Wednesday, May 21, 2008

End game

For the last month or six weeks Obama has been playing a winning Rook-and-pawn end game against Clinton, and while his technique hasn't been flawless, it has been sufficient to steadily grind towards the win, despite stiff, solid defense from his opponent.

With the results from Oregon and Kentucky, and counting pledge super-delegates, Obama crept past the majority needed to claim the race, assuming no last minute surprises vis-a-vis Florida and Michigan, or a wave of super-delegates switching back to Clinton. It's not all over until the opponent resigns, but the final stage of the game is clearly at hand now.

This has brought out a spate of articles I have read in a number of places recently about the bitterness Clinton supporters feel about the result, and how many are considering not voting at all, or even voting for McCain in the general election ... to which I have just one comment.

Get over it.

First, lets be fair to Clinton herself, who has consistently urger her backers to support Obama should he win the nomination (Obama has done the same in reverse). No, this is a matter of supporters, the vast majority female, who are expressing their disappointment at how the country "wasn't ready" for a female candidate, and how "betrayed" they feel by women who somehow had the temerity to think someone might not be the best candidate just because they were of the same gender.

I don't dispute Clinton had some extra hurdles to clear by dint of her sex, but it's not like being black wasn't a drawback in some areas for Obama (take a gander at the voting patterns in West Virginia and Kentucky, for example).

I found particularly amusing the hypocrisy of the woman who spoke about people not realizing how damaging it was when Obama portrayed Clinton as representative of "the old way of politics", how that created bitterness in strong Clinton supporters, and in the same breath noted she was unlikely to vote for Obama because the White House "wasn't a place to learn on the job". Surely no Obama supporter could take those words to be derisive.

As someone noted in one of the articles, the end of a long, hard-fought race is not the time to gather the most accurate polling date. People are understandably disappointed at seeing all their efforts and hopes come to an end, Clinton more so than anyone ... I still expect, in the end, most of these folks will come to terms with matters and realize another four years of Bush policies will do nothing to help this country, and end up voting for Obama, even if they don't do so enthusiastically.

However, it does point out the importance of wrapping this up once the final primaries are done in June, and not waiting for the convention to finalize matters. Get the super-delegates committed in June, and there is enough time for the mourning/healing process to run it's course. Wait until September, and their may not be.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Al-Qaeda's favored candidate

John McCain has recently taken to referring to Barack Obama as Hamas' favorite candidate, apparently because Obama has advocating dialog with Hamas leadership to try to further finding a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem. Our glorious President joined in yesterday, equating Obama to Neville Chamberlain attempting to appease Hitler.

Hamas is certainly an unsavory organization, but like it or not it also has a political aspect, and is the party duly and freely elected to head the Palestinian government ... and currently does so in the Gaza Strip. As such, it behooves us to engage them - no peace is likely to be found in the region if we refuse to do so. Even McCain himself recognizes this ... or, at least, he did two years ago:

"They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

That's some pretty bent-talking there, slamming someone for holding the exact same view you have previously expressed ... of course, that was before McCain become the Republican candidate for President and had to sacrifice his actual beliefs to the party extremists.

McCain was right the first time ... only a moron (and our President certainly qualifies on this count) would speak in absolutes about such matters, and fail to recognize the infinite shades of gray in between. Not surprisingly, Eggplant has drawn the wrong lesson from Chamberlain's errors. The mistake was NOT in opening discussion with Hitler's government, but rather in agreeing to Germany's forceful annexation of Austria and Czechoslovakia in exchange for "Peace for our time" ... a time which lasted less than 12 months.

Talking to someone or some organization is NOT the same as "giving them everything they want".

Meanwhile numerous studies and stories (here, here and here for just a few examples) have noted how the US presence in Iraq has helped al-Qaeda garner new recruits (although this appears more difficult now in past years). Bent-talk express himself has voiced his support for being in Iraq 100 years if necessary ... which certainly seems like it would make him al-Qaeda's favored candidate.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Copper or water

There was a meeting in Elgin last night to discuss the state of debate over whether or not mining corporations will strip still more mountains south of Tucson searching for copper ore.

I have heard estimates of up to $8 billion worth of copper in the area, based on today's prices ... and if prices go up (which, given the demands of the emerging Indian and Chinese economies seems the way to bet) the value of that copper will only go up as well.

That's a lot of money coming into the area, and also a fair number of jobs. A no-brainer, one would think, particularly given the recession right now, huh? Not so fast.

Not surprisingly, a number of farmers and environmentalists are less than thrilled at the notion. There is a bigger problem, however. As x4mr noted in early April the real concern isn't just the ugliness of open pit mining and the waste it produces, but rather water ... or, more particularly, lack thereof. This link provides a short overview on how much water mines used in 1997 ... hint: a lot.

If Tucson were located where Seattle is, say, that wouldn't be such a big deal ... sadly, that's not the case. Tucson is, in fact, located in a desert, a fact the mining companies (and, for that matter, golf resort owners) try to get everyone to overlook.

Since those who graduate with science and engineering jobs and quickly get out of town in search of the actual well-paying jobs ... you know, jobs like those TREO and other organizations repeatedly promise Tucson is on the verge of getting, but which continuously fail to arrive, through no fault of TREO et. al., of course ... fail to offset the influx from retirees and other sources, the metro population figures to to keep on expanding beyond the 1 million mark it hit last fall. All those people need water ... jobs are nice, but water is a necessity.

Giffords and Grijalva have both come out against the mining, and it's my understanding Giffords was at the Elgin meeting to discuss what she was trying to do to prevent it. Since this falls within her district, Grijalva can provide advice and support, but it's really up to her to lead any fight. Given how favorable current law is toward mines (the statutes in question date back to the 19th century), it's an uphill struggle. How it turns out will effect everyone in Southern Arizona, one way or another.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Complain, complain, complain

Tuesday was a disappointing day for Hillary Clinton, as a smashing defeat in North Carolina was only minimally offset by a narrow victory in Indiana, a state she had hoped to win by double digits. Barack Obama widened his lead in both the popular vote and the delegate count. It's reached the point where even if the DNC caves and allows the Michigan and Florida delegates to be counted (I can't see it happening, but if ...) she would be unlikely to win.

There was a great deal of speculation, from talking heads and in the blogosphere, she might finally be willing to step out of the race ... but Clinton has ended that notion, at least for another week, by confirming her intent to stay to the bitter end. This decision hasn't been met with popular acclaim by anyone other than Clinton supporters, and not even all of them.

I don't understand the wailing, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth.

Obama has reiterated the decision does, and should, lie only in Clinton's hands. As Clinton pointed out yesterday, anyone who voted for her in the primary should think twice before voting for McCain if Obama wins the nomination. Obama has made similar statements in the past, noting how unlikely it was his supporters wouldn't vote for Clinton in November should she be the nominee.

I recall, during nearly every Presidential race in the last 30 years, a great deal of discussion about how meaningless late primaries were, and the need to find some means to make every state count. There have been proposals about rotating primary dates by state, or region, and other ideas as well ... yet we finally have a primary that will run to the wire, where every state and vote actually matters ... and suddenly it's the end of civilization.

What people seem to overlook are the good points. How much coverage has there been of McCain? Some, but not much. The Presidential news is completely dominated by Obama and Clinton, and has been for months. Meanwhile, huge numbers of voters continue to turn out and express their choice, energized by the contest.

If Clinton concedes soon, well and good ... but I refuse to get worked up over the matter.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eager ears are listening

Remember back in January and February, when there was a great deal of huffing and puffing and general hoo-hah over the desperate need to renew the Protect America Act or President Bush would not be able to protect our country. The Act was allowed to expire on Feb. 17, and from all the overblown rhetoric, one can only presume it's a miracle of God we all are still alive despite such folly.

Of course, when the house passed a bill which (unlike the Senate version) did not include immunity for past indiscretions which Telecom companies may have committed, it became apparent that protecting the business issues was even more important than protecting the country, as Bush immediately threatened a veto for any bill without the immunity clause. Not that we didn't all know where his priorites lay, but it was nice of him to spell it all out so clearly for us.

Back to the PAA and eavesdropping ... as it turns out, the Act was never necessary ... the required tool has always been in place, in the form of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which (among other provisions) allows for requesting wiretap permission in front of a secret court, and also makes allowance for immediate wiretapping when time is critical, and retroactively applying for a warrant within 48 hours.

Our government made steady use of this law last year, gaining a record 2,370 eavesdropping warrants last year. That's 9% more than 2006, and more than double from 2001. Meanwhile, a grand total of four requests were denied (even one of those was only partially denied). That's a 99.83% success rate. How, exactly, is this an overwhelming burden on our government? Given those figures, consider how ridiculously unfounded those four requests must have been in order for the court to have denied them.

On the other hand, for a President who is used to getting his way 100% of the time, having someone say "No" to you even once, much less four times within a year, is tantamount to letting the terrorists win.