Right Wing Treason

By Anthony | September 30th, 2009 | 7:29 am

This is beyond the pale – a columnist at Newsmax advocates a military coup to overthrow the government of the United States. Of course, he says he’s merely “describing” what could happen, not advocating it. But the language he uses suggests otherwise:

Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a “family intervention,” with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

Despite the warped view of patriotism one must have to consider the military overthrow of our Constitution as “patriotic”, describing it this way sure makes it sound like he thinks it would be good for the country. And the Democrats and liberals are the ones who are supposedly fascists and dictators?

It’s incredible how quickly attitudes on the right have changed. During the Bush administration, the President’s detractors were met with right-wing howls of “un-American!” and “treason!” for mere criticism. Yet now it’s apparently ok to publish fantasies about the military overthrow of our democratically-elected President.

For those on the right who claim that this is a fringe voice, that this isn’t the way your side really feels: If that’s true, you need to start speaking out against this sort of talk. Liberals can speak out against it all day, but we’ll be ignored – after all, we’re the fascists, right?

If this doesn’t represent how you feel – if you disagree that a military coup is “patriotic” – then you need to start taking your side to task over it. Muster up some of that outrage you had on display during the Bush administration.

This sort of dangerous rhetoric has been heating up, not dying down. Eventually, some unhinged, right-wing lunatic is going to take these sorts of paranoid ravings to heart and take a shot at the President. At that point, mainstream Republicans will wring their hands and say “Oh that’s taking it too far, no one ever meant for that to happen.” Well, it’s obvious that some on your side do mean for it to happen, and if you answer their rantings with a mere eye-roll and a pat on the head, your hand-wringing will have no credibility.

[Update: Newsmax has flushed the original article down the memory hole, so I've changed the link to the Google cache version of the page (link courtesy of Roch over at Ed Cone's).]

Blunting the Backlash

By Anthony | May 26th, 2009 | 11:05 pm

Limbaugh is nothing if not canny:

Calling Sotomayor a “racist” and a “hack” on his radio show Tuesday, Limbaugh took particular issue with a 2001 speech at Berkeley during which she stated a “wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

“Here you have a racist – you might want to soften that, and you might want to say a reverse racist,” Limbaugh said of that comment.

It’s a typical GOP tactic – take your vulnerability and try to stick it on your opponent. Limbaugh and other Republicans know that if they attack Sotomayor they’ll be accused (whether rightly or wrongly) of being racists. Limbaugh is trying to blunt that criticism by making Sotomayor out to be the racist.

It’s the same tactic that occurred during the general election, when we had some of the most pampered, upper-crust Republican candidates trying to paint Obama as an elite.

Prolonged Warfare

By Anthony | May 25th, 2009 | 8:35 pm

When you engage in actual fighting, if victory is long in coming, then men’s weapons will grow dull and their ardor will be damped. If you lay siege to a town, you will exhaust your strength. Again, if the campaign is protracted, the resources of the State will not be equal to the strain.

Now, when your weapons are dulled, your ardor damped, your strength exhausted and your treasure spent, other chieftains will spring up to take advantage of your extremity. Then no man, however wise, will be able to avert the consequences that must ensue. Thus, though we have heard of stupid haste in war, cleverness has never been seen associated with long delays. There is no instance of a country having benefited from prolonged warfare.

- Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Preventive Detention

By Anthony | May 23rd, 2009 | 12:14 am

I gotta start paying attention to these sorts of things again. If Greenwald is portraying this accurately, it’s absolutely chilling:

It’s important to be clear about what “preventive detention” authorizes. It does not merely allow the U.S. Government to imprison people alleged to have committed Terrorist acts yet who are unable to be convicted in a civilian court proceeding. That class is merely a subset, perhaps a small subset, of who the Government can detain. Far more significant, “preventive detention” allows indefinite imprisonment not based on proven crimes or past violations of law, but of those deemed generally “dangerous” by the Government for various reasons (such as, as Obama put it yesterday, they “expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden” or “otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans”). That’s what “preventive” means: imprisoning people because the Government claims they are likely to engage in violent acts in the future because they are alleged to be “combatants.”

Once known, the details of the proposal could — and likely will — make this even more extreme by extending the “preventive detention” power beyond a handful of Guantanamo detainees to anyone, anywhere in the world, alleged to be a “combatant.” After all, once you accept the rationale on which this proposal is based — namely, that the U.S. Government must, in order to keep us safe, preventively detain “dangerous” people even when they can’t prove they violated any laws — there’s no coherent reason whatsoever to limit that power to people already at Guantanamo, as opposed to indefinitely imprisoning with no trials all allegedly “dangerous” combatants, whether located in Pakistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Western countries and even the U.S.

This is insane and indefensible. And Greenwald is right – it may be limited to the Guantanamo prisoners right now, but there’s no reason to think it’s going to remain that way. I sincerely hope that anyone who spoke out against the Bush administration’s abuses of civil liberties and rule of law will be consistent and criticize Obama for this proposal.

Cartoon: Protest Petitions

By Anthony | January 20th, 2009 | 1:25 pm

Cartoon: Protest Petitions

Local blogger Keith Brown is working hard to get protest petitions reinstated for Greensboro. Protest petitions give citizens a bit more power in the zoning process, and Greensboro is the only city in North Carolina that doesn’t allow them as an option. Check out Keith’s site, Protest Petition for Greensboro North Carolina for lots more info.

Practicing What We Preach

By Anthony | November 5th, 2008 | 8:08 am

E. J. Dionne Jr. on the election:

Above all, it is time to celebrate the country’s wholehearted embrace of democracy, reflected in the intense engagement of Americans in this campaign and the outpouring to the polls all over the nation. For years, we have spoken of bringing free elections to the rest of the world even as we cynically mocked our own ways of conducting politics. Yesterday, we chose to practice what we have been preaching.

I’m looking forward to seeing some voter turnout numbers.

Taxing Oil

By Anthony | October 26th, 2008 | 7:39 am

David Frum floats an interesting idea – a standby tax on oil:

The one (and probably only) thing that will promote a shift away from oil is an excise tax to ensure that the price of oil remains at or above $65 a barrel. If oil falls below that figure, the tax kicks in: $1 at $64 a barrel, $2 at $63, and so on all the way down.

It makes sense on many fronts – it would discourage the use of oil, encourage development of other technologies, and provide additional revenue to throw at the national debt. Now is a good time for it, since the current price of fuel actually seems like a relief due to the bloated prices we experienced at the end of the summer.

Of course, from a personal point of view I’d love for the price of gas to keep dropping as low as possible. At the same time, I realize that allowing that to happen is only going to postpone any meaningful steps away from oil, which will just lead us right back into more painful situations.

A Second Chance this Election Day

By Anthony | October 21st, 2008 | 7:50 pm

Did you vote for Bush in 2004, and later regret that vote? Considering how low Bush’s approval ratings are, there must be at least a few of you out there.

Fortunately, you get a do-over. A second chance, of sorts.

It’s pretty well known by now that McCain has voted in line with Bush’s positions anywhere from 77 to 95 percent of the time. That’s pretty strong evidence that McCain generally agrees with Bush’s philosophy and policies on running this country. So in a very real sense, a vote for McCain can be considered to be a vote for an extension of Bush’s presidency.

But it’s not just McCain. Daniel Larison, blogging for The American Conservative, makes the case that Sarah Palin shares many of the same personality traits that may have contributed to Bush’s less-than-stellar performance as President:

There are simply too many similarities between the traits that her admirers praise in Gov. Palin and the traits that they once praised (still praise?) in Mr. Bush, and I don’t see how anyone who looks back on the practical consequences of Mr. Bush’s time in office can look at Gov. Palin and her thin record and not see that by cheering her on so enthusiastically they are repeating the same blunder they made before. The claim that Gov. Palin’s character shows that she will be a good leader and would, if the occasion demanded, be capable of serving successfully as President seems to depend heavily on an assumption that Mr. Bush has also been a successful President, which at this point must appear even to his previous supporters to be an indefensible proposition.

Radley Balko sees it too:

This growing anti-intellectualism on the right is alarming. It isn’t that Palin is dumb. I don’t think she is. It’s that she has no interest in learning, no interest in reading or experiencing anything that might challenge what she already knows she believes. She thinks with her gut, as Steven Colbert might put it. She’s a female W. And they seem to love her for it. The GOP has gone populist. Knowledge, worldliness, and learning are to be shunned, swept aside as East Coast elitism. It’s all about insularity, earthy values, and simpleness.

Happy you voted for Bush, and pleased with the job he’s done? Then McCain and Palin should provide more of the same policies and unblinking certainty that Bush gave us for the last eight years. For those who aren’t happy with where Bush has taken us, you have another chance.

Regret that vote for Bush? Don’t make the same mistake again.

Palin Was Vetted

By Anthony | September 5th, 2008 | 11:34 pm

It turns out that Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin was vetted after all – by Alaskan Democrats in 2006. Mudflats, an Alaskan political blog, links to opposition research compiled during her 2006 run for Governor of Alaska.

Palin for President?

By Anthony | September 1st, 2008 | 9:43 am

I’m fascinated by McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin for Vice President. Considering how much emphasis McCain has placed on the necessity of “experience”, it seems highly hypocritical of him to choose her, when there were so many other potential picks who had far more experience. Apparently, experience isn’t as important as he’d led us to believe – McCain was for experience before he was against it.

Some McCain-Palin supporters will justify the VP pick by pointing out that she’ll only be number two, so a lack of experience is ok – “Obama heads the ticket, Palin doesn’t” as Sam Spagnola commented over at Ed Cone’s blog. This is true – as long as McCain is actually able to serve his entire first term. At 72 years of age, that’s far from a given.

It’s easy enough to brush off such concerns – life expectancy is pretty high these days. So let’s look at some actual numbers and see how concerned we should be. What are the chances that McCain will take up residence in the White House of the Great Beyond before his first term is up, thereby promoting Vice President Palin to the position of President Palin?

Looking at a 2004 actuarial life table, we can find the probability of a person dying within one year for any given age (the first column in the table). Obviously, the older a person is, the greater this probability becomes. We’ll look at three numbers here – the death probability for a male at ages 72, 73, and 74. This would cover essentially the first three years of McCain’s first term, up until 2011 – I’ll assume that after that point we’re close enough to the next election that a “President Palin” wouldn’t be as much of a potential issue.

The probabilities for death within one year at those three ages are 0.032978, 0.036086, and 0.039506 – essentially between three and four percent for each year. To figure out the probability that McCain will die within his first three years as President, we first calculate the probability that he will survive all three of those years. The formula for that is:

(1 – d1) * (1 – d2) * (1 – d3)

Where d1, d2, and d3 are the probabilities of death for each of the three years in question. So, plugging in our numbers:

(1 – 0.032978) * (1 – 0.036086) * (1 – 0.039506) = 0.895301

That’s the probability McCain makes it through the first three years of his presidency. We subtract that from 1 to find the probability that he doesn’t survive his first three years:

1 – 0.895301 = 0.104699

As you can see, going by the actuarial numbers there’s roughly a 10 percent chance that McCain will go off to be with that great Commander-In-Chief-In-The-Sky by the third year of his first term. Of course this doesn’t even account for the possibility that he may have to step down for other, non-fatal reasons, such as a recurrence of melanoma or some other health-related issue. That makes the 10 percent a baseline number.

So keep that in mind – if you vote for McCain, there’s at least a 10 percent chance that you’re actually voting for Sarah Palin for President. If you think she’s actually qualified to be President, then you’re all set. But if you agree with many people, liberal and conservative alike, and you don’t think she’s qualified, then you should reconsider your views on McCain. Is he being less than honest, lacking in sound judgment, or both? Is experience critically important, as he said? If so, there were many, many more people who are vastly more qualified that he could have picked, guaranteeing our safety and security in the not-too-unlikely event of his death. If experience is not critically important, then one of the key arguments of his campaign has been a lie.