Kos Resumes The Circular Firing Squad with Obama the New Target

This morning Barack Obama was interviewed on CNN. I was doing other things at the time and did not play especially close to every word he said, but the gist of the interview I heard was that Obama conceded that those supporting the Congressional measures to force a withdrawal of the troops from Iraq did not have enough votes to sustain a Presidential veto but that they would keep fighting. Obama described this as an ongoing effort to increase support for ending the war, and spoke of convincing more Republicans to vote with them in future efforts. A common Republican meme is to claim that Democrats not only want to end the war but that they want to stop funding for the troops as if they would leave them sitting there with no supplies and no way to get home. Obama has been careful to distingish between ending the war and providing support for the troops.

If I were to go back to the transcript it is very possible I could find things to nitpick about. I might not even agree with every word. However, I see no point in this. The goal is to develop a Congressional majority large enough to sustain a veto who will force an end to the war.

Despite his long standing opposition to the war, Obama has come under attack at Daily Kos. Kos has a previous history of setting up the circular firing squad among Democrats, and his motives have long been questioned, especially when money is involved.

As I noted previously, In November 2002, Kos wrote that Kerry is “untouchable on foreign policy matters (though I said the same about Max Cleland), and has been one of the few voices from the Democratic side of the aisle criticizing Bush’s war efforts directly.” Once he was on the payroll of the Dean campaign, Kos changed his tune and spread the false claim that Kerry supported the war, often misquoting Kerry to do so. Seeing Kos cherry pick statements from Obama out of context looks like more of the same. If opponents of the war search for reasons to attack other opponents of the war, this only leaves the supporters of the war in a stronger position. George Bush started this war, over the oppostion of both John Kerry and Barack Obama.

I also find it ironic that many Edwards supporters are jumping aboard the Bash Obama bandwagon. How soon they forget that Edwards supported the war while Obama opposed it. My goal in choosing a President is not merely what they say today, but in finding a candidate whose judgement I would trust in future questions as to whether to go to war.

Update: Kos has replied to many of those who disagreed with his attack on Obama by pointing out that he is responding purely to an AP interview and not the CNN interview. I still don’t buy his argument. We should judge candidates by their views as represented in the full body of their public statements and public interviews, not cherry pick certain lines out of a single interview. There is controversy over whether AP even quoted Obama accurately. If his interview on CNN gives a different impression than the one Kos objects to from AP, this should raise questions whether the quotes from AP accurately represent his views. Kos also misses the big picture of the war when he dwells on dividing opponents of the war based upon the strategies they pursue in Congress to oppose the war.

Update II: A better strategy for opposing the war than Obama-bashing and tying opposition to the war to funding bills.

April Fools–But Who Is The Joke Really On?

I recently had a post about The Panda’s Thumb refuting an argument in favor of intelligent design by Michael Egnor. There is now a “post” from Michael Egnor saying he was setting up sites such as The Panda’s Thumb and Pharungula by posting absurd arguments:

Over the past month I have engaged in what my friend Bill Dembski ludicly refers to as “street theatre”. My posts here have been an outlandish parody of the bona fide Intelligent Design position, liberally injected with many of the more simplistic errors of the Young Earth Creationists. My purpose was to see how far we could go before the gullible Darwinists realized they were being taken for a ride. The Discovery Institute has graciously aided (and abetted!) by allowing me a voice on this weblog and by giving me valuable feedback on my comedic output. Together, we have succeeded in duping the Darwinists (like the foul-mouthed duncecaps at the Panda’s Thumb and Scienceblogs).

Our ruse was bound to work for a while; after all, Darwinists eagerly want to believe that Intelligent Design is nothing but “dressed up” Creationism. However, I’m astounded we made it this far, as I truly feared that the Darwinian horde would catch on sooner—but they are even denser than we had expected. Bill Dembski wagered a bottle of Macallan that I would not persevere to this day—but I have, and I will collect. I also owe Casey Luskin a beer; his courageous acting in our podcasts deserves an Oscar.

At first glance this all seemed plausible. Egnor’s comments were so absurd that it is easy to believe that he was posting them as a prank. If this was all there was to it, it would not have been that great a prank. After all, so much absurd stuff comes from creationists (a.k.a. cretins) that it would be impossible for anyone to distinguish real nuttiness coming from an IDiot versus outlandish parody of themselves.

Wait, something seems wrong. If really caught in such a joke, wouldn’t Panda’s Thumb and Pharyngula be laughing at how hard it is to disntinguish such parody from what many creationists believe? If you take a close look at “post” by “Egnor” you will note that the masthead is slightly different from that of the real Evolution Views & News page at the Discovery Institute. Instead of “Discovery Institue” it says “Discover Institure.” The url also gives away the joke.

Great April Fools joke guys!

Six Years Threatened For Medicinal Marijuana Use

Why is this guy going on trial? A columnist for the Denver Post tells the story of Jack Branson, who was arrested for growing marijuana. Branson was advised by his physician to use marijuana to ease his pain from AIDs but now faces a six year prison term. Colorado has even legalized medicinal use of marijuana. Columnist David Harsanyi concludes by writing:

Of course, however tragic our situations, we can’t pick and choose which laws to follow. And Branson did not have the proper paperwork.

But district attorneys (and the one in Adams did not return my call) do pick and choose whom they prosecute – by prioritizing and weighing the importance of each case.

At the very worst, Branson was engaged in a victimless crime. This isn’t a burnout deadhead with a debilitating case of bad vibes looking for a legal toke.

Does Branson deserve jail for this crime? Do the taxpayers of Adams County deserve to pay for this prosecution?

I’m not sure any reasonable person would say yes.

Radicals for Capitalism

The New York Times reviews Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement. The review has met objections from many libertarians, and a discussion of their objections can be found at Cato-at-Liberty. I have not read the book yet and therefore cannot comment on some aspects of this disagreement, but I found it interesting enough to point out. There are also some aspects which could be commented upon based upon these articles.

Take any group which is out of the mainstream have a major newspaper write about them and I can virtually guarantee there will be factual errors. In addition to true factual errors, there will also be aspects many will disagree with when there is a wide variety of individuals such as exists in the libertarian movement. While there are many lines in the review which I can understand why libertarians would object to, there are also many comments which show the influence of libertarian ideas.

While describing some of the odd aspects of the group surrounding Ayn Rand, which many libertarians would agree with, reviewer David Leonhardt also states, “the group left a deep imprint on the culture in the years to come.” Examples of that “deep imprint” are then discussed, such as the impact of Alan Greenspan and Martin Anderson. Moving beyond the influence of Rand, Leonhardt writes, “The story of the American libertarian movement, like the story of its most famous salon, has been a combination of small numbers and big influence.” Leonhardt recognizes the impact of libertarianism on current politics in writing:

In the nearly three decades since, libertarian arguments have enjoyed a nice run. Tax rates have been reduced; once-regulated industries have been opened to competition; any two consenting adults, including those of the same sex, can now marry in some places. One of today’s most fashionable political labels, “socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” Doherty shrewdly notes, is “the basic libertarian mix.”

David Boaz of Cato objects to the statement that, “Libertarianism has its roots in the writings of a pair of major 20th-century Austrian economists, Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek.” This is an oversimplification, but not entirely false. Boaz writes:

Key libertarian ideas emerged out of the struggles for religious freedom in the late Roman Empire, the Middle Ages, and the early modern period. American libertarianism certainly finds its roots in an earlier period than Mises and Hayek: the American Revolution, abolitionism, the fight against imperialism, war, and prohibition.

There certainly are influences on the libertarian movement beyond von Mises and Hayek. Libertarian articles and blogs often include discussion of the thoughts of a wide variety of intellectual of the 1800’s and other eras which are unknown to most people.

Libertarianism stems from more than just a belief in laissez-faire capitalism, but it is also understandable that many outsiders would see this as the defining view. While many libertarians have spoken out against the war and other abuses of the Bush administration, libertarians all too often portray themselves more as advocates of eliminating taxes and restrictions on business, and their other beliefs in freedom often appear like a footnote. I’m not saying that this is what they believe, but that this is the impression that they give to others, as many view libertarians simply as “Republicans who have smoked marijuana”. This emphasis on economics is even stressed by the title of Radicals for Capitalism, making it understandable that Leonhardt would concentrate on the intellectual ties to von Mises and Hayek.

While Boaz is correct that libertarianism has ties in past fights for religious freedom, the American Revolution, abolitionism, and other battles for freedom, the problem is that these are not as directly linked specifically to the libertarian movement. Liberalism also has roots in the same battles for freedom, and to differentiate libertarianism from liberalism it is correct to note the libertarian’s movements roots in following the works of von Mises and Hayek. (more…)

Even Matthew Dowd Now Realizes Kerry Was Right

In an interview with The New York Times, Matthew Dowd, former chief campaign strategist for George Bush, explains why he now feels his faith in George Bush was misplaced. Despite all the smears against John Kerry during the 2004 campaign, Dowd now admits that Kerry was right:

In a wide-ranging interview here, Mr. Dowd called for a withdrawal from Iraq and expressed his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s leadership.

He criticized the president as failing to call the nation to a shared sense of sacrifice at a time of war, failing to reach across the political divide to build consensus and ignoring the will of the people on Iraq. He said he believed the president had not moved aggressively enough to hold anyone accountable for the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that Mr. Bush still approached governing with a “my way or the highway” mentality reinforced by a shrinking circle of trusted aides.

“I really like him, which is probably why I’m so disappointed in things,” he said. He added, “I think he’s become more, in my view, secluded and bubbled in.”

In speaking out, Mr. Dowd became the first member of Mr. Bush’s inner circle to break so publicly with him.

He said his decision to step forward had not come easily. But, he said, his disappointment in Mr. Bush’s presidency is so great that he feels a sense of duty to go public given his role in helping Mr. Bush gain and keep power.

Mr. Dowd, a crucial part of a team that cast Senator John Kerry as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted with national security during wartime, said he had even written but never submitted an op-ed article titled “Kerry Was Right,” arguing that Mr. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and 2004 presidential candidate, was correct in calling last year for a withdrawal from Iraq.

It is good to see Dowd questioning his support for George Bush, but this was not his only lapse in judgement. Last year he also advised Dick DeVos, the Republican candidate for Governor of Michigan who is so far to the right he makes Bush and Cheney appear moderate in comparison. DeVos also exceeded Bush’s dishonesty in presenting his views. While Bush would often slip in code words to the religious right while pretending to be more moderate in public, DeVos would imply one thing over state-wide media one day and then say the opposite on a Christian radio station the next.

Frank Rich: Elizabeth Edwards for President

Frank Rich is far more impressed with the candor of Elizabeth Edwards than some of the candidates for President:

As Mrs. Edwards moves forward both to manage her cancer and to campaign for her husband, she’ll roil more of the Beltway crowd. In a political culture where nearly every act by every candidate and spouse is packaged to a fare-thee-well for the voters’ consumption, the Edwardses’ story by definition will play out unpredictably in real time, with a spontaneity that is beyond any consultant’s or media guru’s control. Here is one continuing familial crisis that cannot be scored with soothing music to serve as a Hallmark homily in an inspirational infomercial at the next election-year convention. The Edwardses’ unscripted human drama will be a novelty by the standards of our excessively stage-managed political theater and baffling to many in its permanent repertory company.

That’s one reason it will be good for the country if Mr. Edwards can stay in this race for the duration, whether you believe he merits being president or not. (For me, the jury on that question is out.) The more Elizabeth Edwards is in the spotlight, the more everyone else in the arena will have to be judged against her. Next to her stark humanity, the slick playacting that passes for being “human” and “folksy” in a campaign is tinny. Though much has been said about how she is a model to others battling cancer, she is also a model (or should be) of personal transparency to everyone else in the presidential race.

This is especially true in a campaign where the presumptive (or at least once-presumptive) front-runners in both parties have made candor their calling card: John McCain is once again riding his Straight Talk Express and Hillary Clinton is staking her image on the rubric “Let the Conversation Begin!” They want us to believe that they are speaking in a direct, unfiltered manner, but so far their straight talking, even without Elizabeth Edwards as a yardstick, seems no more natural than Cheez Whiz.

Senator McCain’s bus has skidded once more into a ditch since the Edwards news conference. He’s so desperate to find the light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq that last week he told the radio jock Bill Bennett that “there are neighborhoods in Baghdad where you and I could walk.” Yes, if they’ve signed a suicide pact. Even as the senator spoke, daily attacks were increasing in the safest of Baghdad neighborhoods, the fortified Green Zone, one of them killing two Americans. No one can safely “walk the streets of Baghdad, nor Mosul, nor Kirkuk, nor Basra, nor Tikrit, nor Najaf, nor Ramadi, without heavily armed protection,” according to the retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, who delivered an Iraq briefing (pdf) to the White House last week.

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign “conversations” with the public have not stooped to the level of Mr. McCain’s fictions. But they have been laced with the cautious constructions that make her stabs at spontaneity seem as contrived as her rigidly controlled Web “chats.” This explains why a 74-second parody ad placed on YouTube by a Barack Obama supporter had enough resonance to earn (so far) nearly three million views. Reworking a famous Apple Macintosh commercial from 1984, the spot recasts Mrs. Clinton as an Orwellian Big Brother by making her seemingly innocuous campaign catchphrases (“I intend to keep telling you exactly where I stand on all the issues” and “We all need to be part of the discussion”) sound like the hollow pronouncements of the Wizard of Oz rather than the invitations to honest interchange the words imply.