Monthly Archives: March 2008

Great Success

This is entry 31 for March.

From March 1:

I have a goal for March: I will have written 31 weblog entries for the month. I need to sharpen my writing skills and develop talking points. I need to commit my political talking points to memory.

Well, I didn’t really develop talking points, but I did begin to sharpen my writing skills. I wrote several longer pieces this month, which I haven’t done in a while.

I’m pretty excited about achieving the goal of 31 entries. It always feels good to set a goal and achieve it. I think I’ve made weblogging a habit once again, and you can look forward to many more entries in the future.

Brain, Treadmill, TV

I feel like my brain is running on a treadmill and the treadmill won’t stop. It’s been running for who knows how long, and I’m starting to go crazy.

Maybe TV will help stop my brain’s constant frenetic activity.

UPDATE: And that’s why I can’t survive without television.

Basra and the Surge

Isn’t this the opposite of what the surge was supposed to accomplish? We were supposed to have space for political reconciliation. This open warfare between factions is precisely the opposite of political situation. Propping up Maliki has led to this.

The American presence is supposed to prevent civil war, and here we are, our military supporting one side of a civil war.

Also, saw this: “The Turkish military said Saturday that it had killed 15 Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq on Thursday using long-range land weapons, Reuters reported.” in a NY Times article. I got to find out what’s going on with that.

What’s Going on in Basra

I’m doing my best to stay informed on the violence in Basra, and the rest of Iraq. Here’s some random links:

Slate: Warlord vs. Warlord

The fighting this week in Basra may be a prelude to the moratorium’s collapse and, with it, the resumption of wide-scale sectarian violence—Shiite vs. Sunni and Shiite vs. Shiite.

Many Shiites believe—not unreasonably—that Maliki ordered the offensive in Basra now in order to destroy Sadr’s base of support and thus keep his party from beating ISCI in the upcoming provincial elections.

NY Times: U.S. Planes Attack Militia Strongholds in Basra Fighting

Violence also broke out in Kut, Hilla, Amara, Kirkuk, Baquba and other cities. In Baghdad, where explosions shook the city throughout the day on Thursday, American officials said 11 rockets struck the Green Zone, killing an unidentified American government worker, the second this week.

Yahoo! News: US airstrike kills at least 4 in Baghdad

“He imprisoned and displaced thousands of Iraqi people under the name of democracy. He is killing the citizens in the south of Iraq,” Sheik Jalil al-Sarghi said, referring to al-Maliki as U.S. helicopters buzzed over the office where the prayer service was held.


The prime minister put his credibility on the line by flying down to Basra on Monday and issuing a weekend deadline for the surrender of Mahdi Army militiamen loyal to al-Sadr.

Sisyphus’s Surge

When the surge was first proposed, I said it was a foolish thing to do. I conceded that it could temporarily dampen violence. However, we were like Sisyphus, rolling the stone up the hill, and before it reaches the top, it will roll down again. With the outbreak of violence in Basra, I fear that Sisyphus’s boulder is rolling down the hill again.

Conservatives like to say that liberals take glee every time there’s bad news from Iraq. We don’t. We (well, I’m not quite a liberal) are angry because this was preventable. Our soldiers are dying because you sent them on a fool’s errand. We take no delight in being prescient about disaster. Instead, we are aghast that you are so detached from reality.

I’ve said that the surge has been a strategic failure (no political reconciliation, which was the stated purpose of the surge by surge-proponents), but now I want to go even further. As we continue with this boondoggle, we pump billions of dollars in Iraq. Much of this money simply disappears. The Iraqi government is a thinly veiled sectarian stronghold and some of this money undoubtedly goes into weapons. At the same time, we are bribing Sunnis not to kill us and not to kill other Iraqis. Undoubtedly, some of that money will go into weapons. The longer we stay in Iraq, the more money we dump into a civil war. We are fanning the flames. We are making the situation worse.

The surge was limited and we could maintain that troop level only for so long without breaking our military. That is why I predicted that any gains would be transient. We simply do not have the troops to pacify Iraq without a draft. Furthermore, because we do not have the necessary economic plan to rebuild Iraq and because we still do not enough people who speak their language, we cannot make the correct long term investments to make any real gains in Iraq. We’re attempting to nation-build with the military, which is the wrong approach. It is like trying to turn a screw with a hammer.

While I do recognize that leaving Iraq will not be a cakewalk, it is abundantly clear that the only correct option is to withdraw our troops. It is impossible to do what the proponents of war want us to achieve. We do not have enough men or cultural awareness. Our presence destabilizes Iraq while it bankrupts us. That is enough to discredit the pro-occupation stance.

Big States Redux: The Illinois Dilemma

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about the faulty logic behind Clinton’s Big State Argument. I wanted to add a caveat to Clinton’s New York victory. How come Clinton’s win in New York counts, but Obama’s win in Illinois does not? I did some simple addition using this handy chart from the New York Times. One of her “big state” wins is from Ohio, which has 141 pledged delegates. Compare this to Illinois, which has 153 pledged delegates. How come Illinois doesn’t count? Oh wait, maybe we should only count electoral votes! Hm… No, Illinois has 22 while Ohio has 21.

So either Illinois is not a big state, which means Ohio can’t be either, or Illinois doesn’t count because it’s Obama’s home state, which means New York doesn’t count for Clinton. Either way, it adds another nail to the coffin of her big state argument.

Oh well, I’m sure Clinton can come up with another reason why Illinois doesn’t count as a big state.

I recommend Predictably Irrational

I picked up Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely several days ago. It was a quick read; I finished it on the airplain ride to Baltimore. Dan Ariely is a Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT. The book’s about how the human mind makes the same kinds of mistakes over and over. We’re irrational, but not randomly irrational.

The book occasionally delves into speculation about policy implications, but it got me thinking more abstractly. I thought about political philosophy in general. Certain ideologies, such as radical libertarianism, are very wedded to the power of the free market. However, these ideas are based on a model of economics which are in turn based on a faulty theory of mind. In fact, inside any political philosophy, you’ll find a theory of human nature. If we’re finding out new things about human nature, shouldn’t our political philosophies reflect those new discoveries? Shouldn’t old political philosophies be tossed aside?

Rethinking Hotlinking

A long time ago, I disabled hotlinking to my websites. That is, one could not put an image of mine (src=””) on their own website. I had a very good reason. People loved posting my Chalkboard Manifesto comics on other people’s MySpace pages. On my old host, the amount of hotlinking from MySpace made me go over my bandwidth limits. I switched to a new host, but I was still using bandwidth at an alarming rate. I had to disable hotlinking.

Although I’m still with that same host, they’ve since upped my bandwidth (and space). I’m reconsidering lifting that hotlinking ban. It’s amazing how little bandwidth and server space costs these days.

Some Political Consequences of Obama’s Speech on Race

Despite my changing political views, I still read some of the same right-wing blogs. I’ve decided that it’s a useful life skill (and a useful political skill) to be able to understand the opinions of others.

Obama’s recent speech on race won’t change anything in the minds of the right. To some of them, Reverand Wright is the black equivalent of David Duke. Wright is a racist. And it is not just that Obama is associated with him, but that Wright is a mentor and has had a very close relationship with Obama. Some on the right believe Obama has the same views as Wright, and some think that Obama showed a serious lapse of judgment in choosing to associate with a racist. Either way, the stigma of racism has been attached to Obama.

There is a further issue in this, that involves the previous actions of the left. At Strom Thurmond’s 100th birthday, Trent Lott said that Thurmond would’ve made a good president. Yet at the time Thurmond wanted to be president, he was an ardent segregationist. Lott suffered for these remarks. He was forced to apologize and lost his position as majority leader. A much smaller offense sunk Lott; they think it should equally sink Obama. In fact, if it doesn’t sink Obama, it reveals a double-standard. It says that it’s okay for black people to be racist.* That leads to further resentment.

The speech does nothing to change this. No speech can change the fact that Obama has a 20 year relationship with this “racist” Wright. Couple this with the resentment, and it doesn’t look good for Obama. It provides the right with a rallying point; it will energize them when they wouldn’t otherwise be energized. That’s the bad news.

But let’s take a larger view. To demonize the opponent is the modus operandi of the Republican Party. First there were rumors that Obama was Muslim, then they tried to portray him as a flag lapel pin hater, and now Obama is supposedly a racist. It’s all the same tactics. Obama is the other and he is unpatriotic. This is how they would portray him regardless of Reverend Wright’s existence. With or without Wright, we’d still be in the same (swift)boat.

The next question is: How did this affect independent voters? How did this affect Democratic voters? I cannot answer the first question.

Part of the second question’s answer is that the speech definitely energized Obama supporters. It made us remember why we support him. He’s a thoughtful, brave politician. He dealt with race in an incredibly nuanced way, which no other politician has dared to do. He won’t approach this issue in the same old way. In a word: Change. We’re hungry for change, and he delivered. More importantly, it assuaged our fears of the sinking of Obama’s campaign. It certainly assuaged any misgivings Richardson might have had.

As for how it affects Democratic voters who have not yet pledged their support to Obama, I cannot judge that either. I have not studied their opinions enough.

When the election finally rolls around, I think the war and the economy will be bigger in the voters minds. However, I cannot say that with confidence. I have nothing on which to base that assertion, except the fact that March to November is several eternities long with our modern news-cycle.

*For the record, I think a black person who suffered through segregation deserves to be judged by a different standard than a white person.

Breaking the Racial Silence

About a year and a half ago, a “racial controversy” happened on the Johns Hopkins campus, in Baltimore, Maryland. It was a complicated issue and so I’m going to over-simplify some things for the sake of clarity in making my point. There was an offensive party invitation, which did merit punishment. The party itself was innocent, but some people misinterpreted some things. When the media circus descended, when the NAACP came to town, the issue erupted into the full-blown racial controversy that it was. The small issue had become engulfed in a cloud of bogus claims of racism. Now, while those claims were bogus, the racial tension was real. And amidst all that, there was a real issue where people’s feelings were legitimately hurt. Again, it’s a complicated issue.

How did our university respond? Not by seeking the truth (ironic considering our motto), but by covering their asses. They threw the offenders, the fraternity Sigma Chi, under the bus. Such is the brutal stigma of racism. Even a fake taint will cause people to run away. I’m not surprised by the university’s response at all, though. This is how we deal with the issue of race. We all do our best to say we’re not racist, we condemn the offending party, and then pretend the issue is all resolved. The complicated issue is never dealt with in a complicated way. Nuance disappears. Everyone plays the roles they were assigned. People feel offended. People feel like those people shouldn’t be offended. Everyone covers their asses. The issue blows over, and we never actually make any progress.

Of course, what never was mentioned in the media was how the kid who wrote the original party invitation was not a white kid. He was an Asian kid who wasn’t even born in the country. Like I said, complicated issue.

The point I want to make is not just that race is a complicated issue. It’s that the old polarizing lens through which we view race is no longer useful.

This generation didn’t grow up with the same events burned into our collective consciousnesses as the Boomer generation. I didn’t grow up seeing segregated bathrooms and fountains. I didn’t grow up seeing the struggle to fight all that. I didn’t see Wallace vow “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever.” I didn’t see Martin Luther King’s speeches. Well, I did. But only in the context of history, and not in the context of now. That makes a big difference. I didn’t grow up seeing a struggle between good and evil, on the issue of race. I’ve grown up where sometimes the enemy isn’t any one person, but our own subconscious biases. Structural disadvantages often trump overt racism, now. It becomes harder to blame specific people for specific injustices.

I wrote this last year: “The pivotal divide in race relations is actually not between any races. It’s between young and old people.” At the time, it was speculation, something to mull over. Now, I’m convinced it’s correct.

I went on to say:

We’ll be able to move forward regarding race when a new guard takes over. For now, we’ll have to deal with the essential silence on the question of race because of fear of the stigma of being a racist.

I don’t mean “move forward” in the way that liberals think of “progress,” just that we’ll reach the next stage when we realize that the next stage isn’t the old stage.

At the time, it seemed as if we needed to wait a generation before we could move forward. But maybe a President Obama would help us move forward. Obama will not be the first African-American candidate for the presidency. He represents something which appeals to me much more. He will be the first multi-racial candidate. With regard to the aforementioned divide, I think Obama is on the side of the young. He didn’t grow up the same way I did, but his speech convinced me that he recognizes the modern complexities of racial issues.

I don’t know if this speech will occupy a hallowed place in history. The speech is very unique to this historical moment. It perhaps demarcates a generational shift in the way we approach race. I don’t know if future generations will appreciate it. But I do.

I’m glad there’s a politician who decided to think instead of cover his ass. I’ve seen the old way of dealing with racial issues. I saw the circus that solved nothing — nay, it made things worse.

Not too long ago, I had a conversation with several of the students in my dorm. We eventually touched on this issue, listening to the perspectives from different sides of the story. Americans do discuss race in nuanced terms, but they do so in private. It was amazing to see Obama discuss this in public. To see a politician acknowledge the latent racism in both the black and white communities, to see him talk about race so honestly, was to see an act of remarkable bravery.

These weren’t my thoughts while I was listening to the speech. But after careful reflection of the context of the speech, that’s what I think. The current racial situation is stalemated; people are afraid to really honestly address race. For 45 minutes, Obama managed to break through the current racial silence. Hopefully, we can more publicly break that silence as well.

Let’s move forward.

Tomorrow: My political analysis of the speech.

Friends Trump News

I am looking forward to listening to Obama’s speech on race, but I haven’t yet. I have many friends — and family! — and only a limited amount of time to see them. Friends trump the news. I will comment when I have the time, which most likely won’t be anytime today.

The Chalkboard Manifesto News

Good news for The Chalkboard Manifesto fans. I worked on some code today which will allow me to make future comics update automatically and wrote a script which automatically writes my RSS feed. That means less missed comics. Once I get more work done on the buffer (more drawing), I’ll be in position to work on the store.

Parting shot

But before I leave…

I’m generally positive about humanity, but if an alien race judged us only by Youtube comments…

i dont wanna be a faggot or so but i had a research about bob marley in my school…and bob dident die by ” brain cancer ” … he had the cancer in hes foot… and he whas stupid and dident let the doctors cut off hes big toe cuz he did wanna play football with hes childs… uhhmm a nice option but verry bad… CUZ BOB U COULD BE HERE WITH US RIGHT NOW IF U WOULD CUT OFF URE FREAKING TOE!!! *** Rest In Peace Legend ***


I have a little bit of time to blog before they kick me out of my room (damn on-campus housing). Then, I’m off to Spring Break!

I want to talk a little bit about the direction I’m going to take with this blog. I like what I’m doing so far, as far as updating more regularly goes. I’m getting back into the habit. I like the guest post, and I want to get my friends more involved.

What I definitely do not want to do is engage in analysizing the psychology of any candidate. I can’t get into their minds and so, I should not speculate on that. It should be a general rule that I will not engage armchair psychology. Even if I read multiple biographies, this blog will contain no attempts to get into the minds of candidates. For example, Sullivan attempts to paint Clinton as somewhat sociopathic. I will not profess to know the general psychological motives of others.

What I can do is question judgment on certain issues. However, the lack of judgment defaults to only applying to that issue. If I want to say that the lack of judgment means a lack of judgment in other issues, even if those issues are related, I will have to give a justification for that leap.

I want to start making posts that contains links to my daily online reading. I mean, just the links and no commentary.

I also really, really want to embed YouTube videos of TV commercials and comment on them. That should be fun.

Finally, I want to migrate political and pop culture commentary onto a new blog, while cross-posting everything onto this blog and keeping personal stuff on this blog.

Just notes. Next post will be from CA. See you!

Free Trade as Litmus Test

I’m really excited about this post. What follows is a guest post from my friend at Johns Hopkins, Nick Chidiac. Nick always impresses me with the breadth and depth of his political knowledge; I value his opinions on political issues. He’s writing about free trade, which is an issue I do not know much about, and criticizing Obama, which is something I haven’t done much of lately.

This originally started out as a “note” on facebook, but I asked Nick if I could re-post it on my blog and he agreed, bolstering it with additional facts for its republishing.

I hope to make this type of guest post from politically-informed friends of mine a more regular feature.


Free Trade as Litmus Test
by Nick Chidiac

You’ve probably heard me mention free trade a disproportionate number of times. Free Trade is something I loved about William Jefferson Clinton, and hate about the current Democratic candidates. I’ll get to why it is so important in a minute, but I’ll start with a brief summary of why it signals a good presidential candidate.

Free Trade is something that is clearly, and unambiguously good. It is fought by large special interests, and its benefits are spread to the common man, who at times doesn’t even realize his benefits. It is politically unpopular, and takes a leader with vision to support it. Free Trade is a great example of what is right, vs. what is popular. A politician will not ordinarily reap political benefits from supporting it, and instead pays a hefty toll of political capital. This is an important trait that separates a statesman from a political hack.

As for free trade itself, I’ll first begin with the economic benefits to America. Free Trade creates high paying US jobs, reduces prices for goods, furthers innovation, and brings capital into the United States. According to the OECD in 2004, the United State’s reemployment rate is double that of the next best country’s. That is no accident, the openness and dynamism of our economy causes that. The US unemployment rate over the last 15 years is far lower than it has ever been in US history for an extended period of time. The damage of protectionism can quickly be measured by the absurd costs borne by society when free trade is restricted. The Textile Quota system was designed to protect US textile jobs. These jobs, which paid less than $40,000 per year, cost US civil society over $220,000 per job. A McKinsey report a few years ago, did a study and found that for every dollar spent overseas on outsourcing, at least $1.12-$1.14 in value is created in the United States. Let me repeat that, every time we send a dollar overseas, we get more than $1.12, its free money (to a point, but locally it goes on for a long time). In 2002, Bush passed a massive tariff on steel; this ‘saved’ approximately 4000 jobs. It also destroyed an excess of 400,000 jobs in steel using industries (Detroit, have any comments?). To put these numbers in perspective, the same 2004 McKinsey report said that 2 million out of the 150 million jobs in America are created and destroyed every month.

Free trade moves bad jobs away from America, and replaces them with good jobs. “Hell with the Lid Off”, is now a paradise that hosted the 2005 bassmaster championship, and has growing industries in biotechnology, healthcare, robots, and finance. Don’t forget the cheap prices due to free trade, which help regular families take care of their needs and they have more choices when they go to the store.

The jobs losses that free trade is blamed with are almost entirely due to technological advancement yet oddly, you don’t hear technology criticized. It’s an easy fix for those that do. With NAFTA, a law was passed that anyone who loses their job due to the new trade would get compensation and job training. Less than 5000 felt the need to apply, and all of them were taken care of.

Beyond the massive economic benefits for the United States, which also go to any country that trades with us, Free Trade also brings geopolitical benefits that are seldom tallied. Free Trade helps regular people build up economic power, separating it from the state, and weakening the relative position of tyrannical regimes. This is also a benefit for democratic, capitalistic countries, which get their economic situations bolstered, making them more resistant to extremism and violence. The Senate is currently endangering Colombia and helping Hugo Chavez by not passing a free trade deal with the country that has been proposed several times. This is short sighted, and stupid.

I’m keeping this short, provide any example or argument that you think works against free trade, and I’ll walk you through it step by step. I also promise this, if Obama doesn’t smarten up, I will vote against him in the general election. I know he will eventually become president, the way I know Sidney Crosby will win a Stanley Cup, but to me, Obama isn’t ready until he has the temerity to stand up for himself on this issue.

The Big State Argument

Since I cannot leave you with just a vent about my personal life, I decided to write about politics.

Clinton’s “Big State Argument” (my phrase) is absurd. She says that because she won the big states, which the Democrats will need to take, she will be the most formidable opponent in the fall and should be the nominee. First, implicit to her argument is that none of Obama’s wins count, even though he won twice as many states. That’s rather insulting to a lot of small states the Democrats still need to win.

Secondly, let’s look at these specific states. Clinton has won Michigan, Florida, California, New York, Texas, and Ohio.

Michigan: Clinton ran against Uncommitted in a state whose delegates were stripped for breaking party rules. All candidates agreed not to campaing there. She was the only major candidate on the ballot and yet this is somehow supposed to prove she can win big states. Uncommitted still pulled 37% of the vote.

Florida: Clinton wins in another state where all the candidates agreed not to campaign. I fail to see how winning in a state where no one campaigned proves that you can win the pivotal state of Florida.

California: A legitimate win in a legitimate big state. However, the recent official vote tallies gave Obama 4 additional delegates. That amounts to a +8 net gain for Obama in the delegate count, reducing some of Clinton’s gains on Super Tuesday II.

New York: She’s frickin’ from New York. This state does not have much to say about her widespread appeal. There are also accounts of Obama’s vote being undercounted in New York. Still a legitimate win, though.

Texas: Clinton’s popular vote win was very narrow, only 50.9% to Obama’s 47.4%. Texas also has a two-for-the-price-of-one system, where they have a primary and a caucus. Obama’s likely win in the caucuses could mean that he gets more delegates from Texas than Clinton. In addition, I do not see a scenario where a Democrat wins Texas in the general election. I fail to see how this proves Clinton is the stronger candidate.

Ohio: Another legitimate win in a legitimate big state. Yet Wisconsin has similar demographics to Ohio, and Obama won there. Clinton is not unbeatable in the demographics she claims to have wrapped up.

Let’s put this all together, shall we? 6 wins in big states. Of those, 2 were in states where everyone agreed not to campaign. In Texas, Obama could actually get more delegates than Clinton. That leaves 3 legitimate wins in big states. Hardly a convincing argument to not give the nomination to the candidate who is leading in pledged delegates, the popular vote, and states won.

So Frazzled

When I met my friend for lunch today, she asked how I was and I replied, “Frazzled.” It’s been a crazy week. I spent all of Sunday working on code for my programming class. It’s generally not a good idea to cram a week’s worth of work into one day. Then, on Monday I got Brawl for the Wii. My roommate and I stayed up all night playing it. The next day, I had to study for a test. Of course, at that point, the program was crashing with my test programs. It was a frustrating night where I spent several hours on what I eventually fixed with adding only one line of code!

Anyway, how is this relevant to you, my dear reader? Two things. One: This is why I’m behind one entry in my goal for 31 posts in March. Many sleepless nights will do that. Two: The hunt and peck method may not be the most efficient way to solve your problems, especially programming. Unfortunately, life does not come with a debugger.

By the way, Obama won Mississippi, but it does not count as a win because it has too many black people and it is not a “big” state where Clinton runs against uncommitted.


I’m picking up Super Smash Brothers Brawl today. Life is awesome.

But also, the server is down and I can’t finish my programming assignment. Eh… life is still awesome.

Hopkins Dining

I wrote an Op-Ed about how much a rip-off our dining system is at Johns Hopkins University. They make you purchase Dining Dollars, which are only worth about 77 cents in real money. Kudos to whoever made the decision to make my article so prominent on the Johns Hopkins News-Letter web site.

My op-ed on the front page of the news-letter web site

They also have some type of weekly poll they put on the web site, and they used my article to prompt this week’s poll question. Fun.

So far, most people agree that it’s a rip-off.

78% agree: Hopkins dining is a rip-off

McCain’s Baghdad Market Walk

Remember this? Last year, back in April, McCain took a walk through a Baghdad market, proclaiming great success for the surge. He called it proof that one could walk freely in Iraq. Yet he was flanked by a 100 soldiers and a few helicopters. The security procedures were abnormal, as one Iraqi said.

Do we seriously want to entrust the security of our nation when he’s so willing to blatantly lie about the war in Iraq? Can we trust his judgment?

Here’s him on Meet the Press shortly after that event:

Note all those quotations about the great success we’ve been having, year after year. He says he made criticisms, but even as late as December 2005, he was saying we should “stay the course.”* McCain is no different from Bush on the Iraq War. It’s a case of massive delusion.

The surge has been a strategic failure. It has not hastened the day our troops will come home. There has been no political reconciliation. The elections have been postponed time and time again. Oil production is still down. At least violence is down, but part of this is because we are bribing Sunnis to not kill us. Will McCain continue this extortion of the American people?

If the surge was such a success, why are they now recommending a “pause” in the troop reductions? To capitalize on what “successes” we’ve had, I’m so sure they will say. Our troops are already doing extended tours; our military is being stretched beyond what we should be doing. Yet they want a pause? I remember the Lt. Col. in charge of ROTC at JHU saying the surge was a “necessary evil.” He recognized the stresses it would place on our troops. Yet here we are; we want a “pause.” They want a pause because the surge has failed to achieve any of its strategic objectives.

McCain wanted the surge. He wants to continue our occupation of Iraq, regardless of what the Iraqi citizens think themselves. He’ll support the “pause,” which will stretch our military resources. He said tax cuts were irresponsible during a time of war, and yet now he supports those very same tax cuts. He has, along with the rest of the right wing, put on a happy face about the situation in Iraq for years now. In April 2007, he used his irresponsible, escorted Baghdad photo-op as proof that one could simply stroll around Baghdad.

McCain has lied about Iraq and will continue to lie about Iraq. We cannot trust his judgment on this issue. That is why I cannot support him for president.

This Baghdad Market walk is not ancient history. Bring this up with any undecided person you encounter. Use this event to counter McCain’s image as a straight-talker. Use this to prove that Obama’s judgment on Iraq is preferable to McCain’s judgment.

*Note to self: Any video clips where McCain says “stay the course”? That would make a great montage.

McCain’s Words Problems

As I listened to McCain’s speech on March 4th, when he had finally clinched the nomination for the Republican Party, I thought, “Wow, this speech is vapid.” To me, it seemed like a right-wing cliche beads strung together haphazardly.

Then, I came across the same critique of McCain on education. Blogger Matthew Yglesias says, “Strolling through John McCain’s policy proposals is a fascinating experience . . . lurking behind every link is a nearly-astounding level of vacuity.”

I agree with Christopher Hitchens that cliche is a problem in politics. Hitchens touches lightly on Romney, but most of his criticism is levelled at Obama. To be honest, I think Obama has less of a problem than McCain. Obama has the wonkiness to back up some of his rhetoric. McCain doesn’t.

To comment on cliche in general: We’ll unfortunately never eliminate our cliche-driven politics until we eliminate cable television. I don’t see that happening any time soon.

I should go through the speech and prove what I said about it.

Possible memes against McCain… he doesn’t care about the details, he’s less wonky than Obama. Then again, that opens Obama up to the pointy-headed intellectual charges. How about: as incurious as Bush?

Sorry about the kitchen sink notes. That’s why I shouldn’t brainstorm aloud. But if I don’t write this down, then I’ll never get anywhere.

Onwards to Pennsylvania

A narrow loss in Texas and big losses in Ohio and Rhode Island. Yet it was close in Texas and Obama is winning the caucus, so he may net gain delegates.

The road to Pennsylvania goes through Wyoming and Mississippi, which Obama should win. The media has a notoriously short attention span and the clamoring for Clinton to get out may even start after Mississippi. But we can’t count on that.

So that means we have 7 weeks. 7 weeks to win Pennsylvania and to force Clinton to leave the race. The Democrats need to be united and I fear that the longer Clinton stays in it, the more divisive the race will become. She has already rolled out the politics of fear and who knows what else the Clintons will come up with.

Knock-Out Blow?

I’m really hoping for a knock-out blow tonight. There are four primaries tonight: Vermont, Ohio, Rhode Island, and Texas. Well, Texas has a caucus and primary! How exciting!

I’m taking half a shot for every Obama victory. Let’s hope that’s 2 shots, but I’m predicting 1 and a half. Obama wins the delegate count in Texas, wins Vermont, and pulls off an upset in Rhode Island. He’ll also keep it close in Ohio.

And Vermont has already been called. This should be a good night!

Huckabee finally bows out, giving a graceful concession speech. I want to say he’ll be a force to reckon with for years to come because he’s a really good speaker, but I’m not prepared to make such a prediction because things are always so fluid in the world of politics. Still a rockstar.

Rhode Island has been called for Clinton. *sad*

My Idea of the Presidency From Several Years Ago

I found this in an old notebook of mine and thought it intriguing in the context of the presidential race today.

My goal as president will not be to control, but to inspire. The greatest leaders are the greatest servants. Ultimately, I serve the greater good, I serve the people. This is not for myself, but to create a climate that will inspire others to serve. Government cannot do everything. Hence, the importance of inspiration in the private sector and in communities. That is my ultimate goal as president. (Listened to Bush’s speech today at Calvin college in Michigan.)

Sometimes I look back at old things and wonder how the hell I wrote that. Sometimes I look back at old things and smile at how familiar it all is. Like now. My receptivity to Obama’s approach to the presidency doesn’t seem so out-of-left field when you see this. This is especially true when you tell people that I was president of the College Republicans and now I’m an Obama supporter.

Now I do think Obama probably trusts the federal government to do more than I do. Yet Obama doesn’t talk the same talk as the more aristocratic Democrats, who believe people are too stupid to know what they want.

I am inspired, and I think it is part of the job of the president to inspire.

Thoughts on Strategy

What follows are thoughts on strategy for the general election:

If you want to look at the definitive weblog posts to combat the impression that Obama is all rhetoric and no substance, then you’ll have to go to Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings.

Here’s a post from October 2006 talking about the unsexy wonky issues Obama has involved himself in. Then, there’s this more recent post which adds Obama’s work on reform. When he says we can change Washington, he’s actually very specific about the proposals. (Hat tip to Lloyd for the links.)

I have no intention on writing definitive essays on this subject when it’s already been done. These essays are long, though. It’s hard to win a debate when you refer someone to a weblog post. What I need to do is to distill those accomplishments into a list of important talking points and then some less important talking points.

Another thing I need to do is more research. What is actually law and what isn’t actually law? What has Obama been working on and what has Obama accomplished? Undoubtedly, Obama will not have the legislative record that McCain has, but all we need to show is enough to convince people about what Obama has the ability to accomplish in the future.

The flip side of this is listing McCain’s recent and ancient legislative record. One line of attack I’ve been thinking about is listing McCain-Feingold, his work on comprehensive immigration reform, and more, to show how he has betrayed his party. Now, some people might like this because it shows that he’s a “maverick”. (Note: From now on, maverick as applied to McCain will appear in scare quotes.) But if you shoot that the Republicans seem to suffer battered-wife syndrome with John McCain, who constantly betrays conservative principles, then it will be disheartening for a hard-core Republican. Those votes are needed for the Republicans to win. The last two elections have relied heavily on getting out the vote for the base. I’m unsure if I will actually pursue the line of attack in the way I have characterized it. It could be too low a blow and that’s not what I want to do.

The most effective tactic I think will be to actually demolish the “maverick” image of McCain. His pandering to the anti-Catholic bigot Hagee betrays McCain. The other thing is to point out the discrepancy between his words on his torture and what he has actually done — that is, being instrumental in passing the Military Commissions Act. I plan on scouring the blog Balloon Juice. They created a neologism: Spectering. It refers to how Arlen Specter raises concerns about bills that a moderate would have and then completely caves on the issue, saying that his concerns were all met; this hoodwinks more moderate voters. The trick is to catch McCain in this act as much as possible.

There’s a difference between illegitimate personal attacks and raising legitimate concerns about McCain’s character. When lapses in his character and judgment have led to disasters such as the Military Commissions Act, which has given the President free rein on torture and obliterated the right to habeas corpus, then one has a right to criticize his character and judgment.

One may wonder why I’m particularly fixated on this issue. After reading Robert Greene’s book, The 48 Laws of Power, I’m convinced that McCain is following one of the laws there. Namely, he’s found a trait (maverick/straight-shooter) and associated himself with it. It’s a powerful association which resists counter-evidence. I’m convinced it was a conscious move after he was implicated in the ethics violation way back when (see New York Times). He’s not a maverick; it’s just a useful tool to portray himself this way.

Another idea I’ve been toying with is bringing up McCain’s witchhunt against the UFC. The UFC appeals to young males, and I’m hoping to turn them off from McCain. Not sure if this is actually a good point to make.

Finally, I turn my attention to the war and the economy. It may be good to link the two issues. Why? Because they are actually linked. The war is costing us over $3 trillion. We can’t afford to stay in Iraq as John McCain would want us. We need a YouTube video collecting all of the clips of McCain showing how stubborn he will be on this issue. McCain will not withdraw us from Iraq and the idea that he might must be purged. Plus, the war is what has driven up oil prices so much. This hurts struggling families. McCain is also notoriously uninformed about the economy, which is an impression I got from the Romney campaign. This will be really good to use against McCain.

Miscellany: Hitchens on “Real Time with Bill Maher” said that Obama matured a lot over this campaign and appears as if he will still mature when in office. Good point.

EDIT: First, it doesn’t really make sense that McCain both betrays his party and kowtows to the party, does it? My two lines of criticism seem to be contradictory and so one or both of them is wrong to some extent. McCain is more complicated. Second, I disavow my previous statement that McCain somehow made a Machiavellian conscious decision to be a “maverick.” I forgot about this rule: “As a general rule, people, even the wicked, are much more naive and simple-hearted than we suppose. And we ourselves are, too.” — The Brothers Karamazov.

Frankly, though, I do not think McCain is a “maverick” (as evidenced by my continued use of scare quotes). On certain very important issues, he did not stand up to his party, when he should have.