Saturday, March 11, 2006

This Is So Depressing

The Washington Post tells us that we should expect all fund-raising records for the 2008 US presidential race to be obliterated. The key, and depressing part, comes here:

One of the least known but most important dimensions of the early competition to raise cash is securing the support of men and women who have proven effective in the past at raising large sums -- usually from a well-tended network of business associates, corporate subordinates and clients.

Although the article didn't mention in, the same phenomenon is taking place in high-profile US Sentate races as well.

This is why our government has become so unresponsive to the interests and concerns of the American people. Why so many Democrats in Congress voted to assault the middle class with last year's bankrupcy law, and why Republicans regularly pass laws to give the US treasury away to the titans of big industry. This, in short, is why the US government sucks.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Monkey In the Middle

An article in The Washington Post explains the US's role in the Iraq Civil War:

"The plan is to prevent a civil war, and to the extent one were to occur, to have the... Iraqi security forces deal with it to the extent they're able to," Rumsfeld told the Senate Appropriations Committee when pressed to explain how the United States intended to respond should Iraq descend wholesale into internecine strife.

If civil war becomes reality, "it's very clear that the Iraqi forces will handle it, but they'll handle it with our help," Abizaid said later when asked to elaborate on Rumsfeld's remark.

First of all, it is too late to "prevent" a civil war. A strong argument can be made the civil war already exists -- just that it's being fought with car bombs in "asymmetrical" style rather than a a traditional two-army/one-front war.

Even if one doesn't accept that there currently is a civil war in Iraq, one must recognize that the conditions have already been laid for one to breakout: sectarianism dating back to before the formation of the country, sectarian violence, the sudden removal from power of the formerly dominant sect, no strong overseeing force, lots and lots of (oil) money to be controlled by whichever becomes the dominant sect. Under these conditions, the country will always be on the brink of, if not actually in the midst of, a civil war. The only way to "prevent" such a war in that instance is to keep the sides physically separated -- which, even if it were possible, is not something the US military is well-equipped to do.

Secondly, security forces do not "handle" civil wars like this. The assumption underlining the US's stance is that the Civil War will essentially be Sunni civilians fighting the mostly-Shiite government. While there certainly is plenty of that, the events of the last few weeks have shown us that Civil War in Iraq is also about Sunni civilians fighting Shiite civilians, with the words of various religious leaders holding sway over the masses. Not only is the Iraqi military not in a good position to "handle" such circumstances, many -- if not most -- of them will likely join one side or the other. In that case, the only way for the US to "help" is to pick one side, obviously the Shiites, and start shooting along side them. And what a disaster that would be to what's left of America's image in the muslim world (most of the world's Muslims are Sunnis).

The Iraqi people may very well "handle" the situation on their own: if, for example, influential religious leaders from the various sects can convince all involved to call off the fighting; if the Iraqi people simply grow weary of inflicting death and destruction; or if one side simply vanquishes the other. But the Iraq military won't "handle" the Iraqi Civil War any more than the US military "handled" that country's civil war. And the current US forces are no more appropriate to "handle" Iraq's civil war than, say, the French military was during Sierra Leonne's civil war.

There are no good options for the US military. It needs to be prepared to get out of the way.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

There Must Be A Way In Somewhere!

Republicans still trying to find an entry point into the black community:

Republican leaders, preparing a strategy for several critical elections this year, are expanding their outreach efforts to black voters by offering a two-day training session for minorities interested in running for public office, becoming political advisors or facilitating GOP campaigns.


The session is open to any Republican minority candidate running for public office in 2006. While attending the two-day-training session, Wall said, black candidates will learn how to run grassroots campaigns, raise funds, build a 72-hour get-out-the-vote program and win their specific races.

I'll hand it to them: the GOP will do just about anything EXCEPT SUPPORT PROGRAMS THAT ADDRESS THE NEEDS OF AFRICAN AMERICANS in an effort to win (or steal) our votes. Will the Democrats have a countermeasure? Or just take us for granted by assuming that the Republican effort will fail? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Prepare the Circular Firing Squad

From the Washington Post:

A group of well-connected Democrats led by a former top aide to Bill Clinton is raising millions of dollars to start a private firm that plans to compile huge amounts of data on Americans to identify Democratic voters and blunt what has been a clear Republican lead in using technology for political advantage.

The effort by Harold Ickes, a deputy chief of staff in the Clinton White House and an adviser to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), is prompting intense behind-the-scenes debate in Democratic circles. Officials at the Democratic National Committee think that creating a modern database is their job, and they say that a competing for-profit entity could divert energy and money that should instead be invested with the national party.

Ickes and others involved in the effort acknowledge that their activities are in part a vote of no confidence that the DNC under Chairman Howard Dean is ready to compete with Republicans on the technological front. "The Republicans have developed a cadre of people who appreciate databases and know how to use them, and we are way behind the march," said Ickes, whose political technology venture is being backed by financier George Soros.

This is nasty.

Let's say what this is really about: Hillary's run for 2008. Hillary will need every possible tool at her disposal to have a shot a winning the '08 presidential election, and as the consummate insider, she both dislikes and distrusts Dean to be the caretaker of one of those critical tools.
So, rather than raise money for and try to work with the Democratic National Committee, this renegade crew decides to compete against them. Classic "insiders" vs. "outsiders" Democratic self-immolation.

As a candidate, Dean blew away fundraising records using the internet. Under Dean, the DNC is connecting with rank-and-file voters like never before. But none of that is good enough for Ickes and his posse.

Well, I wish everybody the best of luck on this. But if the idea is to target communications to the individual household to drive up turnout a few percentage points, I know of one group for whom these random database approaches will mean little: African Americans. Unless you're bringin' the funk with actual programs, policy votes, and outreach over the years between elections, you can forget "energizing" the black vote, no matter how many targeted mailings, phone calls, and home visits you make. John Kerry comes to mind as one who failed to catch on to that fact. Likewise Bill McBride, who was slated to unseat Jeb Bush in 2002.

Like I said, though, good luck. Hope whatever approaches the Democrats work up take control of the White House away from the a destructive GOP.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

A new animated series will be running on the Cartoon Network Sunday nights, starting March 19. Called "Minoriteam," the show is about a group of superheroes whose powers are exaggerated "minority" racial and ethnic stereotypes. They fight against an all-white clan of supervillians, who also are embued with racial stereotypes.

The heroes:
Non-Stop, a Middle-Eastern convenience-store owner who is immune to all forms of live ammunition.
El Jefe, a Mexican that fights crime with a leaf blower and cannot speak English.
Dr. Wang, an Asian Human Calculator and the leader of the Minoriteam.
Fasto, an African-American man who is known as "the fastest man that ever was."
Jewcano, a man with the powers of the Jewish Faith and a Volcano.

The villians:
The White Shadow, leader of the clan of supervillians, with a head/helmet in the shape of the Illuminati Pyramid.
The Head of the Cheerleading Squad, who is always snooty and impossible to please.
The Corporate Ladder, a ladder with a stool at the top who is impossible to scale/climb.
The Standardized Test, a man with an eraser on his head.

If the program shows how ridiculous the stereotypes in question are, well, that could be something. Even still, it would risk failing in the same way the classic sitcom "All In the Family" did back in the 1970's.

Back then, the producer, Norman Lear, and the star, Caroll O'Connor, wanted to use Archie Bunker's general ignorance as a way to spoof the racist cracks he regularly spouted. The idea was to show that only uneducated cretins believed the kind of stuff Archie believed.

The problem was that way too many Americans didn't get the joke. Rather than laughing at Archie, they found themselves laughing with him. Put another way, nobody ever went broke underestimating the sophistication of the American people. "All In the Family" was a huge hit right out the box, but after a few seasons Lear began phasing out the racism in Archie's character, realizing that he was just adding to the problem rather than helping solve it.

Here's hoping "Minoriteam" doesn't duplicate that unfortunate side effect.

Everything Going in the Wrong Direction

New ABC News/Washington Post poll tells us:

a) most Americans think the Iraq War is a fiasco, not worth the cost, and want the US to start pulling out

b) most Americans think Bush has no plan for dealing with the Iraq War fiasco

c) most Americans think the Democrats have no plan for dealing with the Iraq War fiasco

d) five weeks ago, the Democrats had a 14-point advantage over the Republicans on who was considered better equipped to handle the country's problems. That lead has now completely evaporated.

If the Democrats fail to at least make a sizable dent in the Republican lead for control of Congress this November, it will likely be because they could not present a convincing plan for dealing with the Iraq War. The failure ties back to the decision about half of them made four years ago to vote to give Bush the authority to inflict this catastrophe on the people of Iraq. Whether they actually bought in to the idea that Saddam was a threat to US or they just wanted to be on the "winning" side, too many Democrats made what was simply the wrong choice in 2002, and we are all paying for it now.

ON EDIT: Then again, this Gallup poll shows Dems holding a 14-point lead in the generic "which party will yuo vote for" question, so perhaps things aren't so bad for the Dems after all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Thanks, We'll Pass

Even in the heart of military country:

More Blacks Deciding Not To Serve

Defense Department statistics show that the number of black active-duty enlisted personnel has declined 14 percent since 2000. The decrease is particularly acute among the troops most active in the Middle East: The number of black enlisted soldiers has dropped by 19 percent and the number of black enlisted Marines has fallen by 26 percent in the same period.

Even in this area near Fort Bragg, where serving in uniform is a family tradition, the drop in Army enlistment by blacks from 2000 to 2005 matches the national average.


The lack of support for the war by blacks -- in uniform or not -- is striking. A poll of Cumberland County residents, commissioned last year by The Fayetteville Observer, showed that 69 percent of whites said the war in Iraq was worth the costs. Only 19 percent of blacks agreed.

Some will see this as a sign that blacks are less patriotic than whites. I see it as a sign that blacks are more likely to hold a healthy -- and well-advised -- skepticism toward the motivations of the US government in this war in Iraq.

Is This the Kind of Civil War Tom Friedman Wanted?

From January of 2005, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman:

This is a tough call, but I hope the elections go ahead as scheduled on Jan. 30. We have to have a proper election in Iraq so we can have a proper civil war there.


We don't want the kind of civil war that we have in Iraq now. That is a war of Sunni and Islamist militants against the U.S. and its Iraqi allies, many of whom do not seem comfortable fighting with, and seemingly for, the U.S. America cannot win that war. That is a civil war in which the murderous insurgents appear to be on the side of ending the U.S. "occupation of Iraq" and the U.S. and its allies appear to be about sustaining that occupation.

The civil war we want is a democratically elected Iraqi government against the Baathist and Islamist militants.

What do you mean "we," kemosabe? I don't want any kind of civil war. Got that?

Then in September of the same year:
Maybe the cynical Europeans were right. Maybe this neighborhood is just beyond transformation. That will become clear in the next few months as we see just what kind of minority the Sunnis in Iraq intend to be. If they come around, a decent outcome in Iraq is still possible, and we should stay to help build it. If they won’t, then we are wasting our time. We should arm the Shiites and Kurds and leave the Sunnis of Iraq to reap the wind.

Don't know whether the US is in fct arming the Shiites and Kurds, but in any event, the current bloodbath in Iraq appears to be going more-or-less as Mr. Friedman would have it. Bravo, Tom. Maybe one of these days, you'll be able to salvage a "see, I was right!" moment from the steaming pile of human carcasses you cheered on.