Blogs

Obama Up in Florida: Local GOPers Meet Secretly To Worry

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 2:04 PM EDT

Four recent polls showing Barack Obama moving ahead of John McCain in the all-important state of Florida--and leading McCain there by 3 to 8 points--have sent Sunshine State GOPers into a (secret) panic. The St. Petersburg Times reports:

Florida Republican leaders hastily convened a top secret meeting this week to grapple with Sen. John McCain's sagging performance in this must-win state.
Their fears were confirmed Wednesday when four new polls showed Sen. Barack Obama leading, a reversal from just a few weeks ago when McCain was opening up an advantage....
With some grass roots organizers complaining about coordination problems with the campaign, Republican Party chairman Jim Greer gathered top officials at the state headquarters in Tallahassee on Tuesday afternoon. He swore the group to secrecy.
When asked about it by the St. Petersburg Times, Greer confirmed the meeting. He largely declined to discuss what was said.

Or what they are planning. Note to Democrats, rent Recount--just in case.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

McCain Wants Afghanistan "Surge;" U.S. Commanders Do Not

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 2:03 PM EDT

Let's assume for a minute that the Iraq "surge" was primarily responsible for this year's reduction in violence there. A debatable point, but say it's true. Why shouldn't we just do the same thing in Afghanistan? That's the question on McCain's mind lately. "The same strategy that [Obama] condemned in Iraq," McCain said at last Friday's debate, referring to the Iraq surge, is "going to have to be employed in Afghanistan."

Hey, if it worked in one place, it'll work somewhere else, right? Not quite, say U.S. commanders (here and here). In a comforting departure from the adage that generals are always preparing to fight the last war, new CENTCOM commander General David Petraeus and the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David McKiernan, are warning that things aren't that simple and that lessons learned in Iraq don't necessarily translate.

As Petraeus told the New York Times yesterday, "People often ask, 'What did you learn from Iraq that might be transferable to Afghanistan?' The first lesson, the first caution really, is that every situation like this is truly and absolutely unique, and has its own context and specifics and its own texture."

McKiernan seconded the thought with this explanation to the Washington Independent:

[Afghanistan] has very harsh geography. It's very difficult to move around, getting back to our reliance on helicopters. It's a country with very few natural resources, as opposed to the oil revenues that [Iraq] has. There's very little money to be generated in terms of generated in Afghanistan. The literacy rate - you have a literate society in Iraq, you have a society that has a history of producing civil administrators, technocrats, middle class that are able to run the country in Iraq. You do not have that in Afghanistan. So there are a lot of challenges. What I don't think is needed - the word that I don't use in Afghanistan is the word 'surge.' There needs to be a sustained commitment of a variety of military and non-military resources, I believe.

All this said, McKiernan has also asked for more troops. Surge or not, Afghanistan is heating up and the next president will have to figure out how to best to proceed.

Bill O'Reilly Sees Himself as Proof of God

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 1:56 PM EDT

Or, more accurately, he sees his rise to the top of the media world as proof of God. No joke. From his new book, called A Bold Fresh Piece of Humanity:

"Next time you meet an atheist, tell him or her that you know a bold, fresh guy, a barbarian who was raised in a working-class home and retains the lessons he learned there.
"Then mention to that atheist that this guy is now watched and listened to, on a daily basis, by millions of people all over the world and, to boot, sells millions of books.
"Then, while the non-believer is digesting all that, ask him or her if they still don't believe there's a God!"

As if you needed any more proof that this man is a complete egomaniac...

(Via Oxdown Gazette)

Stevens Case in Trouble?

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 1:10 PM EDT

STEVENS CASE IN TROUBLE?....The government's case against Alaska Senator Ted Stevens, who is accused of accepting free renovations to his "chalet" from a campaign donor, is in trouble because the prosecution has been withholding evidence from Stevens' defense team:

The potentially exculpatory material involves remarks by the executive, Bill Allen, a key prosecution witness, who said he believed Stevens would have paid for the renovations if Allen had ever billed him. Attorneys for the government did not disclose those remarks until late yesterday.

In court this morning, prosecutor Brenda Morris acknowledged that the information should have been provided earlier but also argued that Stevens's lawyers could still cross-examine Allen on what he had said.

"We admit we made a gross error, Your Honor," Morris said. ". . . But there is no harm to the defendant."

Well, this puts me in a pickle. The overall fact pattern suggests to me that Stevens really is guilty. On the other hand, prosecutorial misconduct is a cancer. It's far more widespread than anyone ever likes to acknowledge, and one of the reasons is that judges usually let prosecutors off the hook for their misconduct with little more than a stern talking to. Frankly, having a high-profile case tossed out as a warning to the feds might not be such a bad idea. The judge will decide later today whether to declare a mistrial.

Mission Creep Dispatch: John Pike

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 12:40 PM EDT

pike.jpgAs part of our special investigation "Mission Creep: US Military Presence Worldwide" we asked a host of military thinkers to contribute their two cents on topics relating to global Pentagon strategy. (You can access the archive here.)

The following dispatch comes from John Pike, director of the military information website GlobalSecurity.org.


Regarding Bear DNA: Russia and Sarah Palin's Geopolitics

By now we've probably all seen the interview, or at least the spoofs: "As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go?" Sarah Palin asks Katie Couric. "It's Alaska. It's just right over the border....They are right there; they are right next to our state."

Privacy and Abortion

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 12:39 PM EDT

PRIVACY AND ABORTION....Adam Serwer takes on Sarah Palin's apparent view that you can be pro-life even though there's an inherent right to privacy in the constitution:

In my view, if there's a constitutional right to privacy, you can't take away someone's right to have an abortion, anymore than you can take away someone's right to bear arms.

In fairness, I really don't think this is true. The Fourth Amendment protects you against the police busting into your home without a warrant, but that doesn't mean it's OK to murder your kids as long as you do it in your living room. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, states could almost certainly declare that human life begins at conception and then outlaw abortion as murder regardless of any constitutional or statutory doctrine on privacy.

This would cause plenty of other problems for conservatives, of course, who are loathe to actually follow through on their belief that abortion is murder (Palin herself, for example, has been explicit that she doesn't think abortion should be criminalized). But I don't think privacy doctrine by itself would be conclusive one way or the other.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

U.S.-India Nuclear Deal Passes Congress

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 12:10 PM EDT

NagasakiCloud4Large.jpg

In the midst of debating a bailout package for Wall Street, the Senate took a break last night to vote on a measure that, although buried in the current news cycle, carries real consequence for the future of the world's already troubled nuclear nonproliferation efforts: in a vote of 86-13, the Senate approved the Bush administration's plan to begin supplying India with civilian nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel, and other related technologies. In return, India will open 14 civilian nuclear reactors to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency; 8 more military nuclear sites will remain off limits. The Senate vote followed House approval of the measure last week and a decision last month by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (a consortium of 45 nations involved in nuclear trade) to issue a waiver to India recognizing its status as a nuclear weapons state.

India has been a nuclear weapons pariah since it first exploded an atomic weapon in 1974. (The Nuclear Suppliers Group was established at U.S.-urging after the India test to prevent the country from obtaining additional nuclear capability; it was then aligned with Soviet Union.) Even today India has yet to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and additional nuclear tests in 1998 strengthened international opprobrium and led the Clinton administration to impose economic sanctions.

But all that is now history. Whereas the United States once viewed India through the prism of Cold War politics, it now sees the country as a crucial counterweight in its new power game with China. And the so-called U.S.-India Civil-Nuclear Agreement (known in trade circles as the "123 Agreement") solidifies the new strategic partnership.

Pearlstein's Prize

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 12:05 PM EDT

PEARLSTEIN'S PRIZE....Atrios has declared Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein "Wanker of the Day" for his performance during a bailout Q&A on Wednesday. As Glenn Greenwald documents, Pearlstein was indeed a bit of a dick, reminding everyone about his Pulitzer Prize and dismissing opposition to the bailout as little more than ignorance and mindless partisanship from demented bloggers. "Oh how we long for the Glory Days when the Steve Pearlsteins had their Supreme Wisdom honored and never had to hear anyone talking back," Glenn snarks.

Unfortunately, I'd say Pearlstein deserves the abuse. He must have been having a rough week or something. At the same time, it turns out he did address the questions Glenn highlights. Here, for example, he acknowledges that lots of academic economists oppose the Paulson plan and then explains why he thinks they're wrong:

Academic economists very widely believe that if the government would simply recapitalize the banks somehow, it will solve the problem by giving banks the room to borrow more and lend more, and by bringing in additional private capital. In a well functioning market, that would happen. But it ignores the reality that this is not a well functioning market, which is the basic problem we are trying to solve with this legislation. First, a dollar of new capital would not allow the banks to leverage it 10 times and lend out $11 because the market is not willing to lend at decent rates even to well-capitalized banks. Second, even if they had the money, banks are hoarding and unwilling to make loans because they are gripped by the same fear and panic as everyone else, particularly because they have assets on their books that have gone down in value every quarter for a year now and are likely to decline in the quarters to come. So the simple recapitalize the banks solution isn't going to cut it. That needs to be part of the solution, and but it is not sufficient at the moment.

And he also addresses the issue of whether we should bail out homeowners instead of Wall Street bankers:

We have already passed legislation to "bail up," several months ago, using an idea that I was one of the first people to push (refinancing involving a reduction of principal in return for equity stake in the house). We might want to expand that program even further, but it is simply not true that we haven't done anything. We put $300 billion of refinancing into that, thanks to Congressman Frank, who you would villify.

....The obvious problem is that, if you say you'll do it prospectively, then everyone will make themselves delinquent if they think they can get a better deal, and we'll have a huge bill. My guess is that it will also be politically unacceptable when people see that their taxes are being used to help out the guy next door who took on too much debt.

Pearlstein's tone is unusually snotty in this Q&A, and he should watch himself. Bloggers aren't the only ones pissed off about the bailout, the issues are genuinely complex, and insulting critics as morons is hardly a way to build support for the Paulson plan. Still, he did generally answer the questions put to him. There's plenty of substance there to go along with the snark.

A Sign the Obama Campaign May Have Too Much Money on Its Hands

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 11:00 AM EDT

Channel 73 of the Dish Network is now labeled "OBAMA" and reportedly plays nothing but Obama's two-minute ad on the bailout. One ad, on a loop.*

What's next? Dudes walking around swing states wearing Obama sandwich boards? Product placement in movies? They certainly seem to have the cash lying around...

* The Obama campaign is now reportedly diversifying the channel's content.

Final (?) Excerpt From the Palin-Couric Interview

| Thu Oct. 2, 2008 9:58 AM EDT

The final excerpt (reportedly) from Katie Couric's interview with Sarah Palin aired yesterday. As a number of people have noted, Palin is unable to identify a Supreme Court ruling that she disagrees with other than Roe v. Wade. In fact, she looks hard pressed to identify another Supreme Court ruling. The really uncomfortable part is the last minute of the video below, but the whole thing is worth watching.


Watch CBS Videos Online

And Kevin notes that Palin's statement that the Constitution includes a right to privacy is a bit odd. She agrees that there is a Constitutional right undergirding Roe, but then asserts that the right ought to be regulated or addressed by the states. Huh?