Endorsements Trickling In As The Democratic Nomination Battle Heats Up

Last week the big topic of discussion around the blogosphere was that most bloggers are not endorsing candidates yet. While probably coincidence, maybe that gave a push to some bloggers to be contrary and start taking sides. I’ve noticed two recent endorsements around the blogosphere, one of which I agree with.

Steve Soto has endorsed Hillary Clinton, primarily stressing her abilities as a campaigner, as opposed to her views. While I disagree in supporting Clinton, I must repeat what I’ve already conceded that she has done the best job in the debates, and she will be difficult to beat. While Clinton still needs to do a lot more to sell me on supporting her, over the course of the campaign my position has shifted from being able to perhaps consider anyone but Clinton to anyone but Edwards. (If they had a ghost of a chance of winning the nomination I’d also throw Gravel and Kucinich into this category.) Clinton also received a major non-blogosphere endorsement from Diane Feinstein, who I’ve had little respect for after her support for Bush’s disastrous Medicare D program.

Freedom Democrats has made an assessment similar to mine that at present Richardson and Obama are the only candidates who I could see really supporting, as opposed to voting for as the lesser of two evils against the Republicans. We also share a distaste for John Edwards’ new populist image. Their post, like Soto’s, concentrates largely on matters of electability, as well as growing the party. They make a good point that “Barack Obama would be more successful in courting newer professional voters.” They also see Richardson of value in the west, a “region vital to my idea of a liberal-libertarian alliance in the Democratic Party.”

At the moment I’m looking far more at the views of the candidates than questions of electability, allowing the campaign to play out to separate those who are electable. If I were to look at electability, Richardson would appear weaker compared to Clinton and Obama at the present, but looking at his stump speech in New Hampshire gives me hope that this could change. Edwards would be a disaster for the party, and fortunately has fallen behind Richardson in New Hampshire. Just as Obama would help bring in more professionals, Edwards, with the exception of trial lawyers, would drive away large numbers of former “Starbucks Republicans” who are starting to vote Democratic.

If Richardson remains far behind Clinton and Obama, the race very well could remain a contest between these two. The battle between them heated up this week and Obama now looks like the big winner of that scuffle. Obama has reduced Clinton to having to argue that she is not a “Bush/Cheney light” and has helped to reduce any advantage she might have had on foreign policy. Of course if things continue to go poorly in Iraq, Obama’s judgement will trump Hillary’s experience and he could very well beat her in both Iowa and New Hampshire.

Resurgence of the Birchers

I’ve often said that the bulk of the people on the Republican side are not the Republicans we grew up with, and perhaps even agreed with from time to time. The sane people have been driven out of the party, and the current conservative movement is dominated by the extremists who would have been with the Birchers, or perhaps the Klan, in the past.

Sometimes when talking about this with younger people I get blank stares as it seemed nobody had mentioned the John Birch Society for quite a while and not everyone is aware of such groups. Suddenly they are coming up again.  First it was with Ron Paul who, while certainly right when he took on the other Republicans on Iraq in the debate, does have a number of nutty right wing ideas. The recent profile of Paul in the New York Times Magazine reported:

In his office one afternoon in June, I asked about his connections to the John Birch Society. “Oh, my goodness, the John Birch Society!” he said in mock horror. “Is that bad? I have a lot of friends in the John Birch Society. They’re generally well educated, and they understand the Constitution. I don’t know how many positions they would have that I don’t agree with. Because they’re real strict constitutionalists, they don’t like the war, they’re hard-money people. . . . ”

I have trouble with someone like Ron Paul who does not even believe in the separation of church and state hiding behind the Constitution, and the Birchers were far better known for their paranoia than their support of the Constitution. Ron Paul’s connections to the Birchers might be overlooked as not being representative of other conservatives, but now Think Progress has posted a clip of Glenn Beck of CNN. Beck says he used to think the Society members were “a bunch of nuts,” but that they are now “starting to make more and more sense” to him.

Tim Grieve helps bring those who don’t recall the John Birch Society up to date:

It is, let’s face it, pretty shocking to see a group that has been a pariah since the 1960’s given credence on a mainstream television network, especially when the group is as far out as the JBS. The JBS is, after all, the group that believed fluoridated drinking water was a Communist mind-control plot. Oh, and its founder, Robert Welch, once accused Dwight Eisenhower — and no, we are not kidding — of being “a dedicated conscious agent of the communist conspiracy.” It even inspired Bob Dylan to write a satirical song, “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues.

I find it hard to believe that CNN still has a reputation for being a liberal network when they air conservatives from Wolf Blitzer to Glenn Beck but perhaps having Glenn Beck on does serve a purpose.  Let the conservatives talk enough and we can see how they really think.

On Impeachment

From a pragmatic viewpoint, impeachment might make little sense. Even if impeached, it is unlikely that Bush would be removed from office, and there is much not time left on his term. However, every time the Bush administration ignores the rule of law, it is harder to keep from thinking that the founding fathers would see impeachment as the only response to a rogue President who violates the principles they stood for and upon which this nation was founded. It is difficult to imagine a reason for providing Congress the power to impeach if it does not apply to George Bush.

Josh Marshal is the latest liberal blogger to move from pragmatism towards principle on the issue writing, “in recent days, for the first time I think, I’ve seen new facts that make me wonder whether the calculus has changed. Or to put it another way, to question whether my position is still justifiable in the face of what’s happening in front of our eyes.”

Though other events in recent months and years have had graver consequences in themselves, I’m not sure I’ve seen a more open, casual or brazen display of the attitude that the body of rules which our whole system is built on just don’t apply to this White House.

Without going into all the specifics, I think we are now moving into a situation where the White House, on various fronts, is openly ignoring the constitution, acting as though not just the law but the constitution itself, which is the fundamental law from which all the statutes gain their force and legitimacy, doesn’t apply to them.

If that is allowed to continue, the defiance will congeal into precedent. And the whole structure of our system of government will be permanently changed.

Whether because of prudence and pragmatism or mere intellectual inertia, I still have the same opinion on the big question: impeachment. But I think we’re moving on to dangerous ground right now, more so than some of us realize. And I’m less sure now under these circumstances that operating by rules of ‘normal politics’ is justifiable or acquits us of our duty to our country.

Impeachment is not about hatred of George Bush as Republicans would claim. It is about who we are as a nation, and about defending the system of democracy established by the founding fathers. Gerald Ford did the nation a great injustice when he spared Richard Nixon from prosecution for his crimes. Seeing Richard Nixon ignore the principles of democracy made the actions of the Bush administration more likely, which sets a dangerous precedent for future tyrants. If we care about our democratic form of government there is no longer any excuse for Congress to ignore its Constitutional obligations to hold George Bush and his administration accountable for their disregard for democracy and the rule of law, as well as the damage they have done to this nation.

Humans Beat Computers in Poker Match

Reading this story put a picture in my mind of Kara Thrace playing cards against a group of Cylons and winning. In real life, humans narrowly beat the computer in a poker match.

Scientists had billed the competition as a milestone for computer artificial intelligence, similar to the 1997 match in which a computer named Deep Blue beat Russian genius Garry Kimovich Kasparov at chess.

Darse Billings, a one-time professional poker player and lead architect of the Polaris team at the University of Alberta, said even though the program lost in the end it played “brilliantly.”

Polaris showed scientists that it is possible for a computer to do well at the essentially psychological game of poker, he said…

Poker is a special challenge for computers — which can already consistently beat humans at chess, checkers and backgammon — because the gambling game includes deliberate deception, unpredictable emotions of opponents and elements of chance as well as mathematics.

It’s good to see that there’s still one game in which we can beat machines–for now.

Liberal or Progressive?

Following the CNN/You Tube debate I commented on Hillary Clinton’s avoidance of the word liberal. This remains a topic of discussion in the blogosphere. For example Ryan Sager found this to be a highlight of the debate:

Clinton’s forthright disavowal of the term “liberal,” because Republicans have made it a dirty word in the minds of voters. She may have just put that term entirely in the past (at least in its Ted Kennedy-bashing usage) and formalized the switch to “progressive.”

Kevin Drum is ambivalent, but feels progressive is winning out:

I only bring this up because it’s been in the back of my head for a while that he’s right. I’ve always been vaguely in favor of refusing to give up the “liberal” label because I don’t think we ought to let Republicans decide what we can and can’t call ourselves, but over the past year or so I’ve been slowly coming to the conclusion that not many people agree with me about that. I’m a fairly hardnosed descriptivist in vocabulary matters, and it’s starting to look like “progressive” has won this battle whether I like it or not.

There are many excellent comments following his post. Some of the reasons given both for and against the term liberal suggest reasons why I used the term in the name of the blog. Among the aspects of liberalism which I considered in naming the blog were its origins in support of freedom, as well as stressing social issues. On economic issues liberalism leaves a certain degree of ambiguity if the original meanings from classical liberalism as well as European liberalism are considered, but for my purposes that is something positive.

While I discuss economic issues far less than social issues here, Liberal Values is firmly a supporter of the free market. However I also contrast this with the corporate collusion of the Republicans which is a perversion of capitalism. Such support of a free market economy is, at very least, consistent with the original and the European definitions of liberalism. It is also an accurate description of many modern American liberals. In recent years, liberalism versus conservativism has become increasingly divided by social issues, and more recently by one’s opinion on Iraq. Economic issues have become much less a factor, despite the attacks by the right wing noise machine on those they claim are socialists or tax and spend liberals.
While Republicans have strived to make liberal a dirty word, I would not let this dissuade me from using it. Changing to progressive in place of liberal will only embolden conservatives in their belief that they can redefine reality as they choose, and they will do the same to progressive and any other word which is used. Besides, I far prefer liberal, with its roots in supporting liberty, than progressive.

If conservatives have made liberal a dirty word, it is time to point out the invalidity of the source. Those who made liberal a dirty word are the same people who claim evolution is false, and that Iraq had WMD justifying the war. These even include the dwindling group of people who approve of the job performance of George Bush. The right wing noise machine may have succeeded in demonizing liberals in the past, but this is an excellent time to go on the offensive and show the dishonesty of the conservative attackers, as opposed to retreating as Hillary Clinton has.