My thoughts on Obama's decision

I wrote a long comment on a front-page diary by Jerome criticizing Obama's decision to escalate in Afghanistan.  My comment was so long that by the time I finished it, Jerome had apparently pulled the diary.  Whether he's going to repost it or what have you, I figured in my narcissistic way that I ought to preserve those thoughts of mine rather than have them float off into the ether.

The spirit of my comments is not so much a defense of the escalation as concern about where some of the critics are coming from.  I've read many thoughtful critiques of the Afghanistan agenda from a policy perspective and I don't know enough to tell any of those critics that they're wrong.  But there are some people who knew the right answer 5 seconds after they heard the problem, who don't seem to be able to credit opposing arguments or address them on the merits, and assume that anyone who supports the escalation (Obama included) must be acting out of some knee-jerk hawkish ideology or maybe some cynical political ploy to please some constituency or another.  Anyway, here's what I had to say to Jerome earlier.

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The Anti-Rape Forces Get The Last Laugh

Last month, progressives cheered as Al Franken successfully introduced his so-called "Anti-Rape Amendment" as part of the 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill.  The amendment provided that defense contracts would be withheld from any company that forces its employees to agree to mandatory arbitration of claims for sexual assault, battery, or discrimination.  Contractors like Halliburton and KBR had successfully used these arbitration clauses to prevent victims of sexual assault from pursuing a jury trial or even having a day in court at all.

Some people were shocked, and some felt it was just business as usual, when 30 Republicans voted against the Anti-Rape Amendment.  But the majority still rules once in a while in this country, and last I checked the bill, with amendment intact, was making its way through the conference process.

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Did Obama try to have Corzine replaced?

Our friends at Blue Jersey point to a breaking story suggesting the White House made inquiries about replacing the unpopular Governor Corzine on the ticket with NJ Senate President Richard Codey, one of the few well-liked Dems in the state:

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The Best Idea Yet

(Cross-posted at the Moose, TalkLeft and C4O Democrats)

The word on the street is that the caps on executive compensation may end up getting removed from the final version of the economic stimulus package.  Rather than abandon the idea altogether, James Kwak has a brilliant suggestion (h/t the Left Coaster):

Why not say that all bank compensation above a baseline amount - say, $150,000 in annual salary - has to be paid in toxic assets off the bank's balance sheet? Instead of getting a check for $10,000, the employee would get $10,000 in toxic assets, at their current book value. A federal regulator can decide which assets to pay compensation in; if they were all fairly valued, then it wouldn't matter which ones the regulator chose. That would get the assets off the bank's balance sheet, and into the hands of the people responsible for putting them there - at the value that they insist they are worth. Of course, the average employee does not get to set the balance sheet value of the assets, and may not have been involved in creating or buying those particular assets. But think about the incentives: talented people will flow to the companies that are valuing their assets the most realistically (since inflated valuations translate directly into lower compensation), which will give companies the incentive to be realistic in their valuations. (Banks could inflate their nominal compensation amounts to compensate for their overvalued assets, but then they would have to take larger losses on their income statements.)

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Does Franken Finally Win? A Legal Analysis

Everyone agrees it was a major story today for the Minnesota State Canvassing Board to declare Al Franken the official winner of the recount -- but is it the end of the story?  We all know Norm Coleman can file a lawsuit to contest the results further, but will that really delay Franken's entry into the Senate?

Some blogs have suggested that Minnesota law is kind of unique in that the winner of an election doesn't get officially certified as long as there's a dispute pending in court, and John Cornyn has vowed to filibuster Franken if the Democrats try to seat him before he's officially certified. So can Franken get certified by the state now, or does he have to keep waiting?

As specialized as the Internet is, I'm frankly surprised that there's not some source like the "Minnesota Election Law Blog" that answers all these arcane questions in the most minute detail -- and maybe there is, and I'll be hearing about it soon.  But absent some authoritative source, I thought I'd try to research the question myself.

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Is Jesse Jackson Jr. "Senate Candidate 5"? [Updated again!]

(Cross-posted at C4O Democrats)

Marc Ambinder speculates that Jesse Jackson, Jr. is the unnamed "Senate Candidate 5" in the Blagojevich indictment, based upon the apparent timing of a recent meeting between Jackson and the Guv.  Since this speculation is being widely disseminated, I wanted to look more closely at it.  Even assuming Ambinder is right about that meeting, his argument simply makes no sense to me.

Ambinder even cites the paragraph of the indictment which leads me to draw the exact opposite conclusion as he does.  To put this excerpt in context, "Senate Candidate 1" is apparently Barack Obama's preferred choice for the seat:

102. Later on November 10, 2008, ROD BLAGOJEVICH and Advisor A discussed the open Senate seat. Among other things, ROD BLAGOJEVICH raised the issue of whether the President-elect could help get ROD BLAGOJEVICH's wife on "paid corporate boards right now." Advisor A responded that he "think[s] they could" and that a "Presidentelect . . . can do almost anything he sets his mind to."ROD BLAGOJEVICH states that he will appoint "[Senate Candidate 1] . . . but if they feel like they can do this and not fucking give me anything . . . then I'll fucking go [Senate Candidate 5]." (Senate Candidate 5 is publicly reported to be interested in the open Senate seat). ROD BLAGOJEVICH stated that if his wife could get on some corporate boards and "picks up another 150 grand a year or whatever" it would help ROD BLAGOJEVICH get through the next several years as Governor.


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How Is This Not The Story Of The Year?

(Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama)

Some stories just speak for themselves:

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP's effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

"We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren't voting from those addresses," party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week. He said the local party wanted to make sure that proper electoral procedures were followed.

State election rules allow parties to assign "election challengers" to polls to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they "have a good reason to believe" that the person is not eligible to vote. One allowable reason is that the person is not a "true resident of the city or township."

The Michigan Republicans' planned use of foreclosure lists is apparently an attempt to challenge ineligible voters as not being "true residents."

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John McCain's Plan For Universal Health Care [UPDATED]

(Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama)

During the primaries, one of the ongoing disputes was over which candidate had a plan that would "really" provide health insurance to everyone in America.  That's in the past, and I think the past few nights of the convention have made it clear that the Democratic Party stands united in support of the idea that every single American should be able to receive health care.

But my friends, I have to acknowledge that the GOP has beaten us to the punch and once again shown itself to be the "party of ideas." Yes, it's true, John McCain has come up with a plan that would make the category of uninsured Americans a thing of the past, and cheaply, too!  So in the spirit of putting country before party, and in furtherance of Barack Obama's message that there's nothing wrong with admitting when a Republican has a good idea, I feel compelled to share this one.

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Moderate Repubs Exit the GOP, One by One

(Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama)

All the hype from the opening night of the Democratic Convention revolved around the speeches by Ted Kennedy and Michelle Obama, and deservedly so.  But I want to talk about something less publicized, before it slips through the cracks - the decidedly underhyped appearance by former Republican Congressman Jim Leach.

It's not every day you see a Republican speaking at the Democratic convention, and yet there was very little publicity concerning this event.  As a speaker, Rep. Leach didn't exactly blow the doors off - although I'm not sure what else people would expect from an Iowa Republican.  But that doesn't mean his speech isn't worth a read.

The politically significant lesson of Rep. Leach's speech was that it provided one more signifier of the ongoing exodus of moderate Republicans from today's hard-right GOP.  The realignment is ongoing - witness the Democratic takeover of virtually every Congressional seat in New England, which used to be solid Rockefeller Republican territory.  But we haven't finished the job yet.  In November we'll get a chance to take the full measure of our progress.

I've provided the full text of Leach's speech below the fold.  I think it's very telling to compare his thoughtful, historical analysis with its mirror image, the nasty partisan stemwinder delivered by Zell Miller at the 2004 Republican convention.  (You know, the one where he smeared John Kerry as weak on national defense for supporting military cuts that had been recommended by Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney.)  If we're trading the Zell Millers for the Jim Leachs, I'm down with that.

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Sen. Biden: "He's clean, articulate... "

(Cross-posted at Clintonistas for Obama)

With Sen. Obama's apparent choice of Joe Biden for the VP slot (which I support 100%), we're sure to hear plenty about Biden's penchant for gaffes, most notably his poorly-phrased attempt last fall to compliment Obama by calling him "clean,""articulate," and so forth.

Because we're going to hear about that line again and again, I thought it was worth reminding folks of how this issue was addressed during the primary debates, in what I thought was one of the better moments of the election season.

If you don't recall this moment, it's worth watching the video, particularly Sen. Obama's statement at the end.

My bottom line is that there was no available VP pick who would not have presented some sort of "gotcha" opportunity for the GOP to snicker about, but at the end of the day I don't think that's what concerns voters.  What matters is what the nominee can offer in terms of both winning the election and governing, and I see Sen. Biden as a clearly positive choice on both grounds.

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