Monday, August 18, 2008

The Russian Bear

What Obama must do to win

"I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation [n ] or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office." —John F. Kennedy, 1960 Any Democrat who imagines that Barack Obama's got the presidential election locked up needs to watch the so-called Saddleback forum featuring him and John McCain online at cnn. com. Broadcast live on Aug. 16, it was hosted by Rick Warren, the California televangelist and author of "The Purpose Driven Life," a spiritual self-help manual for people who think God drives an SUV and a Christian's highest calling is monitoring others' sexual behavior. The calculatedly casual Warren—he preaches to congregations of upwards of 17, 000 wearing blue jeans and an untucked, open-collared shirt—definitely marks an evolutionary step up from the Virginia divines Pat Robertson and the late Jerry Falwell. During the two hours, there were no melodramatic Armageddon predictions, no accusations that Democrats are in league with Satan, nothing about flinging virgins into volcanoes to appease a wrathful God.

OK, maybe even Falwell never said that. Warren's more like a TV game-show host, a description he embraces, than a fire-and-brimstone shouter. He urges his followers not to hate people they disagree with.

Even so, it's possible to feel disquiet about presidential candidates submitting themselves to spiritual inquisition by any preacher. Will they next undergo questioning by a Catholic cardinal ? A rabbi ? Orthodox or Reformed ? A Muslim imam ? By Christopher Hitchens, bestselling scourge of God ? I know a female Methodist preacher I'd enjoy watching give McCain the third degree.

That's the Ticket!

Why loquacious Delaware senator Joe Biden is a terrific vice-presidential pick for Barack Obama.

Senator Joe Biden, Barack Obama's vice-presidential selectionIt's a great pick! He connects with blue-collar voters and reassures voters worried about Barack Obama's foreign policy inexperience.
It's a lousy pick! He's prone to gaffes and, as a senior member of the Senate, steps on the message of change.

In the next few days, pundits will be obsessing over the political impact of putting Joe Biden on the Democratic ticket. But the more important questions are the more tangible ones. Is Biden qualified to serve as an advisor to the president and, in an emergency, his stand-in? What does this selection tells us about the way Obama makes decisions?

The answer to the first question is unambiguously "yes."

Good one, George

"The lack of any consistent lines of attack against McCain is becoming palpable"

by John Aravosis

John McCain again today basically accused Obama of treason. Within that attack is the usual Republican blood lie about Democrats - that they hate America, hate the troops, etc. - with a bit of subtle racism thrown in (playing on Obama's African heritage, and on the fact that some of his ancestor's were Muslim, all adding up to someone "less than American").

Today, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo indicated his growing exasperation with the Obama campaign's response, or lack thereof, to these ongoing attacks:
With so many instances of corruption and influence-peddling around him and whatever problems with the candidate that are keeping the campaign from letting reporters interview him anymore, John McCain is now again charging Obama with what amounts to soft treason -- wanting to lose the war in Iraq in order to make himself president. The lack of any consistent lines of attack against McCain is becoming palpable.
When Josh exhibits this kind of frustration publicly, we take notice. Josh is one of the cooler heads in the blogosphere. He's not as prone to fits of temper as, well, I might be. And he has a solid background in journalism that gives him a certain gravitas that the corporate media respects. So when Josh starts to blow a gasket, even in his typically subdued way, it means something.

'Obama the Antichrist?' CNN actually asks

by David Edwards and Nick Juliano

Just so we're clear: Barack Obama is in fact not the Anti-Christ, sent here to feed on the souls of the innocent, resume Satan's reign over earth and bring about the apocalypse as foretold in Revelation.

Not. The. Anti-Christ.

That such a subject is even speculated about in any but the most backwards, unreconstructed segments of American society -- let alone on a 24-hour cable network -- is a testament (no pun intended) to the depths to which political debate has fallen. But there was the caption on CNN Friday in big bold letters: "OBAMA THE ANTICHRIST?"

Apparently a not-insignificant number of Americans, after viewing John McCain's Web ad The One, with its Messianic overtones -- come away thinking that Barack Obama has been sent from Hell to Earth to turn its citizens against God. For inspiration, some of these people seem to be drawing from the fictional Left Behind series, which posits a dystopian future where the Anti-Christ comes to Earth as a charismatic politician.

Endangered species act

Why Soldiers Rape

by Helen Benedict
Jennifer Dyer, in an interview with 60 Minutes, explains the pressure of reporting rape in the military. (Photo: CBS News)

    Culture of misogyny, illegal occupation fuel sexual violence in military.

    An alarming number of women soldiers are being sexually abused by their comrades-in-arms, both at war and at home. This fact has received a fair amount of attention lately from researchers and the press - and deservedly so.

    But the attention always focuses on the women: where they were when assaulted, their relations with the assailant, the effects on their mental health and careers, whether they are being adequately helped, and so on. That discussion, as valuable as it is, misses a fundamental point. To understand military sexual assault, let alone know how to stop it, we must focus on the perpetrators. We need to ask: Why do soldiers rape?

    Rape in civilian life is already unacceptably common. One in six women is raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime, according to the National Institute of Justice, a number so high it should be considered an epidemic.

    In the military, however, the situation is even worse. Rape is almost twice as frequent as it is among civilians, especially in wartime. Soldiers are taught to regard one another as family, so military rape resembles incest. And most of the soldiers who rape are older and of higher rank than their victims, so are taking advantage of their authority to attack the very people they are supposed to protect.

    Department of Defense reports show that nearly 90 percent of rape victims in the Army are junior-ranking women, whose average age is 21, while most of the assailants are non-commissioned officers or junior men, whose average age is 28.

The Biggest Story of Our Lives

Jim Lampleyby Jim Lampley
At 5:00 p.m. Eastern time on Election Day, I checked the sportsbook odds in Las Vegas and via the offshore bookmakers to see the odds as of that moment on the Presidential election. John Kerry was a two-to-one favorite. You can look it up.

People who have lived in the sports world as I have, bettors in particular, have a feel for what I am about to say about this: these people are extremely scientific in their assessments. These people understand which information to trust and which indicators to consult in determining where to place a dividing line to influence bets, and they are not in the business of being completely wrong. Oddsmakers consulted exit polling and knew what it meant and acknowledged in their oddsmaking at that moment that John Kerry was winning the election.

And he most certainly was, at least if the votes had been fairly and legally counted. What happened instead was the biggest crime in the history of the nation, and the collective media silence which has followed is the greatest fourth-estate failure ever on our soil.

Many of the participants in this blog have graduate school educations. It is damned near impossible to go to graduate school in any but the most artistic disciplines without having to learn about the basics of social research and its uncanny accuracy and validity. We know that professionally conceived samples simply do not yield results which vary six, eight, ten points from eventual data returns, thaty's why there are identifiable margins for error. We know that margins for error are valid, and that results have fallen within the error range for every Presidential election for the past fifty years prior to last fall. NEVER have exit polls varied by beyond-error margins in a single state, not since 1948 when this kind of polling began. In this past election it happened in ten states, all of them swing states, all of them in Bush's favor. Coincidence? Of course not.

Karl Rove isn't capable of conceiving and executing such a grandiose crime? Wake up. They did it.