Re: Disappointed By Someone New

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I'd rather send money to Obama. Keeping him honest, whatever that means, and sending him messages, whatever that means, don't seem as important as beating McCain.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 2:38 PM
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Well, I tried to vote for someone to the left of him in the primary, but there were no such people after early March or so.


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 2:41 PM
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In my indomitable naivete, I'm going to assume this is simply Obama running to center in the general and has little bearing on his true nature.

</whirlyeyes>


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 2:43 PM
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I wouldn't be suggesting this if I thought the volume of donations a primary was likely to attract would be all that substantial. This seems like the kind of action that might successfully communicate a threat, but wouldn't be likely to do any substantial damage.

And yeah, yeah, the term 'sending a message' is completely incomprehensible. There are a whole lot of Obama voters out there who disapprove of Congressmen like Barrow. Obama is free to endorse Barrow because there's noplace for the voters he's pissing off by doing so to go -- we're obviously not planning to vote for McCain because Obama's too far right. If there's some perceived risk that endorsements like the Barrow endorsement will hurt Obama's fundraising, possibly he'll do it less.

Yes, it's laughably ineffective; yes, the very concept of influencing a politician is risible. I'll go contemplate the heat-death of the universe now.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 2:45 PM
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Once can be happenstance,
twice coincidence,
three times is enemy action.


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 2:45 PM
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When running for re-election, he ran ads accusing his own party of wanting to "cut and run in Iraq," and was one of the 21 Blue Dogs to send a letter to Nancy Pelosi demanding that they be allowed to vote for the Rockefeller/Cheney Senate bill to give warrantless eavesdropping powers to the President and amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms.

Is that worse than being one of the 84 House Democrats who voted for the warrantless eavesdropping bill without sending this particular letter?


Posted by: Fatman | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 2:53 PM
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Yes, it's laughably ineffective; yes, the very concept of influencing a politician is risible.

Obama beating McCain would influence quite a few politicians, including McCain.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 2:58 PM
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If Obama, Pelosi, and Reid all decide to "govern from the center", with the help of Republican votes when necessary, we'll be totally burned.

I think that from here on out, a lot of energy / money should be put into primary challenges, and money should be directed toward individual candidates rather than to parties and campaign committees. Whether it will ever be possible to put pressure on the Presidential candidate, I don't know.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 2:59 PM
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7: This is sounding to me like "Any political action intended to pressure Obama creates an unacceptable risk of making McCain win." At which point I'm back to the inevitable heat-death of the universe.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:01 PM
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8: The universal-healthcare-a-chicken-in-every-pot-and-two-girls-for-every-boy mandate that people seem to expect might not come about. I have read that politicians frequently make compromises in such cases.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:07 PM
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If Obama, Pelosi, and Reid all decide to "govern from the center", with the help of Republican votes when necessary, we'll be totally burned.

True, indeed. FISA is depressing the hell out of me. I hate everyone.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:09 PM
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10: You're talking to a bunch of people on the brink of political despair, and informing us that politicians make compromises sometimes?

I get that compromises happen. I was trying to kick some ideas around about how to increase the likelihood that people who agree with me would be the ones extracting concessions from Obama, rather than the ones taking whatever happens blindly as being better than McCain.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:12 PM
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My survival strategy for this campaign season is to focus on a couple of issues on which I believe he'll make significant progress. That and not blowing up the world are the best I'm hoping for from an Obama administration.

I'm pissed when he does like this, but I'm not going to get all wound out about it. He's a centrist. I'm an opportunist. Together, we'll beat McCain. Given our choices at this moment, that's enough.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:14 PM
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By all means, more donations, volunteering, even moral support to the candidates who occupy one's particular point on the ideological spectrum. It's great for the candidate and as loud a message as most of us can deliver. But an effective president ("of the united states of america") has to cover a lot of ground--and has to be trusted in the end not to be obligated to anyone.


Posted by: babble | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:14 PM
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Flippanter, you're so full of shit. Obama has sent signs that he won't change foreign and military policy much (his recently unveiled foreign policy team) and that he plans to vote against the Democratic majority on FISA (gaining nothing concrete by doing so).

This is a good year for Democrats, and it's reasonable to hope for something better than "measurably better than Bush or McCain".

The tone of your posts indicates that you think that it's unreasonable to work for anything more than the bare minimum. I actually somewhat agree, though I think that's true partly because the Democratic party is riddled with Quislings and surrender monkeys.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:18 PM
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Real change of the kind LB (and I) look for doesn't come from candidates; it comes from movements. I think the fundraising idea nods in that direction, but doesn't get there.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:18 PM
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and has to be trusted in the end not to be obligated to anyone.

Obama has obligations, just like anyone, including to left-liberal Democrats, but he's sending a message that he intends to ignore these obligations.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:19 PM
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You're talking to a bunch of people on the brink of political despair, and informing us that politicians make compromises sometimes?

Yes. Cynicism is kind of my bag. I blame society.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:20 PM
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has to be trusted in the end not to be obligated to anyone

We're not talking about anyone, we're talking about us. We're the good guys. Wanna see our resume?


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:20 PM
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17: He intends to ignore his obligations to left-center Democrats, that is. Not all of them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:20 PM
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18: The 'more cynical than thou' routine is kind of annoying, Flip. I get that they all suck. At which point the question is how to make them suck less, not plume yourself on being clever enough to know that they all suck.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:23 PM
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Not true, Flippanter. You're a centrist defending Obama. Cynicism is a kind of protective coloration.

Shut the fuck up, Donny. You have no frame of reference here, Donny. You're like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie ....


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:23 PM
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Sometimes I wish Internet tough guys would quote something else, but imagination will out. So long, everybody.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:35 PM
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I'd forgotten about the National Security Panel. That makes four: AIPAC, FISA, Barrow and the NSP. In two and a half weeks. It isn't so much that he's giving us the finger. It's that he's in such a hurry to give us the finger.

I like your idea, LB. We should react. But who's going to run such a fund-raising operation? Moveon is already being told what to do by the Obama campaign.


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:38 PM
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Don't let the door hit you in the butt, Flip. I'm sure that there a support group somewhere for the victimized cynics of the world.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:41 PM
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"We're not talking about anyone, we're talking about us. We're the good guys. Wanna see our resume?"

I used to think I was among the good guys; now I'd be happy if I thought I could recognize evil.


Posted by: babble | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:43 PM
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I'm appalled by Obama's endorsement and by his craven pander on FISA. But I'm wondering if anyone has more information about the latter. Is there someone here who actually knows why the House bill is so awful? It seems to revert to where we were back in the old days: FISA courts, opportunity for discovery, etc. I'm only asking because the person I know who works on this stuff doesn't have time to answer my e-mails (dick) right now. Seriously, does anyone understand this bill and the outrage it's provoking? Beyond telecom immunity, about which no more need be said.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:45 PM
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All that I know to be pissed off about is the telecom immunity. There may be other bad things, but I don't know about them if there are.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:49 PM
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but he's sending a message that he intends to ignore these obligations

This may be right, but isn't necessarily so. He may also be signaling to the Blue Dogs, including those who might otherwise campaign for McCain, that he has their back. We might not like it, but he could be building a true big-tent party. Which would mean, of course, they get some stuff, we get some stuff. We'll just have to wait and see what we get. In the meantime, he's trying to win states that Democrats haven't won for ages. And he might think he needs some Blue Dogs to achieve that goal. I'm not saying I'm not appalled. But, until I'm proven wrong, I have extraordinary trust in the people running his political shop.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:50 PM
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Greenwald is the place to go, today and yesterday.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:50 PM
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The FISA thing I was willing to say okay, maybe this is one of those "let's just pass a fucking bill already" compromises. But the endorsement, hm. Can I chalk it up to believing that the progressive candidate is completely unelectable?

I so want to maintain *some* hope.

That said, Kraab's right about movements vs. politicians, blah blah.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:51 PM
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Which would mean, of course, they get some stuff, we get some stuff.

That's not necessarily true. It may be we get the stuff they also want, and they get everything.

I see no reason to have trust in his political people. They seem like a fairly blank slate, and he might ditch some of them too, when the time comes.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:53 PM
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28: If telecom immunity is the real issue that's getting progressives' backs up, this is much ado about not much. Seriously, the other provisions of the bill just aren't that bad. Plus, the telecoms weren't the worst offenders here; the Bush administration was. And if Obama keeps his promise to discover all their wrongdoing, that's much more important to me than going after the telcoms. Also, I don't really want McCain to be able to paint Obama as soft on terror when the stakes are pretty low -- as in this case. Finally, 29 was me.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:54 PM
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Here's the ACLU on the FISA bill (from Emerson's link to Greenwald). It looks awful -- the high point for me is that if the FISA court says no to an application, the government is explicitly allowed to keep the wiretap going through the appeals process. That's horrendous.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:55 PM
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32: I can understand not trusting his policy people, who seem, to me at least, mostly just fine. But his political people have earned our trust, I think. He just ran the most brilliant primary campaign of any Democrat in my lifetime.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:55 PM
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As I understand, one reason that the Bush people are so adamant about telecom immunity is that if the telecoms are protected, Bush is protected. And I hope that's why Democrats (some of them) have been so intent on stopping it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:58 PM
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It's worse than just telecom immunity. Follow the link in 34.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:59 PM
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Thanks for 30 and 34. I should really read Greenwald all the time. But that means more reading. Can I rss his column? Probably. Or at least I could if I understood rss readers.

Oh, and after doing some reading, this does appear to be quite disgusting -- for precisely the reason LB cites.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 3:59 PM
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Greenwald:

"In the past 24 hours, specifically beginning with the moment Barack Obama announced that he now supports the Cheney/Rockefeller/Hoyer House bill, there have magically arisen -- in places where one would never have expected to find them -- all sorts of claims about why this FISA "compromise" isn't really so bad after all."


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:00 PM
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John, like I said, now I get it. I have a bumper sticker over at my place to prove just how much I get it. Sigh.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:02 PM
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Some of Rockefeller's peculiar behavior led me to suspect that he was physically afraid, and not of the terrorists. File under "paranoid hunch".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:09 PM
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In practice, I'll work for Al Franken for Senator, and campaigning for Obama will be an effective spinoff of that. I won't have to be hyper-enthusiastic. Obama will unquestionably be better than McCain or Bush.

And then on Nov. 5 I'll figure out what to do next -- perhaps work on a primary challenge of the local Blue Dog Congressman.

In a two party system the non-centrist wing of the parties are at a systematic disadvantage, but Rove and Delay figured out how to gain control of Congress from the wing. This only happened because Bush, Cheney, Rove, Delay (and earlier, Gingrich) were all fully on board with the wing strategy, however, and there's no one like them in the Democratic Party, certainly not in an influential position.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:18 PM
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LB's strategy will make sense starting Nov. 6. Do NOT channel your funds through one of Obama's groups, or the DCCC, or the DNC. Send it through one of the internet groups working for better Democrats, and cut the other guys off cold. (They have their own sources, and don't need us). I think that a big chunk of the Dem blogosphere is already thinking that way.

It will be interesting to see who screams about that strategy. Presumably the DLC, but they don't have any pull with Obama. This should split the Obama loyalists off from everyone else, and it will be interesting to see who is who.

I'm a theorist of all this, of course. I have no funds to channel. I'm a funds-channelling consultant, not a hands-on channeller of funds.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:36 PM
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John, you fucker, if I come to Mineapolis for the RNC, just to try to stir some shit, will you get your ass to town?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:36 PM
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I'm already thinking about it, B. Wear your Larry Craig Tshirt.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:37 PM
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We need a formal shit-stirring RNC Unfogged meetup to be planned, people. Come on. I need an excuse to see my boyfriend again. Plus, he's promised to bail me out if I get arrested.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:38 PM
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But the endorsement, hm. Can I chalk it up to believing that the progressive candidate is completely unelectable?

It's a simple quid pro quo -- Barrow, who might have been expected to back Clinton, instead endorsed Obama. This is him calling in a chit. I don't expect Obama to be out there fighting the good fight for the "and better" part of "more and better Democrats"; if he were going to be that sort of guy, it would have shown up during the Connecticut Senate primary. The FISA pander, on the other hand, is infuriating and demoralizing.

(And the thing I really don't get is why Steny Hoyer was so all-fired excited to push this through. Jay Rockefeller seems to be stupid and easily led, but Hoyer seems smart enough to understand that he's angering the base and giving the Republicans a chance to squirm out from underneath an embarrassing political ad in the making. Send the bill up with Spector's substitution language and let Republicans explain why defending Bush was more important than keeping America safe. But no, that wouldn't be enough of a kick in the balls to the left half of the party, would it?)


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:43 PM
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I think that an immediate goal in 2009 will be challenging Hoyer. Don't know if it's possible.

I'm assuming an increased Dem margin in the House.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:46 PM
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It was gratifying to see that Donna Edwards and Bill Foster, the two off-cycle candidates I gave money to, were on the right side of this (Edwards on her second day in office). Andre Carson out of Indiana, too, although I don't know anything about him.* Edwards is the model for what to start doing on Nov. 6 -- find bad Democrats in safe districts and throw money at credible primary opponents. Look at how Wynn's behavior changed between 2006 and 2008.

* Here's the list. Baron Hill, the Blue Dog from Indiana, deserves praise as a surprise no vote. Who's Johnson (IL), the lone Republican to vote against it? And it was great seeing Ron Paul once strike another principled blow for civil liberties by taking the day off and not offending anyone who might subscribe to his newsletter.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:49 PM
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46: Can we turn Minneapolitan's into a big old anarchist squat? I can bring the Crass records and cook the giant vats of vegetarian soup.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 4:57 PM
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I can bring the Crass records and cook the giant vats of vegetarian soup.

I'm not gonna change the system. You're not gonna change the system.


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 5:00 PM
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51: But surely we can caterwaul How does it feeeeeeel?!?!? at the Republicans.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 5:02 PM
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I got another two requests for donations from Obama in today's mail. I get about a half dozen a week.

Would it be terribly wrong to start writing short friendly notes (e.g. 'contribute after he supported the FISA bill? ho ho ho') and popping them in the postage paid envelopes?


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 5:08 PM
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I'm not sure if it would be wrong, but I'm doing it with the one in my hand.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 5:14 PM
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Should I sign mine John "Spartacus" Emerson, so we present a united front? I don't think I can draw an identifiable pimpernel.


Posted by: Michael H Schneider | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 5:26 PM
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In practice, I'll work for Al Franken for Senator

I predict that come 2014, there'll be a sizable if ultimately quixotic netroots-based movement to primary Franken from the left.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 6:28 PM
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I agree with everything on this thread. I agree with the people who are disparaging Flippanter, and I also agree with Flippanter.

But I think Sir K has the vital takeaway:

Real change of the kind LB (and I) look for doesn't come from candidates; it comes from movements.

Sure, we're disappointed in Obama, but I really don't think there were many people here who didn't know that something like this was coming.

The reason I - and I think we - support Obama is that we want liberals to have a seat at the policy table, and we want to keep a genuine nut out of the White House. That may not seem like much of an accomplishment to some of us, but I think it's a hell of a lot.

Emerson's philosophy is extremely robust. I probably believe in it more than he does.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 6:51 PM
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56: And people say you're a pessimist !


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 6:52 PM
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Semi-OT, but Jesus fucking Christ, Scalia. Could you sully the reputation of the Court a little further, maybe by throwing a gavel at one of the defense attorneys and calling her an "idiotarian"?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 6:59 PM
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Paging Pantene. Give me a shout at mypseud at geemail if you're out there.


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 7:07 PM
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Stras, there already was one this year: Nelson-Pallmeyer, who ran a surprisingly effective campaign. He'll be back.

It's just nice having Franken being your conservative Democratic option.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 7:10 PM
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Fuck it. I'll save the real schadenfreude for next year. Not really, I'm too sad & pissed off to enjoy myself.

You have no idea who you are putting in the White House. HRC might well have been much better.

signed,

Still Called Crazy after All These Months

PS:When do people start listening to Krugman?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 7:59 PM
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Hillary may well have been better, and may well have been worse. "May well have" is the weakest argument. I say, probably worse.

Krugman had a bug up his butt and probably expected a position in the Clinton administration. Like DeLong he's a neoliberal, but during his tenure with Bill he never developed DeLong's aversion to Hillary. Who cares?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 8:06 PM
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thousands of small donations; while he may not be obligated to big donors, he's also not obligated to small progressive donors in any way that allows us to easily communicate that he's not making us happy.

I am also certain I had tried to draw attention to these consequences, at about the time I remarked at Obama blowing off the blogosphere.

It was about becoming politically not accountable to anyone, with a very smart postmodern method. He is not creating a bunch of independent local organizations; he is creating one organization controlled by only Obama.

I swear, I read his FISA statement, and look at his methods, and if the shit hits the fan next couple years, the 'f' word is still operative for me.

I do not like this bastard.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 8:09 PM
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63:John, at least if HRC had become Pres, we know Bill and the DLC and Holbrooke.Allbright/whoever would at least try to keep her in check, kick her ass when she needed it.

Who scares Obama? Who is gonna stop Obama?


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 8:13 PM
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The DLC? The DLC is a positive force? It certainly was good at keeping Clinton from veering away from the center-right.

Of the things Obama has done that we're complaining about now, which one wouldn't Hillary have done? I've always been prepared for the idea that Obama's about the same as Hillary. It's up to you to show me that he's worse, and "lacks the moderating influence of Bill and the DLC" doesn't come close. As far as "may well be" goes, I'm willing to take a chance with Obama.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 8:18 PM
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66: What did that Iranian swimmer dude who used to post here tell you about responding to the bob, Emerson?


Posted by: Hamilton-Lovecraft | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 8:25 PM
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66:Maybe I have too much imagination, but in case of a 1933 level crash, the DLC might keep HRC from nationalizing the banks. Or bombing Pakistan/Iran. Who knows? As far as I can see Obama listens, and then does wtf he wants.

Take your chance. Good luck to ya, and I mean it. Good luck to us all.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 8:26 PM
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Mimikatz at Openleft saying FISA is none of Obama's fault, it is the fault of the old tired corrupt Congress. We need a New Generation of Congresspersons handpicked and controlled by Barack Obama.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 9:03 PM
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59: You know, I read that in Scalia's opinion, about 30 people released from Gitmo having been found fighting Americans on the battlefield since their release, and coughed *horseshit* to myself, but didn't bother checking. And so horseshit it is.

What a tool.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 9:09 PM
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46, 50: Looks like the FBI is already getting ready for you:

Moles Wanted: In preparation for the Republican National Convention, the FBI is soliciting informants to keep tabs on local protest groups.
What they were looking for, Carroll says, was an informant--someone to show up at "vegan potlucks" throughout the Twin Cities and rub shoulders with RNC protestors, schmoozing his way into their inner circles, then reporting back to the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, a partnership between multiple federal agencies and state and local law enforcement. The effort's primary mission, according to the Minneapolis division's website, is to "investigate terrorist acts carried out by groups or organizations which fall within the definition of terrorist groups as set forth in the current United States Attorney General Guidelines."
Carroll would be compensated for his efforts, but only if his involvement yielded an arrest. No exact dollar figure was offered.

Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 9:16 PM
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I'm just getting around to reading Greenwald. I can't think of anyone who thinks more clearly about this stuff - and acts more appropriately. Here he is:

The excuse that Obama's support for this bill is politically shrewd is -- even if accurate -- neither a defense of what he did nor a reason to refrain from loudly criticizing him for it. Actually, it's the opposite. It's precisely because Obama is calculating that he can -- without real consequence -- trample upon the political values of those who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law that it's necessary to do what one can to change that calculus.

And this:

Having said all of that, the other extreme -- declaring that Obama is now Evil Incarnate, no better than John McCain, etc. etc. -- is no better.

Greenwald and his cohort blur the line between political commentary and political leadership in a way that I think is very promising. I love that he is raising contributions to publicly excoriate people like Steny Hoyer, and I'm delighted that he seems to be having so much success at it. (I also like LB's posted suggestion about fundraising a lot, too. I wish Greenwald would take it up.)


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:08 PM
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Neil says its not so bad after all.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:22 PM
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Ari, lad, I will try to be less dismissive of your credulousness now that you have revealed, in 35, that you haven't even turned 17 years old yet. A certain level of naivete is charming in people your age.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:30 PM
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73:Not exactly Neil's area. Jack Balkin is at your left, over there at the sidebar.

It should now be clear why the Obama campaign has taken the position it has taken. And given what I have just said, Obama's supporters should be pressing him less on the immunity provisions and more on the first part of the bill which completely rewrites FISA. Because, if he becomes president, he'll be the one applying and enforcing its provisions.

If you really care about civil liberties in the National Surveillance State, you have to recognize that both parties will be constructing its institutions. The next President will be a major player in its construction, as important if not more important than George W. Bush ever was. That President will want more authority to engage in surveillance, and he'll be delighted for Congress to give it to him officially.

...JB

Link, if anybody here wants to know what to spin against


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:31 PM
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Everybody is infected by internet speed. If something doesn't happen in six weeks it's the end of the world. Near the end of 2006, the Republicans controlled everything. By the end of 2008, the Democrats will control everything, well to the left of Bush but still not left enough. That's good fucking progress. Next step is to make the Dems feel the pain from the left wing of the party on the stuff they've been used to ignoring for decades now -- foreign policy and civil liberties, unions, a bunch of other stuff. Doing that will NOT help McCain, but it will make the party sit up and take notice. Obama is acting in a completely predictable way, and what LB suggests is just the way to gradually force people to stop that shit. Dissociate the movement from personalities and amp the volume on issues. Primary people.

The DNA of the Democratic party, what they've clung to over the Republican reaction, is $$ transfers to Americans who aren't rich. Congress has actually done a decent job with that (tax rebates for the lower middle class, UI extension, GI bill expansion, restoring Medicaid cuts, minimum wage expansion, etc. -- none of that happens under the Republicans). Everything else has been thrown overboard since the 70s, a playbook which Obama is following. Restoring it all will take an election cycle or two and significant pressure. Everything is proceeding apace.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:42 PM
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Finally, FISA and Barrow show exactly the coalition I told y'all Obama was heading for:Blue Dogs + Republicans against the majority of the Democratic Caucus.

You are going to see this a lot next year.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:43 PM
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Everything is proceeding apace.

...TO THE APOCALYPSE.


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:47 PM
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77 is an overreaction. A majority of the Democratic caucus was unfortunately prepared to cave on FISA, Barrow endorsed Obama very early in the primary and Obama is paying him back, Obama never showed he was going to do anything but track the center of the Democratic party and ensure getting elected. That's what he's doing. There's no real evidence Obama's left of the center of the party, but also no evidence he's to the right.

The issue is moving the party to the left. Don't expect Obama to do it for you. Like most politicians, he's mostly a pressure gauge. But he's shrewd, highly competent, smart, and I don't think he has many philosophical barriers to moving further left if he's got sufficient cover.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:50 PM
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...TO THE APOCALYPSE.

Stras? Is that you?


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:51 PM
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74: You'll note that I said upthread that I deplore both the endorsement and the FISA pander. But Neil had a counterargument. And, given that he often comments here, I thought I'd share the link to his place. You might also note that I didn't endorse what he was saying. But if you want to paint me as whirly-eyed, be my guest. Or, if you'd prefer to make an argument, that's fine, too. Whatever floats your boat.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:52 PM
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PGD vs. Bob McManus: cage match!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 10:58 PM
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OK Ari. Substantively, Neil gets it wrong for a couple of reasons. First, he fails to acknowledge the key problem with telecom immunity, which is that it keeps the story of telecom malfeasance from being told.

If immunity were conditional on the telecoms revealing exactly what they'd done, and what crimes had been committed by government officials in suborning their criminality, that'd be okay with me. If the government chose to pay all damages from suits related to telecom criminatlity, I could live with that.

But, of course, those alternatives would be unacceptable to Bush and the Republicans (and apparently Obama and many Democrats) because the point of telecom immunity is to immunize the government from scrutiny, not to immunize the telecoms from liability.

Neil is also completely wrong on the incentives that this move creates. We have an opportunity here to disincentivize this type of lawbreaking - that's why we have laws, after all, to disincentivize certain behaviors. Neil's contrary argument is incomprehensible to me.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:03 PM
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A majority of the Democratic caucus was unfortunately prepared to cave on FISA

Just wrong. A majority of House Democrats voted against the bill. If you have evidence to the contrary, cite. Obama went with the Republicans against his own party

it's worth noting that more House Democrats voted no (128) than voted yea (105). MY

Link

This is the kind of thing I expect from Ari, but I thought you were better than that, PGD


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:03 PM
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83.1 Again, the really bad actors here are within the administration. The telcos went along for the ride. Should they be punished? I think so. But there's no reason that the story won't some out. I don't know why you say that.

83.2 I totally agree with this and never said otherwise. Once again, I think the compromise is bad business. I said so at my place; I've said so here.

83.3 Again, I'm not sure why you say this. Yes, the finding of facts will be complicated by this egregious bill. But that doesn't mean it can't happen. And by the way, the government almost never investigates itself in any meaningful way. The sheer weight of official conspiracies of silence are enough almost to crush the republic. In other words, if the facts are going to come out, you'd better hope that a team of investigative journalists is working the story.

83.4 I think I agree. But I don't know enough to say for sure.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:14 PM
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65: John, at least if HRC had become Pres, we know Bill and the DLC and Holbrooke.Allbright/whoever would at least try to keep her in check, kick her ass when she needed it.

Bwahahahaha.

But Obama urgently needs a smack in the face on this nevertheless. Once y'all laughed Kucinich out of the room, it was inevitable that whomever landed the Dem nomination would need serious watchdogging on account of old spineless Dem habits like this one. The upside is that there's a better chance of it working on Obama than on some DLC hack.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:14 PM
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84: They voted against because the leadership gave them permission to do so, Bob. Because they had the Republican votes. You can't tell much from close house vote totals within one party. If a majority of the cacus had wanted to go to the wall on it then the leadership wouldn't have swung the deal. People are figuring don't rock the boat, win the Presidency, and then correct bad stuff after. I don't agree with it at all but there it is.

Anyway, we don't disagree much on the facts, just the emotional response to them. Obama's not taking any risks to move the party to the left, but there's never been any real sign that he would. He's in the center of the party with his finger to the wind. He'll have to be pushed and that's no suprise, it's what anyone should have expected.

But just to feed your fears more, here's a quote from the Economist's "Lexington" column, a leading glibertarian outlet, on why Obama shouldn't choose Webb as a running mate:

The main worry about Mr. Webb, however, is that he is a genuine fire-breathing economic populist. He appears actually to believe the sort of stuff that Mr. Obama only says during Democratic primaries...American workers, says Mr. Webb, "are at the mercy of cut-throat executives who are vastly overpaid, partly as a consequence of giving jobs away to other people." Illegal immigration and globalisation "threaten to dissipate" the American middle-class way of life....Mr. Obama, who has recently started to sound less protectionist on the campaign trail and has appointed a team of impeccably centrist economic advisers, can surely do a bit better.

Gotta love the entitled smugness! He's nominated, watch him come round to our corporate agenda...


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:18 PM
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And I do expect the Obama supporters to "accidently" make the mistake refuted in 84 until it becomes conventional wisdom that Obama was just "following his party" on the FISA bill.

Facing Republican filibusters on the time of day, what Obama will be able to pass will be blue dogs + Republicans. Democrats will be reluctant to filibuster Obama's bills, and if they do, Obama will call on the streets. I called this long ago.

We're gonna get (Max Baucus + Republican) Health Care. Obama hired Baucus's guy.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:18 PM
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Bob's fear that the netroots and the left would sell out in the face of Obama's charisma isn't unreasonable. But the fact is that just a week after the nomination, the prominent left bloggers are immediately calling BS on the FISA support. An encouraging sign. People don't seem to need any convincing that you need to pressure your own candidate. Rapid receding of the whirly eyes.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:26 PM
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87.1 is right, though what it describes is regrettable. The Dems have had years to shake this skittish prairie dog mentality; so lame.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:27 PM
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Somebody at OpenLeft, based on three bills, counted 70 blue dogs. I think there will be more blue dogs than progressives added in the elections.
Do the math. There are much fewer than 70 moderate Republicans in the house to counter the blue dogs. BD's rule.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:27 PM
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Maybe the Democrats, like whales, have simply lost their will to live.

For Yves Paccalet, a French naturalist and philosopher who helped push through the 1986 moratorium, the intelligent and highly-social creatures may be so exhausted from their centuries-long combat with humankind that they have simply have given up the fight.

"The psychological consequences of our aggression have compromised their will to live,"


Posted by: gswift | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:28 PM
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89:Lot of good it did.

Obama isn't listening to his left and never will again.
Never. It's over for, god, maybe a generation.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:33 PM
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92: Y'see, the Obama story is just irritating in a kind of predictable way. But your link is actually quite sad. Wait, maybe Obama will save the whales!


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:38 PM
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85: Ari, you lack internal consistency in your reasoning. You say:

But there's no reason that the story won't some out.

There are plenty of reasons - one big one is contained in this bill, as you acknowledge:

Yes, the finding of facts will be complicated by this egregious bill. But that doesn't mean it can't happen.

Well, okay then. It could still happen. I agree. But taking steps to keep it from happening is a Bad Thing.

Anyway, how do you propose that a finding of facts will take place ? At some point, the Democrats or patriotic Americans are going to have to make it happen. The fact that they failed to do it here - where it would be particularly easy and painless - is not an auspicious sign.

All the Democrats had to do to was just get the fuck out of the way. They failed at inaction. As you rightly point out:

And by the way, the government almost never investigates itself in any meaningful way.

Which, of course, is my point. Given the government's unwillingness to investigate itself, it's very bad that Congress is prepared to stand in the way of American citizens doing this investigation.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:38 PM
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See, for historical & base reasons, HRC wouldn't have gotten any Republican support and very little blue dogs. HRC would have needed her left.

Obama doesn't need us.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:38 PM
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93.1: Nonono, wait, I thought the left was supposed to cave and turn into a bunch of fascist robots. If that prediction wasn't worth anything, what are your other predictions worth?


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:39 PM
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HRC would have needed her left.

BWHAHAHAHAHAH


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:39 PM
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95: No, I'm pretty consistent. I don't trust the government to be its own watchdog. I trust it to craft perfectly palatable official narratives that are designed to maintain the status quo. That the hiding of evidence is happening in broad daylight in this case may make it easier rather than harder for an industrious team of journalists or conspiracy theorists to dredge up the facts. Or not. My point was and is that the bill probably won't have very much at all to do with whether we find out the truth about warrantless wiretapping.

All of that said, no matter how hard you try, I don't think you're going to be able to paint me as a fan of the compromise or a defender of Obama's pander.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:48 PM
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Obama doesn't need us.

It's true; he's just not very needy. I call and call. And do I hear back? No. Not even a card or an e-mail. Sniff.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-21-08 11:49 PM
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he's just not very needy

Damn, Ari. Why don't you just come right out and call him articulate?


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 12:31 AM
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Is it worth pointing out that Obama hasn't voted on this version of the bill yet?

Anyway, it's true that a majority of House Dems opposed the bill, and probably a majority of Dems in the Senate will oppose it too, but neither number is large enough to defeat it. Probably not enough Dems to filibuster it in the Senate, either. The votes just aren't there and there isn't much Obama can do about it. This year.

Not that this means any of this is good or that there shouldn't be organizing to oppose the bill and, later, to modify it.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 12:42 AM
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"later, to modify it" - after it becomes a law, when hopefully at least the non-retroactive immunity provisions of the law can be changed. I'm not sure immunity can be repealed later, so that might be lost for good.


Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 12:44 AM
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97:DS, you are much worse than a robot.

The commenters, not the trolls but the sympathetic regulars, are turning on those big bloggers who are making excuses for Obama.

Woke up from bad dream. Poverty, hunger, rejection, homelessness, the carful of rough guys, the smiling sympathetic face and the rape.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 2:09 AM
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Here's what I tried to post on Neil's blog:

Someone or another pointed out that the discovery process in a lawsuit against the telecoms would be one of the few ways we could get at the Bush administration's offenses, which is why the Bush administration protection act.

The way the biggest Iran-Contra conspirators (e.g. GHW Bush, who was deep into it) got away scot free with their reputations intact set a very bad precedent. For the Bush-Cheney conspirators also to get away scot free would multiply the effect of the precedent. George Will and various other such think this is the way it should be; we shouldn't "criminalize policy disagreements". Apparently Obama does too. The Bush-Obama transition looks like it will be business as usual, with the nice Democrats going on with the nation's work and letting the malefactors leave office quietly and safely.

I doubt that Neilreally wants to accept Corvus9's thanks. Is "Bush wasn't really all that bad, in historical context, and let's not get all excited" really the message he was trying to convey?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 3:25 AM
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Bob, your assurance that the DLC would have a beneficial effect on Hillary is loonier than anything the old crazy Bob would have said. Obama's small donor strategy out-fundraised Clinton's fat-cat strategy, which does make him independent and unpredictable, and that horrifies you. Who are you, George Will.

The majority of people here expected Obama to be a centrist. There are multiple reasons why we still supported her over Hillary, his superior campaign organization, superior fundraising, superior personal political abilities, and lower negatives being four of them. We're all somewhat taken aback at the speed with which he's showed his Hillaryesque centrist colors.

As for health care, Brad Delong's imediate conclusion after an insider view of her performance the first time around was "Hillary Clinton shouldn't be allowed to get her hands on anything important ever again". They say Brad has mellowed on this, and they say that Hillary has learned, but she did run a creepy 1994 Mark Penn this year, which is a lot of why she lost, and I don't think that we should give her the benefit of the doubt.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 3:34 AM
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106:Whatever, Bad Hillary. Bad.

DS, you'll look fine in brown, but would never graduate to black. Useful early, but limited & expendable.

I was still half asleep when I wrote 104. A real dream, but just a dream. Nothing like that ever happened to me, no PTSD. Rapist was blonde.

I used to have the room next to my parents on the first floor, aged 8-12. Many nights, it was no no no, smack smack, grunt, grunt, cry cry. Oh but Dad was a charmer, could talk most men from their money and most women into bed. Lots of laughs, dirty jokes and malicious wit. He rose quite far in politics for having less than a HS education. He enjoyed putting me in dresses and makeup until I was old enough to say no.

But I don't hate him. He was just a guy.

Good morning, all. LOL.


Posted by: bob mcmanus | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:09 AM
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Bob, almost no one here is making excuses for Obama, and almost everyone here was already pretty realistic about him. The main issue we have with you is you.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:17 AM
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I just found out that, via his wife's business, McCain is heavily implicated in the promotion of alcoholism, a cause I fully support.

But other issues are more important, and I'll self-sacrificingly soldier on in Obama's cause, like a right-to-life Democrat or a "little government Republican".


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 5:38 AM
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if you have a bad dream it's usually a good omen something good is going to happen to you, BmcM
the best dream is dreaming about snakes, if woman you'll become pregnant, or it's a sign of some great fortune coming your way and you'll be rich
once i dreamed about walking barefoot on the street asphalt and i think i never walked barefoot irl on the asphalt, that was really not a good dream, its interpretation being fear of powerty
if i walked barefoot in some meadowland that would be a different story though, like call for relaxation and inner peace
the worst dream is about anything involving teeth, especially if it falls off, someone around is going to die
so if you dream teeth you have to wake up immediately and say some special words tarni warding off the bad dream or you can just throw some salt on the oven and it'll burn and do the warding off thing, Mongolian national superstitions, you know :)
good morning and hope you'll enjoy
this
though without music it would perhaps look just comic for you


Posted by: read | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 5:50 AM
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I also don't have an answer to the conundrum of McCain bad Obama not so bad. The thing that hasn't been mentioned so far is that apparently the 50 state strategy works, or at least with the Republican brand trashed, having a 50 state strategy takes advantage of an opportunity that the Republican's gave us. I think we have to balance strong organizational structure that individual campaigns fought against (for the 50 state strategy) and selective primary battles.

If each congressman who votes regressive gets 10,000 emails (real ones not just autobots) and if he gets a well funded challenger, then things would turnaround. But it will take time. As Anya says, "I tried being patient, it took too long"


Posted by: marc sobel | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 6:42 AM
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59,70: Yeah I wish I had pursued those Scalia assertions at the time as well. I am also enjoying the spectacle of David Broder getting a bit tangled in an ethical web partially of his own construction with regard to the "shocking" revelation that he has been paid to speak to groups with political agendas.

But I am sure that it will all be sorted out by the Beltway corps, after all "The judgment is harsher in Washington. [They] don't like being lied to."


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:16 AM
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HRC might well have been much better.

Oh, Bob. This is why you're called crazy, at least by me.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:37 AM
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Obama could order the fucking bombing of Tehran, and stras would be here to tell us that Hillary would've been worse.

The last week, Hillary couldn't possibly have been worse - but stras is still certain she would have found a way.

WOOOOOOBAMA!


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:23 AM
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On telecom immunity, it's worth noting that not all the telecoms went along with the administration's request. Qwest, which is in terrible financial straits, refused. I don't think AT&T & VZ went along with it for a direct quid pro quo, but to the extent that Qwest could have looked for more favorable treatment on various regulatory issues, I'm even more impressed. (That's all somewhat incoherent, but editing on my phone is a pain in the ass.)


Posted by: Sir Kraab | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:34 AM
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The last week, Hillary couldn't possibly have been worse

What would HRC have done:

1. AIPAC Pander: Check
2. National Security Panel: She'd have had Holbrooke and Zbig, otherwise check.
3. Barrow: Well, not him, of course, but she's endorsed incumbents facing a progressive primary challenge, so check.
4. FISA: It remains to be seen. It's possible she will stand with Dodd and Feingold and push her colleagues to win one for Teddy. But I'm not holding my breath.


Posted by: jim | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:52 AM
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Sir K, we should also note that, in one of those odd coincidences you sometimes see, the chief executive of Qwest who turned down the feds is being prosecuted on an unrelated matter.

Given the consensus of Democrats and Republicans on this issue, how can a CEO not capitulate when the NSA knocks ?


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:57 AM
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I think this is an excellent idea. You know, this is a key issue for a constituency from whom Obama has raised millions of dollars; he couldn't have won the primary without their support; and the political risk of leadership on this was negligible. Big donors don't get jerked around like this & don't put up with it; why should small donors? It's hardly going to deprive his campaign of funding.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 12:02 PM
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I'd guess that Clinton would have been worse at responding to McCain on i>Boumedienne but otherwise extremely similar. Lousy week.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 12:04 PM
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I think that internet people should direct their funds to the "better Democrat" goal for Congress, ten or twenty primary challenges a year (as well as support for good Democrats in the general). A lot of people (Kos, Firedoglake, Blue America) have been on that page for awhile already.

I think that he's not very dependent on the part of the blogosphere we're familiar with. He seems to have built his own personal internet fund-raising machine. It's possible that his own internet supporters do not care about the issues we care about, so he's not really betraying his main people. Just us.

Obama has his reasons, and we have our reasons. No one's right or wrong, it's all objective forces and shit, but we shouldn't give him any money.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 12:19 PM
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God, I hate it when the world starts making McManus seem reasonable. Please stop it, world.


Posted by: x. trapnel | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 12:36 PM
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120: "He" obviously means Obama.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 12:43 PM
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110: I think read should be a main page poster.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 1:56 PM
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I used to dream of teeth falling out occasionally. Possibly this is because teeth would occasionally break off and fall out IRL. Then I had most of them pulled and no more dreams about that. Fucking teeth.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 3:37 PM
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124: Fucking teeth.

Good, the molars are the ones you really don't want to lose.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 3:50 PM
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You don't even need them. The bastards. I have 0 pairs of molars. Kill 'em all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 3:55 PM
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The last week, Hillary couldn't possibly have been worse

Let's go over Hillary Clinton one more time, shall we?

- She still thinks voting for the invasion was awesome.
- She's on record as saying that in her administration, there'd be troops in Iraq at the end of her second term. That's January 2017. Now, I'm not exactly putting money on Obama pulling up stakes by then, either, but Clinton was so eager and willing to demonstrate her hawk bona fides that she wasn't even willing to pretend.
- She's taken George Bush's line on diplomacy with "rogue nations" (i.e., countries that disagree with America): we don't talk to them until they give in to our demands.
- She still supports half of DOMA.
- She says that allowances should be made for torture in the event of a "ticking time bomb" scenario.

This isn't even addressing her husband's record on civil liberties, including the Anti-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, the crime bill, the immigration bill, increased mandatory minimums, and extraordinary rendition, none of which Clinton has ever given any indication of finding disagreeable in the least. Why on earth would anyone imagine that Hillary Clinton would be better than Barack Obama when it comes to civil liberties?

Put on top of that the fact that Clinton and Clinton's surrogates, on several occasions, made it clear that she saw this as a return to incumbency, and saw presidential power as something to be defended in that context. It usually takes some time for your average president to realize that they're no longer on the side of "the constitution" as is generally understood, but are now free to accumulate as much power to themselves as possible; all available evidence indicates that Hillary Clinton would've seen 2009-2013 as something like a third term in office.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:00 PM
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I'm honored by ari's linkage. A couple things to note:

In comments at the original post., Andreas Schou argues that even without the telecom immunity stuff, it'd be really hard to get a telco-document-searching lawsuit off the ground.

And one general strategic consideration: As we get later and later in Bush's term, the strategic benefits of digging up dirt on him through telco lawsuits diminishes. He has what, six and a half months left? That's hardly enough time to make attacks on him worthwhile. And I'm generally unimpressed with the idea of setting precedents for legislative behavior, because I don't think anybody in the future cares about them.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:04 PM
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127: I kind of love stras! Can I take you to the Dunes Club for a gimlet this summer?


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:15 PM
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What (besides George Will and David Brooks) tells us that Bush, Cheney, and their lackeys can't be prosecuted after leaving office? In Alabama they sent Siegelman to jail for over a year on a trumped-up charge, and they hoped to keep him in jail for ten years or more. Shouldn't someone (Rove) go to jail for that?

That's not specifically FISA-related, but it speaks to Niel's apparent believe that the Bush team will be, and apparently should be home free next Jan. 20.

The impunity of the big players was one of the most destructive precedents set by Iran-Contra.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:17 PM
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I'm kind of ashamed that I had to google "gimlet." I think before now I thought it was a kind of a dwarf.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:19 PM
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The summary in 127 is tendentious and inaccurate. During the Presidential primary (mid-2007 to the present), Hillary and Obama's stated positions on Iraq withdrawal and on the powers of the Presidency were pretty much identical. Their positions on the DOMA were also very similar.

Let's not refight opposing Hillary -- I agree with lots of reasons to oppose her -- but pretending that Hillary staked out a position to Obama's right in the primary is silly. Hillary has had a disappointing history, Obama doesn't have much of one at all, over the next few years we'll learn what he's about.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:22 PM
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130: There's no reason they can't be prosecuted, but (1) what makes us think anyone in the US actually wants to prosecute them? (2) once Bush is done with his umpty-zillion eleventh hour pardons, we won't be able to prosecute them (in the US) anyway.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:23 PM
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During the Presidential primary (mid-2007 to the present), Hillary and Obama's stated positions on Iraq withdrawal and on the powers of the Presidency were pretty much identical.

Not true. Clinton stated, through intermediaries in the NYT, that she'd stay in Iraq through her second term. The most we got out of Obama is that he wouldn't promise to get out of Iraq in his first term.

Their positions on the DOMA were also very similar.

Also not true. Obama said he'd repeal all of DOMA; Clinton said she'd only roll back part of it.

pretending that Hillary staked out a position to Obama's right in the primary is silly

Except for the fact that she very clearly staked out a position to Obama's right in the primary, as long as you recognize "more willing to go to war," "more willing to restrict civil liberties," and "more willing to obliterate Iran" as "to the right."


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:27 PM
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You had to Google "gimlet" (different from Gimli!), but not Dunes Club? You toff!


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:29 PM
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Niel's apparent believe that the Bush team will be, and apparently should be home free next Jan. 20.

I don't believe that, but I do believe that the strategic value of getting them in trouble diminishes pretty dramatically after they're not in charge of anything.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:33 PM
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Oh, and another one for the list in 127: while Obama, Clinton and Edwards all went on record as wanting to fix the gap between crack and power cocaine sentencing, only Clinton opposed making that balance retroactive - that is, lessening the sentences of already-jailed crack dealers and users convicted under the current racist sentencing schemes.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:37 PM
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I have no idea what you mean by "strategic value", Neil, but the magic eight ball tells me that it's probably just standard average mad dog rationality of some sort.

Someone should want to prosecute the people who sent Siegelman to jail, but there's really a lot of other stuff (not necessarily exactly the same stuff I would choose, much less Stras).

Bill Clinton took the high road, and perhaps someone will explain to Obama how much good that did him.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:37 PM
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You had to Google "gimlet" (different from Gimli!), but not Dunes Club?

I deduced that the Dunes Club was some type of fancy club. You know, the kind where they serve fancy drinks and dwarves.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:41 PM
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Stras, you're a smart guy, but your standard argumentation method appears to be the confusing mish-mash of half-truths, which makes it hard to engage. Both Hillary and Obama promised to be essentially out of Iraq by the end of 2009, both hedged by saying they'd keep a small force there to protect the embassy and potentially to do some anti-terrorist missions, Edwards correctly criticized both of them for leaving the hedge. Here is one of numerous sources on that.

On DOMA, the only part Hillary wanted to keep was the part that said states could opt out of recognizing gay marriages certified in other states. She wanted to get rid of all the Federal DOMA stuff, which is 90% of the issue.

Except for the fact that she very clearly staked out a position to Obama's right in the primary, as long as you recognize "more willing to go to war," "more willing to restrict civil liberties," and "more willing to obliterate Iran" as "to the right."

All wrong. The stated differences between Hillary and Obama on policy during the primary were miniscule. They were pretty much all minor rhetorical or detail differences that were wildly overinterpreted by partisans on both sides.

It was electorally rational to appeal to tack to the left in the primary, and both candidates did it. Neither took many risks. We do know from Hillary's recent history how many risks she's actually willing to take to confront the right on civil liberties and foreign policy (not too damn many). We don't really know that about Obama. That contrast was a good reason to vote for Obama, we'll see in the future where he really stands.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:43 PM
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Hillary is a known, Obama is an unknown, but much less so now.

The small differences on crack sentencing and DOMA are actually pretty substantial. And Hillary's reluctant and late movement to a vague position on the Iraq War which might seem as good as Obama's was pretty unconvincing. She actually seemed to be deliberately positioning as the most hawkish Democratic candidate at every point along the way.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:52 PM
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Here's what I mean by strategic value, John. We have some policy goals -- universal health care, keeping abortion legal, preventing stupid wars, etc. Something has strategic value if it puts us in a position to achieve those.

Especially if you don't think anyone really cares about legislative precedent, the strategic value of getting Bush in trouble decreases dramatically when he's out of power.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 4:53 PM
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Yeah, mad-dog rationality, perhaps act utilitarianism. I was thinking of long term deterrence, though the schadenfreude alone would be worth it to me, of course. The Bush administration was a tremendous success by its own standards, and they will leave office very pleased with themselves. And their methods were not business as usual; they really changed the ball game in a rather alarming way. Letting that be the new norm will be a green light to the next Republican administration, just as Iran Contra was.

"No one really cares" is a spin doctor sound bite and should be avoided. Sometimes you want to try to persuade people to care.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 5:00 PM
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the only part Hillary wanted to keep was the part that said states could opt out of recognizing gay marriages certified in other states.

I'll admit to not having followed this issue as closely as I might have, but this seems like an absolutely insane defense. "The only part"? What the hell was Loving v. Virginia about, if not the fact that having your marriage recognized in one state and not another is the very definition of inequality? What was academic_lesbian (?) talking about right in this forum the other day as far as the lengths she and her partner have gone to to ensure that their legal documents are valid in each of *three* different states?

If you'd said "This issue is eventually going to be decided by the Supreme Court, and HRC and BHO are going to nominate relatively similar justices on this issue," I might believe you. But otherwise, this argument smells like baloney to me.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 5:03 PM
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One of the big issues domestic partners have is whether they can travel through certain states. There are horror states about auto accidents where the partner was denied next-of-kin status, a surviving parent losing custody of children, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 5:07 PM
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My Canadian lesbian friends pretty much refuse to take any flight (to NZ) that'll connect through the US, following US laws that landing on US soil--even if you don't leave the airport--subjects you to US law. They have three kids, and they're not willing to take even that (miniscule, but still) risk.

Which sucks, because I totally want them to come visit us.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 5:13 PM
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As it happens I agree with Hillary's DOMA position. Forcing immediate national uniformity on this issue from the Federal level strikes me as a recipe for disaster. Allow states to go their own way and the impressive progress on the issue will likely continue. The stuff Emerson refers to in 145 could be handled through much more narrowly targeted legislation for traveling residents of other states. Frankly, if you think Obama as President is really going to get behind a law forcing Mississippi to recognize gay marriages conducted in San Francisco, then, well...think again.

More broadly on crack/powder retroactivity, on DOMA, and real Iraq withdrawal for that matter: Obama's had four years as a U.S. senator to write, sponsor, or co-sponsor any legislation on these issues and he hasn't done it. His legislative position on crack/powder differentials is exactly the same as Hillary's -- they co-sponsor the same bill.

Talk is cheap during the campaign, and the fact that you have to be a major-league political junkie to find any differences in Hillary and Obama's primary positions is telling. Petey will tell you that Obama's speaking against health care mandates means he's against UHC, I don't think that's true -- it perhaps indicates something but it's a minor difference and we'll have no idea what it really means until he's in office. Same with the differences being pointed to here.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 5:21 PM
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Hillary's reluctant and late movement to a vague position on the Iraq War which might seem as good as Obama's was pretty unconvincing.

I agree with this completely, BTW. Hillary didn't (and maybe couldn't) wipe away the stain of 2003-mid 2006 by her late conversion.

The significance of this isn't to be pro-Hillary (I like and respect her in many ways, but consider her primary defeat a fitting punishment for the inability to show stronger opposition to Bush). It's more that we don't yet know what we're getting with Obama based on the primary. He ran on the reasonable platform for the times -- pretty much the same one Hillary did. I have little doubt his many of his deepest personal convictions are to the left, but I think that was true of Hillary too when she started out in politics.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 5:33 PM
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PGD, as a troll you're wildly disingenuous. In 132 you assert that Clinton never ran to Obama's right in the primary; in 147 you simultaneously concede that yes, she did run to his right, but she was right to do so, and that it didn't matter anyway because Obama never implemented the changes he said he'd make as president while he was in the Senate. What it comes down to is you're more conservative and more likely to be pleased by Clinton's more conservative policy stances. Given that's the case, defend her on those grounds, not while pretending that Obama and Clinton are somehow the same.

You've also never addressed the other items in 127: Clinton's more hawkish line on Iran and on torture and her long history of telling civil libertarians to fuck off through her husband's administration.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 5:54 PM
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Well, I am an act utilitarian, so guilty as charged there.

And it's a little hard for me to see a good theory of rationality that doesn't tell you to figure out which outcomes (broadly construed) are the most valuable, and then pursue those. That's more or less how effective people do things.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 6:30 PM
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Basically the very many act utilitarians of the Democratic Party always think in the immediate term, and seem incapable of formulating a long term strategy, which would require accepting immediate defeats for the sake of setting up a later victory. (E.G., Newt Gingrich, who staged a lot of losing votes on his way to gaining power.)

Related, but perhaps distinguishable as a subtype: Democratic act utilitarians seem to be incapable of framing politics as a competitive game requiring them not to directly formulate and achieve policy goals, but also to identify, weaken, marginalize, demoralize, and defeat the organized enemies of these goals.

Making examples of Rove, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Cheney, and Bush (e.g. by waterboarding them and holding them incommunicado for ten years) would strike me as a good way to send a message to potential future miscreants and malefactors. And I'm sure that most Americans will agree with me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 6:45 PM
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not only to directly formulate


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 6:47 PM
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It is also not a certainty that calling Bush people to account will detract from achieving other goals. This looks like the "lump of politics" fallacy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 6:49 PM
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104: DS, you are much worse than a robot.

Coming from you, I'll take that as a compliment.

146: Understandable. There's lots of people now who try to avoid transiting through the US. I wouldn't do it if I had the choice, not that I'm that much of a globetrotter.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 6:56 PM
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153: Of course it wouldn't. It's very simple: Obama convenes a special commission to investigate torture, illegal surveillance, etc.--all of it, top to bottom; open the files; disclose the whole mess. He refers all potential criminal cases (building from the cases that were referred to DOJ years ago & sent to die in E.D.Va) the matter to a career prosecutor with a good, motivated staff & the necessary resources to investigate. No one is above the law under this administration; no one will be prosecuted for political reasons under this administration; experienced, independent prosecutors at DOJ will follow the evidence where it leads; it is not appropriate for the President to comment further pending the commission's report & while there's an active criminal investigation. Repeat as needed. It's not that hard. (It'll probably be harder to deal with the fallout if President Obama sweeps everything under the rug & European countries start bringing charges.)


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 6:56 PM
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155: Exactly. And simply ordering all departments to open their files and all employees to testify would do a lot. Subpoenas would help too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:00 PM
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Stras, why does Obama's DOMA position makes him the liberal candidate, while Hillary's position on health care mandates or her more aggressive foreclosure prevention proposal don't make her the liberal candidate? (Yes, I'm aware you have a convoluted argument for why no health care mandate is the left position, but let's pretend for a moment that we're agreeing with the majority of left health analysts on this one). Maybe because you already couldn't stand her due to past betrayals and have high hopes for him...but that's exactly my point. In the primary they both ran on pretty much the same platform, which is the consensus Democratic platform at this time, same as the DLC was consensus circa 1996. That means we know little about where Obama will end up on the issues. It's not like he's ever really stuck his neck out on anything since he hit the national stage.

Also, Hillary's Iran position was also very close to Obama's. I agree her rhetorical kow-towing to the Israel lobby on the matter was very much clumsier and more obnoxious than Obama's.

I'm quite sure I actually am more conservative than you are, and would defend many things about the Clinton 1990s record, but let's not refight that. Especially since I've already said numerous times that Hillary's 2002-2006 record on Iraq and civil liberties was a major disqualifier. The basic point is as above about Obama more than Hillary.

And overall, as I said in 76, I'm pretty optimistic about the future. In part because Obama *has* demonstrated considerable political skill and acumen, and I think he's open to influence.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:04 PM
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The big lesson from Watergate and Iran-Contra and the rest, for the drivers of the conservative movement, was "We can get away with it if we just keep bulling on through." And they're right. They can, because Democrats keep capitulating on investigation and prosecution. It is an act of the utmost practical utility to insist that people who conspire to break a lot of laws should be punished.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:07 PM
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It is an act of the utmost practical utility to insist that people who conspire to break a lot of laws should be punished.

I agree with this. Unfortunately, I think the proposal in 155 will not happen. It strikes me as the kind of stand neither Obama nor the party will be interested in taking. I hope I'm wrong, though.

There are some good Republicans you could put on such a commission -- Hagel, Lawrence Wilkerson, others within the bureaucracy who spoke out.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:08 PM
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I've posted this 10 or 20 times somewhere or another. GHW Bush was a big Iran Contra player, but Walsh never could touch him because he withheld doculment and because his aide John Schmitz stonewalled. (Schmitz is a story in himself: his sister is Mary Kay Letourneau, and his father was a John Bircher Republican Congressman / sex criminal.

Walsh Report, Chapter 28:

George Bush served as vice president through the Reagan presidency from 1981 to 1989. In January 1989, he succeeded Reagan as President. It was in his capacity as President that Bush committed what will likely become his most memorable act in connection with Iran/contra. On December 24, 1992, twelve days before former Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger was to go to trial, Bush pardoned him.1 In issuing pardons to Weinberger and five other Iran/contra defendants, President Bush charged that Independent Counsel's prosecutions represented the 'criminalization of policy differences"......
1 President Bush also pardoned former National Security Adviser Robert C. McFarlane, former Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams, former CIA Central American Task Force Chief Alan D. Fiers, Jr., former CIA Deputy Director for Operations Clair E. George, and former CIA Counter-Terrorism Chief Duane R. Clarridge. The Weinberger pardon marked the first time a President ever pardoned someone in whose trial he might have been called as a witness, because the President was knowledgeable of factual events underlying the case.
The criminal investigation of Bush was regrettably incomplete......
Had a final Bush interview occurred, the questioning regarding the non-production of Bush's diary would have focused on the decision of Bush and or Gray not to disclose the existence of the diary initially in April 1987, in response to OIC's document request, and to delay its ultimate production until December 1992. The questioning would have addressed Bush's familiarity with the 1987 OIC and congressional document requests, and his knowledge of the production of the Reagan diary in 1987. It would have sought an explanation of his previously described July 20, 1987, diary note condemning Shultz for producing Charles Hill's daily notes of Shultz's thoughts, discussions and activities.
It also would have covered Bush's diary entry of November 25, 1986, regarding a telephone call he had with North following his firing, and the substance of information he obtained from North and relayed to President Reagan regarding the fact that Israeli officials were extremely upset about the day's events.

Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:19 PM
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The Democrats' Establishment loyalties overwhelm even their partisan loyalties, and much more so their political principles, patriotism, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:21 PM
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Is John Schmitz related to Joe Schmitz (of Blackwater/DoD inspector general fame)?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:33 PM
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Yes, brother. John P. is the son, And John G. is the father. John G. was expelled from the John Birch Society for extremism.

There's also a parallel family of half-siblings by another woman.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:39 PM
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There are some weird far right dynasties out there, no doubt. (Discover the networK!!!!)

Speaking of the John Birch Society, if only the Democratic party opposed the Bush's administrations abuses half as forcefully.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:43 PM
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Yes, I'm aware you have a convoluted argument for why no health care mandate is the left position, but let's pretend for a moment that we're agreeing with the majority of left health analysts on this one

Like health-care expert Petey. And Mitt Romney.


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:45 PM
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Now, before we get too carried away, I don't think that telecom immunity is a good thing. I think it's a corrupt and bad thing. The point is just that it doesn't have especially dramatic consequences for anything genuinely valuable, like curing sick kids or preventing wars or keeping abortion legal.

Or even for disincentivizing future presidential misdeeds, if Andreas Schou's comment about the difficulty of getting anything out of these lawsuits is correct.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:46 PM
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166: [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted]


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:49 PM
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166: the [expletive deleted]?


Posted by: Barbar | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:52 PM
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Niel, I haven't said anything so far, but you are an analytic philosopher.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:52 PM
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Ditto 167.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:55 PM
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Neil, I hope that you do realize that I made an intelligible and weighty criticism of your political decision-making algorithm.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 7:57 PM
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166 is probably pretty close to Obama's reasoning process (and Pelosi's, and Reid's).


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:04 PM
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Neil just allows me to bundle my analytic philosophy diatribe in with my Democratic Party diatribe.

I do think that the Democrats are harmed by an overplus of PhD strategists. Rove had one year of college at a not-top-twenty school. He hired a lot of PhDs, but mostly in statistics and database management, I think.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:07 PM
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Oh fuck I killed the thread.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:15 PM
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167: Yeah, I get that a lot.

172: I think that's right. My guess is that Steny Hoyer was like "Ha ha! I'm going to rake in the big telecom money and don't you guys try to stop me!" And Pelosi, Reid, and Obama were like "Ugh, whatever. Okay, Steny, do your thing."

173: I know, John, I know.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:20 PM
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The point is just that it doesn't have especially dramatic consequences for anything genuinely valuable, like curing sick kids or preventing wars or keeping abortion legal.

Katherine is our token procedural liberal, and is therefore perhaps the best person to respond to this line of argument. That said, while Katherine's 167 was well-stated, it lacked some relevant detail.

Neil, the whole "rule of law" thing is a bigger deal than you are making it out to be. Liberals allowed themselves a lot of post-Nixon self-congratulatory horseshit, but that turned out to be a big mistake.

The lesson that Nixon's acolytes took away from Watergate was "Burn the tapes." They were right, too, and the fact that they were right has been a national tragedy - one that, mind you, has led in a pretty direct fashion to hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq, and a lot of other things that even you must recognize as problems.

Emerson is right that there are long-term costs to pardoning this sort of criminality, and I haven't seen you even acknowledge his point.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:34 PM
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I'm probably a minority on this one, but I would say that prosecuting the guilty is the single most important issue this election cycle, more important than health care, or Iraq. If I thought there was any chance McCain would prosecute the Bushies and Obama wouldn't, I would vote for McCain (fortunately, there is zero evidence for this.)

And something that from long experience is a minority opinion on the left, but punishing the guilty is in of itself an active good, on par with caring for the sick and feeding the hungry. If Osama bin Laden promised to be good and never hurt another soul, I say we still stick his head on a pike and sing drinking songs. As an atheist, it pains me that when George W. Bush dies that he will not spend the rest of eternity on the lowest level of Dante's Hell with the rest of history's oathbreakers, but we can do what we can in this world to come as close as possible.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:37 PM
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Yay Walt!


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 8:46 PM
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I'm aware you have a convoluted argument for why no health care mandate is the left position

My "convoluted" argument is the following:

Health care mandates invariably force people who can't afford corporate, for-profit insurance to buy plans from corporate, for-profit insurers while threatening them with debt collectors and wage garnishment. This is not a liberal position. Nor was it seen as a liberal position until fairly recently: health care mandates are an idea born of the center-right, and initially shunned by liberal health care wonks until "counterintuitive" policy writers rebranded these corporate giveaways as progressivism. It's a tribute to how completely ass-backwards American liberalism is today that such transparent capitulation to corporate America could be sold as the gold standard of liberal health care policy.

If you want a liberal health care system, just sign everyone up for health care and then pay for it through progressive taxation. You say this is the dreaded Socialized Medicine, and thus impossible to pass? I say that anything even vaguely resembling universal health care is going to be called socialized medicine and fought as it if it were actual socialized medicine so you might as well make it real, actual socialized medicine. It would at least have the benefit of being a lot easier to explain, to say nothing of being a lot more just.

The only convoluted arguments I've seen in this area are those attempting to justify the continued existence of the for-profit insurance industry and the byzantine system of mandates and subsidies that's supposed to get pasted on top of it. How, exactly, are those subsidies for the poor not going to end up as the next Medicaid, a fat target for any opportunistic budget-cutter? How would you enforce those mandates without, pretty much by definition, making someone pay for something they can't afford? Even without the mandates it's a stupid system; leaving the mandates out just makes it somewhat marginally less cruel.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 9:17 PM
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Stras, did Obama advocate single-payer? No.

There's no good guy here.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 9:26 PM
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176: I feel that you're actually helping me out here. On your story, we went basically all the way against Nixon, and what did people learn? That it wasn't a perfect crime, and that they had to be more clever. Is there any reason to think that future evildoers would learn a different lesson if we pushed hard to seriously punish Bush?

I don't buy the Watergate --> Iraq stuff at all. Certainly, a lot of the culprits were old Nixon hands. But there isn't any way to impeach an entire administration, and I can't see how we would've handled the Watergate situation in a way that would've prevented Iraq, except in some kind of random butterfly-flaps-its-wings kind of way.

177: Well, I guess you can just go be that retributivist way.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 9:26 PM
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That's just sloganeering, Neil. I understand that in your world the case against retribution is closed, but you haven't convinced very many people. You can't just shout "retribution" and expect everyone to blanche and ask for the smelling salts.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 9:30 PM
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Everyone on the left wants single-payer. The mandate is all about the maneuvering to get to some form of single-payer. With no mandate it will be much harder to get guaranteed issue and other regulations on private HI. The key progressive questions are 1) how private insurance is regulated, 2) subsidies for low-income people 3) whether there is a government alternative to private health insurance that is open for everyone to buy into.

Note that single payer is just a mandate for everyone to buy into a government insurance plan through taxation. The mandates perform exactly the same role that making everybody pay their taxes does in a single-payer system.

I don't follow Petey in saying that no up-front mandate means Obama is not serious about UHC, there are lots of ways to skin this cat. For example, Obama has made noises about a large "late enrollment" penalty for people who get sick and need treatment without having previously purchased health insurance. That's a back door mandate.

Inside baseball, but then so are the details of DOMA, which was my point.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 9:44 PM
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You can't just shout "retribution" and expect everyone to blanche and ask for the smelling salts.

In fact, some people will moan in pleasure and start to fantasize about the hog farm.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 9:47 PM
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Neil: Habits make character. Our means determine our ends, over time - the way we do things influences what we think of as possible and desirable. Surely the difference in Clinton and Obama primary campaigns demonstrates this. Clinton's staff made mistakes that would simply not have been possible in the Obama campaign because the latter had better starting assumptions and better methods. (I refer here to things like not knowing how California and Texas ran their primaries.) Likewise, people who get accustomed to being unaccountable make worse decisions, while people who expect review and punishment for their violations commit fewer violations in the first place.

You seem perilously close to asserting that we aren't affected by our environments, or by methods of punishment and reward. If one accepts that we are, then it immediately does matter whether we have to take account of laws, harm done to others, and like that, and people who work within a framework of constant concern for the impact of their decisions have incentives to make better decisions.

Nothing about it being the government changes that.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 9:56 PM
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On your story, we went basically all the way against Nixon, and what did people learn?

No, that's not a correct reading. Nixon didn't go to prison, as he ought to have, and he died a wealthy, honored man. Not only did he not get seriously punished for the things he was directly caught doing, the investigation of his wrongdoing was abandoned once the pardon was signed.

A lot of the folks who did go to prison did very nicely out of it for themselves. (See Colson and Liddy, for instance.)

except in some kind of random butterfly-flaps-its-wings kind of way.

I agree that this is a case that needs to be made, but I don't think it's that hard to make.

Had there been real penalties dished out for the real crimes of Watergate (which went far beyond burglarizing the Democratic headquarters), the crimes of the Reagan administration would have been much tougher to sweep under the rug. Ollie North - like Gordon Liddy before him - is far from being an ostracized criminal. If you let guys like Caspar Weinberger off the hook without penalty to him or the man who pardoned him, that sends a message to other criminals about what behavior is going to be tolerated.

Is there any reason to think that future evildoers would learn a different lesson if we pushed hard to seriously punish Bush?

Law is an effective shaper of human behavior, and social sanction is also an effective tool. Neither of those tools has been brought sufficiently to bear against a particular class of Republican criminal. The fact that we keep seeing the same sort of Republican criminality in the absence of these sanctions is not a coincidence.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 10:05 PM
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The things you learn from Unfogged. My wife has been work-friendly with John P. for years, and I never would have guessed he was connected with the Letourneau thing.


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 10:06 PM
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To add a bit:

I think that senior officials who expect that they will not have to answer to the law are more likely to engage in petty influence trading and larger-scale bribery and corruption, to disregard the needs of populations unlike themselves, to rely without sufficient question on claims by corporations, corporation-sponsored think thanks, and the like, to reject information and commentary from groups without such large financial endowments, to cover up unwanted externalities rather than resolve them, to reject external auditing and pressure (deliberately and un-, both) internal reviews to assert success, and to do a whole lot else that sabotages success.

Insofar as I want good things to happen, therefore, I think that pressing for government that is competent and accountable is absolutely crucial. I think it's important in exactly the way that, for instance, hiring cops and prison guards who aren't sadists is important. Good procedures enforced consistently attract better people and push on the worse ones to improve what they do even when it can't improve their hearts.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 10:15 PM
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177: John, reach up and take the chip off your shoulder. In 'my world' the case against retributivism isn't closed by any means. Lots of people hold it and while I think it's wrong, I don't think it's a stupid view. I was just saying that Walt and I are too far apart on the underlying issues for any serious progress to be made (without going into really heavy stuff).

I more or less agree with 185.1, and reject the broad view tentatively attributed to me in 185.2. I just have the very specific view that the things taken away by telecom immunity weren't capable of producing dramatic environment-changing effects anyway, so losing them isn't some historic catastrophe.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 10:19 PM
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Neil: I'm not being flippant with this, though it may sound like it. Why do you not hold the Bush administration to a very high standard of skepticism? Don't you think that the fact that Bush's crew wants this badly indicates that there is likely something deeply wrong with it? If not, why on earth not? What possible basis can an honest person have for giving them any benefit of the doubt whatsoever? They're pushing hard for it - to me that's a good sign that they think it matters, and if it doesn't look huge, that it likely means I'm simply not seeing enough yet.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 10:21 PM
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It's not that I'm giving the benefit of the doubt to the Bush administration here, Bruce. It's that pursuing these suits over the next couple months would be incredibly difficult, even if immunity hadn't been placed in Mukasey's hands. Andreas Schou laid all this out in comments on my blog. I'll copy his comment here.

____________________

I'm going to have to agree with the people who're saying that telecom immunity isn't that important. In order to reach the relevant documents before January 2009, you would have to:

(1) Find a defendant who has been harmed by telecom collusion with illegal wiretaps. Given recent changes in civil procedure (i.e. the Supreme Court's endorsement of Twombley), the complaint would have to contain some reasonably specific accusations as to how the harm occurred.

This first part is pretty close to impossible without already having the documents that the suit seeks to obtain.

(2)Find a court that would accept that FISA intends to create a private right of action.

(3) Defeat the incredibly expansive view of national security privilege that already exists, in order to obtain documents that are likely only in the possession of the United States government.

(4) Outmaneuver the contract the telecoms have with the government. I suspect it causes the government to indemnify the telecoms, anyway, at which point you have to deal with:

(5) Sovereign immunity.

(6) Then there's the issue of damages, which are... nominal, at best, without a criminal prosecution.

This is the worst lawsuit possible: suing an immune defendant over nominal damages without a clear complaint in a national security-involved case. Plus, the program is likely to end by the time all the interlocutory appeals and delaying tactics are finished.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 10:34 PM
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Who says this stuff has to be done before January 2009, though?


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 10:38 PM
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We were trying to figure this out over at Cogitamus, but it looks like after 1/09 Obama's AG can just come out and say, "I'm not gonna hand out any of those immunity certifications." It's the AG

Now, we need some lawyers or such to tell us whether Mukasey can just hand out pre-emptive immunity certifications to the telcos without a suit going on, and have them stay good forever. But it doesn't look like he can. Here's the relevant text from the bill:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a civil action may not lie or be maintained in a Federal or State court against any person for providing assistance to an element of the intelligence community, and shall be promptly dismissed, if the Attorney General certifies to the district court of the United States in which such action is pending that...the assistance alleged to have been provided by the electronic communication service provider was in connection with an intelligence activity involving communications that was authorized by the President during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on January 17, 2007.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 10:46 PM
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Being a suspicious sort, I ponder front groups filing bogus suits so that letters of authorization can be issued, but I admit that's just me.

But really, it's not just the immunity clause I'm concerned with, it's all the other damage to privacy, which will definitely remain in effect or at least available.


Posted by: Bruce Baugh | Link to this comment | 06-22-08 11:01 PM
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Yeah, I don't have anything good to say about the rest of the bill.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 12:57 AM
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Neil, as most people here know, the chip on my shoulder is firmly attached. And as I said, you just happened to unite two of my pet issues in a single seamless unit. 151-153 express the substance of what I meant to say.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 4:44 AM
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Stras, did Obama advocate single-payer? No.

No, he didn't. But, as I said in 179 and in every other thread we've had on this subject, as long as we're stuck with for-profit health insurance, it's better to not have a mandate - and thus not punish people who can't afford corporate health insurance - than to go with mandates and end up hounding people who can't afford insurance with debt collectors and wage garnishment, as Edwards's plan explicitly would've done and as Clinton's plan would've had to do.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 8:51 AM
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So Obama's plan gets medical insurance to everyone but the ones who need it most? And that's his advantage over Clinton?

The criticism of non-mandatory plans is that they will go bankrupt, since healthy people will opt out and sick people will opt in.

I call it a wash, and enormously disappointing overall since the Democrats seem to think this is one of their winning messages.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 8:56 AM
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What kind of weak-ass response is we're "too far apart"? It's not like we've argued for 300 comments or something.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:06 AM
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So Obama's plan gets medical insurance to everyone but the ones who need it most? And that's his advantage over Clinton?

No. John, the mandate is there for those who can't afford to buy health insurance, but aren't going to be given subsidies to cover the cost of health insurance. They're fucked in any plan; the purpose of the mandate isn't to provide them with coverage, it's to make them pony up the cost so their payments can subsidize health coverage for someone else. Typically these people are cast by the pro-mandate crowd as "young invincibles" who "don't want" health coverage, and would otherwise be freeloading off everyone else without a mandate. But the fact of the matter is they aren't buying health insurance because they don't have the money for it, and they're prioritizing stuff like food and rent over health insurance right now. Under a mandate plan, that changes, because they have to buy health insurance but their coverage isn't getting subsidized like the really, really poor. And the heaviest burden ends up falling on people who, by definition, can't afford it, because Democrats want to try to achieve some of the cost-lowering effects of single-payer without actually doing single-payer.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:10 AM
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The details of the Obama plan seemed to indicate they could achieve the same amount of coverage without the mandate. The criticism of mandatory plans, of course, is that they won't be affordable and the money that people need for food will be spent on health care premiums they don't need.

(People need to look at what their plans actually cost (not just their co-pay) and realize this is not a little problem. To ensure someone like me, young, healthy, non-smoker, non-overweight, minimally, with no doctor's visits covered and a $5000 deductible, right now, that's about $100/month. (If you smoke or are overweight, add 25%) So that's $1200 a year, before I've seen a doctor, and one that won't cover any medical bills, really, except emergencies. This is the plan shivbunny has.

A plan that would be something like you'd want: about $300/month. That would cover some visits and include (important for some women) pre-natal and pregnancy care.

That's a pretty significant cost just for *insurance.* That's assuming I don't get sick. That's not even counting other members of the household.

I realize prices are supposed to go down if we get everyone on board, but this is not an insignificant sum for most people.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:11 AM
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Yeah, 167 lacked detail. Here it is: on a whole bunch of constitution/rule-of-law-related issues, some of which did indeed have very concrete effects on people's lives (you know, in a prison cell w/o a hearing for 8 years, versus not; tortured, versus not; dead, versus not) telcom immunity was the only one I can think of in which the Democrats in Congress had NOT YET completely failed & caved. This is in contrast to: failing to attempt to filibuster, and passing with some Democratic votes, the Graham Amendment stripping habeas, the military commissions act, Gonzales' AG nomination, Mukasey's confirmation, Roberts' or Alito's nominations, and many other lower profile nomination. Failing to make a serious attempt to pass effective anti-torture legislation when the Democrats took control of Congress (by which I mean: attaching it to appropriations or authorization bills that are problematic to filibuster)--often failing to support such legislation even as a standalone bill. Failing to seriously investigate Bush administration abuses of power, and/or to respond appropriately to administration stonewalling (writing two dozen nasty letters & putting off contempt votes until they're too late to have any effect). Taking impeachment off the table. Taking censure off the table. etc. etc. etc. etc. ad infinitum. Stopping telcom immunity from passing was the only notable success I can think of that people like the ACLU, Greenwald, me, etc. had on preventing the Democrats from caving on these issues; this Congress has now failed us utterly, and the presidential nominee is about to break one of the few concrete promises he has made on this set of issues.

I don't see this as exactly unrelated to the Iraq war, either--it's the same: "Democratic Congress crumbles & betrays its liberal base so the GOP won't call us soft on terrorism" dynamic--a Congressmen's position on domestic surveillance is highly correlated with his position on torture is highly correlated with his position on the war.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:17 AM
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Keep telling us how the slightly less bad Obama plan is infinitely better than the horrible Clinton plan, Stras. And wave away the issue I raised, since that helps you with your anti-Clinton vendetta too. And about how mean the Clinton people were to the people they called "young invincibles", who are all poor people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:27 AM
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I know I keep saying this, but Neil, who seems to be a perfectly fine person, seems professionally incapable of understanding that one of the big issues here is a long pattern of elected Democrats betraying their liberal constitutency (which is not small) and caving in to the Republicans. I am not saying that telecom immunity is not an important issue, but even if it weren't as important as people think it is, it wouldn't be not a good idea to think of arguments why caving in one more time would be no big deal.

This is a heavy-handed analogy (Screw you, Ogged! Nothing is forbidden!), but a philosopher of politics who thinks of partisan struggle as an unfortunate distortion of rationality is as useless as a philosophy of agriculture would be who objected to plowing the ground. The strategies and tactics of partisan struggle are pretty definitive of politics everywhere, even in non-democratic societies and technocracies.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:37 AM
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not


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:38 AM
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What stras leaves out is that all three plans provided a non-profit, gov't option for health insurance, which was their most important feature. They also provided subsidies for low income people. Without that, I agree that a mandate doesn't solve anything and may make things worse. With that, though, you can make a good case for a mandate, as a way to keep costs down & get healthy people in the system & keep the gov't plan able to provide good coverage & financially solvent. Edwards' mandate, in particular: if people didn't sign up for insurance, they were going to be automatically enrolled in the apropriate GOV'T plan & made to pay the gov't for that. Clinton was a lot less clear on how the mandate worked.

You still have the potential problem that while the gov't plan may be subsidized & be a much better deal than some crap corporate plan, it's not likely to be the cheapest option for a healthy person; some high deductible corporate plan that provides only catastrophic coverage is likely to be the cheapest option, and a poor young person may not actually be much better off buying such a plan than being uninsured. But overall, I think a mandate, structured right--Edwards' was good--is a better idea than not; it was just irritating how people treated this flawed instrument as SYNONYMOUS with "universal health care". The existence of a good government option is the most important thing; mandates' main potential contribution is not shifting people from no insurance to insurance that covers nothing & bragging about universality--it's keeping a good gov't option alive & solvent. And how all this plays out depends on details about how the mandate is enforced, if at all, & how you prevent free-riding in the absence of a mandate, if at all, which neither Clinton nor Obama provided.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:40 AM
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Once you start talking about the cheapest option for a healthy person, you've given up on health insurance. Even though there are enormous savings in government-backed vs. private health insurance, with any kind of universal health insurance healthy people are always going to be subsidizing sick people.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:45 AM
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Keep telling us how the slightly less bad Obama plan is infinitely better than the horrible Clinton plan, Stras

And keep responding to my comments with strawman versions of the same, if it makes you feel better.

And wave away the issue I raised, since that helps you with your anti-Clinton vendetta too.

What issue was it that I didn't respond to?


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:46 AM
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What stras leaves out is that all three plans provided a non-profit, gov't option for health insurance, which was their most important feature.

In the Clinton plan this non-profit, government option was described by Clinton herself as "bare bones," and was on more than one occasion suggested to be made only available as an alternative to low-income Americans.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:49 AM
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207: this seems totally non-responsive; I am talking about what a healthy poor person is likely to do if there's a mandate & if they can't afford a decent insurance plan, not taking a what the gov't should do. As far as I know, every candidate's plan allowed the existence of high deductible plans that don't really cover much of anything; if those fulfill the mandate, the mandate may not accomplish very much. You're acting as if I've argued that it's WRONG for healthy people to subsidize sick people's insurance, but I've argued nothing of the kind.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:56 AM
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207: this seems totally non-responsive; I am talking about what a healthy poor person is likely to do if there's a mandate & if they can't afford a decent insurance plan, not taking a what the gov't should do. As far as I know, every candidate's plan allowed the existence of high deductible plans that don't really cover much of anything; if those fulfill the mandate, the mandate may not accomplish very much. You're acting as if I've argued that it's WRONG for healthy people to subsidize sick people's insurance, but I've argued nothing of the kind.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:56 AM
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sorry for the double post, and that should be "not talking about what the government should do."


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:57 AM
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The thing that irritates me so much about all this (not having read most of the thread nor really knowing what's being discussed) is that all the D. plans (Obama's is the only one that matters at this point, I suppose, but it was true of all of them) go far enough to allow Republicans to invoke the full UHC government healthcare bugaboo to scare the shit out of everyone on the right, and get them fully invested in opposing the plans and the candidates, without actually going far enough to capture most of the best benefits of a proper single-payer UHC plan.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 9:58 AM
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Stras, there are reasons why you can't let healthy people gamble and opt out. It's the argument against the Obama plan. You ignored it.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:04 AM
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Katherine, I was mostly responding to Stras's non-statement.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:06 AM
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213 is correct.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:06 AM
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The worry isn't just healthy young people who don't buy insurance (but who could afford it, but choose not to.) I don't know what you tell a family of four that makes just too much to qualify for a subsidy but who doesn't have health insurance through work. Insuring kids isn't cheap.

And 213 is right. They're going to be wetting their pants over socialized medicine anyway, might as well have them wet it over something that works.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:12 AM
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217 was me.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:14 AM
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Stras, there are reasons why you can't let healthy people gamble and opt out. It's the argument against the Obama plan. You ignored it.

How did I ignore it? I addressed it as an attempt to "try to achieve some of the cost-lowering effects of single-payer without actually doing single-payer," and I called it unjust (because it forces those who can't afford to pay for insurance to either go without food or rent, or face debt collectors and wage garnishment, as the Edwards plan spelled out explicitly).


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:25 AM
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213 and 217.2 are right. Any health care plan is going to be slammed as socialized medicine and fought like socialized medicine; you might as well do it right and actually give us real, bona fide socialized medicine. The problem is that the Democrats are bankrolled by the health care industry, and any health care wonk who wants to advance in his or her field plays to the industry-bankrolled politicos who've already written single-payer out of the equation. And so we've gone fifteen-to-twenty years or so talking about UHC in the US without anyone seriously discussing the one form of UHC that we know really works.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:30 AM
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213, 217, 220: all correct. Feh, I say.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:32 AM
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Stras, I know that you think that I have an unreasonable obsession with you, but I'm not the only one here you think that of. You have the amazing capacity of annoying people who basically agree with you.

I agree that none of the proposed plans are very good. I'm don't agree that Obama's is better than Clinton's at all, but in any case both are seriously flawed and Obama's is only marginally better. You've put the best face on the Obama plan (poor people giving up food and having their chacks garnisheed!) while sliding over its defects, just so that you can maximize your decade-old anti-Clinton feud.

And I'm a Clinton-hater too! But you're just annoying. Your steamroller argumentation sucks.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:42 AM
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(Clinton's plan means poor people giving up food and having their checks garnished!)


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 10:50 AM
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both are seriously flawed and Obama's is only marginally better

Where have I argued otherwise, John? But marginally better is still better, and the reason I continue to point out that Obama's plan was and is marginally better than Clinton's is that (1) the pro-Clinton people made a point of asserting that Clinton's plan was, in fact, better than Obama's plan, and (2) that the very thing that made Clinton's plan marginally worse made it, in fact, much, much better.

Look back on this thread and you'll find that you're the only one claiming - in 203 - that Obama's plan is "infinitely" better than Clinton's (while claiming that view for me). Once again, this has nothing to do with me, or my views, or my style of argumentation, but with an utterly mystifying hangup you've developed that ignites at random.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:00 AM
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I'm not the only one who has that hangup, Stras, and not the only one you've accused of that, because you're fucking annoying and don't listen.

Didn't you quit Unfogged a few days ago, because we didn't appreciate your radical message? What happened?

When you argue your radical message I'm receptive, but you argue every goddamn thing the same way, including your defense of NARAL and your support for the lame Obama health care plan. You'd be more effective talking to stupider people whom you could bully more effectively. You just like to rant.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:06 AM
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I'm ranting? John, take a couple deep breaths and get a grip before you post again.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:12 AM
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Poor little Stras. People are mean to him when he never did anything to them.

Why didn't you quit when you threatened to? Were people begging you to stay?

The amount of noise you've been able to make on the difference between the two health plans is unbelievable. It makes me suspect that the noise you make about the environment, or Israel / Palestine, is equally ungrounded. You're just Mr. Noise.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:18 AM
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Keep digging.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:21 AM
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gee, Stras, am I losing your esteem?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:24 AM
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This has been a bad week in terms of making me remember just how not immune to irritating me Obama can truly be. Today there was a big piece in the NY Times reminding me of what a staunch supporter of ethanol he is. I'm hoping that he will soon provide a fresh dose of rule of law, international diplomacy, and fuck-you to incumbent shitweasels to cheer me up.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:25 AM
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What Catherine said in 206 was a lot of what I was trying to get at back in 183, although I don't think it fully came through.

Look, Stras, you're saying you have a tactical disagreement with how pretty much everybody left of center in DC -- Obama most certainly included -- wants to approach the process of health care reform. That's fine, but all these plans, including Obama's, reject your tactic of going straight for single-payer and instead choose to construct an intermediate system which is designed as the institutional framework for eventual single-payer. Mandates are a key part of that framework. Single-payer most certainly will have a mandate (in the form of a tax), and any intermediate system may well have difficulty sustaining itself without a mandate.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:32 AM
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231 was me obvs.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:33 AM
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Single-payer most certainly will have a mandate (in the form of a tax)

But there's a huge difference in how you pay for single-payer and how you pay for a mandates-plus-subsidies scheme. You can set single-payer up to be funded by progressive taxation, so the majority of the burden falls on the wealthy and the poor don't get screwed. The way something like the Clinton plan would work, you'd inevitably end up with middle class or lower-middle class families who can't afford health insurance but won't qualify for subsidies, and will end up getting screwed as a result. You can easily avoid that in single-payer.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:40 AM
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The subsidies are designed to replicate progressive taxation, and from a purely mathematical standpoint can do so exactly. You seem to be arguing that it's easier to politically defend progressive taxation than it is subsidies for the poor, but I don't agree -- EITC is very popular subsidy that's a big part of the progressivity of our income tax system.

Even with Medicaid, the cost-cutting has come in provider rates (scandalously low) rather than beneficiary cost-sharing.


Posted by: PGD | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 11:47 AM
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I think you have to be misreading Stras very badly to see him as an Obama cheerleader or blinded by Clinton hatred on this point about mandates. Just saying.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 12:01 PM
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The vehemence of his attack comes from his Clinton vendetta. You have two flawed plans with different flaws, and he has a vendetta against the proposer of one of the plans.

When Krugman came out with his criticisms of Obama (on health insurance and social security) and support of Clinton, I didn't agree and continued to support Obama, but I did note down a possible problem. In the last few weeks we've been hit with a lot more evidence of problems with Obama.

Any health care problem, single payer or not, however funded, and regardless of where you draw the subsidy cutoff line, is going to cost some people more than they get from it. Without mandates they'll leave the system and leave the government with only the sickest. This is a well-known problem that (for all it flaws) Clinton's program addresses and Obama's doesn't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 12:07 PM
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The subsidies are designed to replicate progressive taxation, and from a purely mathematical standpoint can do so exactly

As I understand it, though, the subsidies in these plans don't extend upwards throughout the entire tax structure the way progressive taxation does - they exist for the poorest Americans and then either aren't available or aren't available in significant amounts for a large number of middle class to lower-middle class families. When you're talking about these kinds of mandates, you basically have to ask, who do they exist for? Who can you only get to sign up through threat of legal action? And while there may be a certain number of healthy young people who aren't interested in signing up for health insurance, there's also going to be a significant number of people who just can't afford it - who only have so much money, and need to prioritize other stuff over buying a fairly expensive health care plan because they either don't qualify for the subsidies or the subsidies aren't enough. These are the people I worry about. I've spent a not-insignificant period of my life dealing with debt collectors and wage garnishment, and wouldn't wish it on anyone; the moment those terms crept up in Edwards's health care plan was the moment I soured on him.

You seem to be arguing that it's easier to politically defend progressive taxation than it is subsidies for the poor

I do basically think this, yes. While the EITC has done fairly well in recent years, the recent history of Medicaid, welfare, home heating assistance, etc. has been one of programs for the poor being first on the chopping block, and I expect that to continue as the lean years stretch on ahead. A reliance on subsidies, of course, is a problem that all three major Dem contenders' health care plans shared; as I've said before, I think all three plans were and are massively flawed, and that Obama's was only marginally less bad for lack of a mandate.


Posted by: strasmangelo jones | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 12:39 PM
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199: Walt, I have an argument for why utilitarianism is the right moral theory and irreducibly retributivist moral claims (among others) are false. It starts by arguing that lots of the processes that bring us to our moral judgments are unreliable in forming true belief, while introspection into the goodness of pleasure is the only way to know anything about what's good, and that utilitarianism can be built off of this. Trying to lay out and defend the entire argument in the comment thread would be biting off more than I could chew, and I don't think that little pieces of it would particularly advance the discussion.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 2:09 PM
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By now I'm convinced that morality is partly everything (retributive, consequential, deontic, emotive, whatever) and that attempts to find the core are destructive. Ethics is eight or so different, overlapping, partially interconnected things. The rules of choice between them, where they conflict, are ill-defined.

I suppose that this is one of the versions philosophers argue about, too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 2:16 PM
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Advancing the discussion? What are you, some kind of hippie? I'm trying really hard to not get any work done here, and you are not being helpful at all.

Every form of utilitarianism I have ever heard advanced depends on silently distinguishing between true pleasures, and false pleasures. If Osama bin Laden were found dead tomorrow, this would make me happier. If GW Bush were hauled off in chains by police officers, that would make me happier. But somehow that impact on my happiness doesn't count.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 2:41 PM
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202: Certainly, Katherine, it's a tale of woe, and it feels pretty terrible to see the one thing you've managed to successfully defend get destroyed. But blocking telecom immunity won't undo any of the horrible things that have happened -- the torture and habeas corpus stuff in particular, and it's pretty small stuff compared to that.

I guess what you're saying does explain why people were so unhappy last week about something that, in and of itself, was completely overshadowed by other Bush administration abuses.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 2:53 PM
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philosopher of politics who thinks of partisan struggle as an unfortunate distortion of rationality is as useless as a philosophy of agriculture would be who objected to plowing the ground

Totally with you there, John! And when I look over how Reid and especially Pelosi have played the pure partisan struggle game, I'm not too unhappy. Pelosi's role in destroying Social Security privatization was nothing short of awesome, and she got support for withdrawal from Iraq to be default position of the caucus (over Hoyer and Emanuel's objections) going into 2006. Reid and Pelosi led us to gigantic victories that year, and things are looking good for Total Democratic Power next year.

Now, as Katherine says, a whole bunch of horrendous stuff has happened on civil liberties. But as far as I can tell, people should be thinking more about ensuring that our newfound power will be used to repair the damage in 2009-2010 than on things making it through Congress in the waning days of the Bush administration. I don't know much about Regina Thomas but supporting her seems like a great thing to do.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 3:05 PM
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207

"Once you start talking about the cheapest option for a healthy person, you've given up on health insurance. Even though there are enormous savings in government-backed vs. private health insurance, with any kind of universal health insurance healthy people are always going to be subsidizing sick people."

Why? You could charge by actual risk and then subsidize the poor. And why should young people subsidize old people?


Posted by: James B. Shearer | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 3:08 PM
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silently distinguishing between true pleasures, and false pleasures

Don't worry, I don't do that! Your pleasure in seeing OBL hauled off counts. But if OBL offered not to harm anyone else and stop blowing stuff up, I'd take the deal, because the pleasure of seeing him hauled off would likely be pretty far less than the pain of him blowing up a whole bunch more people.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 3:10 PM
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Neil, you would be crushed in the next election.


Posted by: politicalfootball | Link to this comment | 06-23-08 8:38 PM
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James Shearer: How do you subsidize poor people without getting money from someone else who's not poor? It might be from taxes, and it might be from mandated coverage. The superiority of mandated coverage is that it prevents people from waiting until they need insurance (get sick) to sign up for it.

I'll just repeat, Neil. Telecom immunity was a message from the Pelosi and Reid and Obama to liberal Democrats and the liberal blogosphere that the Democratic Party will not be responsive to them, a message to the Republicans in Congress that the Democrats can still be intimidated and that they will play weakly even with a strong hand, and a message to past, present, and future Republican malefactors that there never will be any consequences.

But blocking telecom immunity won't undo any of the horrible things that have happened -- the torture and habeas corpus stuff in particular, and it's pretty small stuff compared to that.....and of itself, was completely overshadowed by other Bush administration abuses.

Neil, no present action changes the past. Is that your standard, that anything we do must remediate the past or undo past harm? And are you saying that we shouldn't worry about anything unless it's the worst thing Bush has ever done?

The OBL example is alternate-universe. Murderers claim to have reformed all the time. Psychopaths are the nicest, most charming guys in the world when they have a reason to be. This example strikes me as a case of using an impossible trolley-car hypothetical, which may or may not be useful for clarifying moral intuitions, as a guide to the real world.

At this point I don't know what to say, except that you should do a study of the phrase "mad dog rationality" or "mad-dog realism". Two entirely different things, but both involve the presentation of rationally-packaged stupidity that violates the reality sense. You might do a study of the phrase "reality check" too.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 5:07 AM
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John, I think it's kind of cute how you liked the counterfactual thought experiment when Walt made it, but suddenly burst out into all sorts of methodological criticisms when I ran with it.


Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 3:49 PM
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Well, Obama being shot dead is a real possibility now, and not an implausible one either. Bush being arrested is a merely hypothetical possibility, but obviously a sardonic joke. It should be possible!

Obama promising to mend his ways in such a way that it would reasonable for anyone to trust him is an impossible or ludicrous hypothetical, if you ask me, like the fat man trolley car problem.

You do have a somewhat similar case which fits your ethical argument: the deposed dictator sent into harmless exile unpunished. The problem with Osama is the Elba problem; anyone with loyal followers is dangerous. Mugabes lackey's were only too happy to put themselves in his place at his cost; loyalty to him was contingent on his remaining power.

For ethics simply to shift from implausible hypotheticals to actual historical situations and fictions closely base on them would, to me, revolutionize the field in a good way while moving in the direction of case studies (as Toulmin has advised), while relinquishing the formalizing goal.

I also like Putnams proposal of a thick, polypedic ethics (at the link).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:14 PM
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The second paragraph reveals John as an employee of the RNC. That was some deep cover.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:26 PM
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I'm playing a deep game, Walt.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:31 PM
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I think the particular hypothetical of a reformed Osama (or other arch-criminal) useful, because it neatly distinguishes between how the average person thinks of criminal justice and how philosophers (and most liberals) think of criminal justice. For the average person, the punishment of the guilty is a primary end in-of-itself, not requiring a great deal of further analysis.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:38 PM
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Telecom immunity was a message from the Pelosi and Reid and Obama to liberal Democrats and the liberal blogosphere that the Democratic Party will not be responsive to them

Or it was a tactical move with which many of us happen to disagree, but with no greater import. Let the Dems sweep in November before you start calling for your pitchfork and your torch.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:38 PM
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There was a time when I participated in and understood this thread. That time seems to have passed. Still, if it's okay, I have just one question: for future reference, John, are you saying that Obama is now totally irredeemable?


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:39 PM
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Mugabe's lackeys // remaining in power.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:39 PM
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Nobody who could make those smutty insinuations about Hillary's personal hygiene can be reformed. I see a future for him at Fox.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:41 PM
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Tim, we've had a succession of similar messages. There's no reason to believe that someone who talks centrist is not centrist -- centrism is really the default. You can look at Obama's tactical moves one at a time and ask whether they were really necessary, but probably they were easy for Obama because he really believes that.

Liberal Democrats, unlike centrist Democrats, have no reason to expect Presidents to be better than they seem. Johnson on civil rights is the only exception I can think of, and his war lies almost canceled that out.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 8:48 PM
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centrism is really the default.

I don't disagree with that. But I don't find that at all surprising. Obama has always signaled that he was a centrist Dem. And I think, on the whole, it's true of the Blue blogosphere as well. Yglesias, Atrios, and Kos are all centrists, for example. Off the top of my head, I can't think of anyone who isn't.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 9:44 PM
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The Dodd agrees with me.

257: yes, you can use abstract nouns like "centrist" to describe many people! But the question is whether Obama is the sort of centrist who routinely sacrifices decency & the rule of law in the face of arguments about teh terrorists, or not. Yglesias, Atrios, Kos et. al are not. Obama's record provided some plausible basis for hoping he wasn't either, between his early opposition to the war, his interrogation bill in Illinois, his relatively good public statements on criminal justice & immigration, GTMO habeas lawyers' positive regard for his role, his contractor accountability bill before Nisoor square, his sponsorship of the rendition ban, his general willingness NOT to run & hide when the GOP trots out its standard war on terror arguments, his being successfully pressured into promising to filibuster telcom immunity, etc.

But, in fact, he does NOT have a long record, and some of those reasons I listed for trusting him on these issues occurred a very long time ago, and he's taken very few risks on these issues in D.C., and we simply don't know his position on a lot of the crucial issues because the press is too stupid & indifferent to ask the right questions.

A partial list off the top of my head: Is his DOJ going to reopen cases of Bush administration lawbreaking where the previous DOJ killed the investigations? Will it investigate higher gov't officials? Is his administration at least going to publicly reveal the extent of Bush administration abuses? Is he going to push legislation closing the many, many torture loopholes? The end to state secrets privilege, or any sort of classified information reform? Private rights of action, so victims of human rights abuses have some route into court that doesn't depend on the Attorney General's discretion? What kind of surveillance will he do? Is he going to support some kind of administrative detention bill? What's he going to do with the people in Guantanamo who can't be repatriated because of the danger of torture--is he going to offer asylum in the U.S., or convince Albania to take even more of them, or what? What's he going to do with the current military commission defendants--courts martial in Leavenworth? Civilian criminal trials? What's he going to do with Bagram, which gets half the attention of GTMO despite having twice as many prisoners held under worse conditions? This is nowhere near exhaustive--I don't know enough to even formulate the detailed questions re: surveillance, & I'll spare people the list of detailed questions re: contractors.

The press doesn't ask the questions, they ask "end torture? check." "close Guantanamo? check" and that's that. Well, McCain checks those boxes too; hell, Bush claims to oppose torture and to want to close Guantanamo. I think Obama is actually sincere, of course, and trust him far more than either of them on these issues & still think he was a much better choice in the primaries than Clinton. But, I really have very little idea what Obama will do on a whole host of these issues when he's actually president. I don't know who he listens to about this stuff, and people who are much more connected to the campaign than I am don't seem to know either.

On FISA, he made a pretty specific promise, and he seems to be straightforwardly breaking it. So: what does that tell me about the issues where he hasn't even made any promises, or said much of anything at all? Nothing good.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:20 PM
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You should draw up your list of questions, Katherine, and post them at ObWi or elsewhere (our place, if you're lacking a venue). Seriously, what you've written above is very helpful. And maybe if you post it somewhere high(ish) profile, some enterprising journalist will read what you write and run with a few of your ideas.


Posted by: ari | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:26 PM
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But the question is whether Obama is the sort of centrist who routinely sacrifices decency & the rule of law in the face of arguments about teh terrorists, or not. Yglesias, Atrios, Kos et. al are not.

I wouldn't bet the house on that if any of their next jobs depended on it. The time to start judging him, I think, is after he wins the election.

My suspicion is that Obama will move in positive directions along almost all of the vectors that you've identified, but that punishment--and perhaps because of that, investigation of the Bush Administration--will be an area in which he'll disappoint you.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 10:42 PM
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Thanks, ari, maybe I will.

People really should read the Dodd speech linked in 258--he goes on about the connection between immunity & the torture issue for several dozen paragraphs in the middle, & seems to see it much the way I do.

Obviously, there are more direct ways to address the other issues. But the Congressional Dems already confirmed Gonzales, confirmed Mukasey, let the MCA pass, took impeachment off the table, spent several years writing nasty letters instead of actually trying to force subpoenas, etc. etc. etc. It's much easier to NOT pass bad legislation than to get good legislation past a filibuster & a veto. The only chance of the latter is sticking it on a must-pass appropriations bill, & Congressional Democrats have been almost completely unwilling to do so. I don't expect Obama to spend the summer figuring out clever ways to stick antiwar or civil liberties bills onto appropriations riders; he has a campaign to run. I don't really expect him to campaign on these issues, as: 1) The Bush administration's policies are a total clusterf*ck & in some cases the best way forward is actually hard to figure out, 2) There's some political risk, though I don't think it's huge, because: 3) Most people are justifiably far more concerned about economic issues that affect them personally. But, when there is a crappy bill pending before the U.S. Senate that he promised to support a filibuster of a few months back, I expect him to show up & vote no on both cloture & final passage--or better still, to have called Steny Hoyer last week & tell him not to cut this crappy deal in the first place.

Lack of prosecution isn't actually what would drive me to despair; what I really can't stand is the truth about all this stuff not coming out. Because I think that (failing prosecution, and more than any legislative change--there are too many loopholes to close, and there's just no law you can write that's Addington-proof) is the minimum required to try to make sure this doesn't happen again in a few years. It is absolutely possible for Obama to open the files--he doesn't need Congress's permission to do so & he can farm it out to some bipartisan commission so the political risk is minimal. Short of prosecution, that's the single best way to make sure we don't go down this road again in the very near future--it'd lead to legislation that did a better job plugging the loopholes, and hopefully create a political consensus that helped them stay plugged.

Prosecution of some cases may be possible--and if it's not, the obstacle isn't political impossibility so much as the passage of time, destruction of evidence, and the OLC memos themselves. Obama can simply refer the files to a career prosecutor w/ integrity and let him do the rest, and there's an awful lot of daylight between shipping Dick Cheney to the Hague & leaving David Passaro as the sole civilian prosecution.

I was never actually so optimistic about any of this, but I didn't expect to see my pessimism confirmed quite this thoroughly & quickly.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:09 PM
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Yglesias, Atrios, and Kos are all centrists, for example.

Well, then, we can conclude that Obama is a rightist, because IIRC Yglesias, Atrios, and Kos all are unhappy with Obama on this issue.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:11 PM
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The time to start judging him, I think, is after he wins the election.

Jesus fuck, have I ever heard that before?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:15 PM
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263: I guess you could always start judging McCain after he wins the election.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:21 PM
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Oh, hey, stras is right as usual.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:23 PM
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261: what I really can't stand is the truth about all this stuff not coming out

Yes, to me that would be huge step towards the normalization of Bushco behavior. And what really galls is that some day, somewhere, it will all* come out (but maybe too late to be anything but a post mortem for a failed system of governement). The contrast between the politically "impossible" Kucinich Articles of Impeachment and the ones againt Clinton are one day going to be a WTF? laughingstock of history (as a guest on Counterspin put it, everyone "serious" has to ignore them, because once you start to read them or give them any credence at all you're stuck; specific detailed knowledge in that context is responsibility).

That said, I am not going to hold too much against Obama for now. I am certainly disheartened, but if progressive blog outrage is part of a kabuki to help Obama win so be it. (And yes I certainly appreciate the potential damage from taking that horn of the dilemma.)

*Or at least enough for history to judge and condemn.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 06-24-08 11:42 PM
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