Zbigniew Brzezinski On Getting Out Of a Foolish War

Zbigniew Brzezinski has an op-ed in The Washington Post which makes a number of excellent points, beginning with the characterization of the war as foolish in the title. Those who argue against leaving point out the risks of leaving but ignore the damage that is done by staying.

I think many liberal bloggers have being playing politics in portraying John McCain as being worse than George Bush on foreign policy. McCain’s views on the war are being distorted when his comment about remaining in Iraq for one hundred years is taken to mean he envisions a prolonged continuation of the current state of warfare. While this is a distortion of McCain’s statement, McCain still has serious problems in failing to recognize the extent of the problem. Just as he has underestimated the violence in Iraq in the past, John McCain is wrong in failing to recognize that our very presence in Iraq as an occupying power is a cause of problems. Brzezinski writes:

The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for “staying the course” draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of “falling dominoes” that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.

Nonetheless, if the American people had been asked more than five years ago whether Bush’s obsession with the removal of Saddam Hussein was worth 4,000 American lives, almost 30,000 wounded Americans and several trillion dollars — not to mention the less precisely measurable damage to the United States’ world-wide credibility, legitimacy and moral standing — the answer almost certainly would have been an unequivocal “no.”

Nor do the costs of this fiasco end there. The war has inflamed anti-American passions in the Middle East and South Asia while fragmenting Iraqi society and increasing the influence of Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to Baghdad offers ample testimony that even the U.S.-installed government in Iraq is becoming susceptible to Iranian blandishments.

In brief, the war has become a national tragedy, an economic catastrophe, a regional disaster and a global boomerang for the United States. Ending it is thus in the highest national interest.

More Senators Back Obama, Including Key Endorsement in Pennsylvania

Endorsements have not had much of an impact in the nomination battle, but this one might be a sign that more Senators are fed up with Hillary Clinton, and possibly that Obama might be able to narrow the gap in Pennsylvania:

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey plans to endorse Sen. Barack Obama for president today in Pittsburgh, sending a message both to the state’s primary voters and to undecided superdelegates who might decide the close race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Dan Pfeiffer, deputy communications director for the Obama campaign, confirmed that Casey would announce his support during a rally at the Soldiers and Sailors Military Museum and Memorial and that he would then set out with the Illinois senator on part of a six-day bus trip across the state.

The endorsement comes as something of a surprise. Casey, a deliberative and cautious politician, had been adamant about remaining neutral until after the April 22 primary. He had said he wanted to help unify the party after the intensifying fight between Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

This could be a sign that party leaders are deciding to rally around Obama as presumptive nominee. Yesterday Chris Dodd virtually declared Obama to be the nominee.  Another Senator, Patrick Leahy, has now made a similar statement and urged her to withdraw:

There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination. She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama. Now, obviously that’s a decision that only she can make frankly I feel that she would have a tremendous career in the Senate.

There has been an increasing sense this week that Democrats realize that Hillary Clinton might continue to harm Obama but cannot win the nomination.  Howard Dean is also giving indications that he wants this to be wrapped up by the beginning of July:

I think the superdelegates have already been weighing in. I think that there’s 800 of them and 450 of them have already said who they’re for. I’d like the other 350 to say who they’re at some point between now and the first of July so we don’t have to take this into the convention.

Quote of the Day

“You’re talking about Dick Cheney. I think that those people are in such a tiny, tiny minority now with their point of view, they’re almost like the ones who still believe that the moon landing was staged in a movie lot in Arizona and those who believe the world is flat. That demeans them a little bit, but it’s not that far off.”

Al Gore to Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes  when asked about global warming skeptics such as Dick Cheney.

What Hillary Is Hiding

The Reason Foundation presents a long list. (I guess she isn’t hiding these things as well as she would like to.)

Mike Gravel and Bob Barr Considering Running as Libertarians

The Republican nomination is all wrapped up. The Democrats are still fighting but, as Chris Dodd said, “I think it’s very difficult to imagine how anyone can believe that Barack Obama can’t be the nominee of the party. I think that’s a foregone conclusion, in my view, at this juncture given where things are.” The Libertarian Party has a wide open race.

Besides a number of people only known to libertarian activists, there are two somewhat well known politicians who might seek the nomination–and neither one of them is Ron Paul. Mike Gravel has joined the Libertarian Party.

“I’m joining the Libertarian Party because it is a party that combines a commitment to freedom and peace that can’t be found in the two major parties that control the government and politics of America,” Gravel said in a statement. “My libertarian views, as well as my strong stance against war, the military industrial complex and American imperialism, seem not to be tolerated by Democratic Party elites who are out of touch with the average American.”

Some of his views, such as universal health care, might not go over very well among libertarians.

Bob Barr is also thinking of running. I noted last April that he had quit the Republican Party and joined the Libertarian Party. If Barr runs for the presidential nomination, he would also make opposition to the Iraq war a major issue:

“There’s been a tremendous expressed to me both directly and indirectly on the Internet. I take that support very seriously, and I think it also reflects a great deal of dissatisfaction with the current candidates and the current two-party system. So it is something, to be honest with you, that I’m looking very seriously at.”

Barr said a Libertarian candidacy would essentially be an extension of the Ron Paul campaign.

“Ron Paul tapped into a great deal of that dissatisfaction and that awareness. Unfortunately, working through the Republican party structure, it became impossible for him to really move forward with his movement. But we have to have ….a rallying point out there to harness that energy, that freedom in this election cycle,” Barr said.

On Iraq:

“What we’ve fallen into in recent years — not just since 9/11, but particularly since 9/11 — is this notion that, in order to protect ourselves, we have to preemptively go into and — in the case of Iraq — occupy another sovereign nation,” Barr said. “Simply saying, ‘Gee, it’s better to fight over in this other nation and destroy another nation, so we’re not potentially attacked here, is the height of arrogance.”

As for the Bush administration’s refusal to define waterboarding as torture, Barr referred to the practice as “sophistry of the worst and rankest order.”

Spring Break Camera Order And Internet Cons

I have a bad habit of buying a new toy such as a camera lens before going on vacation. I also tend to buy a lot on line, generally without problems, but did experience a dishonest company today which I’ll get to below. I have contemplated adding posts talking about many of the gadgets I play with, figuring that some readers might be interested and others who are interested in the products would find them from searches. Running into crooked sales people gave me the incentive to write such a post, feeling that companies with dishonest practices like the one I ordered from deserve to be written up when they encounter people with blogs.

With spring break coming up, this time I decided to upgrade my pocket camera. (I always carry one with me while traveling for those times when I leave the SLR back in the room). I ordered a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX35. It has a few advantages over my current favorite pocket camera, a Canon S70. It is smaller and has all the added technology of the last few years, which may or may not make a difference, such as image stabilization. More importantly it has a 25 mm Carl Zeus lens. If I only have one lens (or a single lens camera in this case) I want one which includes wide angle going to at least 28 mm. The other advantage is that the camera has  remarkable video capabilities for a pocket camera, including making videos in high definition. Videos are 720p so some purists might object that it doesn’t handle full 1080p, but for a pocket sized camera this is much more than I previously expected to see. This will come in handy should I want a video at any time I don’t want to take a whole camcorder along.

A few potential downsides are that the camera lacks full manual controls (which the S70 has), it cannot zoom while making videos, and while not crucial I am surprised it uses component cables rather than HDMI for the HD video. Besides, a standard HDMI port would mean I wouldn’t have to spend extra for a proprietary component video cable to fit a small camera. Maybe they want to be able to sell the accessory cable. At least they are upfront about the cable, which is far better than the first dealer I ordered this from.

I decided to do a Google search for the camera and came across one of those sites which find the cheapest price for a product on line. I figured that my risk was small. I ordered by credit card, and if worst came to worst and I didn’t receive the camera I actually have an extra Canon Elph along with my Canon S70 so it would be no crisis. I’d also be traveling with an SLR, and in a real pinch there is a (crappy) camera in my cell phone). I ordered from a place called TechonDigital purely because they offered the camera at the lowest price.

My first sign of trouble was that I got an email saying I had to call to verify the order. I would have canceled right then and there if their web site gave that option. One of the points of ordering on line late at night is to avoid taking up time during the day on the phone. Plus I figured that they were up to something.

When I called this morning I was told that I “forgot” to purchase a battery. I decided to play along for a moment to see what they were up to. When I played dumb and said, “doesn’t it come with a battery?” I was told that the battery it comes with only lasts twenty minutes and is intended to only be used to try out the camera. I continued to play along and asked how much the battery would cost. The regular battery was around $60 (already over-priced) but they really wanted to sell me an extended battery which they claim normally costs $150 but were will to sell at the “bargain” price of $99! So much for ordering from them because they were cheaper.

When I first ordered I did look at the reviews of the seller on the site where I found them, but in retrospect I bet that this was part of the scam. When I actually did a Google search for TechonDigital I found lots of complaints and similar stories. I also found that when people tried to order the camera without adding the high-priced accessories they never received the camera, finding it listed as “back-ordered.” Apparently they are only interested in selling these items at a “discount” if they can sell the accessories at rip off prices, but I’ll never know for sure as I thought it was safer to cancel the entire order after talking to them. I will certainly be watching my credit card for unauthorized charges. I’ve also found they operate under a number of other names including DigitalNerds and 86th Street PhotoVideo.

Actually this might have turned out for the best. I’m also thinking of replacing my camcorder with a high definition one, and they sell the model I’m considering at $100 less than my previous best price. It is better to risk a relatively small order for a pocket camera as opposed to a camcorder on an unknown company. As for the camera, I placed an order with Newegg. They charged more than TechonDigital, but still charge far less than the local big box stores and I’ve never had any trouble with any orders from them. I quickly got confirmation that the order has been processed without any need to call them or buy anything else. Newegg also came in handy recently when I purchased an HDMI cable for a new HD television from them for $6 as opposed to paying $80 to the big box stores a couple weeks ago.

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Clinton Threatens Convention Floor Fight

Hillary Clinton, who has felt much more comfortable among  conservatives lately, has discussed her intentions on Fox News, warning she will take the fight all the way to the convention, showing no regard for what damage she might cause:

“You know, you can always go to the convention. That’s what credential fights are for,” she said. “Let’s have the Democratic party go on record against seating the Michigan and Florida delegations three months before the general election? I don’t think that will happen. I think they will be seated. So that’s where we’re headed if we don’t get this worked out.”

The superdelegates need to step up and commit to Obama in the near future to demonstrate to Clinton that it is pointless to remain in the race. NBC News reports that more superdelegates are getting fed up with her tactics:

At a time when Sen. Hillary Clinton is increasingly relying on superdelegates to vault her to the Democratic Party’s nomination, a handful of undecided and pledged superdelegates are coming forward to say her campaign’s tactics in recent weeks are doing more harm than good.

The Democratic Party insiders say they believe Clinton’s direct attacks against Sen. Barack Obama in recent days are hurting the party and its chances in November, and also say it is showing a calculated, desperate-to-win side of Clinton that they dislike.

There have not gotten to the point yet of trying to get Clinton to leave the race, but sooner or later they might realize that this is necessary if they want to win in November. The Democrats cannot afford to have Clinton continue her divisive tactics through August, leaving Obama little time to recover.

More On Hillary’s Choice and The Vast Right Wing Conspiracy

I’ve known about Hillary Clinton’s association with the religious right for a long time but considered it more of a personal matter until she attacked Barack Obama for his choice of affiliating with Jeremiah Wright. While I have criticized her conservative positions which grew out of this association, such as her support for a ban on flag burning and her crusade against video games, I didn’t consider comment on her personal associations, which I  detailed in this post yesterday, relevant until she launched her personal attack on Obama.

Others have thought along similar lines and there is now more discussion of Clinton’s associations. Joshua Green has written about this today and refers back to this article he wrote back in 2006. His post today also provides links to additional articles on the subject:

If you’ve never heard of The Fellowship (also known as The Family), it will sound like some shadowy organization in a John Grisham novel. (Indeed, as a Google search will demonstrate, critics consider it a cult.) The group was formed in the 1930s to minister to political and business leaders throughout the world, modeling itself as a kind of Christian Trilateral Commission. Several members of Congress are affiliated with the group, mostly Republicans, but some Democrats, too. To the extent The Fellowship is known beyond its members it is probably for founding the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

Like Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity Baptist Church, The Fellowship is run by its own mysterious and controversial figure, Douglas Coe, although temperamentally Coe is Wright’s opposite. He eschews the spotlight and has never made a controversial public utterance that I’m aware of — mainly because he rarely speaks publicly at all. (You won’t find him on YouTube.) But like Wright, Coe has ministered to a Democratic frontrunner. He personally leads a private Senate prayer group that Clinton has been a part of.

In my piece, I chose to focus on the Senate prayer group, but others have written extensively about the strangeness and secrecy of The Fellowship. As this Los Angeles Times story and this exquisitely reported Harper’s piece make clear, there is something deeply strange about the group. They certainly do not like press coverage, so in that regard Clinton’s attraction might make sense. Reporters hoping to look into the group might want to think again. A few years ago, The Fellowship’s archives, which are held at Wheaton College, the evangelical school in Illinos, were reclassified as “restricted” and placed under lock and key.

The Clintons have had a very strange association with the “vast right wing conspiracy.” They sometimes attack each other, and at other times work together, but they have worked to ensure that for the last generation our choices have been limited to one or the other. Finally this year we have a chance to change this.

Samantha Power, Tonya Harding, Monster-Gate, And Clinton’s “Jewish Problem”

Just this morning I was thinking that there was a growing consensus that Samanta Power was right, even if politically indiscrete, in calling Hillary Clinton a monster and therefore it  may be time for her to return. As I mentioned yesterday,Clinton is now being compared to Tonya Harding. After alienating many black voters with the race-baiting strategy engaged by her campaign earlier she is now alienating many Jews as well as some previously neutral Democrats with her campaign’s latest dirty stunt. As a consequence, this is the right day for there to be a story about the Samantha Power’s possible return.

Marc Ambinder first wrote on the Clinton campaign’s attempt to fabricate a story that Obama has a Jewish problem. James Fallows has more. Ambinder notes that at present polls show fairly equal support among Jewish voters between Clinton and Obama but don’t be surprised if this backfires against Clinton and her Jewish support nose dives. This is also yet another case in which we see an alliance between Clinton and the vast right wing conspiracy as she has been circulating a hit job from The American Spectator. Similarly her attacks on Obama’s present votes began as a right wing attack and her attacks based upon his association with Jeremiah Wright came from a collaboration with Richard Mellon Scaife. Add to that her recent affiliation with Matt Drudge and Rush Limbaugh and her compliments of John McCain. No wonder the Bush White House sees her as the one to carry on their legacy.

In response to her latest actions Kevin Drum, who has often defended Clinton, writes, “There are already an awful lot of reasons for me not to bother defending Hillary even tepidly, and I hardly need another one. She’s been voted off the island. It’s time for her to go.” He links to Atrios who wants to “just make it stop.” Steve Benen tries to write in a more neutral fashion as he reports on these items and concludes, “It’s fair to say that Atrios and Kevin are not sycophantic Obama cheerleaders. When they’ve reached this conclusion, the ‘Tonya Harding option’ is probably doing more harm than good.”

Now that virtually everyone realizes that Hillary Clinton really is a monster, it might be time for Samantha Power to return (although perhaps not yet as a formal member of the campaign). Sam Stein reports on a discussion Power held over her book in which the “monster-gate” came up:

The two-plus hour discussion at Columbia was held to promote Power’s new book “Chasing the Flame.” And while a good portion of the talk centered on the book’s content (as well as several apologies for the “monster” remark) much was devoted to a detailed and surprisingly honest look at Obama, his position on the issues, and even the type of White House cabinet he would appoint.

Power called Obama’s willingness to meet, without preconditions, world leaders with whom America did not always see eye-to-eye, one of the turning points of the Democratic primary: “I can tell you about the conference call the day [after Obama made the proclamation],” she recalled. “People were like, ‘Did you need to say that?’ And he was like ‘yeah, definitely.'”

She emphasized that, unlike President Bush, Obama would put greater focus on the general welfare of the Iraqi people (looking at population displacements, health conditions, economic insecurities), when considering U.S. policy in that country. She also drew a picture of an Obama administration that was filled with different viewpoints and congenial debate.

And, to the delight of many in the crowd, she even hinted that she could be part of that hypothetical cabinet. “Because of the kind of campaign that Senator Obama has run,” Power said, “it seemed appropriate for someone of my Irish temper to step aside, at least for a while. We will see what happens there.”

Hillary! Stop the attacks! Love, Obama Girl

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=axxooGIgOKs]

Obama Girl is back with a plea for  Hillary Clinton to stop attacking Obama.