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Tuesday, October 30, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via Zogby: Zogby Poll: 52% Support U.S. Military Strike Against Iran

A majority of likely voters – 52% – would support a U.S. military strike to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, and 53% believe it is likely that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the next presidential election, a new Zogby America telephone poll shows.

It is utterly stunning that, after the great difficulties we have clearly faced in Iraq (a situation far from finished, by the way), that an absolute majority would favor a strike on Iran at this time. Even if we assume that the die-hard 25%-30% who still approve of the way the President is doing his job also are in favor of such a strike, where do the other 27%-22% come from to get the pro-strike total to 52%?

Clearly much of this is driven by simple fear and by the clear war-mongering over Iranian nuclear ambitions by the administration and several of the presidential candidates. Still, one would think that the WMD-that-failed-to-be, amongst other issues in Iraq, would given the public more pause on this topic.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: Left win Bogota as Colombia votes

A leftist rival of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has been elected mayor of Bogota, regarded as the country’s second most powerful elected post.

Samuel Moreno of the Democratic Pole party won despite apparent campaigning by Mr Uribe against him.

That was as expected, yet is still significant:

Mr Moreno’s victory is the second successive win for the Democratic Pole and could boost the party’s standing ahead of the next presidential election in 2010, correspondents say.

I actually once interviewed Moreno when he was a Senator for ANAPO back in 94/95.

Election day itself was basically peaceful, however:

At least 21 candidates died during the run-up to Sunday’s local and regional polls, with the government blaming the violence on left-wing guerrillas.
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Monday, October 29, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via yesterday’s WaPo is a column by David Greenberg that continues the theme I noted yesterday afternoon about Rudy Giuliani’s style of governance: Rudy a Lefty? Yeah, Right. The essay’s main thesis is that the usage of “moderate” or even “liberal” to describe Giuliani (as is frequently done in the press vis-a-vis his social stances, anyway) is inaccurate. Primarily he notes that the focus on abortion, guns and gays is too narrow in terms of defining Giuliani and, moreover, even argues that Giuliani’s positions on those issues are not “liberal” as they are made out to be.

I specifically found the following examples, some well publicized, others less so, of Rudy in action as Mayor to be the most interesting and illustrative part of the column. The most famous example would be a controversial art exhibit:

One emblematic act of Giuliani’s mayorship was his 1999 attempt to censor an art exhibit because it featured a painting of the Virgin Mary that used an unusual form of mixed media — clumps of elephant dung, to be precise. (Others were also upset by the cutouts of female genitalia.) Giuliani, a Catholic who attended parochial schools and once aspired to the priesthood, understandably took offense. But he then converted his religious sensibilities into policy, unilaterally withholding a $7 million city subsidy to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. When that failed to get the painting removed, he tried to evict the museum from its century-old home. Ultimately, after losing in court, he was forbidden to retaliate against the museum.

Now, one may find such artistic expressions offensive, which is an understandable position, but it is not within the purview of a city’s mayor to decide to use the power of the government against an institution in this manner. One may wish to debate the entire issue of government subsidized art and the like, but that is not the issue here (nor, really, is the issue about whether the art in question was offensive). Rather, the issue is whether a chief executive ought to assert unilateral power just because he wants to do so.

Another example:

In 1999, for example, he directed (without the City Council’s permission) the police to permanently confiscate the cars of people charged with drunken driving — even if the suspects were later acquitted.

This is a clear example of an executive ignoring both the legislative and judicial areas of government for no other reason than that executive thought it was a good way to achieve policy outcomes. Again, take that kind of attitude and apply it to the War on Terror, especially in terms of domestic counter-terrorism, and we have a recipe for substantial violations of the rights of citizens.

And then there’s this:

cutting a deal with the city as he was leaving office to assign control of his mayoral records to his own private company so that he could decide who could see them.

So, with Giuliani we get a need for secrecy–which is not a healthy thing, especially in the context established above.

Best (or worst) of all:

his flagrantly undemocratic bid to stay in office for an extra three months after Sept. 11, 2001. During earlier crises, even World War II, U.S. elections had always managed to proceed normally. But Giuliani maneuvered for weeks to remain mayor after his term-limited exit date. Only as normalcy returned to New York did his power grab fail.

That is an especially unhealthy view of both power and of oneself.

Certainly his campaign rhetoric to date (as well as the advisers with whom he surrounds himself) would indicate that he plans to use similar tactics in foreign policy.

h/t: Sullivan.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the Rocky Mountain News: Denver and Colorado’s reliable source for breaking news, sports and entertainment: Politics

Even if he loses his long-shot bid for the White House, Rep. Tom Tancredo will be leaving the U.S. House of Representatives at the end of 2008.

I can’t say that I am sorry to see him go, although he may not be gone for long:

But over the summer, he began hinting that he had his eyes on a 2010 contest against Sen. Ken Salazar, a Democrat he sees as his polar opposite on the immigration issue.

I have no idea, however, as to whether he would play well statewide. My guess is that he is the type of ideologue who can survive politically in the specific dimensions of a given congressional district, but who would have a harder time playing to the broader constituency of an entire state, especially one that is on the purplish side (as is the case in Colorado).

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the LAT:Polls don’t reflect Obama’s star power

So why isn’t Obama doing better in the polls?

No candidate in recent memory has swept onto the national political scene with greater fanfare. Obama has been on magazine covers and talk shows. Oprah Winfrey endorsed him, and Obama Girl’s unrequited urges turned him into a YouTube sensation. He has raised nearly as much money as Clinton, and in Iowa, at least, has advertised twice as much (4,244 TV spots versus 2,192, according to the Nielsen Co.)

Yet he has been unable to translate the relentless, often fawning attention into anything approaching a surge, especially in the crucial state of Iowa. Here, where the nation’s first contest is scheduled to take place the first week of January, polls show him in a tight three-way race with Clinton and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards, though Clinton has recently pulled ahead.

In New Hampshire, site of the nation’s second contest, his support has dipped and he now trails Clinton by about 20 points. But in national polls (those admittedly imperfect yardsticks), Clinton is creaming him.

Could the man have misplaced his mojo?

How soon we forget Howard Dean, yes? Granted, he didn’t have the “rock star” appeal that Obama seems to have, but he did raise a lot of money in small increments over the internet and he did generate a lot of excitement in his campaign, especially amongst young people on college campuses. Yet, as we know, Dean lost in fairly spectacular fashion. As such, this isn’t as odd as the piece makes it out to be.

Indeed, the fact of the matter is that a specific person may be able to generate large crowds and still not be widely popular over a large population–it happens all the time in entertainment. A specific musician or a given stage production may be able to generate a large crowd and a solid box office but still not be a broad phenomenon (or even well known) in the general population.

Generically this analysis comes across as reflective of near innumeracy of the reporter vis-a-vis polling (sadly, a normal occurrence in campaign season), insofar as it does not take into account the fact that crowds, and donors for that matter, represents a tiny fraction of the overall numbers of persons that polls are capturing.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007
By Steven L. Taylor

Via the BBC: BBC NEWS | Americas | Kirchner claims Argentine victory

Her claim comes after early official results, based on 15% of ballots being counted, gave her 42% of the vote.

[...]

The early count put her nearest rivals as Mr Kirchner’s ex-Economy Minister Roberto Lavagna with 21% and former beauty queen Elisa Carrio with 18%.

If Mrs Kirchner takes more than 45% of the full vote, or 40% with a 10 point lead over the next nearest candidate, she will win the presidency without facing a second round of voting.

One suspects that the basic numbers will hold.

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By Steven L. Taylor

A commenter noted earlier today, as did Lindsay Beyerstein, the rather remarkable news that one of the FEMA officials who oversaw the fake news conference from earlier in the week has been promoted to head public affairs at the ODNI: (via WaPo:

Philbin’s last scheduled day at FEMA was Thursday. He has been named as the new head of public affairs at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, ODNI spokeswoman Vanee Vines said.

Lovely. Perhaps we will really know what the intelligence apparatus of the US is up to…

Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.

In regards to the FEMA fiasco, Philbin stated:

“It was absolutely a bad decision. I regret it happened. Certainly . . . I should have stopped it,” said John P. “Pat” Philbin, FEMA’s director of external affairs. “I hope readers understand we’re working very hard to establish credibility and integrity, and I would hope this does not undermine it.”

Well, that certainly makes me feel better, how about you?

Is it any wonder I (and many others) have serious doubts about the wisdom of giving the federal government too much power in the name of protecting us?

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By Steven L. Taylor

I noted a quote attributed to Rudy Giuliani in the comments section of an LGM post that struck me as one of those “too good to be true” types of statements (as in fitting negative stereotypes of the speaker all too well).

So, I went Googling into the internets and found out that, in fact, the statement in question was made by Giuliani in a speech in 1994 on a forum about crime in cities.

Via the NYT, here is the pertinent paragraph with the quotation in bold:

We look upon authority too often and focus over and over again, for 30 or 40 or 50 years, as if there is something wrong with authority. We see only the oppressive side of authority. Maybe it comes out of our history and our background. What we don’t see is that freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede to lawful authority a great deal of discretion about what you do.

Now, I am fully aware that there is a clear and necessary relationship between order and freedom, i.e., that there must be some amount of order (and the authority to maintain that order) for freedom to be possible. Most political thinkers would agree with this notion save for true anarchists or radical adherents to Thomas Paine’s political views.

However, what Giuliani does not appear to have been simply arguing that some level of authority is needed for government to do its job in regards to fighting crime. Rather, the phrase “a great deal of discretion” suggests more than just an acknowledgment of the fundamentals of basic governance, but rather a specific emphasis.

If Giuliani believes that the main way to solve crime problems in a city is to be found in the formulation that “freedom is about authority” how will he approach the question of anti-terrorism as President of the United States?

Now, I will grant that it is difficult to fully understand what Giuliani is getting at in the published excerpt. However, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that Giuliani does have an over-blown view of executive power that may well outstrip that of the current administration (for example here). At a minimum, Giuliani is clearly running as a strong leader who will defeat the enemy, a self-image that clearly relies on the assumption that assumes a strong executive office.

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By Steven L. Taylor

With a cool name (do read the explanation).

Matthew, blogging elsewhere, used to be one of my regular reads in my early days (four-ish year ago). Since he doesn’t appear to directly identify himself, I shan’t do so now, but many will know who he is.

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By Steven L. Taylor

“In the 19th century, South Carolina was the first to secede,” he said. “In the 21st we will the first to succeed. First to secede. First to succeed. I own the copyright on that phrase, if you use it you must pay me a royalty.”

-Stephen Colbert,

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