Monday, November 12, 2007

News Digest from the Financial Times

Sick of it all

"Bellicose comments" from the White House on Iran are "not particularly helpful" according to Central Command chief, Admiral William Fallon, who stated that military action against the country "is not in the offing."

"None of this is helped by the stories that just keep going around and around that any day now there will be another war," he said.

"It astounds me that so many pundits and others are spending so much time yakking on this subject," to which the admiral might have added, "and by that I don't mean throwing up." Alas, it would seem one does not inherit the helm of Central Command with the deployment of double-entendre alone.

Hard for Dick

Meanwhile, Patrick Clawson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy has outlined the obstacles hawks face within the administration while pressing for another war: "The national intelligence director is saying we have time before the Iranians get the bomb, the secretary of state is saying diplomacy still has a chance, the secretary of defence is saying the military is at breaking point and the political advisers are saying another war would probably not be a good idea." So suck on that, Dick!

Bush's little helper

In case you missed out on the spectacle, Connecticut senator Joe Lieberman last week accused the Democratic party of being dominated by a "hyper-partisan, politically paranoid" liberal base who "are inclined to see international problems as a result of America's engagement with the world" -- or, as less-demented observers still call it: "Iraq."

Saturday, November 10, 2007


To John Edwards' credit, he has moved closer to popular concerns as his campaign has been superseded by Clinton and Obama, adopting positions that would otherwise be the domain of Kucinich alone. Edwards has accepted public financing and has made "a New Deal-style suite of programs" the centerpiece of his campaign, including free schooling from pre-kindergarten to college. Significantly, he was the first of the front-runners to lay out a coherent universal healthcare plan, long before his two leading opponents; and to the extent that his plan does not invite insurance or pharmaceutical lobbyists "to the table," it is superior to the later offerings.

It is unlikely that Edwards' positioning on these issues derives from any deeply-held principles, but, as with his late acceptance of public financing (he accepted it after he was out-financed anyway), is instead a calibrated response to political realities "on the ground." In effect, everyone is being outplayed by Clinton on the right, and with the Clinton/Obama amalgam firmly entrenched in the center, Edward's best chance has been to move left in a populist bid to appeal to voters on economic issues that typically alienate the US aristocracy. Edwards was not getting enough money from the possessing classes to compete with Clinton and Obama, anyway; subsequently, he was left with little incentive to run a campaign tailored to their concerns. If Edwards is to win the nomination, he will have to create the kind of upset in Iowa and Ohio that he has clearly committed himself to in the second half of his campaign. The fact that he is polling comparably to Clinton in these states is an indication of the kind of audiences he has there, and a testament to the logic of the strategy he has adopted.

Friday, November 09, 2007


One can't be blamed for hardly knowing where to begin with Barack Obama, since one hardly knows where he stands on anything. This is not entirely his fault, as it is apparent the national media give much more coverage to Clinton. However, Obama has not done himself any long-term favor by running his campaign on persona, even if it has gotten him this far. At least the negative attention which coalesces around Clinton can be tied to her policy proposals, which after all presupposes that she has some, thus rendering them positive in comparison to someone's that are not known. What does Obama have of his own besides "hope" and a desire to "change the tone" in Washington? And anyway, how is this accomplished -- or, even better, why is it desirable? Washington needs to be strung up, not coached on diction. This is just the kind of empty rhetoric which adds nothing to the debate.

Of course, Obama has policies -- good policies -- but one only learns of them by visiting his website. That is not a good thing, since he should be running on them, and making sure people know about them. For whatever reason, that is not happening. The media doubtless play their part, but so does reducing oneself to a "brand" in a presidential campaign.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Some reflections as the air turns cold

Perhaps the time has come to make some mention of our presidential hopefuls, painful though it may be for my fingers to tap the accursed keys. By way of an introduction, I will only say that my observations here should reflect many hours of shielding myself from most of what passes for "campaign coverage" -- or, the tallying of that quickly depreciating entity, someday to be remembered fondly as the American dollar, as it is deposited into the respective "war chests" (or, in the case of Kucinich, "sanity's tip jar.") However, as it is virtually impossible to talk "politics" without being pulled into the same vortex of refined inanity that accompanies celebrity concerns of any occasion -- sport, film or whathaveyou -- I am resigned to offer some elementary observations.


Hillary Clinton is as terrible a place to begin as any; so, for our purposes, she should prove satisfactory. What is the best thing that can be said her? Indisputably, she is a woman; clearly, this holds monumental symbolic value in a nation that preferences men. As president, she would truly be the first of her kind. Unfortunately, so was Margaret Thatcher, which only underscores the reality of how dangerous the conquest for power really is. It is the reason why Frodo threw the One Ring into the fire, rather than adorn it for the feminist cause or for any cause: because power becomes an end in itself -- invariably so in its concentrated forms. To paraphrase Foucault, it is hardly a service to the woman's cause to bow at the altar of the very god which dominates and exploits them -- not sexist attitudes, per se, but the infrastructure of power which amplifies their effects until they prove harmful. Of course, passage of an Equal Rights Amendment under Clinton is a real possibility; on the other hand, it is virtually assured that many innocent people will pay the price for her presidency with their lives in whatever foreign theaters she hopes to act out her "executive resolve." The value of human gain must always be weighed with the human costs which accompany them; this is the balance which power always strives to conceal.

Naturally, Clinton cannot be singled-out in the conquest for power, since this is what pursuing the presidency currently means. But it is worth underscoring the inevitable violence of power, especially so in instances where we perceive some likely benefit to ourselves -- in this case, having a woman as president. We do ourselves a disservice to ignore the full spectrum of probable outcomes of a Clinton presidency, whatever conclusions we finally draw from them.