April 06, 2003

Back when we was still an engaging political commentator, Jeff Greenfield wrote a book called Playing to Win. In it, he gave aspiring politicians tips on how to successfully campaign for office, often in a tongue-in-cheek style. Perhaps the best known tip he gave was something called "political jujitsu": using the force of an opponent's attack against him, for your own advantage.

Last week's controversy over the remarks made by John Kerry for "regime change" in Washington brilliantly illustrate the theory. After a bad week, when the focus was on Kerry's anemic fundraising, and the sudden emergence of Howard Dean as a candidate more in tune with the progressive (ie. "Democratic") wing of the Democratic Party, Kerry was able to turn all that around with a stunning display, turning what had seemed a gaffe into a rousing knockout at the expense of the chickenhawks.

First, he allowed his opponents on the far right to attack his rhetoric, and Rush Limbaugh, Mark Racicot, Tom Delay, and others took the bait. Then, his staff responded, with a not-so-subtle dig at the non-service of Delay, et al., during Vietnam. Reminding voters that he was a decorated war hero, while Limbaugh sat out the war with a boil on his butt, and the rest of the chickenhawks had "other priorities", makes it impossible for any attacks on Kerry to get traction. On the other hand, he invigorates Democrats, and enables them to more easily oppose the Bush war policies. Any candidate who can score points at the expense of Rush Limbaugh or Tom Delay instantly wins credibility in the party base. Not a bad display !!

April 05, 2003

The last two years, I never motivated myself to go out to the ballpark until late-September. This year, I held out until game four of the season, attending last night's Angels-A's game in Oakland. To no one's surprise, Kevin Appier stunk; the A's (especially Miguel Tejada and new acquisition Erubiel Durazo) teed off on the weak s*** he was tossing, and ended up winning, 7-3. The highlight of the evening was convincing three-year old daughter of my host, Annamae Parsons, that the reason why the A's have an elephant as a mascot was because of the alcohol-induced halucinations of Jimmy Foxx.

April 04, 2003

CAL alums go crazy over this sort of article: an athletic team so successful that rival coaches bemoan it as being harmful to the sport. Of course, its rugby, a sport the Bears have dominated for 120 years. This year's team just beat Stanford, 98-0(!), usually have to insert the back-ups early in the game just to prevent the other side from suffering serious injuries, and appear headed for yet another national championship. Well, they used to say the same thing about the Wooden Era teams at UCLA. GO BEARS !!
Far right columnist Michael Kelly was killed in a humvee accident in Iraq this morning. My condolences to his family, and my thoughts to the soldiers and civilians who each day face the consequences of what he wrote. It is appropriate to remove the quotes from the blogroll link; he turns to have been all too real.

UPDATE: Over the course of the day, I've had an opportunity to read some of the reaction elsewhere to Mr. Kelly's untimely passing. As expected, conservatives have been devastated, while liberal reaction has ranged from expressing sympathy to his family and a grudging respect for him having the balls to put himself in harms way, to schadenfreude, noting in particular how common that reaction was among the wingnuts following the deaths of Paul Wellstone and Rachel Corrie. More than a few have taken the line expressed by Joshua Marshall, which was to call him on his hysterical pontificating in his columns, but granting him his props for his abilities as an editor (focused usually on his tenure with the Atlantic Monthly; his shameful tenure at the New Republic in the mid-90's, where he published just about every discredited rumor about the Clintons, and championed the career of Stephen Glass, is conveniently forgotten). I drafted a comment over at Daily Kos that I will re-publish here, as it best reflects how I feel about this tragedy:
It's possible to mourn the loss of someone, to give condolences to the family he left behind (as well as the unnamed soldier who died with him), and still remember that his columns were a principal factor in the decline in political civility over the past decade. I won't miss his nasty, unkind shots at each and every left-of-center public figure, but, as with the death of Barbara Olsen, I grieve for the loss. Maybe having seen the war up-close, he would have been less enthusiastic about sending others into harms way; he was one of the few chickenhawks who put his ass on the line in Iraq. For all we know, had he lived, he may have a mid-life conversion, in the same way David Brock did. Dying before his time means we'll never know.
Light blogging this weekend, as I am in the Bay Area, tending to matters personal and familial. FWIW, the English language site for Al Jazeera is back on-line.

April 03, 2003

The two Marines from SoCal who died in the first days of the war have been posthumously granted citizenship, including one who was probably in the country illegally. For those who support the troops, regardless of whether you believe this war to be legal or moral, it would be a positive progressive step to demand that any green card-holding member of the Armed Forces currently fighting in Iraq be immediately eligible for citizenship. One Vietnam vet quoted by the LA Times who only recently qualified for citizenship put it best: "You're part of an American team out there...[I]t's a big disappointment when you have to stand in line to get what you think you deserve."
P.S. And while you're at it, light up the phones everytime some jackass in the media refers to a certain rescued P.O.W. as "Jessica", rather than her name and rank ("Private Lynch"); considering what she's been through, she's earned the right not to be treated as if she were a swimsuit model or tennis star.
Today's reading assignments: Matt Welch, on Patriot Act II (like most sequels, even worse than the original), and the ailing Avedon Carol, on suggestions that U.S. soldiers "pray" for the President.
It's sad that this idiot is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, and not Ron Santo, Gil Hodges, or Pete Rose.

April 02, 2003

The most recent Bush nominee to win confirmation, by a 58-41 vote, is Tim Tymkovich, to the 10th Circuit . I didn't have a strong opinion on that pick; the reason most often given to oppose was that he had argued before the Supreme Court in support of an anti-gay initiative that passed in Colorado. I guess it would be something else entirely if he had actually drafted the monstrosity, but making an argument on a case is what a lawyer does. But as a matter of principal, I hated to see him confirmed, so here are the Democrats who voted in favor: Bayh, Breaux, Conrad, Lincoln, Miller, Nelson, and Pryor (Lieberman was absent, Jeffords opposed, and every Republican voted in favor). [Link via TalkLeft]

April 01, 2003

Two bits of worthwhile morning reading: Paul Krugman's analysis of the political dimensions of "homeland security" spending by the Bush Administration, shaped by political expediency (a "red state" like Wyoming is getting 7x the money per capita than New York, even though no terrorist group has revealed any interest in blowing up Yellowstone); and Joshua Marshall showing what a serious writer thinks about the state of the Iraq War.