Category Archives: News

‘Bush intends to attack Iran before the end of his term’

According to this May 20, 2008 Jerusalem Post report, the US may be planning to attack Iran before Cheney leaves office.

If you’ve read up on Dick Cheney, and read up on the Iraq invasion’s real winner (Iran), its difficult (and not cynical at all) to imagine that an attack on Iran isn’t waiting in the wings, probably during the month before the US presidential election. October Surprise! The US invasion of Iraq has strategically set Iran ahead in so many respects, and now, strangely, some of Iran’s interests are in alignment with US interests (such as Iraqi stability, which, as it develops, continues to serves Iran’s interests). The problem is that everything that the US has done in Iraq since 2003 has served to empower and embolden Iran’s influence in the region, while simultaneously putting US soldiers to the east and west of its borders. Of course Iran is on the defense with its nuclear ambitions and rhetoric, but it is strategically also in an offensive position, able to make things difficult for the US. In the end, an empowered Iran is NOT a Cheney/Bush interest, and will likely cause Hawks like them to conclude that their patriotic duty will be to deal with Iran militarily before they leave office, convinced that a Democratic president won’t. That military action will escalate, and Iran can make things very difficult in the region, for Iraq, for oil tanker traffic, and for Israel. If a much larger escalation of the situation in the middle east doesn’t start to boil before inauguration day, we can continue to hope it never will. But prepare yourself for an October Surprise.


What kind of presidency would she or he make?

Assuming the next president will be a Democrat — which is never safe to assume, considering it’s never wise to underestimate the ability of Republicans to sell themselves, nor the inability of Democrats to do the same — what would a Clinton or Obama presidency look like for America?   There’s a big risk that an Obama presidency would be an enormous failure in history, because he may not have learned the lessons that Hillary has learned.  Just days before what might be Clinton’s last stand in the primaries in Texas, Ohio, Vermont, and Rhode Island, I cannot help but wonder what we’re losing as a country if she fails to reach the general election.   For all of us who have wondered what a female presidency would look like, we’ll have to wait.  Yet, there’s a bigger opportunity that’s being lost, and it is not just bland “experience”.  It’s the most experience we may have ever seen.  It’s the possibility that Hillary Clinton just might be the most qualified person in the world today for the particular job she’s applying for, and may, in fact, be the most qualified person ever to have entered the job in my lifetime, were she to do so.   No president, in my lifetime, has entered with 8 years of experience in the executive branch, 8 years of experience in the legislative branch, and a lifetime of working in law and justice, the third branch of our government’s balance of power.   She has travelled to some 120 countries.  She knows everyone that needs to be known throughout the world.  She knows how the current power structures work both here and abroad. And her experience, both in terms of her learnings from her mistakes and the recoveries and reinventions of herself in the Senate, are unparalleled.   We’ve probably never had a chance in my lifetime to elect someone as qualified for the job as she is.   Can anyone think of a president who has entered office with so much qualification and wisdom earned from their experience in all 3 branches of government?  Who has made high profile mistakes (health care), followed by high profile learning (the Senate)?  It would be an incredible thing to see that experience put to use for the country.   Yes, in a Clinton presidency, lobbyists and corporations will still run the country, and we’re likely to be involved militarily in the middle east for decades to come, but we might see some changes to health care policy and tax policy that would help the non-wealthy classes in America catch up and catch a break.  And we’re not likely to see any major blunders of judgement.   Would an Obama presidency look much better?  Would he really end lobbyists? Would he really end the conflict in Iraq?  Would his presidency translate into a transformed America, more than Hillary’s might?   If other change agents that Obama is modeled after are any indication (MLK, JFK, RFK), then the prospects are not very good.  A slight over reach of power can backfire.   I’m a huge Obama fan, but my enthusiasm was perhaps somewhat predicated on not believing he could really make it to the general election.  Now that I see Hillary’s sun possibly setting into the west, I can’t help but think differently now about who I’d vote for.  As much as my heart wants to vote for Obama, I think I’d vote for Hillary if I were in Ohio on Tuesday.   Why?   I feel that I know what a Clinton presidency would look like.  It is difficult to imagine that it would be a failed presidency, as, say, Carter’s (or Bush II’s) are often considered.   An Obama presidency is easy to imagine as a failed presidency.  Why?  Obama cannot possibly realize all that he’s asked us to dream of.  We’re bound to be disappointed. If he tries to implement any of his ideals, he will be stopped by the systems that are in his way.  It would be sad if we had to watch Obama make the same mistakes Hillary once made with her health care plan, the same lessons she has already now learned from.  Back then she was filled with purpose and ideals.  And the system pushed back, and pushed back hard.   Perhaps it would be sad if we miss this chance to bring the most qualified person in the world into this job.  But things are not looking good for Hillary.  The campaign was not prepared for the Obama momentum, and aided it.   Bush II has been a disaster for the Republicans.  We may just have to hope that an Obama presidency won’t do the same to the Democrats.

Reversing the “Bradley Effect” – Gender Style

A new explanation for Hillary’s Iowa loss & New Hampshire win

[NOTE: Most often I post other people’s articles, but here’s an editorial of my own.] 

We’ve all heard the chatter that has erupted regarding why polling failed to accurately predict Hillary Clinton’s win last week in New Hampshire.  We all know it had something to do with women – lots of them – turning out in support of her. 

Simultaneously though, many leading political analysts, including, respectably, The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza, have cross-examined the possibility that it was less a Hillary win and more of an Obama loss thanks to the so-called “Bradley Effect” – the term used for the theoretical phenomenon where some voters will publicly tell pollsters that they’ll vote for a black candidate but actually won’t do so once they are ensconced in the privacy of the voting booth.  Ultimately, most analysts have concluded that the “Bradley Effect” was, probably, not in play last week.  End of story.

Is it though?  What no one is considering, Lizza included, is that a related phenomenon – shall we dub it the “Hillary Effect”? – may be in play, wherein some voters may not be willing to publicly say to pollsters that they’ll vote for Hillary, but once in the privacy of the voting booth, they actually will vote for her.  It’s a gender-based version of the “Bradley Effect” – reversed.

This explains both her Iowa loss and her New Hampshire win, where Iowa’s caucuses are almost embarrassingly public carnivals compared to New Hampshire’s quiet and tidy private primary voting booths.

It is not unthinkable that this new phenomenon – the “Hillary Effect” – may be introduced in this election season.  Why?  The complexities of gender combined with a vocal and public hatred that borders on the irrational.  The press regularly informs us that Hillary has high negative ratings.  We all know she’s a lightening rod for impassioned hatred (though some, including me, are not exactly sure why).  The knowledge that so many voters supposedly dislike her may make some of us less willing to admit publicly that we will vote for her.  Many Republican women (and Republican men, for that matter – heck, even regular Democrats) may be supporting her in secret, afraid to reveal their feelings.  In other words, if they do support her, they don’t support her enough to speak up about it for fear of having to cross swords with those supposed loudmouths proclaiming so publicly that they really really hate her.  Faced with voices screaming a chorus of Hillary hatred, her supporters may just keep their support secretly to themselves.

Perhaps, come November, should Hillary be the Democratic Party’s nominee, the first woman to be President of the United States will win in a historic landslide that the pollsters could not possibly have predicted.

— — — —

[NOTE: You can read my editorial about Kerry’s 2004 loss that was printed in the Boston Sunday Globe on November 14, 2004.]


If I voted with my mind and my heart, I’d have to vote for Obama…

The Political Scene
The Relaunch
Can Barack Obama catch Hillary Clinton?
by Ryan Lizza November 26, 2007

How could my favorite candidate for president end up with a name that sounds like Osama (Obama), a middle name, Hussein, shared with Saddam, and a charisma, intelligence, rationalness, and integrity that historically in our society ends up tragically in assassination (RFK, MLK, JFK, etc.)? We can hope otherwise. I always guess that I’m voting for Hillary because I assume when general election comes around that she will be the choice. But I’m never sure WHY I’m voting for Hillary. This article gives an insight into the person I’d rather vote for, but I won’t be in the states for the primaries anyway to vote for him. The author of this article, Ryan Lizza, is a great writer, too.

The Atlantic’s 150 Year Anniversary Issue – David Foster Wallace asks how much our security should cost

The new issue of The Atlantic (the 150th Anniversary issue) has reached me in Stockholm. If you don’t subscribe, pick it up at newstands. It’s a terrific issue, with nearly 50 of American’s great minds and writers speculating on the “future of the American idea”. Since The Atlantic won’t let ANYONE read their articles without being paid subscribers, I’ll republish just one of the 50 essays here and see if they get all worked up about it. This was the article that had the greatest impact on my thinking, giving me new perspective and providing clear delineation where I was otherwise a little fuzzy.

The Future of the American Idea
November 2007
Atlantic Monthly
by David Foster Wallace
Just Asking

Are some things still worth dying for? Is the American idea* one such thing? Are you up for a thought experiment? What if we chose to regard the 2,973 innocents killed in the atrocities of 9/11 not as victims but as democratic martyrs, “sacrifices on the altar of freedom”?* In other words, what if we decided that a certain baseline vulnerability to terrorism is part of the price of the American idea? And, thus, that ours is a generation of Americans called to make great sacrifices in order to preserve our democratic way of life—sacrifices not just of our soldiers and money but of our personal safety and comfort?

In still other words, what if we chose to accept the fact that every few years, despite all reasonable precautions, some hundreds or thousands of us may die in the sort of ghastly terrorist attack that a democratic republic cannot 100-percent protect itself from without subverting the very principles that make it worth protecting?

Is this thought experiment monstrous? Would it be monstrous to refer to the 40,000-plus domestic highway deaths we accept each year because the mobility and autonomy of the car are evidently worth that high price? Is monstrousness why no serious public figure now will speak of the delusory trade-off of liberty for safety that Ben Franklin warned about more than 200 years ago? What exactly has changed between Franklin’s time and ours? Why now can we not have a serious national conversation about sacrifice, the inevitability of sacrifice—either of (a) some portion of safety or (b) some portion of the rights and protections that make the American idea so incalculably precious?

In the absence of such a conversation, can we trust our elected leaders to value and protect the American idea as they act to secure the homeland? What are the effects on the American idea of Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, Patriot Acts I and II, warrantless surveillance, Executive Order 13233, corporate contractors performing military functions, the Military Commissions Act, NSPD 51, etc., etc.? Assume for a moment that some of these measures really have helped make our persons and property safer—are they worth it? Where and when was the public debate on whether they’re worth it? Was there no such debate because we’re not capable of having or demanding one? Why not? Have we actually become so selfish and scared that we don’t even want to consider whether some things trump safety? What kind of future does that augur?

1. Given the strict Gramm-Rudmanewque space limit here, let’s just please all agree that we generally know what this term connotes—an open society, consent of the governed, enumerated powers, Federalist 10, pluralism, due process, transparency … the whole democratic roil.

2. (This phrase is Lincoln’s, more or less)

David Foster Wallace is the author of several books, including Infinite Jest (1996), A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again (1997), and Consider the Lobster (2005).

Islamic Extremism Up, America Down

The New Republic
War of Error by Peter Bergen
How Osama Bin Laden Beat George W. Bush
Post Date October 22, 2007

If there was another winner besides Iran since 9-11, it might be Al Qaeda. It has not been the US. Peter Bergen points out why in this cover story from this week’s New Republic. Of course, from a Cheney perspective, it’s all about the long term (The US hasn’t won — YET!). A seductively logical ideology perhaps, but one with alarmingly little chance of being vindicated and with an enormous and guaranteed economic, political, and human cost regardless of the outcome.

The New Republic online is for paying subscribers only, but this link might work.

[My thanks to RBS for catching this article quickly. It’s a great read.]

Why are Israel, Syria, and the US quiet, except for a deliberate minimal leak from the White House to David Sanger?

Prominent Republicans on house intelligence committees have written this letter to the Wall Street Journal (the link here is a “reprint” – WSJ is accessible to paid subscribers only) appealing to the Bush administration to reveal what it knows about a supposed Israeli airstrike on Syria in Sept 2007.

Quote from letter: “We are among the very few who were briefed, but we have been sworn to secrecy on this matter. However, we are prepared to state, based on what we have learned, that it is critical for every member of Congress to be briefed on this incident, and as soon as possible.”

David Sanger, from The New York Times, appears to have received deliberate leaks from the administration, and was interviewed last week on the Diane Rehm Show about it. He was told that it was definitely an air strike on suspected secret nuclear facilities in Syria which may have had some connection to North Korea. Both Israel and Syria have apparently been quiet about it.

What’s going on?

[Thanks to FMH for a “heads up” on this WSJ letter.]