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Hillary Clinton's "I'm Sorry" Problem Gets Worse

| Sun Feb. 18, 2007 1:39 PM EST

Last week I had a long post about Hillary Clinton's "I'm Sorry" problem, i.e. the fact that she refuses to say "I'm sorry" or "I was wrong" about her vote for the Iraq War in 2002. Even though voters on the campaign trail are making it clear that she needs to say these simple words in order to get their vote, Hillary has insisted that the mistakes were all George W. Bush's, and he should be the one to offer any apologies. It's an untenable position in a primary race filled with voters from the angry anti-war left (which includes me and just about every other liberal I know).

In an article from the New York Times entitled "Clinton Gives War Critics New Answer on '02 Vote," we find that Clinton has... pretty much stayed the same. Here's the Times:

...yesterday morning Mrs. Clinton rolled out a new response to those demanding contrition: She said she was willing to lose support from voters rather than make an apology she did not believe in.

So Clinton is sticking to her guns. She told an audience in New Hampshire that "If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from." She is referring to Obama in the first and Edwards in the second.

This makes me think that the stance isn't just a political calculation but instead a deeply held belief that she will not let become a matter of political convenience. But then you read these paragraphs from Times, and it all just feels like stupid campaign politics.

"She is in a box now on her Iraq vote, but she doesn't want to be in a different, even worse box — the vacillating, flip-flopping Democratic candidate that went to defeat in 2000 and '04," said one adviser to Mrs. Clinton.
Indeed, Mrs. Clinton believes that reversing course on her vote would invite the charge of flip-flopping that damaged Mr. Kerry or provoke the kind of accusations of political expediency that hung over Al Gore in 2000 and her and her husband, President Bill Clinton, in the 1990s, several advisers said. She has argued to associates in private discussions that Mr. Gore and Mr. Kerry lost, in part, because they could not convince enough Americans that they were resolute on national security, the associates said.

So it's a matter of image and avoiding the flip-flop label. First of all, I can't imagine that a single flip-flop on this issue will be more damaging than Clinton refusing to apologize for an increasingly catastrophic war at every campaign stop over the next year plus. Second, I'm willing to tolerate campaign trail politics on a lot of different issues, but the Iraq War evokes a deep, visceral response from me: I want it addressed plainly and genuinely, without guile. I don't want it trivialized by political calculations. I think voters on the trail want the same. See my last post on this issue, wherein a voter asked Clinton a question begging -- literally begging! -- for a straightforward but deeply felt response.

What does she actually believe? What is masked by all the political considerations? I don't feel like I know, which is murder for her candidacy.

But as long as we're playing the horse race game.... Hillary Clinton simply will not be able to stick to her guns on this in the long run (because of clear and almost fatal damage to her campaign hopes as months go by) and in the end will be forced to apologize -- making it look like she caved. She should apologize now when she still has some control over the circumstances and coverage of the thing.

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Ghost in the Machine?

| Sat Feb. 17, 2007 4:23 PM EST

Brian Flemming, an ex-evangelical and director of the film "The God Who Wasn't There," mounted the Blasphemy Challenge in late 2006, asking rational people to deny the existence of the Holy Spirit via YouTube.

In a famous video, a young girl proclaims, "I know that the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, God, the flying spaghetti monster, pink unicorns, all of these made-up entities do not exist."

Naturally, the religious right is pretty upset. So now Mike Mickey, the Web master for RaptureAlert.com has cleverly introduced Challenge Blasphemy.

Mickey is concerned that some of the young people enjoying themselves as they rise to the Blasphemy Challenge will later be afraid to turn to God because of their great videotaped sin.

It seems the existence or non-existence of God will also be debated over the mysterious, wireless, omnipotent internet.

White House Backs Down on U.S. Attorney Nomination

| Sat Feb. 17, 2007 3:07 PM EST

I blogged yesterday about the controversial, and seemingly politically motivated, firing of several U.S. Attorneys. The most egregious of 7-10 cases is that of H.E. Cummings III of Arkansas. Mr. Cummings was let go, according to Alberto Gonzalez's deputy, to make room for J. Timothy Griffin, who had served as a political director for the Republican National Committee and a deputy to none other than Karl Rove. (In print, Mr. Griffin is "J. Timothy," but when the White House talks about what a great guy he is, they call him "Tim.")

The White House has finally realized that its claim that this was standard personnel management ain't gonna fly and has agreed not to nominate Mr. Griffin as a permanent replacement for Mr. Cummings. (He will, however, remain as a temporary replacement.)

Now this is the kind of stuff that wouldn't even have made the papers if the Dems weren't in power, and for that we are duly grateful.

Air Conditioning Heats Your World

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 9:05 PM EST

Our cool addiction is making it hotter. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports on a study by Dr Yukitaka Ohashi of Okayama University of Science and colleagues in the Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology reporting that air conditioners make it hotter outside and how they do it.

Their study compared the summer temperatures in downtown Tokyo on weekends versus weekdays. It showed air conditioners dump enough heat into the streets to raise the temperature at least 1 to 2ºC [1.8 to 3.6 degrees F]. In turn, heat blasting from the rear-ends of air conditioners is contributing to the "heat island" effect that makes cities hotter and their weather sometimes more severe.

Air conditioners remove not only ambient heat from buildings, but they expel heat from their use of electricity. In other words, coolers don't just move heat from the inside to the outdoors, they also add new heat just by being machines that consume power. In fact, Tokyo sucks up about 1.6 gigawatts of electricity for every 2 degrees of warming on a hot summer day, the researchers says. That's equivalent to the output of one-and-a-half nuclear power plants.

If we want to get serious about local warming as well as global warming can we agree to open the doors? I mean, does anyone keep their house or apartment as frigid as the average mini-mart, restaurant, or mall store? Can we imagine adding thermostat control to our list of consumer demands… we already (don't we?) ask for sustainably-caught seafood and sustainably-harvested wood and forest products? Why not ask to open the doors and cool the world?

US-based urban heat researcher Dr Stuart Gaffin of the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University in New York suspects the Japanese researchers are right about the significant contribution of air conditioning to hotter cities. "Such heat is not fully appreciated in urban heat island discussions," says Gaffin. The heat islands created by big cities in warm climates like Atlanta or Dallas - have been recognised as having noticeable and sometimes violent effects on stormy weather that crosses their path. Even non-urban areas downwind of cities have been known to get more violent thunder storms as a result of the supercharging of storms by city heat.

Either we get bitchy about it or Mother Nature will. And she's queen bitch.

Miers Had Hand in U.S. Attorney Firings

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 8:08 PM EST

You might suspect that your firing was politically motivated when (1) it happens 2 days after you indict a high-ranking CIA official in a corruption scandal, or (2) your replacement is a buddy of Karl Rove's. Such are the stories of Carol Lam of San Diego and H.E. Cummings III of Arkansas. Turns out old Harry, as in Harriet "Good Enough for the Supreme Court but Not Good Enough to Insulate Bush, Inc. from the Dems" Miers, who was then counsel for the president, had a hand in replacing Cummings with Rove buddy J. Timothy Griffin. So, uh, which party is it again that opposes judicial activism?

A Science PhD Who's Also a Creationist?

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 5:51 PM EST

Science blogs have been buzzing about Marcus Ross, a geosciences PhD who's also a creationist. The controversy: Should the University of Rhode Island have granted Ross a PhD for his scientific work, even though he also believes the Bible's account of the earth's origin is literally true?

I say: sure.

The PhD process is not a referendum on your political, moral, religious beliefs -- it's a measure of your scientific work. And according to Ross' dissertation advisor, his scientific work on marine mammals (which didn't challenge the theory of evolution) was "impeccable." Assuming that's really the case, there's no reason to deny him a degree. Science isn't about individual researchers' personalities or their personal beliefs -- it's about the continual advancement of a body of knowledge through testing hypotheses and peer review. Like Scott Aaronson says, the great thing about science is that unlike religious fundamentalism, it doesn't "need loyalty oaths in order to function. We don't need to peer into people's souls to see if they truly believe."

Some are worried that he'll just take his PhD and use it as a credential to push intelligent design. (Actually, he's already doing that. Check out his DVD, put out by a Colorado Springs-based intelligent design organization.) But what one plans to do with a degree isn't the concern of a PhD committee. Plus, on a practical front, it looks like he's already limiting his message to fundamentalists -- his first gig as professor is at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, where job biology job announcements say: "compatibility with a young-earth creationist philosophy required."

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RSC Backs Off On Attack Against Pelosi's Blog, Because, Well, They Were Wrong

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 3:52 PM EST

Judging by the onslaught of comments on my previous post about Pelosi's blog and by this Fox News story, it looks like the RSC is backpedaling on their accusations that "The Gavel" infringes upon C-SPAN copyright laws. (YouTube videos of the network's chamber coverage were posted on the site.)

"Bruce Collins, the Corporate Vice President and General Counsel of C-SPAN, called post release and said that the information provided by the C-SPAN employee to the RSC was incorrect."

Indeed, like many had noted, the C-SPAN video posted on Pelosi's blog is public domain.

Migration Group Says 1 Million Iraqi Refugees Will Flee This Year

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 3:30 PM EST

The International Organization for Migration, an inter-governmental group, reports today that they estimate 1 million Iraqis will flee the country in 2007. The situation in Iraq and for its citizens, a spokesperson for the group said, is not improving. This would be a drastic increase over the 2 million refugees who have fled over a four year period since the beginning of the war in 2003. 1.8 million more have fled their homes to safer areas within the country.

The concern is that four years after the U.S. invasion in March, this number should be getter smaller, not bigger. The Iraqi refugee situation, which some fear could be worse than Darfur, is grave, as I have written about before, because relocation options for refugees are limited. Jordan has closed its doors and increasingly, the country has become more and more unfriendly to Iraqis, especially Shiites. There is talk that Syria will close its borders soon as well.

The announcement, by IOM, comes in the wake of a decision by the Bush administration to allow 7,000 Iraqi refugees to seek asylum in the U.S. Under pressure from Syria, who blames "Washington for the 'humanitarian catastrophe' involving Iraqi refugees," the administration made this small concession. (The U.S. has only allowed 500 refugees into the country in the past four years.)

The Jordanian government is not impressed. A spokesperson for the government noted that 7,000 is just one percent of the number of refugees Jordan has accommodated. Syria has taken in 1 million. The United Nations excuses the U.S.'s "miserly" asylum quota by claiming that most refugees would like to return to Iraq and aren't interested in a home in the U.S. This is bunk on so many levels. Yes, of course, Iraqis would ultimately like to go home, but their native country is unsafe for them and so most of them are willing, I'm sure, to consider a second choice. And more importantly, many Iraqis do want asylum in the U.S. In fact, 100,000 Iraqi Christians are reported to have expressed interest in resettling in the U.S.

Southern Lawmakers Accuse Jews of Inventing Evolution, Big Bang, Heliocentrism

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 3:00 PM EST

In the mid-1500's Copernicus developed the modern version of heliocentrism, the idea that the sun (and not the earth) is the center of the solar system. Well, these folks believe that Copernicus (or should I say, Coperniberg) and the continued insistence to this very day that the Earth is not a fixed object are part of a "centuries-old conspiracy" composed of Jewish physicists set on destroying Christianity.

Ancient India, Greece, and Persia all suspected that the Earth revolved around the sun, and not vice versa. Clearly, those places were overrun by Jews. Oy vey.

PS - I suppose there are worse things to be accused of than inventing some of science's most fundamental concepts. Like being insane, or worse yet, being dim enough to willingly select insane, bigoted people to govern you.

More on McCain and Romney, the Amazing Pandering Duo

| Fri Feb. 16, 2007 2:22 PM EST

Yesterday when I blogged about Mitt Romney following John McCain's lead on the speak-at-universities-run-by-right-wing-zealots front, I couldn't have known that Howard Fineman of Newsweek would be thinking along the same lines.

 fineman_serious.jpg Well, he is. In a "WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY" on Newsweek.com (for the record, everything I write in this space is a WEB-EXCLUSIVE COMMENTARY) Fineman says that the three "kingmakers" of the right are Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and James Dobson. Writes the very serious gentleman at right, "There are two main fault lines among them: the one in Virginia, which separates Falwell and Robertson; and the one that separates Dobson, in his mountain fastness of Colorado Springs, from those he genially regards as amateurs (everybody else)."

That means that after Papa McCain cozied up to Falwell and the good reverend made McCain his choice for the Repbulican nomination, Robertson had to go looking for another candidate to endorse (and influence, obviously). And that's why we have news that Romney will be delivering the next commencement address at Robertson's Regent University; the man who once said that George Bush would win in 2004 because the Lord had told him so has selected the First Mormon as his cause.

That leaves Dobson. He's already said "I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances" and, according to Fineman, has said the same about Giuliani. Fineman says that leaves Mike Huckabee, "the personable former Arkansas governor who also spent a good bit of his career as a Southern Baptist preacher."

I can just see the campaign slogans now. "Huckabee '08: Jesus Was a Dark Horse, Too!"

Wait, isn't that a country song?