Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"A Ludicrous Failure"

Yglesias gets shrill:

Washington Post correctly says that John McCain is "distorting history" as he criticized Barack Obama's pro-negotiations position. The United States really only has two experiences with a sustained effort at the Bush/McCain approach to diplomacy. One would be our effort to deny recognition to Communist China during the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson administrations. This, it's generally acknowledged, was a strategic fiasco that denied us the opportunity to gain leverage vis-à-vis the Soviet Union. Indeed, it was a fiasco of such enormous proportions that Richard Nixon's role in undoing it actually manages to stack up in a non-trivial way against his otherwise terrible record in office.

The other is our fifty year effort to starve the people of Cuba into rebelling against Fidel Castro. McCain actually defends continuing this policy, but everyone with a functioning brain understands that it's been a ludicrous failure.

Indeed. It's baffling how head-in-the-sand American establishment thinking has been on this subject.

It ought to be enough to point out, as Yglesias does, that American policy towards Cuba has been a study in ludicrous failure. But that probably won't be enough to generate rationale debate on the subject.

Instead, I'd like to see Obama frame the debate in terms of how it has restricted the freedom of regular old Americans. For example, most Americans, if not all, cannot travel directly to Cuba. And that's our policy, not Havana's. And it's obviously ridiculous and an affront to Liberty. Why should the American government limit where Americans can travel?

Fresh thinking is desperately needed in the area of foreign policy generally, and in our Cuba policy particularly. If Obama can help provide that, he will have accomplished much.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

$31.9 Mill

Obama raised $31.9 million in April. Good news, right? Yeah, but here's the thing: $31.3 mill was for the primaries, $600k for the general. Meanwhile, the primaries are about over, and Obama essentially passed on two of the May primaries--WV and Kentucky--that the $31.3 mill would presumably have been spent on. So, the $31.3 mill is virtually useless.

Am I reading this right?

Update: After musing over this a while, I suspect it's actually the case that funds raised during the primaries are available for the general election. I'm not sure how that squares with the intent of the campaign finance law. But in this case, money Obama has collected from individuals who have not yet reached their $2,300 contribution maximum is assumed to be primary funds. Donations from those who have reached the $2,300 maximum are kept aside for the general. By law, individuals can donate $2,300 per election cycle; $2,300 for the primary election and $2,300 for the general. So individuals can give $4,600 in all.


One of the advantageous of working among the elite in Wash DC is getting the opportunity to participate in the very elite culture the area has to offer, including being able to attend very elitist type book-readings where very elite authors, most of them liberal elitists, hold forth on their latest publications and afterward, agree to affix their elitist signature to the books.

Last night was such an occasion, as I went to hear the great Rick Perlstein read and discuss his latest, Nixonland. Seven years in the making, the book is a follow up to the much acclaimed Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus.

I imagine I'll have more to say on the book as I get through it, although I confess to being in the middle of reading a lot of other material as well, so my remarks on Nixonland will probably come along later.

But I enjoyed Perstein's reading of a passage taken from 1967 and the discussion afterwards. And yes, I got him to sign a copy I had just purchased.

I was a little worried that Nixonland might be a type of "stream of consciousness" book, full of rambling anecdotes and loosely drawn inferences, but the book appears to be well organized, by election cycle. As Perlstein took great pains to point out, Nixon himself was a rather complex character. One questioner in the audience asked Perlstein if he thought Nixon was a demagogue. "No", the author responded. While conceding Nixon's brutal style of politics (not particular to Nixon), Perlstein said Nixon was more subtle than that. George Wallace was a demagogue, but not Nixon. I considered asking Perlstein what he thought of Nixon's campaign charges of Helen Douglass being pink down to her..., but I thought better of it.

For anyone interested in reading historic epics and fascinated by the changes wrought by and during the 1960's will I'm sure greatly appreciate Rick Perlstein's Nixonland.

One point that occurs to me of the period that came to be associated with what is sometimes thought of as the Conservative Ascendacy is that, while the conservative movement that rose from the ashes of the 1964 Goldwater landslide loss was effective in mobilizing a broad coalition of disaffected reactionaries and high-brow financiers in the decades beginning with and after Nixon, the conservative movement's actual achievements seem rather meager to me. That is to say, while the country's political rhetoric, campaign styles and partisan balances have gotten more conservative, the underlying structure of government and the wider culture remain to a large degree, liberal, and increasingly so.

Nevertheless, we appear to be entering upon another period of partisan and cultural upheaval, and Perlstein's Nixonland should remind us that things may not necessarily be what they seem. That is, if we think we are witnessing a conservative meltdown over Iraq and other calamities and changes, we could be in for a comeuppance. On the other hand, one of the points Perlstein stresses is that, the establishment media, Johnson administration, and Democratic Congress failed to perceive the resentments, changes and dynamics forming in response to the war, racial upheaval and other developments, and found themselves disgraced or swept away by the changing tide. The Establishment didn't get it, in other words. A similar thing could be said today of the Bush II administration, the war in Iraq and the seemingly dramatic changes taking place in the economy, high gas prices, mortgage problems, household debt, etc, which the government and media seem only partially responsive to. Whether liberals or conservatives end up addressing or successfully responding to these changes and upheavals may prove to be the subject of a future book and a much debated historical epic when America as we knew it dramatically changed forever.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Fly-Paper Theory on Steroids

Many, many years ago, among the many, many alternative and conflicting rationales offered for why America must-had to absolutely bomb, invade and occupy Iraq NOW, right this very minute yesterday, was so that America and Americans could fight the terrorists on their own soil over there, rather than having to face them on our soil over here.

Well. If you listen very carefully, now, to the "debate" as to why the mullahs in that other Islamic country Iran--who we were so sure would be suitably intimidated by our shock and awe and democracy and love for the world over Iraq that they would faint in fear before our might weapons and goodness and rightness--have reached the lofty status our former Iraqi enemies once occupied in posing the most absolutely deadliest threat ever to the United States, is that, having now invaded and occupied Iraq, a country that hadn't attacked us and didn't pose a threat to us, are attacking us in Iraq. Consequently, it is common conservative nonsense that we must therefore bomb, invade and occupy Iran NOW yesterday.

Following this logic, one can imagine it will be advisable to some day bomb, invade and occupy the old Soviet Union because Russian separatists, Islamic minorities in the break-a-way countries, and other sponsors of "terrorism" in the region are sending "terrorists" and bomb materials into Iran, killing our soldiers and military contractors, and otherwise aiding and abetting our enemies among the mullahs who we're endeavoring to liberate.

Make sense?

No Military Industrial Complex in Oregon

I hadn't realized this:

Oregon, with no major defense industries or a major military facility, has expressed strong opposition to the war in Iraq. Multnomah County, which includes Portland, is particularly antiwar.