Freedom from Blog

Don't call it a comeback . . . .

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Did McCain Just Lose?

No. Not the Palin pick. But on Faux News Sunday, McCain just went off message and made THE MOTHER OF ALL GAFFES.

Asked (by Chris Wallace) how he differed from Bush, in a list of answers, McCain said something like, "I don't think we should torture people."

Wallace, smelling news, asked him to elaborate. McCain said that "in my opinion, water boarding is torture," and that, well, we've done that, so, well, we tortured people, and Bush approved of that.

Bush is on record saying, "We don't do torture," repeatedly. Now McCain says, at least, that "we have tortured [but won't]."

Most of the GOP establishment has spent the last several years arguing that "we don't do torture." Now their candidate disagrees. I want to see every GOP senator asked, "well, who is right--McCain or Bush? And if McCain is right, then shouldn't Bush be held accountable for this? If Bush is right, then what the hell is wrong with McCain? How can you support a candidate who would casually accuse "your president" of acts tantamount to war crimes? What's the difference b/w McCain and Obama on this (if you agree with Bush)?"

Energize your base by picking the Wignut Tina Fey . . . then go wildly off message on torture, on Faux! It must be very frustrating working for that man.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

How Did She Know?

One thing I wonder about Palin's bio is how she knew that her youngest child would have Down syndrome. Given the increased chance of Down with advanced material age, it's not uncommon for women older than 35 to have a prenatal test for Down syndrome. However, amniocentesis brings with it a well-known increased risk of a miscarriage. Another genetic test is chorionic villus sampling, which has an even higher risk of miscarriage. There is no conclusive test for Down syndrome that does not substantially increase the risk of miscarriage. One can use a noninvasive nuchal translucency test that does not increase the chance of miscarriage (the so-called "early screen"), but its results are not conclusive, and the chances of false negatives and false positives are not negligible. All you get from the nuchal translucency is an estimate range of your chances of having a Down syndrome baby or other serious genetic disorder, it does not provide an actual diagnosis.

In order to find out for sure whether an unborn child has Down syndrome or any genetic disorder, you have to weigh your desire to know against the possibility that the test will cause a miscarriage. There are low odds in both cases (miscarriage vs. genetic abnormality), but it's a real balancing question. I'm just curious about how Palin, knowing that she intended to have the baby regardless, made the decision to go through with genetic testing. Do pro-life groups have a position on genetic testing?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Palin Comparison

CNN has just broken the inside story, so here it is. How Johnny met Sarah:

"Languishing! Goddamn campaign is languishing! We need a shot inna arm! Hear me, boys? Inna goddamn ARM! Election held tomorra, that sonofabitch would win it in a walk."

"Well he's the reform candidate, Daddy."


"Well people like that reform. Maybe we should get us some."

"I'll reform you, you soft-headed sonofabitch! How we gonna run reform when we're the damn incumbent!"

"Well, it's a well-run campaign, midget'n broom'n whatnot."

"Devil his due."

"Helluva awgazation."

"Say, I gotten idee."

"What sat, Junior?"

"We could hire us a little fella even smaller'n Bama's."

"Y'ignorant slope-shouldered sack a guts! Why we'd look like a buncha satchel-ass Johnnie-Come-Latelies braggin' on our own midget! Don't matter how stumpy! And that's the goddamn problem right there - people think this Obama got fresh ideas, he's oh coorant and we the past."

"Problem a p'seption."

"Ass right."

[Props: For some reason, Mrs. TMcD thought of this today.]


I haven't seen this many places (other than TPM), but I wish that there was more talk in the punditosphere of just how unserious the McCain campaign has been. Scurrilous and ludicrous attack ads, bellicose bluster . . . and now a vice presidential pick that makes Dan Quayle look good. Sarah Palin? The governor of Alaska?

Just not serious.

Update: Palin is 44 years old, has been governor less than 2 years, and before that was mayor of a small town. The McCain camp thinks that this person should be VP, one heartbeat from the presidency behind an old geezer. She's also under some kind of investigation in Alaska--which is proving to be a relatively corrupt state (the Hulk is under indictment).

The pick seems to have been motivated almost solely by the need for media coverage of how "bold" the pick was, and maybe to try, futilely, to attract female (Clinton) supporters. In governing terms, a non-starter.

But at least she's not a Washington insider!

More Update: Good point just now on MSNBC--this was the best GOP woman available?

I have been saying for a very long time that McCain didn't have a good pick for Veep. Every candidate mentioned in the press had big drawbacks. Now, he has picked someone even more deeply flawed, from a credentials standpoint, than dweeb Pawlenty or the Mittbot. Wow.

"Eight is Enough"

I don't know about you, but I had the distinct sense I was watching history being made tonight. And for the first time in a long, awful decade, in a good way.

I can't say it better than Pitchfork Pat Buchanan: "Best convention speech EVER."

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

HRC 4Evah! :-(

MSNBC and CNN compete to find the craziest Hillary revanchist and put her on camera. CNN wins.

In other news, Mark Warner's hopes of one day being the Democratic nominee just went the way of Evan Bayh. Technology, progress, small town Virginia, yammer yammer yammer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

News Blackout

So I haven't been posting about politics much lately. Why (not)? Because I've just about had it with the inane discourse that passes for political commentary these days. Oh, I've been close to the tipping point for a long time. But with the new house, the baby, etc., i.e., better things to do, I've come to value my time. And it's too valuable to read the likes of Ignatius, Friedman, etc.

In all truth, the self-imposed news blackout put me in a better frame of mind, made me actually happier. But as with that original Eden, Satan always tempts us . . . Yesterday we tried to watch the Sunday shows for the first time since June, thinking, of course, that there might be some interesting commentary on the Biden pick. Wrong.

The political establishment, and in that group I include the elite pundit class (your Cokie, your Will, your Brokaw--OMG did you see his interview with Pelosi? very disrespectful), have seriously lost touch with reality. I'm serious. These days, being "strong on national defense" means being hawkish, not actually knowing anything about the subject. Because the resort to force (and "resort" may not be the right word when it's your first impulse) is always the best play, huh? There is talk that Obama may be too popular, too eloquent . . . these are essentially Karl Rove's talking points. But the elite pundits just repeat them, ad nauseum.

The same with the "success" of the surge. Pelosi was great on this yesterday. The surge has improved the security situation in Iraq, but that was not the main point of the thing--the main point was to give the Iraqis room to engineer political reconciliation. Which they have almost completely failed to do. Those provincial elections have been delayed so many times . . . no carbon law . . . Kirkuk . . . sure, the situation in Iraq is better than it was in 2006. But the idea that the surge has accomplished any of its actual goals is absurd.

Apparently, Tom Brokaw, the elder statesman of the commentariat, cannot understand this. And, sadly, no one else you will see commenting on politics on your teevee will, either.

Don't get me started on the transparent Nixonianism of Bill Kristol. Can anyone take that shill seriously? And yet, he has a NYT column. That is the world you live in!

If the convention wasn't starting today, I would reimpose the news blackout on myself. But now I have to watch the crap. Oh well. I don't have to like it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is This a Sign?

Read into it what you will, but the team from that so exotic and not very American place called Hawaii won the Little League World Series today. Who knows . . . if some skinny kids with funny names . . . from Hawaii can sit atop America's pastime . . .

Nah. It doesn't mean anything. But did I mention that it was a blowout?

The Morning Crew

So I run most mornings in a week. I try to get out the door at 6 am, although 6:30 is more like the typical time. With that said, I'm usually running on the Mall at 7 am, either heading west or, returning home, east.

There's an interesting difference b/w the weekday runners at 7 am and the weekend runners.

The weekday runners tend to be younger, thinner, more buff. My guess is that the typical Mall runner on a weekday (excluding Friday, when there's almost no one out there--where are they?) is a young Hill staffer, or maybe a law student at Georgetown or GW.

The weekend runners are older, thicker, and stranger looking. There are some seriously odd folks hitting the gravel at 7 am on a Saturday or Sunday. I'm talking folks who look like they spend the week locked in a DoD bunker crunching missile defense numbers. Guys from "Mission Control," if you get my drift. The same for the female runners--they aren't as strange, but they tend to be older.

My guess, though, is that the weekenders could take the weekdayers, at least over a long distance. Sure, those fit Hill staffers could outkick me in a mile, but I'd catch up over the long haul. And Mission Control . . . that guy can run forever.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Hello Good Biden

As annoying as the wait for Obama's VP pick has been, it is certainly more important who he picks than how he informs the press about that pick. If, as late reports tonight say, Joe Biden is that pick, he has been worth the wait.

On Larry King, the GOP operative (Reed somebody) has been highly complimentary. He also makes the reasonable point that a Biden pick should force McCain toward Romney, since none of the other major candidates (Pawlenty, Jindal, etc.) can hope to compete with the Delaware Destroyer. I think that ignores pro-choice poster boy Tom Ridge, but let's grant the premise. There's another problem with a Biden-Romney pairing. Romney kills McCain's "authenicity" theme, while Biden boosts Obama's. Maybe it won't matter, and maybe Romney's discipline will play well in debates. But the narrative whiplash here could be a game changer. OK, that's probably too strong. I think it's Obama's game to lose anyway, making Romney a double down bet on a bad hand. Possible up-side: if Obama-Biden wins, Romney's future top-of-ticket hopes may be crushed in the subsequent bloodletting. John McCain, once again serving America through his sacrifice.

P.S. Wonder, how many homes Romney owns? How many golf carts?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bee at Two Months Old (Almost)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Party Lens(es)

The missus and I have this conversation a lot, and it goes something like this:

[Me]: You know, it's interesting how Democrats and Republicans see the same things differently. Take this one: Bobby Jindal is routinely talked about as prime Veep material for McCain. But he was just elected governor of Louisiana last week [hyperbole], and served what, a House term or two before that? And yet the same folks who think Jindal would be a great pick . . . think Barack Obama is woefully under-qualified to be president. When Jindal would be Veep behind an old dude with health problems . . . Plus, Jindal is pretty exotic, right? But the GOP doesn't have a problem with him . . . and yet Obama, he's foreign . . .

[Frances]: Party is the primary lens through which partisans, at least, view politics. So it makes sense that Obama and Jindal get seen differently by members of the two parties, even though they are pretty similar, in many respects.

[Me]: But party hasn't always been the primary lens . . .

[Frances]: I'm not sure that it hasn't always been.

[Me]: [Pause] This requires further investigation.

Sounds like there are some interesting discussions at the 115, no? But seriously, I think I've convinced Frances that there was what I'm calling the Broder moment, when the South was realigning and so things were in a bit of disorder. Party had to compete with other factors. I'm pretty sure she's right for the present period, going back to . . . 1980ish. And, without additional research, I'll give her the 19th century. (Who has time for researching that?)

Any thoughts?

Update: This also ties in to the tenacious one's post about Edwards. Is there any doubt that partisanship was the primary lens through which [partisans] viewed the Clinton-Lewinsky "affair"? Edwards is screwed not because he had an affair, but rather because there is no partisan reason to defend him. If he were the nominee, I suspect TMcD, millions of Democrats, and . . . I would feel somewhat differently about this. One cannot prove a counter-factual, of course, but I have come to regret my support for Bill Clinton back in the day. Imagine if he had resigned and . . . Al Gore would have run as the incumbent in 2000?

There is the party lens, and then there's hindsight, which, as the saying goes, is 20/20. Indeed.

LCD Soundsystem

I've been trying not to think about the recent Edwards brouhaha, and luckily most of what should have been said has been said by Josh Marshall, Digby, and others not including Maureen Dowd. But playing off of Digby's thoughts on private character being a poor guide to public virtue, I'd add this. Democracies are famed for promoting "tolerance" as a prime virtue, which is true as far as it goes.

Our judgments, however, do not go away, nor should they. Unfortunately, what often happens to judgments in a democratic culture is that they are aimed at the lowest common denominator. We can all agree, regardless of party, class, ideology, or education level that cheating on your wife is serious douchebaggery. Especially when you're a public figure and this will embarrass her in front of 300 million people. Especially when the other woman appears to be younger, prettier, and--by several degrees of magnitude--flakier. Especially when your wife is one of the most admirable and likable political wives on the planet. And, oh yeah, when she's got cancer. (Plus, the "she was in remission!" defense just makes it look like you were looking for a guiltless window of opportunity.) I don't know that I could come up with a simpler moral judgment if I tried. Which is not to say it would be a wrong moral judgment. It's right. It's just not that significant, at least from a political standpoint. It has nowhere near the weight of issues like torture, wiretapping, forging documents to justify a bullshit war, or even tax cut proposals.

Making those judgments poses opportunity costs. You have to think about possible policy consequences, weigh your loyalties, yada yada. Sneering at the horny pretty boy comes free, and this is true for no one as much as it is for the media, who need dramatic narratives and prefer those that will cost their viewers little mental strain and that are unlikely to alienate one or another side of the partisan divide. Call it a Downsian theory of scandal. Johnny E., we hardly knew ye, and now yer goin' Downsy.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

It's 3 AM [ominous voice-over]

And your children are asleep. But there's a phone ringing in the White House. Russian tanks are rolling across a border somewhere . . . Too bad, because the president is wiping sand off Misty May-Treanor's back?

I hate the theater criticism side of political commentary. I really do. But who (I'm looking at the staff here) let the president get into this compromised a position during an international crisis? Amateur effing hour. I never thought that this just-after-Katrina lowlight could be surpassed, but you can never underestimate this administration.

I'm glad someone restored honor and dignity to the Oval Office.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

The Briar Patch

Is the Obama camp missing a big opportunity? McCain is bashing Obama again over his rejection of the "town hall" series idea. But doesn't this look a lot like the recent "Obama's hasn't been to Iraq in years" whine? I.e., a good chance for Obama to deflate expectations and then exceed them? Shouldn't Obama play into this a bit more? You'd think his team would be going around telling every reporter who will listen that town halls are McCain home turf: Johnny Mac's best venue and O-man's worst.

Better yet, this is true, if misleading. Although town halls (and debates generally) may be Obama's weakest platform, that's mostly because he's so dazzling in most others, while McCain's "strength" emerges only when compared to his set speech awfulness. In head to head, I'd bet that Obama fares pretty well. But the poor mouthing would still work because it has surface plausibility. Plus, if there's anything to be learned from Bush, it is that in debates expectations are most of the battle. Obama is suffering now from the costs of high expectations, mocked by McCain as "the One." This could be a good way to counter that. Given the recent spate of harshly negative ads from Saint John, Obama might even suggest he's afraid Johnny will go Mike Tyson on him and take a chunk out of those funny ears.

Side Note: please ignore any "race card" tomfoolery from the Br'er Rabbit reference in the title. I know the Disney flick was pretty racist, but the stories were often great and the source material was actually from a southern racial progressive.

Spore Losers

Glenn Greenwald has a great article up at Salon on how ABC News, the Bush administration, and others (e.g., Sideshow Joe, I-CT) used the anthrax scare to hype the Iraq invasion. As it turns out, it may have been one of our own anthrax scientists, at the very lab that was analyzing the attack, who sent the spores.

My memory must be fading because I don't remember ever thinking that Saddam or Osama or anyone in the global Jihad rogues gallery sent that stuff. Didn't it always seem like it was one more American wingnut, especially given the targets included Daschle and Leahy? 9/11 may have cast a long shadow, but Oklahoma City wasn't that long ago. Leahy seems a "tell" here. Who would go after the ranking Dem on the Judiciary Committee? An islamofascist or an angry American culture warrior? Turns out Ivins was the latter--a Catholic reactionary who lived a few clicks farther to the right than il Nino. Still, I'm curious. Do any of you remember thinking anthrax came from abroad?

Friday, August 01, 2008

Demographic Inversion

Nice article on demographic changes in American cities. Since we now live "in the city" (but not "downtown"!), I guess we're part of the trend.


For my part, the appeals of the city:

(1) I walk to work. It takes me 15 minutes, door to door. It's a pleasant walk down tree-lined streets, parks, etc. Walking to work is relaxing, unlike driving, which I always find stressful, especially commuting. This is a biggie for me. I wouldn't really want to live here and commute out to, say, the Dulles corridor. IOW, I wouldn't like to live "in the city" if I didn't work "in the city."

(2) The city is beautiful--not like the desert or mountains, but beautiful. Especially D.C., and especially Capitol Hill. My dad visited last weekend and he described the neighborhood as "like a jungle," by which he meant the large number and variety of plants in the (mostly well-kept) gardens. If my dad, who hates cities in general, found the neighborhood we live in pleasant, there you are. When I venture out to the suburbs, mostly it's meh. Even high-end suburbs are kind of meh.

(3) Things to do: Now, YMMV, but I can walk to museums, restaurants, the theater (at least the Folger), shops, and I can easily Metro to more shopping, more museums, hiking trails (yes, D.C. has hiking trails accessible by subway--it is an amazing thing), and so on. Sure, you can drive in for these. But I don't have to park!

We're also walking distance, sort of, from the new ballpark, although I haven't tried walking it yet. Haven't taken in a game since the baby, and the baby came the same time as the move--but that's a different story.

(4) The people. The article touches on this, but the best bet we have, as a couple, in having neighbors with whom we will have things in common is to live in one of these urban neighborhoods where other young(-ish) professional types live.

(5) There is a "cool factor" in living in the city. Not that we live in an "edgy" neighborhood or anything like that. (We are not very close to H Street, because we're not that hip.) Sure, Falls Church is nice, but no one ever says, "Oh, you live in Falls Church." Capitol Hill is a "cool" address.

Btw, Outside magazine listed D.C. as one of the best places to live 2008. Pretty amazing, I know.