Saturday, May 31, 2008

Clinton v. Obama

I think we are about to see Bush v. Gore overturned as a flawed ruling, rightfully so, but in a Supreme Court case called Clinton v. Obama.

No, this is not a blessing in disguise. It's an outright nightmare.

The Clintons have been enthusiastically trying to sell the public on one version of reality that says Hilary has the popular vote. Indeed, if you count or discount the Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington caucuses and count the Michigan and Florida voter numbers, which the DNC has implicitly agreed to by awarding half-delegates to these voters, Hilary Clinton does, in fact, have the popular vote.

Let's pretend for the sake of my argument that the half-delegate consensus compromise stays, even though I believe Hilary will find some legal reasoning for districts to be awarded a full-delegate by the DNC, as a half-delegate award is, from a negotiator's point of view, a mere stepping stone for the eventual full seating of those delegates, which is a win for the Clinton camp. But let's pretend the half-delegate compromise stays in tact.

With Hilary winning the popular vote, but losing the delegate count, memories of the 2000 election will certainly surface. This might cause enough outrage for Hilary to feel justified going to the courts to evoke Bush v. Gore, where the irreparable harm and equal protection clauses were of issue. If the same interpretation as Bush v. Gore was used in Clinton v. Obama, Hilary would win the primary because the districts would be given a full delegate and not a half-delegate. This would probably occur in a lower court than the Supreme Court.

But this is an interesting situation. If a lower court performed the actions I described above, the case would probably be taken to the Supreme Court, whose members still consist of some people involved in the 2000 debacle. How would they react? Uphold Bush v. Gore, and give Hilary the delegates she needs, even though she is their "arch-enemy?"

Or would they reject Bush v. Gore?? And would they do this out of spite for Hilary or because they know it is a terrible ruling?? How does the fact that many current members were appointed by Bush?

I'm not a lawyer so I can't make any real predictions - but I think Bush v. Gore could come into play in the Democratic primary beyond mere rhetoric. It is very interesting.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

My ideal obituary

To be described as "tall" in the headline to your obituary is truly a gift. Some day....

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Wilentz on the "elitism" of the Obama camp

In a different election year, under different circumstances, one would hope that this piece by historian Sean Wilentz would never have beeen written. Perhaps it was better left unsaid today. Read it in full, but know that it is basically an onslaught against the perceived "elitism" of the Obama camp, as well as a historical analysis, of a sort, of the importance of the white working class in Democratic Party victories.

Wilentz's obvious and celebrated historiographic credentials require no explanation. However, his deployment of his knowledge here seems to lack fairness and reasonableness (must be all that Rawls I've been reading). Not to put too fine a point on it, Wilentz is very selective in his amassing of evidence of Obama camp "dismissiveness." Everything he says about "the Obama campaign and its sympathizers" (many of whom, obviously, being in no way representative of the candidate's own views) could be cast back in the teeth of Clinton supporters. So a magazine said rural American towns are "shitholes." So an Obama supporter said "a vote for Hillary is a vote for whiteness." (In actual fact, the person in question did not say that: she said, "Hillary in a last ditch effort to clinch the nomination is spinning the election narrative to demonstrate her appeal to white Americans and to appeal to white Americans in staunch language which suggests that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for whiteness." If you can't read the difference, you are probably operating in bad faith.) One can find plenty of objectionable material at a place like Larry Johnson's No Quarter blog, but this should not be the point of electoral analysis.

One is never quite sure of Wilentz's presuppositions. It is one thing to write a column chiding one's political party for neglecting an important element of its electoral base. This position has the virtue of assuming that the Party would like to capture those votes but is currently failing to do so, unknowingly.

It is quite another thing to imply that the Party is willfully, maliciously excluding a portion of its historical base, seemingly for ideological reasons (e.g., "
the condescension with which many of Obama's supporters - and, apparently, the candidate himself - hold the crude 'low information' types whom they believe dominate the white working class," "[a sea-change] that has been coming since the late 1960s, when large portions of the Left began regarding white workers as hopeless and hateful reactionaries"). Could elite ideology itself really account for such a (purported) foolish neglect of a potential power base?

Neither does Wilentz bother to explain why white working-class voters appear to favor Clinton. He says, "They regard her as better on these issues. Obama's campaign and its passionate supporters refuse to acknowledge that these voters consider him weaker -- and that Clinton's positions, different from his, as well as her experience actually attract support." This is not an explanation, nor does it do nearly enough work in an argument that the differentia specifica of the candidates rests on the substantial issues and not on race. (Note also the extremely one-sided treatment by Wilentz of what he calls "the white working class," implying that this bloc has remained unchanged since the days of Jackson and presumably has the same interests and inflexible demands today.)

The Democratic Presidential nomination should come down to a one-time popular vote. As I have noted before, it regrettably does not, and the labyrinthine twistings and turnings of the process should make Democrats aware of its somewhat arbitrary outcomes. They should therefore be amenable and unbiased towards the winner, given that the contest is reasonably fair and close.

Unfortunately, this does not seem to be happening. This combustible state of affairs is further stoked by partisans like Wilentz, who seem to be saying that white working-class voters have nothing to gain from an Obama presidency. (On the contrary, they have not only something to gain, but actually very much.) I find Wilentz's raw populism and parochialism distasteful (perhaps this is the "college-educated elite" in me talking), and I would dispute his out-of-hand rejection of "right-thinking affluent liberals and downtrodden minorities, especially African-Americans." As long as these groups can be incorporated into a party along with white working-class voters, who would complain of their mere existence? Who wouldn't want them in their coalition? The Democratic Party is (nominally) the party of progress, and much of the progress of the past half-century has been the politicization of previously unheard groups such as racial and cultural minorities, women, and students.

Thus, I think Wilentz actually does the "white working-class" a disservice when he implies that they do not and should not have to work with movements within the "new politics." In the absence of evidence that the Obama campaign is actively ignoring and distancing itself from working-class whites, Wilentz's critique downplays white working people's capacity for coalition-building, and it injects a further sense of sectarianism into what should be (o rare dream!) a movement of the dispossessed against the privileged few.

All and sundry realists on liberal internationalism

Which New Left Reviewer wrote the following about Matt Yglesias' new book?
Nor will other states necessarily recognize an impeccable record of deference when they see it. Foreign statesmen may be deceived. Even when they agree on the facts, they may still disagree on their proper interpretation. Yglesias labors, for example, to fit the 1999 Kosovo War into his internationalist framework, even though the United States initiated the intervention without UN approval. It was not the United States, you see, that bombed Serbia but the “international” institution of NATO. Fine, but for liberal internationalism to work, other nations must accept this interpretation of the Kosovo War as obviously correct, when just as obviously it is not. By Yglesias’s logic, one could also describe the invasion of Iraq as “internationalist” because the United States cobbled together a “coalition of the willing.” Coalition members other than Britain contributed almost nothing to the U.S. effort, but non-U.S. NATO members contributed equally little to the 1999 Kosovo War. In the end, it is unclear whether Yglesias seeks anything more than an internationalist fig leaf for the policies he happens to prefer.
Well, it was actually a gentleman named Austin Bramwell, writing for the American Conservative. Bramwell's realist critique of Yglesias contains several useful insights, and I recommend reading the whole thing. Interestingly for me, the review signals a further step in the rapprochement between paleoconservativism/realism and radical leftist critiques, the latter of which have proliferated in the past few years as a challenge to both liberal internationalism and neoconservativism (and which has seen its own Doppelganger in the "decent left" movements of the Euston Manifesto and others). See, for example, this review in NLR of arch-realist Christopher Layne's book The Peace of Illusions; Perry Anderson's assessment of the center-left internationalism of Habermas, Rawls, and Norberto Bobbio; his recent (and in my view, mistaken) acceptance of the Walt-Mearsheimer Israel lobby thesis; and several posts on the socialist blog Lenin's Tomb, particularly this one. The overall statement seems to be, to paraphrase Sartre, "Marxism is a realism." Or, to use lenin (the blogger's) formulation, "Socialism is therefore realpolitik for the poor, the working class, and the oppressed."

An interesting development, whatever your personal take on it. But to return to the AmCon review, there's this statement, which reestablishes whatever lines one might have thought were being blurred:
In the face of such massive public ignorance, the Democrats probably could not have opposed the Iraq invasion and won. Voters do not pay close enough attention to politics to grasp the counterintuitive conclusion that the president wanted to invade a country that had not attacked us. Indeed, at the highest levels of wisdom, perhaps we should be grateful that the public never quite got it. Greater public awareness of the reasons, or lack thereof, behind the invasion could have sparked a crisis of legitimacy. It may be better to continue to waste lives and treasure in Iraq than to allow our institutions to come under fundamental attack. The people must not know the truth. This anti-Dreyfusardist argument may at least subconsciously drive those opinion-makers who continue to support the occupation.
Yowza! It's not for nothing he opened the review with a reference to Schumpeter.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Everyone Knew

Citigroup Inc. created a $2.5 billion mortgage-backed security called Bonifacius Ltd. in August as capital markets seized up and panic swept Wall Street.

The issue took the name of a general, called by historian Edward Gibbon the ``last of the Romans,'' who fought and died for a fading empire. The bonds were created from subprime home loans as demand evaporated. Within six months, Bonifacius collapsed as homeowners fell behind on their payments in record numbers.

Labor Says No! (Kinda)

So first we had the brief longshoreman's strike that went totally under the radar, even though 25,000 workers were involved.

Now, another story that got basically no mention, a Boeing assembly line worker was found to be cutting wires on military helicopters meant for duty in Iraq, effectively disabling them.
Industrial Sabotage! How deliciously nostalgic! Among the interesting things in the article, there's mention of the man's hourly wage ($19.10). Perhaps we're to infer that since he's not working starvation wages he has all the less reason to be doing what he did? In any case, it looks like there's a strong attempt to portray the fellow as suffering purely from mental health issues, but that smells like a whitewash, at least in part.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Teddy K

On the occasion of Ted Kennedy's diagnosed illness, a snippet of a Kennedy Senate speech from last year. A partisan warrior, and one on the right side of a whole bunch of issues.

With the Kennedy diagnosis and news that 20% of Kentucky Democrats claimed race to have mattered in their vote for the nominee, this day will be remembered as a sad one for the party.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Ripped My Skin Off Tonight

Myself and the eight other extremely obsessed fans of The National attended a showing of A Skin, A Night, this evening. I anticipated a night rich with social capital, of isolated individuals coming together to partake in a shared experience. Instead, what I received for my $3 ticket and $4 Miller Genuine Draft was a shit show of a film. The documentary, in theory about the recording of The National's last album, Boxer, proved to be an object lesson in pretentious nonsense. From a film whose director is now famous for his 'takeaway shows' came only an increased desire to not take away the vomit I had left beside my seat. I speak almost literally. As vague pieces of The National in their recording plays through the background, Vincent Moon (yes it's the director's name, and yes that long shot of the moon at one point is no doubt purposeful) and his camera nauxiously dart around New York City. We are shown buildings (in black and white!) from the perspective of a moving train, the bowels of concert venues (the camera that shows them is, like, shaky!), and yes, occasionally, The National's recording studio with, sometimes, the band sort of playing instruments.

But do not fear! No cliches are to be found in this documentary, and I have little reason to believe Moon wouldn't have killed the band himself if he had full artistic control of this project. When The National speak their voices are barely audible, drowned out by music; when The National play, the camera spins through the room and through The City. Nevermind that the band's lyrics typically concern intimate relationships and small, indoor spaces. When Moon hears music, like in his takeaway shows, he hears subways and escalators and big apartment complexes. Never before has an audience been forced to so disappointingly suffer through the tyranny of an artist. Never before have eight people, joined together by a common love of a band, been so brutally silenced by a mindless director who grins as he reduces his subjects to gibberish on the big screen. This documentary sucks. I want my band back.

Wash Uer invents first videogame for IPhone

A fellow Wash U graduate who was in the design school and graduated a year before us has invented the first videogame for the Iphone. Check it out!

"Hey Fisher, hope all is well. Here is the game

The two links are the same right now -- ultimately our site will have more content, but right now we are releasing on newgrounds (its the biggest free online gaming site) to get publicity. Check it out, hope you like it, and if you want to help give it a good rating and pass it on to people who would like it. The more views and and better reviews we get will give us momentum to get more funding to build a larger team (ie hire one)."

If I had a million dollars

I made the following predictions about a month ago..lets see how they panned out. Basically I will tell you now that if I had money to invest I would be a millionaire in a year:

Short IBanks
Results: Still in play, as their writedowns are going to get even bigger. But the ETF IYF(indvestment banking index) has dropped 3 or 4 points.

Short Commercial Real Estate REITS
Results: Moody's: Commercial Real Estate Prices Fall 2.3% in March(Month over Month basis) which is the most since they have been colleting the data. Year over Year the figure is like 5.7%

BUY Emerging Markets ETFs which shorts emerging market companies
Results: This one was wrong. The commodities boom is a good for emerging markets and their currenecies. But we will see what happens as the crisis moves farther East.

Short Regional Banks, ie Regions in st. louis
Results: Many regional banks are going out of business, Regions specifically lost 80 percent of profit. And the Regional Bank index is down 6 points which is a lot for an ETF.

Short Online AD Companies
Results: This one was brilliant. Online ADs are decreasing at a really fast rate. Most of Google's ad revenue comes from financial services companies and those have declined like 25 or 30 percent. This is compounded by the fact that online job ads index has declined 2 points, which is a lot.

Short Clothing
Results: Clothing has been hit by inflation. Liz Clairborne stock has d, will continue to drop..along with all the other clothnig manufacturers. Abercrombie for example is down from 82 to 74..with more to come. American Eagle from 24 to 18, with more to come.

Results: Won't be known until next month.

Short CDS contracts of retail companies
Results: The bankruptcy rate went up something like 700 percent in the last month. There are CDS contracts that are worth much more than they were worth. And will continue to gain value as more companies are threatned to go out of business I said short but I meant buy.

Buy Swiss Franc, its a real asset
Reults: Dollar made recovery. But this one is supposed to be for the long term. People put their money in the Swiss Franc cause its real and safe.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Hattie Carroll died after a blow from William Zanzinger

From a Nytimes article about a big new prison we're gonna build in Afghanistan:

Military officials have long been aware of serious problems with the existing detention center in Afghanistan, the Bagram Theater Internment Facility. After the prison was set up in early 2002, it became a primary site for screening prisoners captured in the fighting. Harsh interrogation methods and sleep deprivation were used widely, and two Afghan detainees died there in December 2002, after being repeatedly struck by American soldiers.

Excuse me, but when someone dies after being "repeatedly struck" by someone else, can we just say that they were killed? We don't say that Oswald died after being shot by Ruby; we say that he was killed by Ruby. Just fucking say it.

Obama on Lebanon

This actually made me optimistic because it shows that
  • Obama pays at least a small amount of attention to this
  • He's willing to actually take a somewhat intelligent stance on lebanon
  • He thinks he's able to take such a stance
  • Brooks, a barometer of the "reasonable" conservatives, is willing and able to take the above seriously and admire it

Thursday, May 15, 2008


My friend Alex Thompson and various cronies: Crimanimalz - The Freeway Ride II.

Monday, May 12, 2008

More Drug War Complaining

Looking beyond our borders for a moment, the New York Times has an interesting piece about Ecuadorean resistance to further participation in the drug war. Therein one finds this little nugget:

But to Ecuadoreans, Manta is a flash point in a regional debate over the limits of American power in Latin America.

In 1999, American officials negotiated a 10-year agreement with President Jamil Mahuad to set up the elaborate airborne radar detection project at Manta, a port of 250,000. The deal did not require the United States to pay rent to Ecuador. Nor did it allow Americans stationed here to be judged in Ecuadorean courts for crimes committed in Ecuador. Nor was it submitted to the Ecuadorean Congress for approval.

Mr. Mahuad was toppled in a military coup a few weeks later.

Look, I understand subverting democracy for War on Terror purposes, but I think doing so for the War on Drugs goes a bit too far. We could be using this political capital for getting cheap oil, people, let's get our shit together.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Your semi-annual depressing Equatorial Guinea update

Robot posted a year and a half or so ago about the truly heinous regime in Equatorial Guinea, headed by Teodoro Obiang Ngeuma. Well, they had an election a few days ago, and lo and behold, Obiang's party won 100 percent of the vote in many areas. Robert Mugabe would kill to be Obiang. It pays to play the game, as this State Dept. fact sheet shows.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

He's a Reasonable Man So Get Off His Case

In a primary that could very well have driven Jesus to listen to Mark Penn's advice on going more negative on the 'money changers'--and one that has certainly caused Hillary Clinton to go shamefacedly racist--I'm pleasantly surprised at how much the Obama campaign has kept its cool. This is a man of impeccable integrity, who has surrounded himself with reasonable people telling him reasonable things. I hope that when this primary is over, Democrats of all kinds will realize what a privilege it will be to vote for him. I can recall following few other presidential hopefuls in the past five years--Zapatero, Johnson-Sirleaf, Bachelet, Rudd--who inspire such confidence. Recall that three major elections in the last ten days have elected a crazy person, a half-heartedly repentant fascist, and a fascist. Am I missing any others?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

College Drug Bust

Authorities have arrested nearly 100 people and seized guns and drugs in a sting operation at San Diego State University in California, the Drug Enforcement Administration said Tuesday.

Among those arrested were 75 students, some of them working toward criminal justice or homeland security degrees. One criminal justice major was charged with possession of guns and cocaine, authorities said.
"This operation shows how accessible and pervasive illegal drugs continue to be on our college campuses, and how common it is for students to be selling to other students," said San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis.
- From CNN

Umm, yes, I guess it does demonstrate that. It also suggests that, if people ever bothered to look, they'd probably find similar drug rings on every campus in the United States. Thus, it also suggests that we have criminalized something that is extremely commonplace, a fact which people don't seem to really be aware of. Finally, it suggests we have failed to enforce the laws equally, as does much other evidence.
What to do?