Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Unfrozen Caveman Republicans

Republicans finally figured out after the 2008 elections that the Internets is a very useful tool for reaching voters -- especially new, young voters. Unfortunately, the GOPs attempts to get on-line have led to one disaster after another.

And the GOP still hasn't figured out how to use the Internet in positive ways preferring instead to be nasty and hateful (see above links).

Now enter the Connecticut GOP which thought it would be fun to set up 33 impostor Twitter accounts and impostor Web pages pretending to be the state's Democratic leaders, including the Connecticut Speaker of the House. The Republican plan was to send out fake posts under the Democrats names misstating their positions on various issues.

Twitter has suspended the impostor accounts as a violation of their terms of service, leaving the state GOP bewildered.
"That's unfortunate," was state Republican Chairman Chris Healy's response when told of Twitter, Inc.'s decision. "I'm not quite sure what the issue is, other than that the Democrats were successful in stopping free speech."

Healy's party may have suffered a setback with the loss of its Twitter campaign, but Republicans are still operating the 33 Web sites they created using the names of those same Democratic lawmakers. As far as anyone knows, this is the first time any state party has used such a tactic to mock its state opponents.

"It's our idea, actually," said Healy. He said Republicans want voters to understand how badly they're being screwed by the Democrats who approved billions in new taxes rather than cut spending.

Healy has no intention of shutting those sites down just because of Democratic protests.

"They didn't think of it first, so that's why they're whining," Healy said.

It seems that even in 2009, our world frightens and confuses Republicans.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Responding to Buchanan

Andrew Sullivan does an excellent takedown of Pat Buchanan's recent comments about losing "white America".

The Democrats good fortune?

seems to be the GOP's political tone deafness.

My drinking buddy, Dave Weigel explains,
The Democrats are in worse political shape than they were a year ago because unemployment is at 9.8 percent, the war in Afghanistan has grown less popular, and the bailouts of struggling banks are seen as wastes of money that haven’t worked. Republicans benefit when they talk about this stuff. But Beck and the others don’t let them talk about this stuff. For the past few months, they have moved the discussion onto fantasy terrain, accusing the president of reaching for dictatorial powers and surrounding himself with “radicals” who want to destroy capitalism.
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....by paying attention to these conservative witch hunts, they’ve definitely kept their base revved up. But in the current political context, it seems like they’re missing the forest for some shrubs. It’s as if Democrats tried to press their advantages in 2005 not by going after the Iraq War or the mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, but by spending weeks attacking mid-ranking members of his administration and claiming that President George W. Bush was driving the nation toward fascism. And remember, one of the huge political mistakes of 2005 was the Republican decision to do a full-court press on an issue that had come from conservative activists and pundits: the fate of Terri Schiavo.
Andrew has a perfect example.

America's Long War in Afghanistan

"You can kill Taliban forever because they are not a finite number". Gen. Stanley McChrystal.
Without question, the greatest challenge the United States has faced since Vietnam is the current war in Afghanistan. The war in Iraq was a walk in the park by comparison. Iraq was a modern nation with modern infrastructure and a literate and urban population. Afghanistan is none of these things. At best, one if four Afghans can read, and in many parts of the country, almost no one can read. In Helmand province, where the British were tasked with training police recruits, not one of the recruits could read. How do you train a police recruit who is illiterate and can't complete a simple incident report?

In casual conversations about Afghanistan, an American arrogance often pops up, especially from Conservatives, that by simply providing more American firepower, the sea will part, rainbows will sprout, and I guess the illiterate will read. The failure of Vietnam, they will explain, (58,000 American dead, 2,000 missing and 303,000 wounded, millions of tons of bombs dropped) was a lack of US Military commitment.

The Sunday NY Times Magazine has an excellent article that explains in reasonable detail exactly what Gen McChrystal and through him, the American people, are up against in Afghanistan. and it is daunting.
The magnitude of the choice presented by McChrystal, and now facing President Obama, is difficult to overstate. For what McChrystal is proposing is not a temporary, Iraq-style surge — a rapid influx of American troops followed by a withdrawal. McChrystal’s plan is a blueprint for an extensive American commitment to build a modern state in Afghanistan, where one has never existed, and to bring order to a place famous for the empires it has exhausted. Even under the best of circumstances, this effort would most likely last many more years, cost hundreds of billions of dollars and entail the deaths of many more American women and men.
And a lot of serious people think it's folly to even consider taking on this task of nation building.
George F. Will, the columnist, recently said as much. So did Rory Stewart, the British scholar-diplomat who has spent years in the region. Vice President Biden is said to favor such a choice.
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...Richard Haass,... president of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Before that, through June 2003, Haass was director of policy planning at the State Department under President George W. Bush.) ...is particularly persuasive, in part because he does not pretend to have easy answers. After eight years of mismanagement and neglect, Haass says, every choice the United States faces in Afghanistan is dreadful. The weight of the evidence, he says, suggests that curtailing our ambitions is the option least dreadful.
Nevertheless, I think it's worth a try, but only if we have the aid, financial and otherwise, of the rest of the developed world. We must stop believing that as America we can make miracles through the sure force of our will and with enough guns and bombs. The mission in Afghanistan will only succeed if we modernize this stoneage country with roads, schools, wells and electricity. Of course safety and security come first, but that is only the beggining.

Read the article and tell me what you think.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Policy Isn't Made in a Vacuum

Perhaps my biggest frustration with the GOP is that aside from cutting taxes, they stand for literally nothing and offer no solutions to make Americans lives better. One of my biggest frustrations with Democrats is that they don't even try to call the GOP out on this, but I digress,...

Via Andrew Sullivan, Nick Beaudrot writing at Donkeylicious makes note of a GOP thats skills at policy are so atrophied as to make them useless,
Lately I seem to be having conversations with wonkish right-of-center types who have this-or-that idea about how to design a simpler, more efficient, and more effective policy to deal with taxation, climate change, health care, whatever. But it always stops there. No one talks about managing the transition. No one talks about convincing Mitch McConnell to back these ideas. No one talks about sixty votes. No one talks about the interest group dynamics in Washington. No one even talks about working for a decade to elect members of Congress who might be more amenable to these sorts of policies. It's just policy in a vacuum. Which is an interesting intellectual exercise, but not a legitimate substitute for governance, an ultimately messy endeavor.
As we are reminded on a daily basis, the Dems could certainly use some help at crafting meaningful and beneficial public policies in all these areas, but lawmakers have no interest.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ezra Klein attempts to quantify Obama's narcissism

In his WaPo Blog today, Ezra provides some data on Obama's narcissism.

Echoing Michael Gerson's blog post from late September accusing Obama of serious narcissism in his UN speech, George Will jumps on the Olympic ego trip bandwagon. In his column today, Will does a word count:"In the 41 sentences of her remarks, Michelle Obama used some form of the personal pronouns 'I' or 'me' 44 times. Her husband was, comparatively, a shrinking violet, using those pronouns only 26 times in 48 sentences." Gerson had said of Obama's UN speech that he could not recall another "major American speech in which the narcissism of a leader has been quite so pronounced."

Ezra points us to Language Logs' Mark Liberman who took a look at this question once before and republished his results today in response to Will's column,

I took the transcript of Obama's first press conference (from 2/9/2009), and found that he used 'I' 163 times in 7,775 total words, for a rate of 2.10%. He also used 'me' 8 times and 'my' 35 times, for a total first-person singular pronoun count of 206 in 7,775 words, or a rate of 2.65%.

For comparison, I took George W. Bush's first two solo press conferences as president (from 2/22/2001 and 3/29/2001), and found that W used 'I' 239 times in 6,681 total words, for a rate of 3.58% — a rate 72% higher than Obama's rate. President Bush also used 'me' 26 times, 'my' 31 times, and 'myself' 4 times, for a total first-person singular pronoun count of 300 in 6,681 words, or a rate of 4.49% (59% higher than Obama).

For a third data point, I took William J. Clinton's first two solo press conferences as president (from 1/29/1993 and 3/23/1993), and found that he used 'I' 218 times, 'me' 34 times, 'my' 22 times, and 'myself' once, in 6,935 total words. That's a total of 275 first-person singular pronouns, and a rate of 3.14% for 'I' (51% higher than Obama), and 3.87% for first-person singular pronouns overall (50% higher than Obama).

Liberman also considered the possibility that Obama had become more narcissistic with the passage of time,

As a result of this previous experience, I had a first-person-counting script all ready to go, and it took only a few seconds to check the new transcripts. This time around, Barack Obama's Olympic remarks included 26 first-person-singular words out of 1130, for a rate of 2.3%. This is slightly below his typical rate for presidential press conferences, and a bit more than half the rate of the George W. Bush pressers that I measured earlier (2.3/4.49 = 51%, to be precise).

Liberman should crunch the numbers on some of Reagan's pressers and speeches. Reagan loved to tell stories in which he was the featured hero (including a story of his witnesses the liberation of death camps in occupied Europe which was a complete fabrication. Reagan was never left the US during the WWII years).

And finally, like Ezra, I'd love to see Will and Gerson to respond, but there's no chance of that. Will, after all, still denies global warming.