Midway through my first cup of coffee so I don’t want to try forming any overly-complex thought just yet, but I guess asking for two straight mornings of post-Bush good news was asking too much.  Sigh.  (Oh, how I long for the days before Big Brother — intel policy and TV show both!)

And I’m going to channel Larison [UPDATE: Links in, including one from today!], and say that even though they’re going to take their time (apparently) evaluating everything to see what stays and what goes when it comes to domestic spying, etc., this is not the logic I want to see fourth paragraph:

“He’s going to take a very centrist approach to these issues,” said Roger Cressey, a former counterterrorism official in the Clinton and Bush administrations. “Whenever an administration swings too far on the spectrum left or right, we end up getting ourselves in big trouble.”

Let me offer a correction, Mr. Cressey.  The type of trouble we should be concerned about doesn’t really correlate to the left-right axis.  It correlates to the constitutional-unconstitutional axis, or, otherwise construed, the “Theory of the Unitary Executive!”-“No, that’s bullshit, and terrifying bullshit at that!” axis.


Via Andrew, I wake up to read something about Guantanamo Bay that doesn’t make me want to rip my hair out:

“President-elect Obama’s advisers are quietly crafting a proposal to ship dozens, if not hundreds, of imprisoned terrorism suspects to the United States to face criminal trials, a plan that would make good on his promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison”

It’s good to see Obama actually following through on this one.  By about 3pm last Wednesday, I was starting to worry whether there was actually going to be any “change” where we needed it.  And while the “controversial new system of justice” had me worried at first (and still nervous, to be perfectly honest), finishing off that article was a little reassuring.  I’m no expert in legal history, but I presume we’ve done things similar to this before that haven’t ended in an unnecessary abrogation of rights, correct?

But what a relief it is when the President-elect’s legal advisor is saying something like this for a change:

“We can’t put people in a dungeon forever without processing whether they deserve to be there.”


November 9, 2008

Hmm.  Even the Courier-Journal is getting into the Mitch Daniels 2012 speculating game.  I don’t really have a strong opinion about him; he’s the governor of Kentucky’s charming northern neighbors, but he’s also the guy who got rid of their crazy time zones, which makes Indiana decidedly less charming, in my view of things.  And there was that weird fundraiser thing when he ran against Joe Kernan that apparently involved a cartoon of Kernan with a bra on his head.  If I’m remembering correctly…  But someone described like this might be good for the GOP to keep around:

“Gov. Daniels is the kind of Republican I’m talking about,” Ayres said. “He has an ideological rudder but is a very effective leader of a state government.”

Of course when the next line involves discussing the importance and duties of the OMB, he may not match up well against Obama.  Especially when you glance at the Bush Administration’s budget management, or lack thereof.

So I was going to do a post explaining how there’s no reason to worry about Rahm Emanuel as Obama’s chief of staff because he is to Josh Lyman as Obama is to Matt Santos, and so if you read that NY Times article a few days ago, you basically knew this was going to happen.  But as it happens, The Guardian already beat me to pointing this out (but it’s still a moral victory, because they’re professionals and I just do this to procrastinate), and a commenter at Politico summed up what I had to say:

“Josh Lyman of The West Wing was based on Rahm Emanuel. Matt Santos (who became president at the end of the series) was largely based on Obama. When Santos (non-white rookie longshot who wins the presidency facing a athiest moderate republican who sucks up to the conservative wing of his party), Josh Lyman became Santos’ chief of staff. So now… Santos’ inspiration would choose Lyman’s inspiration to be chief of staff? Weird, wild stuff.”

So… yeah.  There you have it.  My new plan is to ask Aaron Sorkin for a list of his favorite stocks (even if he just loves the names), invest in them, then get him to start a show that involves them going through the roof.

It’s The War, Stupid

November 7, 2008

Brad at Sadly, No! hits a note similar to what I was beginning to think yesterday:

“I’ll put it to you like this: in the aftermath of 9/11, I had a few friends join the army out of what they felt was their patriotic duty. Now, if a commie from Massachusetts like me had friends join the army after 9/11, I’ll wager that lots and lots of politically neutral people my age from across the country had friends who did the same thing. What’s more, I’ll bet a lot of these people were sent off to Iraq in 2003.

“After it was revealed that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, a lot of people who saw that their friends and loved ones had been put in danger over a non-existent threat were pissed. What pissed them off even more were apologists within the conservative movement who said that it was no big deal if we never found a single weapon of mass destruction anywhere in the country.” (Brad)

When I think about it, something in the way I view Iraq changed once I got to college. I’ll be the first to admit that I grew up in a rather insulated East-Louisville-Bubble, and while I wasn’t quite so detached from reality as many of my high school classmates, even the Evanston/Northwestern Bubble required some adjustment. Other than one or two distant relatives, several times removed, whom I’ve met rarely, I didn’t know anyone currently serving in the military until I came to college.  [UPDATE: That line is wrong — people who were upperclassmen when I was younger, and a handful of older siblings of friends should also be included there — but the fact that it took me until I was lying in bed to realize this proves what I was trying to get at.]

There’s an odd sensation, too, when you look at the newspaper and see that the soldiers who are dying are your age exactly, no longer six or seven years older. Or your brother’s age.

I’m still trying to fully grasp the day my freshman year when the girl who lived down the hall was curled up on a couch crying for several hours straight because she stumbled across a newspaper clipping that one of her friends from middle school was dead in Iraq. I remember that she was muttering, over and over, that she never even knew he was there, while a mutual friend held her, rocking her back and forth. I was so distracted shaving that I cut myself more than a few times.

I know I’m naïve and I’m sheltered, and I’ve been fortunate beyond belief not to have lost anyone over the last eight years. But seeing someone who I cared about who had was like a punch in the gut.

A friend of mine who I lived in a dorm with for two years gets up at four most mornings for NROTC training. There are times when I’ve been around him and it hits me: he’s willing to die—for me. And those are overpowering because of Iraq and the risks it entails for him, and I have an ever-growing respect for him. But it just makes me all the more pissed at the Bush Administration et al. They don’t deserve him, or any of the others I’ll never meet. And they’ve never even really tried to–the lack of honesty and responsibility is, frankly, disgusting when you consider the sacrifices that are asked for.

So while Iraq isn’t the whole story, and while John and I would probably have our differences on how the GOP ought to re-orient its foreign policy, I think he’s pretty much right when he says:

“[T]he stubborn refusal to acknowledge this reality is pretty much a death sentence for the present incarnation of American conservatism … and that is pretty much as it should be.”

And these conclusions, anyone interested in rejuvenating conservatism among the 18-29 year-olds should note, had nothing to do with what my professors said.  It had a hell of a lot more to do with the fact that at eighteen, I saw no reason not to wait to shave until just before Shabbos services, then couldn’t get thoughts of war out of my mind while trying to sing “V’shamru” and not cry, and that I have a friend who I can’t talk to without thoughts of death creeping into my mind.


November 5, 2008

Today I’m going to try not to think about politics (or Faulkner, for that matter). I’m going to go get lunch and hunt about Evanston for a newspaper (mostly because Nate Silver tells me that’s going to be impossible), then come back and do some work. But before that happens—right now, and while I’m wandering about—I want to retain that feeling that came over me when they called the election for Obama last night and—alone among the friends I was with, even though I’m was by far the most cynical and conservative person in the room—I couldn’t hold back tears.

At the start of this whole mess of an election, well over a year ago, I was talking about it with a friend of mine—a Hillary supporter. He was insistent then and for some time that America was simply not yet ready to elect a black president—that our self-inflicted wounds of racism still ran too deep. For whatever reason, though I was never entirely convinced, I was adamant that it wasn’t the case. I think I had to believe it was true. And last night’s confirmation of it—despite my misgivings about certain of his policies, and despite our different positions on the political spectrum—was a relief.

Earlier this morning, after getting rid of the empty pizza boxes and making my coffee, I started skimming through my books, because that’s all I knew how to do. I came across Wendell Berry’s poem, “My Great-Grandfather’s Slaves”:


Deep in the back ways of my mind I see them
         going in the long days
         over the same fields that I have gone
         long days over.

I see the sun passing and burning high
         over that land from their day
         until mine, their shadows
         having risen and consumed them.

I see them obeying and watching
         the bearded tall man whose voice
         and blood are mine, whose countenance
         in stone at his grave my own resembles,
         whose blindness is my brand.

I see them kneel and pray to the white God
         who buys their souls with Heaven.

I see them approach, quiet
         in the merchandise of their flesh,
         to put down their burdens
         of firewood and hemp and tobacco
         into the minds of my kinsmen.

I see them moving in the rooms of my history,
         the day of my birth entering
         the horizon emptied of their days,
         their purchased lives taken back
         into the dust of birthright.

I see them borne, shadow within shadow,
         shroud within shroud, through all nights
         from their lives to mine, long beyond
         reparation or given liberty
         or any straightness.

I see them go in the bonds of my blood
         through all the time of their bodies.

I have seen that freedom cannot be taken
         from one man and given to another,
         and cannot be taken and kept.

I know that freedom can only be given,
         and is the gift to the giver
         from the one who receives.

I am owned by the blood of all of them
         who ever were owned by my blood.
         We cannot be free of each other.

Truthfully, I don’t know whether any in my family ever owned slaves. My maternal family was still in Poland and Russia, but I know my great-grandparents were in Kentucky at the turn of the 20th century, and their parents before them. We like to claim that members of the family were here for the Revolution, but I don’t know if there’s any way to back it up.

But I’m almost certain I had ancestors in Kentucky at a time when the could have owned slaves; I don’t know that anyone alive could tell me if they did. I think I may be too afraid of the answer to ask—what if we can’t ever know? When the past is uncertain, I think, that’s when it becomes most haunting.  (Go read some Faulkner if you need the proof.)

I needed to believe that America could elect the son of a black man and a white woman whose name is Barack Hussein Obama. While his defeat would not have proven my instinct was wrong, his victory confirms it. I can breath a little easier now. I believe in the idea of America—not as divinely-ordained or chosen—but (to quote Leonard Cohen) as “the cradle of the best and of the worst.”

Walking around yesterday, I had a truly odd sensation. The outcome seemed more or less clear ahead of time. I was living through a day that would be considered particularly historic. I still don’t know what to think of the way that made me feel, or how to really describe it. It was strange. But because of it, I think I have a better idea, though, of what Cohen meant when he wrote:

“It’s coming through a whole in the air,
. . .
It’s coming from the feel
that it ain’t exactly real,
or it’s real, but it ain’t exactly there.”

(That’s all I got. I don’t know if I got the point across at all, or if I’m being far too sentimental. But I had to try.)

So since I’m scatter-brained today and searching desperately for polling data I haven’t already read, I’ve been looking at California ballot propositions — which means, of course, “the one about the chickens,” otherwise known as Prop. 2.

The two most recent polls (that I know of) are from SurveyUSA (Sept. 25), and Field (Oct. 31).  The Field Poll is probably more relevant, since it’s not a month old — 60% in favor, 27% opposed, 13% undecided; SurveyUSA had it at 72-10.  The major difference is in their polling of Republicans: SurveyUSA had it pegged at 64-16-20, while Field’s closer result seems a consequence of their 40-47-13 line.

What’s caught my eye in the SUSA poll, however, was the income distribution: those making over $50k a year favored it 71-12-18, while those making less than $50k a year favored it 81-6-13.  This is a proposition that is, especially as its critics will argue, going to raise the price of eggs.  Yet those the increased price will affect most seem not to care.  If that holds, it’s going to be a very important number.

But with Prop. 2 — which guarantees basic freedom to move/breath/not live in a pile of feces — set to pass, and Obama quoting Michael Pollan, I’m optimistic about the future of food right now.  It may have taken nearly half a century of Wendell Berry standing on a a hill, shouting and gesticulating wildly, but it’s looking like people are starting to pay attention.

Bringin’ Epic Back

November 2, 2008

Stefan Beck writes what is probably my new favorite metaphor of the campaign season:

“‘Incurious’ is a word that has stuck to Sarah Palin like a Homeric epithet”

If there were a little more time until Election Day, I’d make some sort of promise to only talk about the election while referencing Classicisms.  Maybe I’ll do it anyway…

(UPDATE: Forgot the link in the first try…)

I’m apparently the only one unsurprised by this. And this. (Well, I am surprised that AFCSME got in on the act—I would have predicted some random local Democrat with a reputation for running off his mouth, well, running off his mouth. Like what David Williams did to Dan Mongiardo in 2004Or 2007. Though that might be even less subtle than this way.)

Opinions on Mitch’s preferences are more or less open secrets in Kentucky, so I don’t see anyone already aware of the—ahem—secrecy on these matters is going to be persuaded to change their vote (though Mitch was famous for secrecy before Dick Cheney went and ruined all the fun for everyone). But (and I know the level of extensions in this are going to make it more than a little unreliable) I do have it third hand (from people who are involved in Democratic politics to chat with people who are rather involved) that it was vaguely expected that if Lunsford was close coming down the stretch, this stuff would start to get some play.

I’m in no way attempting to implicate the Lunsford campaign—let me make that clear. I’m just saying that Mitch had a much bigger target on his back this year, even among Kentuckians, and there was—again, among those who care to speculate about whom he fantasizes about—a sense that the gloves might come off.

So I’m not surprised, but this does make me shake my head. I don’t really care whether Mitch is gay or straight or closeted or not. Those are his issues, and his frankness with himself is something that doesn’t concern me. To be honest, I felt pity more than anything for Larry Craig and his family.

(And I’ll come out and admit it: Like Will, I laughed out loud at the flier, too. I mean, six Mitches is enough to scare me pretty badly most days of the week, unless he’s dressed like the Village People — but I can’t get the picture to embed, so just go take a looksie if you feel so inclined.)

(UPDATE: If you’re coming in from PageOne Kentucky, thanks for bothering to click that link.  Feel free to snoop about; I feel like I’ve probably got more interesting/substantive opinions on other things.  Or if you really just want to hear me grumble about the Senate race, I’m planning a post on it after the election.)

They wrote more, and they’re both more nuanced and thoughtful than the excerpts might make them seem, but it’s worth looking at these two quotations:

Joe Carter:

“If people want to vote for Obama, for whatever reason, that is their decision to make. But let’s not play along with the delusion that their reasons for doing so are because they are attempting to be consistent with their conservative principles.”

Daniel Larison:

“As I said yesterday, the most credible pro-Obama argument that can be made is that the GOP must be held accountable and Obama is not McCain, but I still don’t think that is a persuasive case for casting a vote for Obama, much less urging others to do likewise.”

I don’t really know where I fall on this spectrum, because even before 2006, I wanted Obama to run even if there was no chance he would win—the refresher would be worthwhile. And since it wasn’t until the middle of the primaries that I came to terms with my changing political self-labelling—and since I have some sort of weird republican (note the little-R) principle against Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton, it wasn’t that hard to keep preferring him to her—I was kind of an Obamacon by default.

I also have the ease of being registered in Kentucky, which isn’t going to be within ten points unless the polls are wrong or McCain announces that he preferred Hanoi to Washington, so my vote for Barr put no strain on my conscience. But I’m still technically an Obama supporter, because I’d prefer his victory to McCain’s. This is partly because I trust him more on foreign policy, partly because of other reasons Larison and Carter rattle off, but it does have quite a bit to do with what Andrew, Esquire, and Garry Wills all had to say lately.

I don’t totally trust either candidate on Executive power issues. Let’s be frank—neither candidate is going to shrink the federal government any. The power it claims is probably going to remain about the same in total, just centered in different areas. But I trust McCain less—ever since his vote against banning waterboarding, I’ve been increasingly skeptical of his willingness to take on those parts of the GOP that believe in the acceptability of a “Unitary Executive.”

It’s not that I think McCain favors the Bush-Cheney policy on this. I just don’t think he’s going to be willing to do battle with his own party in such a way to clear it out. Before this election, I thought he could and would; but his actions since have made me skeptical. As much as I may be wary of Obama’s plans for health care, those two words scare me more. And if you ask me, he’s the one more likely to clear it out.  He’s certainly the one more likely to appoint justices who don’t buy into the Yoo’s and Cheney’s and Addington’s reasoning.

(I’ll let it be known, though, that if I had it my way, Ron Paul would be on the GOP line and I’d be voting for him; and that if McCain had done things differently—if he’d voted against the Military Commissions Act, or hadn’t come out against amending the CIA Field Manual to ban torture—my thoughts would probably be much different than they are.)

This might all be on my mind because I’m neurotic and my favorite period of history is the collapse of the Roman Republic. Honestly, I hope so, but I just can’t bring myself to act like that’s the case.