Archive for February, 2008


Obama’s Kung Fu Is Strong

February 29, 2008

Well, there I go again; using kung fu as a metaphor.  I can’t help it today, ’cause there’s just no other way to describe what happened. 

First,  The blogs were buzzing about this lame and overly dramatized ad that featured Hillary Clinton as a woman who apparently never sleeps (or, at least, never puts on pajamas) and is able to answer a ringing phone at 3am.   I know what she was trying to get across with this thing (that only she has the experience to handle whatever terrible news that phone call may bring), but I’m not sure it’s really going to work.   Maybe this was the “kitchen sink” we were promised.  I dunno.  Half the blogs thought this would be a better ad for McCain to run.   All I know is that the ad got a lot of attention and reaction on both sides of the spectrum today (complete with some Matchbox 20 references), and there seemed to be an air of anticipation for Obama’s response.  Whether that perceived need was borne from the effectiveness of the ad or simply the hype that surrounded it, I’m not sure, but it was there.

Well, we didn’t have to wait too long.  Within hours:

I don’t think these ads will work this time because the question is not about picking up the phone. The question is, what kind of judgment will you exercise when you pick up that phone. In fact, we have had a red phone moment; it was the decision to invade Iraq.

 Senator Clinton gave the wrong answer. George Bush gave the wrong answer. John McCain gave the wrong answer. I stood up and I said that a war in Iraq would be unwise. It cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars. I said that it would distract us from the real threat that we face, and that we should take the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That’s the judgment I made on the most important foreign policy decision of our generation.


A reporter asked whether Clinton should drop out after Ohio and Texas. Obama adviser Richard Danzig responded:

“I would encourage you on March 5 to call Sen. Clinton at 3 a.m. and ask that question.”

Ouch!  And most impressively:

You saw that right.  Obama came out with a rebuttal ad…the same day!  Apparently Obama has taken the criticism that he is dangerously slow to counterattack to heart, because I think even the Obama-haters out there would have to find that impressive in and of itself.   That phone rang, and Obama answered.  While Hillary’s camp was spending $100,000 at the deli, Obama was obviously putting together a pretty good team (a quality that would also reflect well on him as president).

Exit question:  Can we expect the political warfare to continue to be fought on the battleground of  The “1984” vid may be revealing the tip of the iceberg.  With a relatively small but competent staff of video editors and sound mixers, a candidate could crank out stuff like this a few times per day.  For free.  The only danger, I suppose,  is the more you put out, the less control you’d have over the message.  This would increase the likelihood of something coming back to bite you in the ass.  But with a well-oiled machine, these kinds of instant rebuttals can be quite powerful and effective. Political Blogger Alliance


Broadcast The Chamber

February 27, 2008

I figured that I’d have to get around to this eventually….

Introducing the Chamber’s very own YouTube Channel!

It was a long time coming, really.  For years, I’ve had this Sony digital camcorder sitting dormant in the closet, and it wasn’t until I finally got around to purchasing a new firewire-equipped laptop that I was able to fully utilize the technology that makes it possible to actually broadcast my silliness to the world. 

I thought I’d start out with a simple test video, using my dog (Indy) as the unwitting star here on my blog.  As I get used to how this thing works, I’m sure I’ll move on to bigger and better things, but for now….baby steps.

Isn’t technology grand?

Anyway, I was entertaining the idea of having a weekly “rant” or perhaps just my take on current events.  It’s a work in progress, I know, so for now I’ll just be satisfied that the thing actually works (pretty smoothly, I might add).


Clinton’s Last Stand

February 26, 2008

Well this is it, the final week before what could be the fateful moment in Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  Over the last few days, it’s become clear to everyone that she is trying everything in the book to regain her momentum (and perhaps a few things that aren’t in the book).  Indeed, even a casual political observer would conclude that her campaign is throwing everything they have at Barack Obama, hoping that something –anything– will stick.   From today’s NYT:

 After struggling for months to dent Senator Barack Obama’s candidacy, the campaign of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is now unleashing what one Clinton aide called a “kitchen sink” fusillade against Mr. Obama, pursuing five lines of attack since Saturday in hopes of stopping his political momentum.

The effort underscores not only Mrs. Clinton’s recognition that the next round of primaries — in Ohio and Texas on March 4 — are must-win contests for her. It also reflects her advisers’ belief that they can persuade many undecided voters to embrace her at the last minute by finally drawing sharply worded, attention-grabbing contrasts with Mr. Obama.

Yep, “kitchen sink” sums it up pretty well.  So well, in fact, that I couldn’t help myself:


The problem I see is that I think your average voter can see right through this.  It reeks of desperation, and the scent overshadows whatever message she’s trying to get out there.  That, and with such a convoluted volley, it’s hard to discern what that message is. 

Anyway, it sets the stage for an interesting debate tonight.


New Hangout

February 26, 2008

I’m happy to announce that I can add one more blog to my list of online hangouts:  Hot Air.  I make special mention of this primarily because it appeared nearly impossible to get registered there (they opened the doors for a period to allow fans of fellow Minnesotan Capt. Ed to sign up), and because this is a blog that I’ve taken a few shots at here in the Chamber (along with a few hat tips as well).   Truth be told, this is one of my favorite sites on the right side of the blogosphere, and it’s been a little frustrating having the RSS feed here in my sidebar and being unable to post a comment when I feel that I have something to say.  So, now I’m finally in. 

One more thing.  Apparently, my first hello post sent a little ripple through the blogosphere, prompting a slightly unintelligible reaction from one of my old pals at LGF:


Don’t panic.


Spotted: Another Brobdingnagian Factcheckathon

February 22, 2008

I got the feeling that the rightosphere pulled another all-nighter, as their blogs are all abuzz over an anecdote that Obama used in last night’s Democratic debate. 

First, the anecdote:

“You know, I’ve heard from an Army captain who was the head of a rifle platoon — supposed to have 39 men in a rifle platoon,” he said. “Ended up being sent to Afghanistan with 24 because 15 of those soldiers had been sent to Iraq.  And as a consequence, they didn’t have enough ammunition, they didn’t have enough humvees.  They were actually capturing Taliban weapons, because it was easier to get Taliban weapons than it was for them to get properly equipped by our current commander in chief.”

Then came the Brobdingnagian factcheckathon (see HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.)  These bloggers called BS, because, you know, prior to last night’s debate there was no evidence whatsoever that the Iraq adventure diverted resources from the mission in Afghanistan.  It’s not like the Iraq Study Group said exactly that or anything.

So, what came all this hysteria?  Well, some journalist guy actually contacted the Army captain that Obama was referring to.   And what do you know?

Prior to deployment the Captain — then a Lieutenant — took command of a rifle platoon at Fort Drum. When he took command, the platoon had 39 members, but — in ones and twos — 15 members of the platoon were re-assigned to other units. He knows of 10 of those 15 for sure who went to Iraq, and he suspects the other five did as well.

The platoon was sent to Afghanistan with 24 men.

“We should have deployed with 39,” he told me, “we should have gotten replacements. But we didn’t. And that was pretty consistent across the battalion.”


Also in Afghanistan they had issues getting parts for their MK-19s and their 50-cals. Getting parts or ammunition for their standard rifles was not a problem.

“It was very difficult to get any parts in theater,” he says, “because parts are prioritized to the theater where they were needed most — so they were going to Iraq not Afghanistan.”

“The purpose of going after the Taliban was not to get their weapons,” he said, but on occasion they used Taliban weapons. Sometimes AK-47s, and they also mounted a Soviet-model DShK (or “Dishka”) on one of their humvees instead of their 50 cal.

Oh well, perhaps now they’ll get some sleep. 

Nah.  There’s some BS in there somewhere.  I just know it.


Just End The “War On Terror”

February 22, 2008

Speaking of memos, Newsweek’s Michael Hirsh has an excellent article up today: Memo to President Obama

It is a debate that only Obama can start. McCain won’t bring it up. Nor will Hillary Clinton. Apart from being on the verge of oblivion politically, she is too fully vested in the war on terror, having voted in 2002 to authorize the war in Iraq as part of it. And if that debate doesn’t start, we as a country will be effectively doomed to a “war” that has no prospect of ending. Bush has gradually expanded his definition of the war on terror to include all Islamic “extremists”—among them Hezbollah, Hamas, and other radical political groups that have no ties to Al Qaeda, ideological or otherwise. In doing so the president has plainly condemned us to a permanent war, for the simple reason that we will never be rid of all the terrorists. It is also a war that we will wage by ourselves, since no other nation agrees on such a broadly defined enemy. As Princeton scholar G. John Ikenberry has written, “It is perhaps a paradox—and one that is fitting for the strangeness of our current age—that we will need to end the war against terrorism because we cannot end terrorism.”

This is something that I’ve argued here in the Chamber many, many, many, many times*.  Would Obama have the political courage to change the paradigm in this country?  I’m not sure. 

During one of the presidential debates last April (have they really been going on for that long?), the candidates were asked to raise their hands if they believed that such a thing as a “global war on terror” existed.   Obama, somewhat hesitantly, did raise his hand:

I’m in complete agreement with Hirsh on this.   If we really want “change”, one of the first things we need to do is to start making the distinction between policies of smart counterterrorism and protecting the homeland and a ‘war’ that is, by definition, unwinnable.  John Edwards understood this, but he did a terrible job in articulating it (the “bumper sticker” thing just wasn’t working).  

I really hope Obama gets this memo.

*For a full list of Chamber entries on this issue, check the “war on terror” tag. Political Blogger Alliance


McCain Apparently Didn’t Get The Memo

February 20, 2008

Maybe I was the only one who thought it was a little strange that, in last night’s Wisconsin victory speech, John McCain said this:

“Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan?”

McCain was, of course, referring to what Barack Obama said back in August:

“I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges… But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. … If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will.

Now, I’m fully aware that Mr. McCain isn’t the only one that has given Obama flak over this comment.  Heck, just about every right ring blogger and their brother has as well.  But it would appear that neither McCain nor his speechwriters caught this little tidbit in the Washington Post yesterday:

In the predawn hours of Jan. 29, a CIA Predator aircraft flew in a slow arc above the Pakistani town of Mir Ali. The drone’s operator, relying on information secretly passed to the CIA by local informants, clicked a computer mouse and sent the first of two Hellfire missiles hurtling toward a cluster of mud-brick buildings a few miles from the town center.

The missiles killed Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda commander and a man who had repeatedly eluded the CIA’s dragnet. It was the first successful strike against al-Qaeda’s core leadership in two years, and it involved, U.S. officials say, an unusual degree of autonomy by the CIA inside Pakistan.

Yea…I’m not quite sure how the spin machine is going to reconcile this one.  I guess the logical thing for the Straight Talk Express to do would be to condemn the confused, inexperienced leadership of George W. Bush Political Blogger Alliance


Why Obama, Part VII: Health Care

February 18, 2008

For the seventh installment of the Chamber’s Why Obama series, I’ve picked the health care issue.  The same format applies; this is right from the Obama website.  However, in the interest of brevity, I’m going to highlight the first portion of the plan and allow the rest to be followed up in the comment section. 

Health care (pdf)

Quality, Affordable and Portable Coverage for All

  • Obama’s Plan to Cover Uninsured Americans: Obama will make available a new national health plan to all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, to buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress. The Obama plan will have the following features:
    1. Guaranteed eligibility. No American will be turned away from any insurance plan because of illness or pre-existing conditions.
    2. Comprehensive benefits. The benefit package will be similar to that offered through Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the plan members of Congress have. The plan will cover all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity and mental health care.
    3. Affordable premiums, co-pays and deductibles.
    4. Subsidies. Individuals and families who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP but still need financial assistance will receive an income-related federal subsidy to buy into the new public plan or purchase a private health care plan.
    5. Simplified paperwork and reined in health costs.
    6. Easy enrollment. The new public plan will be simple to enroll in and provide ready access to coverage.
    7. Portability and choice. Participants in the new public plan and the National Health Insurance Exchange (see below) will be able to move from job to job without changing or jeopardizing their health care coverage.
    8. Quality and efficiency. Participating insurance companies in the new public program will be required to report data to ensure that standards for quality, health information technology and administration are being met. obama08_thumblogo100.gif
  • National Health Insurance Exchange: The Obama plan will create a National Health Insurance Exchange to help individuals who wish to purchase a private insurance plan. The Exchange will act as a watchdog group and help reform the private insurance market by creating rules and standards for participating insurance plans to ensure fairness and to make individual coverage more affordable and accessible. Insurers would have to issue every applicant a policy, and charge fair and stable premiums that will not depend upon health status. The Exchange will require that all the plans offered are at least as generous as the new public plan and have the same standards for quality and efficiency. The Exchange would evaluate plans and make the differences among the plans, including cost of services, public.
  • Employer Contribution: Employers that do not offer or make a meaningful contribution to the cost of quality health coverage for their employees will be required to contribute a percentage of payroll toward the costs of the national plan. Small employers that meet certain revenue thresholds will be exempt.
  • Mandatory Coverage of Children: Obama will require that all children have health care coverage. Obama will expand the number of options for young adults to get coverage, including allowing young people up to age 25 to continue coverage through their parents’ plans.
  • Expansion Of Medicaid and SCHIP: Obama will expand eligibility for the Medicaid and SCHIP programs and ensure that these programs continue to serve their critical safety net function.
  • Flexibility for State Plans: Due to federal inaction, some states have taken the lead in health care reform. The Obama plan builds on these efforts and does not replace what states are doing. States can continue to experiment, provided they meet the minimum standards of the national plan.

I’ve long wondered why a country that is considered to be the world’s last remaining superpower would have such a hard time figuring out how to provide its citizens with affordable health care.  Do the powerful drug and health insurance companies have to much influence over those who are in a position to improve the system?   Perhaps.  I’ll admit that this issue is probably a little over my head, but while researching it I realized that I’m certainly not alone.  I do know that the members of congress have been sitting on this way too long while the system remains dysfunctional and costs keep skyrocketing.   There is no shortage of disagreement even among the various “experts” that are called in when the news media decides to run a story about the candidates and their various positions.  Though one thing seems certain, which is -if the goal is to provide health insurance to all Americans- the plans that the Democrats are offering up come a lot closer than anything that the Republicans have proposed.  

One thing I did find appealing in Obama’s plan was #7 (above), since I recently endured the difficulty and risk involved with changing health care providers while I was making a career move.  Also, considering the relative success that maverick states like Massachusetts and Vermont have had with their bipartisan decisions to enact dramatic health care reform legislation, I’m glad that Obama recognised the need to build on it and expand it to the country as a whole while allowing other states the flexibility to improve on it. Political Blogger Alliance


Good News For Playstation 3 Owners

February 17, 2008

Blu-Ray won.


Flame Warrior Profile: Big Tent Democrat

February 17, 2008

Every once and awhile, I stumble upon a netizen that really makes me scratch my head and wonder.  Such a thing occurred when I came across the recent postings of former Kossack and current TalkLeft inhabitant Big Tent Democrat.  There’s just something about someone who is supposedly male passionately championing the cause of feminism, I guess, and it’s evidenced by a recent burst of blog entries:

1. Feminists For Clinton  (Elections 2008, All Topics)
posted by Big Tent Democrat on 02/16/2008 08:10:12 PM EST

2. Open Thread  (Blog Related, All Topics)
posted by Big Tent Democrat on 02/16/2008 02:30:22 PM EST

3. ABC Blog: Is Obama Using Sexist Language?  (Elections 2008, All Topics)
posted by Big Tent Democrat on 02/16/2008 01:35:20 PM EST

4. The Malign Acceptance of Sexism  (Blog Related, All Topics)
posted by Big Tent Democrat on 02/16/2008 12:20:34 PM EST

5. These Kinds Of Sexist Remarks Are Not What I Am Looking For  (Elections 2008, All Topics)
posted by Big Tent Democrat on 02/16/2008 09:30:52 AM EST

I suppose the open thread was thrown in there so that everyone over at TL could catch their breath, because you might have noticed that all those posts were published in a span of 12 hours.  What’s even more peculiar is the extreme hypersensitivity displayed with regard to the issue, as the “sexist” remarks being scorned in #5  amounted to this:

I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she’s feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal.

– Barack Obama, February 15, 2008

Can you see the rampant sexism?  Well, just in case you don’t, I gave you a hint.  Obama was clearly making a veiled reference to the woman’s menstruation cycle, right?  Well, Big Tent thought so, delivering an emphatic cyber finger wag (emphasis mine):

In a campaign marked by news coverage unrelenting in its sexism and misogyny, especially from NBC, the last thing we can afford is sexism from the frontrunning candidate. Barack Obama needs to apologize for this remark.

And, naturally, it didn’t take long for Mr. Tent to be deservedly mocked:

Pretending this is a sexist attack is as stupid as pretending that when Clinton called Obama a “kid” means he was calling him a “boy,” which of course means Clinton was actually calling Obama the n-bomb. That was stupid. This assertion is stupid. Not to mention, we know that the Hillary campaign, as a strategy, has decided to go negative and challenge Obama to debates in order to… boost Hillary’s appeal.

(I’d give that the Wonder Palm if I could.) 

Anyway, what might be happening here is some sort of phenomenon that has emerged in the form of a Clinton supporter’s irrational response to the Obama tidal wave; a sort of knee-jerk and intellectually dishonest reaction that might be confused with the sentiments of a bona-fide Weenie:


The “Name An Accomplishment” Game

February 15, 2008

As of late, it’s been hard to peruse the talk radio and blog punditry for too long without running into this fun exercise.  The rationale?  Probably a few things, actually.  One, it turns the focus of the political debate to Obama’s perceived inexperience and lack of substance in his speeches.    Two, publicly belittling and marginalizing his supporters might result in second-guessing for those watching at home. Three, all this may be viewed as the only defense against Obama’s charisma, energy, and the social movement forming around him.

As for the major players, you’ll find the usual suspects, but no one enjoys this game more than Sean Hannity:

The fallacy with this game is that you can play it with just about any candidate out there.  Ask your average McCain supporter on the street to name an accomplishment, and you’d probably get a response that had something to do with his status as a war hero, if anything.  What about Huckabee?  Clinton?   

It certainly doesn’t mean that people are stupid, but rather that the focus of debates and campaign speeches tends to center around ideas on current issues and policies.  Congressional voting records usually get a secondary look and are sometimes misleading, but even sponsoring legislation doesn’t come to most people’s minds when one is forced to think of an “accomplishment”.  Nor would the usual “fought for” or “stood alongside” rhetoric found in your typical political campaign ad.  Very rarely do you see candidate with a specific accomplishment that uniquely qualifies an individual to take on the U.S. presidency anyway.  And I’ve long argued that the people who do have the resume for the office are the people who don’t want the job.

In all likelihood, the “name an accomplishment” test would have been failed by average Americans on all sides for the last 100 years.

But it sure is fun!  And I’d expect to see a lot more of it as Obama gets closer to winning the nomination.

(for a little more fun, and in the spirit of the debate over relevant accomplishments that make a good president, take a look at the FACTS ABOUT GEORGE DUBYA BUSH THAT YOU MIGHT BE UNAWARE OF….. TAKEN FROM HIS RESUME ) Political Blogger Alliance


Finally, A Comments Policy

February 15, 2008

Last night I took a some time and did what many bloggers tend to do early on, namely drafting a policy page (of sorts):

Code Of The Chamber

The rules are pretty lax around here, but I thought that I might as well put something up that clearly states what visitors can expect from me, and why things are what they are here in the Chamber.  The link is now prominently displayed in the sidebar.


Rush: Conservative Obama Supporter ‘Obviously A Plant’

February 13, 2008

With the recent shift in momentum that Obama has picked up, it’s no wonder that the conservative pundits everywhere are scrambling to cope with ‘Obamamania’.   In the last few contests, exit polling is showing that Barack is getting votes from virtually every demographic.  Just the other day, I heard Bill Maher tell Larry King that there was even such a thing as “Obama Republicans”, and this was a testament to the senator’s broad appeal.  I hesitated to accept that, but today, while listening to the radio, it appeared that Rush had stumbled across a real live specimen:

RUSH: Jared in Spokane, Washington, you’re first today. Nice to have you here.

CALLER: Hey, thank you, Rush, thanks very much. As I told your screener, I am a conservative in Washington State — in eastern Washington, a more conservative part of the state — and even I am considering voting for Obama just because of the way he communicates; understanding, I know, that a lot of what he says doesn’t have a lot of substance to it. But the reason why —

RUSH: Do you realize what you just said?


RUSH: RUSH: All right, folks, before we get to the Obama speech sound bites, a quick question. How many of you spent some time, as I suggested, processing the last call that we just heard on this program? If you did, let me ask you a question. How do you know that it was a plant? Because it was. That call was so obviously a plant. Am I the only one? Probably so. That’s why I’m host.

Also see my post: Conservative Talk Radio Has Become Almost Comical Lately


Protected: Shameful Dirty Caucus Joke Thread

February 12, 2008

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