Obama On FISA – Isoceles or Scalene?

“It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.”

(h/t Josh Marshall)

Progblogs heads start exploding in three, two, one…

Bug – Or Feature?

Demosophist has a post below on Obama’s childhood and background, suggesting that his upbringing is slightly more – exotic – than typically represented.

My initial response tends to be – so?

Look, let’s establish three things which I believe to be conclusively true about Obama:
1. He did have a somewhat exotic upbringing, compared to most of us.

2. He was absolutely brought up in the post ’68 cultural milieu which is much more open about folks like Bill Ayers and Reverend Wright than about, say, Pat Buchanan – who represents kind of a polar ideological opposite (without the moral baggage of the bombs, in the case of Ayers).

3. He’s a hardnosed and superb politician, with a golden tongue which allows him to dance around positions while being applauded by the voting public.

Are those things entirely bad?

I think I can make a good argument that each of them is in fact a net positive.

1. We live in an interconnected world in which we’re the biggest kid – but no longer so big, or so independent that we can tell the rest of the world to take a flying leap. The coming era will be one of cooperation with other countries – the critical question being which countries and on what terms. Having someone who has even a somewhat naive set of experiences that go past Ohio or Manhattan could be pretty useful in navigating those decisions and those negotiations.

2. We’re at the point in history when we are going to see politicians who grew up in the shadow of ’68. What they absorbed from it – there were good and bad things – and whether their values were shaped by it or in reaction to is certainly damn important. But I would no more criticize Obama for being raised in those values – and having some root comfort there – than I would criticize someone who was raised as “an Okie from Muskogee” and maintained attachment to some of the core values from there – even though I might also find some of those values ones I can’t support.

3. David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, and John Cole have covered this one pretty well. here’s Brooks:

And Fast Eddie Obama didn’t just sell out the primary cause of his life. He did it with style. He did it with a video so risibly insincere that somewhere down in the shadow world, Lee Atwater is gaping and applauding. Obama blamed the (so far marginal) Republican 527s. He claimed that private donations are really public financing. He made a cut-throat political calculation seem like Mother Teresa’s final steps to sainthood.

I have to admit, I’m ambivalent watching all this. On the one hand, Obama did sell out the primary cause of his professional life, all for a tiny political advantage. If he’ll sell that out, what won’t he sell out? On the other hand, global affairs ain’ beanbag. If we’re going to have a president who is going to go toe to toe with the likes of Vladimir Putin, maybe it is better that he should have a ruthlessly opportunist Fast Eddie Obama lurking inside.

here’s Sullivan:

I never doubted his cunning or his charisma. It’s the combo that’s so lethal. Are the Republicans awake yet? The Clintons weren’t.

and Cole:

The best part of this election is about to start, though- we are going to be treated to months of folks on the right learning Obama really is not as liberal as they think he is and becoming upset that they can not simply attack him as a radical left-winger (although some morons will still continue with the Marxist nonsense because it is all they know), all the while having to watch left-wingers kvetch and moan as they learn he really is not as liberal as they thought he was and that he will move to the center to and compromise. Put together, it has the potential to be really damned amusing.

Look, Obama isn’t Chauncey Gardner. He’s not animating someone else’s empty suit.

But he is not so much about policies and programs – a Hillary-style politician – as he is about constituencies, the balance of power, and leverage. He has values – and yes, they are liberal, progressive values – but they aren’t embodoed in a shelf of three-ring binders he about to try and shove down our throats.

So bring it, bring on the exotic, the child of bead-wearers, the manipulative politician. There’s at least a sensible argument that something much like that is exactly what we need right now. Who he is is one reason I’m comfy supporting him. Whether he’s ready – that’s the question that makes me happy he facing McCain, not Huckabee or Romney.

Speaking Of No Blood For Oil

We signed a contract with Solar City this week, for a 3.1KwH solar roof array.

Solar City has apparently put together a lease program that strips the tax advantages, but offers the system for $75/month (escalating 3.5%/year) for 15 years. Since it’s guaranteed to save us at least $60/month in electricity (possibly as much as $80 – we live in a funny climate zone near the beach), and since I think utility prices are going to spike hard when all the energy costs, bad employee contracts, and deferred maintenance and needed upgrades in infrastructure come home to roost – it seemed like a smart thing to do.

And even if not smart, it seems like the right thing to do.

I’ll keep everyone posted. My biggest issue now is that the inverter is set to shut the system down during brownouts or blackouts to protect the grid. Because we get brown or blackouts on sunny summer afternoons, I’d love to figure how to use the panels off the grid.

I’ll be doing some research.

No Blood For Oil

I’ll come back to the news about the oil servicing contracts, but wanted to slip in a bit of interesting good news first.

This week, the Pentagon hosted a conference call with Dr. James Valdes, a biotechnology expert with the US Army. He was discussing the Tactical Garbage to Energy Refinery (TGER) – a portable 40Kw generator that runs on diesel or garbage – converting solid trash to low-grade methane through high-temperature digestion, and wet garbage to ethanol via fermentation.


The generator burns 5ga of JP8 an hour with no trash input, or <1ga per hour – still producing 40Kw while consuming waste. This reduces both the incoming logistical tail as less fuel needs to be hauled in, and the outbound one as less trash needs to be hauled out. Which in turn reduces the fuel for operations required even further. As well as the exposure of the troops and contractors doing the hauling. Two prototype TIGR units are deployed (in Iraq, I believe) – it will be interesting to see how they do. I’ve dreamed for a while of a neighborhood cogen station that generated electricity, heated water from the generator cooling jacket, and now – burns trash. Pretty cool.

The Black Sedan

The day I dropped Biggest Guy off at the recruiting center to be processed into the Army, I did so with the full awareness that at any time afterward, I could come home to find a car with an officer in it waiting to notify me of the worst possible news. In the back of my mind the image of that car is one that I constantly chase away – but it’s one that I know all military families carry with them.

Last week, the car came calling for the family of one of BG’s classmates.

Norman Michael “Ehren” Murburg died during the land nav portion of SFAS (the ‘selection’ for Special Forces). It’s not yet clear what happened, but I’d been watching the Fayetteville weather with concern – it was well over 100 degrees, with smoke from fires and high humidity.

Please go share your condolences with his family, and think good thoughts for the loved ones he left behind.

More on this later. Today is just for mourning.

Last Night – Marriage For All In California

Same-sex marriages began in California. I’m not enthralled with the process that got us here, and I don’t think the last show has dropped on this.

But I think that once people begin to see the impact – to see, and I hope accept the fact that the loving couple next door is both male or both female – that some of the heat will go out of this issue.

My position is simple. Stable nuclear families are the best form of social organization this society has to offer, and any change that allows there to be more of them is a good thing.

If you want to know why, read this old post.

Congratulations to the new couples, and welcome to the joyful hard work of marriage.

Department Of “Huh?”

OK, Team Obama has me worried now. Two announcements today are genuinely puzzling.

First, Patty Solis-Doyle. She manages to sound like someone I’d pay to keep away from my campaign:

She earned a reputation as a contentious, domineering boss. Along the way, many of the staff members who worked under her left or were forced out, including several high-powered members of Clinton’s inner circle, such as Kelly Craighead and Evelyn Lieberman, the deputy chief of staff to Bill Clinton famous for banishing Monica Lewinsky to the Pentagon. The frequent turnover in the fund-raising shop was a significant measure of Solis Doyle’s unpopularity. Clinton staffers are notably loyal, and turnover among them tends to be much lower than it is among the staffs of other politicians. Fund-raising under Solis Doyle was a glaring exception, chalking up the kind of body count you’d expect from an episode of The Sopranos. She was infamous among her colleagues for referring to herself as “the queen bee” and for her habit of watching daytime soap operas in her office. One frequent complaint among donors and outside advisers was that Solis Doyle often did not return calls or demonstrate the attention required in her position.


Here, too, Solis Doyle was disastrous; her lack of skill in areas other than playing the loyal heavy began to show. The first public sign of this came just after Clinton’s reelection to the Senate. Even though Clinton had faced no serious opponent, it turned out that Solis Doyle, as campaign manager, had burned through more than $30 million. As this New York Times story makes clear, the donor base was incensed. Toward the end of the Senate campaign, Solis Doyle did her best to bolster the impression of the inevitability of Hillary’s nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate, spreading word that Clinton’s Senate reelection fund-raising had gone so exceptionally well that $40 million to $50 million would be left after Election Day to transfer to the incipient presidential campaign. But this turned out to be a wild exaggeration…and Solis Doyle must have known it was. Disclosure filings revealed a paltry $10 million in cash on hand; far from conveying Hillary’s inevitability, this had precisely the opposite effect, encouraging, rather than frightening off, potential challengers.

So, hiring her was operationally maybe – not such a good idea. But it will help heal the rifts in the Party, right? Um, no. Kevin Drum adds:

…that Solis Doyle had become so estranged from Hillary Clinton after she was fired as Hillary’s campaign manager. Far from her hiring being a conciliatory gesture, the developing conventional wisdom is that Team Obama is sending the same kind of message to Team Clinton that the Tattaglia family sent to the Corleones in The Godfather:

“It’s a slap in the face,” Susie Tompkins Buell, a prominent Clinton backer, said in an interview. “Why would they put somebody that was so clearly ineffective in such a position? It’s a message. We get it.” She said it was a “calculated decision” by the Obama team to “send a message that she [Clinton] is not being considered for the ticket.”

Other Clinton insiders also seethed. “Who can blame Obama for rewarding Patti? He would never be the nominee without her,” one person who has worked for both Clintons and remains close to them said. The sentiment reflected what another person in the immediate Clinton orbit described as “shock” that Obama would send such a strong signal that he is not considering Clinton as his runningmate so soon.

Another Hillary supporter puts it even more bluntly: Hiring Solis is the “biggest f**k you I have ever seen in politics.”

OK, so someone help me understand what’s the play here.

And to add to it, we have the hire of Stephanie Cutter as Michelle Obama’s chief of staff. Ms. Cutter is famous for her leaden response to the Swift Boat Vets For Truth slams against John Kerry in 2004.

Another winning hire.

What the hell, Barack? There are all kinds of competent talented people out there you could have brought in for those positions. And this is what we get?

Danziger to Danziger (Marc to Jeff)

…you’re an a**hole.

Cartoonist Jeff Danziger (no relation, thankfully) just dipped his pen into Ted Rall’s inkwell for this cartoon.

Look, Obama has been the target of a lot of innuendo. So has McCain. McCain has – very honorably, I think – challenged his own supporters who trashed Obama, and he deserved credit for his honorable behavior, not slurs from someone who stands in a trashcan and fools himself that it’s a soapbox.

McCain, Peace Activists, Moral Hazard

Overall good guy Phil Carter has a piece up on John McCain’s War College thesis. I’d meant to blog the NYT story, but Carter makes the argument I want to challenge so well that I’d rather talk about his post than directly about McCain’s paper.

Here’s McCain:

“The biggest factor in a man’s ability to perform credibly as a prisoner of war is a strong belief in the correctness of his nation’s foreign policy,” Mr. McCain wrote in a 1974 essay submitted to the National War College and never released to the public. Prisoners who questioned “the legality of the war” were “extremely easy marks for Communist propaganda,” he wrote.

Americans captured after 1968 had proven to be more susceptible to North Vietnamese pressure, he argued, because they “had been exposed to the divisive forces which had come into focus as a result of the antiwar movement in the United States.”

And here’s Carter:

Should we offer our unconditional, unwavering, unquestioning and blind support for the troops — and the administration which sent them into war? Is that our role in the American democratic system? Does “support the troops” literally mean support their mission no matter what? Or is there another way?

I fundamentally disagree with McCain’s thesis and broader argument. Our Constitution gives the ultimate say in matters of war and peace to the people — through their election of the president and Congress and their ability to shape political decisions through popular will. This is an imperfect system, as we have seen in both Vietnam and Iraq. Unpopular wars take a long time to bend to popular opinion. But, it is our system, and our Constitution, and it demands a type of engagement from the people that is the antithesis of what McCain describes.

Carter is right, but he’s also fundamentally wrong (note: see update below).

It’s absolutely the case that our way of life is centered on the right to have our own opinions.

But it’s also absolutely the case that dissent has consequences, and the place where Phil’s wrong is in missing the final step to acknowledging that. Here he comes close to this:

There is a very powerful idea here. In writing about his own survival in Nazi concentration camps, psychologist Viktor Frankl emphasized the importance of “purpose.” In short, he who has a why can endure just about anything. For Frankl, that purpose was living to publish his story and his psychological insights on the camps. McCain argues that his purpose was to support American foreign policy and the containment of Communism — and that knowing this purpose and believing in it was crucial for his survival.

Phil – and the others who publicly oppose the war – need to accept the responsibility for the impact of their positions.

That responsibility may be right and have positive result – if their position against the war and the causes for it is correct. But inextricably tied up in that is the intermediate result…

…which may be that while the question is being decided, their dissent and attack on the “purpose” of those who fight has real and negative consequences. The positive and negative cannot be separated, and those who oppose the war would strengthen the honesty of their positions by acknowledging this. For those who support the war, there is positive and negative just as inextricably tied together to be sure.

More on this soon.

Update: Looking at this at the breakfast table, I think that my wording is harsher than my disagreement with Phil supports. I do think that he missed the – essential to me – link connecting the two positions, and I think that ‘missing link’ is one of the lynchpins of my discomfort with the moral position(s) of the antiwar movement. So my point, I think, stands.

But ‘absolutely wrong’ probably wasn’t the best way to put that.