Saturday, November 15, 2008

RAHM-BO IN THE WHITE HOUSE


Said Obama to Emanuel, "I can give you House...White House, that is!"

Rahm Emanuel, the Congressional Democrats' loveable pit bull, has been selected by President-elect Barack Obama to be White House Chief of Staff. This is old news. But was it a smart choice? Republicans, including House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, have criticized Mr. Obama's choice as being hypocritical given the president-elect's bi-partisan rhetoric on the campaign trail.

For those of you who don't know, Mr. Emanuel led the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to victory during the midterm elections of 2006; the Democrats picked up 31 seats in the House. Before that, he served as a senior advisor and chief fundraiser for Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago. Emanuel then served as a senior advisor to President Bill Clinton.

His take-no-prisoners reputation has left his own side in awe and the other side jealous that they don't have such an astute political operative in their ranks. Emanuel is said to have mailed a rotten fish to a former coworker after the two parted ways and was given the nickname "Rahm-bo."

Yet, rather than being a liability, Mr. Emmanuel's signature combative style and take-no-prisoners reputation will be an essential weapon of the arsenal Mr. Obama will need to keep Congressional Democrats--House and Senate--in line if the president-elect's ambitious legislative agenda is to have any hope of passing in his first term. To paraphrase Grand Moff Tarkin in StarWars, "Fear will keep rebelious members in line. Fear of Rahm Emanuel."

Indeed, keeping the Democratic caucus and conference in line with the Obama Administration will be much more important than reaching across the aisle in light of the spanking Congressional Republicans just suffered. The unity of the Democratic juggernaut in Congress, more than needless compromise, will make what few centrist Republicans remain more likely to break rank with their increasingly conservative leadership. Thus, Mr. Obama's choice showcases the two personality traits that has served him so well through the long campaign season--ruthless efficiency and clever pragmatism.

This leaves Lefty's with only one conclusion: RAHM ROCKS THE HOUSE...BIG TIME!

Friday, November 14, 2008

A Tough Act To Follow


LEFTY'S REVIEW: QUANTUM OF SOLACE
In a break from the norm, Lefty's is mixing things up with a review of the recent Bond film, which we saw together last night. Here's our take:

Bill: enjoyable, but a little bit of a let down after the glory of Casino Royale. B

Demosthenes: C+

Sebastian Lederer: I was disappointed by this continuation of the series. After Casino Royale, QoS was clearly a step back. The movie seemed to wrap up some of the leftovers of Casino Royale, but was not even successful in doing that, as Mr. White is still out there. Bond seemed bitter and angry and lacked his classic charm. Still some great chase sequences and a few good one liners made this movie average. C

Kate: B-

Henry Vasquez: As a stand alone movie, QoS would be a solid action film. But it aspired to be a true sequel, and because of its ambition, we must consider it in relation to CR. In that sense, the plot was less enthralling, the Bond girl was more attractive, and the overall presentation was a decent evolution of the Daniel Craig heros journey. B

LEFTY'S AGGREGATE REVIEW: B-

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Sarah Palin's 15 Mins of Fame, 2008-?

Like many people, I was hoping that an Obama win would put an end to Sarah Palin and Joe the plumber's 15 minutes of fame. Instead, I was wrong.

Very wrong.

Joe's rumored to have a book coming out: Joe the Plumber: Fighting for the American Dream, as well as a website, and even a country music deal. Ugh.

As for Palin, she's still taking interviews. NUMEROUS interviews.

Since last Friday, she's given interviews with her local NBC station, assembled Alaskan State Capital reporters, a CNN correspondent, Greta Van Susteren, Matt Lauer, Wolf Blitzer and Larry King-- to name a few.



Working to correct the evil liberal media? Possible presidential bid in 2012? More SNL skits/appearances?

Who knows, maybe she'll even sign up for her own daytime talk show or a reality TV show like "The Palins".

Sadly, it looks like we'll be seeing Palin around for a while.

All Your States Are Belong To Us!!!

Dr. Dean Has Left The Building
As DNC Chairman Howard Dean announces he will step down from his position, Lefty's reflects on the legacy of Dr. Dean and how it has shaped the election...

Many felt that Howard Dean's most lasting legacy would be his infamous scream from the 2004 Democratic Primary. However, it is becoming more apparent that Dean's 50-state strategy has paid off. Many pundits are beginning to suggest that the 50-state strategy laid the proper groundwork for the Obama campaign to step into. I tend to agree. This past summer, I was lucky enough to work for Howard Dean (albeit indirectly) at the Democratic National Committee headquarters. The Chairman explained the importance of party building everywhere. It was more than winning in 2006 & 2008. It was about building lasting party identification and networks in all parts of the country. And in some way, as we have seen from the New York times map, the party has successfully penetrated almost every part of the country.

The strategy that helped shape Dean's own campaign was applied as the philosophy of the Democratic Party as a whole. When Dean said he was going to "South Carolina and Oklahoma, Arizona, North Dakota, New Mexico, California, Texas, New York, South Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Michigan," he really meant it. So for your farewell, Lefty's salutes the work you've done with a little treat:


Stu Rassmussen, the US's First Openly Transgendered Mayor

That's right.

Silverton, Oregon has elected Stu Rassmusen as the US's first transgendered mayor. Stu has already served twice, but this time he'll be serving in "girl mode" with breast implants, women's clothes, makeup, heels and all.



Two years ago, Stu ran as a transgender and lost, but it's nice now to see that the majority of voters accepted him for who he is. Shockingly, despite the fact that he ran in a small, conservative, rural town, "the community was very receptive and accepting, with a few exceptions."

What was interesting to me in reading about this was that even though Stu choose to get breast implants and regularly chooses to wear makeup and women's clothes, he still very much identifies as a heterosexual man.

"I am a dude", he says, "I am a heterosexual male who appears to be a female." Wouldn't that qualify him as more of a cross dresser/transvestite than a transsexual?

Regardless though, I think it's great that an openly transsexual person was elected into public office. Hell, as long as I agreed with their politics, I'd vote for a transsexual candidate any day.

More about Stu from huffington post.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Keeping Republicans, Homophobes Out of New England

New England, you kick ass!

Today, Same-sex marriages were allowed in Connecticut after an October 10th State Supreme Court decision declared that same-sex couples have the right to wed. For many this comes as a stark contrast to the recent passage of Proposition 8 in California, which outlawed same-sex marriage. Now that Chris Shays and others have lost their house seats from the recent election, there will no longer be a Republican Congressman in all of New England. No GOP, no voice for homophobes. Hmm?

AP has the full story.

George Lopez: Prospects of an Obama Administration

Big Issues and WhatKnott
Kroc Institute Professor George Lopez paid a visit to Knott Hall for a meeting of Big Issues and WhatKnott this Monday. He provided some insider insight on potential appointees and the possible course of direction in a variety of foreign policy scenarios- including relations with Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Russia, and more.

I was lucky enough to capture the discussion in text for your reading pleasure. It is a bit lengthy and jumbled, but I did my best.

Enjoy:

George Lopez: A Lefty's Exclusive Interview

What is interesting: it is not only rhetoric, but a reality to the bipartisanship effect of an Obama administration. For example:
• Creating a centrist foreign policy.
• Appointees like Richard Lugar, GOP, with expertise in denuclearization
• Nunn Lugar legislation
• For Lugar, make him either undersecretary or secretary of defense
• Bush Administration did away with arms control agency (ACTA), we may see revival.
• Possibly make Lugar ambassador to Russia.

Serious discussion about retaining Secretary Gates

• He is a viable centrist partner.
• There would be remarkable continuity for Afghanistan, Pakistan plans.
• Another possibility is Chuck Hagel for US ambassador to UN.
Thinks Obama is committed to new era of denuclearization
• Obama, as new as he is, understands complexities of arms control.
• Russia has a sort of technological itch from petrodollars.
• If we aren't careful, another arms race is a sliver away from us.
• Russians will likely try to close the gap if the US doesn’t stand down in their own tech advances.
• Obvious problem: loose nukes in hands of terrorists.
• We are seeing nuclear energy spread in Europe, other OECD nations.

No one knows what he will do with trade.

• Said he in campaign he would be opposed to sending jobs oversees, general protectionism. GL suspects this was a function of electoral politics. Not likely to see massive protectionism.
• We could see Susan Schwab, trade rep. as appointee. She is a centrist.
One of most significant appointments relate to economy.
• Undersecretary of Treasury, overseeing where money is going, looking into counterterrorist finance and dirty money.
• We may need to have lawyers, people with international finance degrees to go after bad money.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan
• For Afghanistan, appoint specialists to analyze what is possible.
• We may see a sort of surge in Afghanistan.
• Must remember that victory over Al Qaeda is key concern.
• Appoint Colin Powell, maybe Wes Clark to Secretary of State.
• Should listen to Barnett Rubin, Council on Foreign Relations fellows.
• We really don’t want to be in Afghan. For another decade
• Some, including Richard Clarke feel that military is too overstretched w/ Iraq to move in full force into Afghanistan.
• This creates dysfunctional soldier/citizens if they are overworked.
• Most critical element: whether each of those countries can mobilize elections and what results arise. There is a fear if Kurds don’t win violence may break out.
• Referendum on Kurdistan is important decision, deciding whether or not to be a sovereign state or not.
• He may revisit Hamilton and Baker recommendations on Afghanistan.

Questions

1) Explain relationship, tension between Petraeus and Obama.
• For US interests, the tension could be good.
• Petraeus feels Obama position about 16 month withdrawal is infeasible.
• When Obama spoke w/ Petraeus, he was forceful and inquired how Petraeus would enact his plan. Petraeus: we will operationalize it, it will be difficult
• Obama: what if we need to do it quicker?
• Once Petraeus came to Central Command, he realized he had valuable experience to help Afghanistan.
• Logical choice to is to move Petraeus to Joint Chiefs of Staff.

2) What will Obama do with Guantanamo?
• Divide detainees into 3 groups, based on guilt and reason for detention.
• Some will be put in American court system, possibly 2/3 of prisoners.
• Could see traditional war crimes trial, Nuremberg model.
• We could see authority given from UN Security Council.
• A standard military trial would be granted for those captured in combat, not those found randomly on hearsay.
• Whole process may be subject to judicial review.

3) How does the financial crisis affect Obama's ability to motivate EU military support?
• Obama is likely to cash in on his political capital earlier, using his mandate to work with Europeans quickly.
• Political economy shifts the possible options EU countries have.
• If economy is rosy: he can only ask stronger NATO presence if he gives NATO more power to decide what will happen politically in Afghanistan, Pakistan.
• An inhibitor: the missile systems in Poland are a barrier for both Germans and Russians, and hurts our ability to make deals with Germany and Russia.

4) What action might we see with Darfur?
• Nothing will make up for the last years of disposed peoples, lost lives.
• If Samantha Power becomes undersecretary human rights, we may see action.
• We should effectively work with African states to put pressure on Sudan.
• Work with China is key to cutting off oil trade with Sudan.
• Enforce the International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese officials.
• What is needed is strong diplomacy, multilateral pressure to place on Sudan.

5) Why is China amoral in their foreign policy? What can be done?
• China has defined relationship with Sudan like the US does with Israel, blind trust.
• China needs to use economic leverage, demanding a stable Sudanese government.
• We must show that it is in China’s interest to have a stable Sudan

6) What is Obama's likely stance on Iran, Russia?
• The probability of attacks on Iran by Israel or US at lowest levels.
• Realistically, Iran is less of a threat. Russia is still biggest potential threat.
• Polish missile system program was a short-sighted punitive act.
• Obama administration has a clean slate with foes, which could be crucial.
• Boldness will be in repealing missile defense shields in Poland.
• Iran has an election. Best thing US can do: don’t give Ahmedinijad lever to rally support.
• We don’t want to give “concessions” to Russia, but use repeal as lever..

Additional Comments
-Obama is most definitely going to visit Britain first.
-We are likely to see less nepotism in appointments.
-we will probably see a restored balance of power with Congress and their role in national security.
-Economic situation, in certain ways, is worse than what FDR faced.
-Colleges will take huge hits. Endowments lose 25% of their value. Banks constrict their lending. Student loans become harder to get.
-Venezuela: Chavez will go away when he doesn’t have money to go around, appease voters.
-Interestingly, with an Obama Administration, John McCain has the power to push immigration reform through his party. There is a strong opportunity here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Prop Yourselves Up While Others Fall

In lieu of the passing of Proposition 8 in California, a bill that defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman, I feel that Lefty's must shed some light on the issue. For so many, the discussion about gay marriage is a muddled mess of irrational arguments and failed understanding. Bill and I often talk about how so many discussions fail to align in basic framework, terminology, and logic. What happens is that ever argument turns into a battle of confusion, over premises and definitions. And so I digress...

The most appropriate comparison with gay marriage, I feel, is the right to vote. The only natural flaw is that marriage isn't defined or enumerated in the Constitution. Nevertheless, the comparison draws some strong parallels. In 1920, when women were given the right to vote, many opponents of the idea were blinded by their bigotry, trapped in a sort of historicist cave, where they were unable to understand the universality of rights and the extrapolation of Constitutional rights to strange and unfamiliar cases. The same occurred in 1965, when African Americans were finally granted de facto (on top of de jure) suffrage.

In my eyes, the same problem exists in our current case. The 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution states rather explicitly:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.


Perhaps the connection has not been made, but I see it one of two ways. If marriage is a right, then states banning same-sex marriage are denying Constitional rights of certain individuals, AKA unequal protection. If marriage is a privelege, then the state is making a law that abridges the priveleges of certain citizens. The only other option is to say that homosexuals aren't citizens. Madness!

One final note, is that I must address the perennial "Slippery Slope" argument. Opponents of same-sex marriage feel that by granting marriage rights to gays, we are redefining marriage and it could easily slip into a relativist decline thereafter. For example, they will argue, that perhaps one day the definition will be so loose we will allow polygamy, or marrying one's pets, or any series of other hyperbolic provisions. Consider this: if we applied that logic against women's suffrage, to say that one day children (under 18) would vote, or maybe dogs would vote, or even inanimate objects, or maybe one person's vote would count for two, how RIDICULOUS would that seem? None of those have come true, nor will they. The whole point is, rather obviously, that people have rights. These rights aren't given by the angry mob, they are inherent in our personhood (as some would suggest, granted by God). They must be protected from the 52% mob rule that has just stripped away the right from Californians.

And to say it gracefully, Keith Olbermann:

Jobs Amass in Wake of Economic Collapse

Employ Ahoy!

Here's a little blurp from a WaPo article about some new jobs (POLS majors, wink*):


Staffing shortages at the State Department are so serious that much of its work is not getting done.

The situation is so bad that State needs to increase its hiring by 46 percent -- adding more than 4,700 jobs -- between 2010 and 2014.


Any Takers?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Foreclosing Hitler

Here's a funny little video I found the other day on the housing crisis. The jokes and references are very obvious and deliberate, but seeing Hitler in a hissy fit is worth it.