Comments Posted By John Burke
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Rick -- It's unwise to ignore the Koz sponsorship of this poll and assume the results should be given credence because the polling firm is a competent professional one. There's a reason that NYT-sponsored polls often show Democrats doing better than some other polls. Pollsters want to accommodate their clients and certainly, in the case of DailyKoz, the pollster would know that the client would not favor results that show GOPers in a favorable light.

Also, the framing of questions is all-important to the results. "Should Obama be impeached" -- asked after years of talk about impeaching Bush for lying about Iraq and actually impeaching Clinton for lying about bimbos -- would come across to respondents as asking, in effect, "Would you like to get Obama out of office now?"

A pollster needs also to provide some basic information about a relatively obscure issue like ACORN (trust me, it's obscure to most). One might first ask if people had heard about ACORN and then ask those who said yes what they thought about the group's actions. Or one might ask a question that incorporated some basic fact. The way this and other Qs were framed tells us little.

"Socialist" is not all that terrible an epithet, is it? A lot of people may only have heard about this charge against Obama from Obama! Again, the Q doesn't really get to grips with the issue involved there -- which might be whether they think Obama is more liberal than they would like. By asking about socialist instead of liberal, the poll guarantees a result that seems a bit loopy.

That 36 percent think Obama was not born in the US strikes me as not a very high number -- IF you take into account that a lot of people, regardless of party, don't know that natural US birth is a qualification -- OR CARE. Again, a different poll would briefly describe the "controversy" and then ask what respondents thought about it.

53 percent think Palin is more qualified to be POTUS than Obama? That's actually a pretty low number since the Q is a proxy for whom would you support? If asked the latter as an election matchup, Palin would probably win among self-identified Republicans by at least 70-30, maybe 80-20. It would tell us something if this poll compared views on whether Palin is more qualified than Romney, et al.

It's a clever poll -- designed to reveal GOPers as nutty. Clever enough to get you on the same team as Koz.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 3.02.2010 @ 19:43


Rick is quite wrong about the potential for cheating in modern US elections in MA or most other states. I worked in dozens of campaigns and was involved in many tight finishes and several hotly contested outcomes. An election apparant victory margin has to be well under one percent -- usually a lot closer than that (think: FL in 2000 or MI in 2008) -- for a challenge and recount to have a chance of reversing that apparent outcome.

When delving into cast ballotsd, what you then find is a good many "irregularaties," such as improperly executed absentee and paper ballots, mistakes by election officials in sending, receiving or tabulating absentees (a greater problem as mail-in voting grows), people who are registered in more than one place because Americans are highly mobile and usually don't bother to inform jurisdictions they have left about their moving, and the like. On top of these issues, there can be disputes about the way people have marked their ballots (as we saw in FL), which says a lot about voter sloppiness and nothing about cheating.

In all, such irregularities rarely add up to one percent of the votes cast and tend to sort themselves out proportionaterly so they don't change to outcome. That's while aggressively challenged and litigated elections wind up being called by miniscule margins.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 17.01.2010 @ 18:35


It's impossible to imagine Snowe voting for a health care bill after all that's happened, including the Dems losing in Mass over voter fury against it! Maine voters probably dislike it even more.

I agree that the most likely option is it dies -- slowly perhaps with a lot of pointless action to cover their retreat (see Kausfiles for smart takes on what those mught be). Obama et al. may still be making noises about deadlines and tactics, but they aren't so stupid as to all commit political suicide. Outside of districts like Jerry Nadler's and Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s, this bill is toxic. That's why Brown is going to win, after all.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 17.01.2010 @ 01:59


Reynolds' core point is really, incredibly lame: as he states it, AQ and all the little AQs aren't anything to "fear" because unlike the USSR with it's 10,000 nukes, Islamic terrorists do not pose an "existential" threat to the US.

Of course, this is a preposterous standard for making national security policies. Arguably, the brief period of peak Soviet military power was the ONLY time in US history when our very existence might have been at risk (and even then, once a balance of political and military power was reached after 1962, the "existential threat" appeared to many to be increasingly hypothetical, enabling many to make the argument that Americans suffered from an inordinate fear of Communism).

In any case, throughout much of my adult life -- the Cold War notwithstanding -- I felt no uneasiness about travelling anywhere in the world. I worked for many years in the World Trade Center and naturally thought nothing of it. By and large, except for a few hot spots abroad where local conflicts were under way and for ordinary crime at home, Americans could feel safe and secure.

No more -- and we're certainly not the only ones. Various Islamic extremists have murdered hundreds of other Muslims in just the past month. Meanwhile, an AQ affiliate came perilously close to blowing 288 innocent Americans to pieces. A short while ago, a home-grown terrorist murdered 13 people at Fort Hood. Just before that, the FBI broke up a plot centered around an Afghan living in New York that has been described as the most serious terror operation disrupted inside the US since 2001. Overall, there have been 29 Islamic terrorist plots targering the US since 911 -- and worse, hundreds of successful attacks and foiled plots across the world, dozens of which targeted Americans or US interests (not counting attacks on US troops in Iraq or Afghanistan).

It seems almost ridiculous to have to work to persuade anyone that this is an extremely serious, ongoing threat. In fact, Americans' lives are far more in direct jeopardy than they were during the period of the "existential" threat from Soviet nukes.

What exactly to do about this is open to reasonable debate. But when you begin by attempting to downplay or wish away the seriousness of today's threat or to trash others for fearmongering, whatever else you have to say is not persuasive.

Reynolds and all those of his mindset should be taking the failed Christmas attack as a challenge to their assumptions, rather than using it as another opportunity to do battle with domestic political rivals. Had Abdulmutallab succeeded in his mission, let's face it, there would be hell to pay for Obama and the Democrats. Plans to close Gitmo would screech to a halt. KSM would be redirected back to a Military Commission. The no-fly list would grow exponentially whatever the ACLU did. Our courts would reflexively pull back from their trend toward expanding detainee due process. And CIA would get a big budget increase.

Learn from this lesson.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 2.01.2010 @ 16:08


Based on the intriguing bits and pieces of info we've gathered over the past 30 years about our neighbor Mars, it seems to me that more study of that planet would be far more interesting -- and informative, plus cool -- than anything we're likel to be able to infer about Gilligan and others in distant solar systems.

And Mars can be directly explored -- even by manned expeditions, although that might cost more than would be justified compared to robot exploration.

In any case, we've been dragging heels on this for decades.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 19.12.2009 @ 13:50


What's missing from Rick's take and so many other commentaries on this subject is that not much has changed about Pakistan's quarter-measure cooperation with the US since 9/11 and through various changes in the line-uo of Pakistan's leadership. Pakistan was unwilling to do much of anything to facilitate the US military action in Afghanistan on 9/12/01 and it still is. The US had to bluntly warn Pakistan's leadership in September 2001 that it faced American hostility if it did not provide the minimal support necessary -- basically the ability to base US search and rescue teams (covertly) inside Pakistani territory in support of the US military in Afghanistan and some intelligence cooperation in running down important al Qaeda individuals (like KSM). In exchange, Pakistan got lots of dough, especially for its military.

What kept the Pakistanis more or less in line with this grudging and inadequate support over the next several years was Bush's work ginning up a closer alliance with India -- a major diplomatic development that somehow never attracted the attention of the US media. This was a way to tell the Pakistanis that there might be more than one way to deal with them.

A US-India alliance is always an option, and American policies in the sub-continent should continue to make that plain. Otherwise, what leverage do we really have with Pakistan? Money? That's hardly much of an alternative for the Pakistani Army, which worries more about Indian influence in Afghanistan and the prospect of another war with India -- the key reasons for Pakistan support to both the Taliban and Kashmiri separatists.

It's not an easy balancing act; the US can't appear to be jettisoning Pakistan as a "major non-NATO ally." But it's silly and pointless to fret about what will make the Pakistanis like Americans more. They do not like having the US military in Afganistan, period. Nothing will change that. We can only make Pakistan's leaders accept it and make do.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 17.12.2009 @ 15:30


Rick said: Is the Alamo truly “American?” Those guys were not fighting for the US - they were fighting for the Republic of Texas. The revisionist take is actually not too bad considering that many - not a majority - of the Americanos in Texas were, in fact, southern slave holders who felt they were furthering the ambitions of southern nationalists in establishing a “Slave empire” that would include most of central and south America. There was an organized effort to homestead Texas with people who believed in that dream.

That puts you on the slippery slope to a revisionist understanding of America's historical role -- not as the 19th-century beacon of liberty or the 20th-century democratic powerhouse but as a slave-driving, Indian-killing, imperial exploiter. After all, the acquisitions of the territories that became Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Missouri were also key to the building of the southern "Slave empire" (and involved the forcible displacement of the Indian tribes). Revisionists are also happy to point out that the Mexican War was an imperial struggle, as was the campaign to acquire Oregon and the War with Spain and the subsequent campaign to suppress Filipino rebels. Moving right along, the wars of the 20th century merely positioned the American hegemon better to fill the gaps left by European colonialists and subjugate half the Third World, right? And as Rev. Wright put it succinctly, "Hiroshima, Hiroshima!"

I'm aware of all the uncomfortable truths about our past but remain eager to point out that in retrospect, we did in fact build the Empire of Liberty imagined by Franklin and others and directly and indirectly liberated a large part of humankind.

I'm not out to lecture or wallow in sentimental patriotism but merely to point out that Texas worked out very nicely and might not have done without the sacrifices of the Texas Revolution, even if some of those laying down their lives were actual or wannabe slaveholders. After all, Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe and Jackson were slaveholders, too.

Just as surely as there is a way to delegitimize "remembering the Alamo" and "remembering the Maine," there is a way to do the same to Pearl Harbor. Indeed, it is already under way as you can see easily if you read that Times op-ed by Bradley.

Comment Posted By John Burke On 8.12.2009 @ 00:14

I wish it were true that Pearl Harbor will always remain in the "storehouse of our national memories." Alas, of Yorktown, New Orleans, Chapultepec, Gettysburg, San Juan Hill and the Argonne Forest, my guess is that the only one that many young people might be able to place is Gettysburg.

And we're well into a process of transforming Pearl Harbor into another lesson in American misbehavior, led as we are by a President who ostentatiously bowed to the som of Hirohito. Worse, The New York Times saw fit to publish an op-ed Saturday by the author James Bradley (the son of one of the Iwo Jima flag raisers, no less) in which Bradley set forth the ludicrous proposition that Theodore Roosevelt's pro-Japan dilpomacy early in the century enabled and propelled the Japanese imperialism that came crashing down on Pearl Harbor 35 years or so later. While Bradley didn't explicitly say, "chickens coming home to roost," that was the plain meaning of his op-ed. That the Japanese Empire needed no encouragement from Roosevelt to make war on Russia and seize Korea or later from his cousin to make war on China and seize Manchuria seems to escape Bradley.

A few more years, and we'll see even more absurd revisionism.

And, Rick, I noticed that you left out the Alamo! Isn't that because it's already become settled in adademe that a bunch of white southern racist slaveholders perished at the Alamo as they tried to steal Texas from Mexico?

Is the Alamo truly "American?" Those guys were not fighting for the US - they were fighting for the Republic of Texas. The revisionist take is actually not too bad considering that many - not a majority - of the Americanos in Texas were, in fact, southern slave holders who felt they were furthering the ambitions of southern nationalists in establishing a "Slave empire" that would include most of central and south America. There was an organized effort to homestead Texas with people who believed in that dream.

Can't help it sometimes if historical facts are uncomfortable.


Comment Posted By John Burke On 7.12.2009 @ 13:40


Rick had me nodding in agreement until that last bit, alluding to Palin as Hitler (on which he doubled down in response to a comment by saying he meant Palin followers were cultists like followers of Hitler, Stalin or Mao).

This is silly. Everyone should swear to stop making Hitler analogies to American politicians.

Palin is just another in a long long line of pols who have engaging personalities or a knack for ingratiating themselves with one or another group of voters, while not being especially bright or capable or even well informed. City, state and even federal offices are full of such pols. The top executive of my suburban town, a Democrat, is as dumb as a stone and only barely articulate. But he's clever enough to get reelected regularly. Over many years in politics, I've personally known many, many New York state legislators, New York City Council members, citywide and statewide officials a some members of the House who have no clue what they're doing, can't speak effectively in public, and or have no knowledge of or interest in anything beyond what they're immediately briefed about.

Luckily, however, these dopes usually max out in lower offices or at most get elected to the House. It's just much harder to run successfully for offices where broad support across a large population is needed if you're neither particularly smart nor well informed (enough to fake it anyway). can leapfrog over running such a race or races by being picked for a nomination by one guy!

Palin is no Hitler and her supporters are not cultists. If anything, the never-ending barrage of liberal and elite attacks on her induce conservative folks to rally round in defense of a person who was recently their candidate (but someone most of them would never have heard of but for John McCain's hail mary pass in choosing her)m

I did not allude to Palin as Hitler. That's nonsense. I said that anyone who subscribes to the view that I am less of a conservative because I don't like Palin is a cultist and engages in the cult of personality. Eschewing principle for personality is what happened in Nazi Germany, China, and North Korea to give three examples.

Nowhere did I even come close to saying Palin was Hitler. You misread the update.


Comment Posted By John Burke On 4.12.2009 @ 17:45


DrKrbyLuv is good enough to remind us that Republicans are not the only people capable of talking tough.

Beyond that, his link to Michael Moore's silly ramblings should remind us that the "peace movement" is not opposed only to US military actions that make no sense but to any and all US military actions, even when they are in pursuit of unambiguously clear national security interests.

I would not be the lest bit surprised if Moore could find similar pairing quotes from FDR and Winston Churchill. There's a job!

Comment Posted By John Burke On 2.12.2009 @ 23:54

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