day, no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder, two U.S. officials said.

"The briefer was specifically asked if the methods were tough enough," said a U.S. official who witnessed the exchange.
Like Senator Jay Rockefeller, Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee:
According to Hayden, "the leaders of our oversight committees in Congress were informed of the videos years ago and of the Agency's intention to dispose of the material. In a news release that he put out this evening, Jay Rockefeller claims that the Intel Committees were not "consulted" on the use of the tapes "nor the decision to destroy the tapes." But he does not deny that he was informed of the agency's intent to dispose of the tapes, and he acknowledges that he learned of the destruction one year ago, in November 2006. And this is the first time he has said anything about it. Jay Rockefeller is constantly learning of legally dubious (at best) CIA intelligence activities, and then saying nothing about them publicly until they are leaked to the press, at which point he expresses outrage and incredulity -- but reveals nothing.
Like Senator Hillary Clinton:
In her first response at the debate, Clinton portrayed herself as an opponent of Mr. Bush's policies on Iran. "The Republicans are waving their sabers and talking about going after Iran," she said. "I want to prevent a rush to war."

Former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, the sharpest critic of Clinton all evening, jumped on that statement.

"She says she'll stand up to President Bush on Iran; she just said it again," Mr. Edwards said. "And in fact, she voted to give George Bush the first step in moving militarily on Iran, and he's taken it. Bush and [Vice President Dick] Cheney have taken it. They've now declared the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction. I think we have to stand up to this president."
If you're truly voting on principles, rather than party membership - that is to say, blindly picking Democrat because that's how your daddy raised ya - then don't vote Democrat. There's bound to be a less craven, less corrupt candidate out there whom you can write in. Hell, write your own name in. You're guaranteed to be less likely to cave on the issues you find important than the candidate of your choosing. Who's more likely to represent your own interests - you yourself, or a stranger who promises to defend you?

But you - or your hypothetical write-in, or your favorite third-party candidate - couldn't win an election, you tell us? It takes the backing of a billion dollar party machine to get into office? Of course it does. It's illiterate to suggest otherwise. And it's equally daft to suggest that, despite receiving these billions in lobbying dollars, that the Democrats are somehow the party of "principle." The "anti-war" party. Or that any obvious and incontrovertible appearances to the contrary are only the result of "bad Democrats."

A commenter on IOZ's site put it best: a vote for Kucinich is a vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. A vote for Obama is a vote for Jay Rockefeller as Chair of Senate Intel. When you vote for a Democratic candidate, you're voting for the Democratic party. Every phone they tap, every house they bomb and every civilian they torture is on your head.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Massachusetts Candidates, Then and Now

Mark over at Cosmic Variance, in comparing John F. Kennedy (the 20th century's most prominent Catholic presidential candidate) and Mitt Romney (the 21st century's first Mormon candidate), unwittingly quotes a lie
“I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute,” Kennedy told the Houston ministers, “where no Catholic prelate would tell the President — should he be Catholic — how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference … I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials.”

Kennedy was seeking to take his then-controversial faith off the table by embracing the constitutional and secular nature of the American republic, and by asking voters to judge him on his own words and deeds rather than as a representative of his church. If Romney were trying to accomplish something similar, one could only commend him. But his task is more perplexing and difficult than that.
No, he wasn't.

Kennedy was trying to allay the fears of a predominantly Protestant voting bloc. They worried that he would take his marching orders from a foreign ruler - the Pope - rather than the national interest. To put them at ease, Kennedy engaged in a neat bit of speechifying.

Whenever Romney discusses his Mormonism, he's committing the same prevarication that Kennedy did - standing out as the moral and Christly candidate because of his open religion, while painting himself as reasonable instead of extreme.

Mark seems to think that Romney is a significantly worse man than Kennedy was ("wipe away your tears as you realize how far backwards our politicians have moved"). He's not. Candidates for the most powerful office that the human species has yet enshrined have not become any more venal recently. All of them will trumpet the values most convenient to the current audience - their position on The War, the death penalty, stem cells, etc - and silence them as appropriate.

The Old War Is The New War

U.S. Now Arming Sunni Insurgents Again
Iraq's main Sunni-led resistance groups have scaled back their attacks on US forces in Baghdad and parts of Anbar province in a deliberate strategy aimed at regrouping, retraining, and waiting out George Bush's "surge", a key insurgent leader has told the Guardian.

US officials recently reported a 55% drop in attacks across Iraq. One explanation they give is the presence of 30,000 extra US troops deployed this summer. The other is the decision by dozens of Sunni tribal leaders to accept money and weapons from the Americans in return for confronting al-Qaida militants who attack civilians. They call their movement al-Sahwa (the Awakening).


Besides Ramadi, the Awakening movement was also operating in Sunni-majority districts of Baghdad, such as Ameriya, Adhamiya, and parts of Ghazaliya and Jihad. [A resistance cell leader] predicted it was unlikely to last for more than a few months. It was a "temporary deal" with the US and would split apart as people realised the Americans' true intentions.

He cited last week's announcement that the Bush administration plans to work with the Shia-led government of Nuri al-Maliki on arrangements for long-term US military bases and an open-ended occupation in Iraq.
Glenn Reynolds reads no deeper than the temporary lull of violence as proof that the U.S. is "winning the war" (against whom? the Shia militias? the Sunni insurgents?). Arming one set of religious radicals to aid the war against another, though, will not end the war. It didn't end the conflict in Afghanistan; it didn't end the Iran-Iraq squabble; it won't end the U.S.'s meaningless brawl.