Saddam Hussein Is Still Dead

I’m a utilitarian, which leads to a complicated view of the death penalty (though, it should be noted, John Stuart Mill was an unmitigated supporter). I find the evidence on deterrence too indeterminate, and until a consensus is reached among criminologists I think it’s best not to tinker with the machinery of death, as Blackmun would say. However, there are still specialized cases where the death penalty is appropriate from a utilitarian perspective. Hussein’s is one of them. Allowing Hussein to live would have left open the very real possibility of his escape, which would have had disastrous consequences; moreover, the happiness and solace that the execution provides to Hussein’s victims – the Marsh Arabs, the Kurds, dissidents – more than outweighs his own personal pain at the event.
However, I cannot endorse the execution. Hussein’s trial was not conducted with an iota of fairness. If it had occurred in any developed nation, the conviction would have almost certainly been overturned on appeal. A fair trial would have certainly had the same outcome; however, Hussein should have received one anyway, on principle.

Edwards

Jesus, do I hate this guy. Why? Well, for starters, he didn’t just support the war in Iraq, he co-sponsored the bloody fiasco. I really don’t care that he recanted a few years later, which shows little other than that he’s capable of reading the front-page of a newspaper. What matters is that, if he had been president in March 2003, we’d be in Iraq right now. For him to think he’s deserving of the presidency after getting the most important foreign policy question of the last decade totally, utterly wrong shows a lot of nerve, and not the good kind.
But probably worse is that he’s a total fraud. He based his 2004 campaign, and seems to be basing his newly-announced 2008 campaign, on his supposed desire to fight poverty, first with the Two Americas speech and now with his explicitly anti-poverty shtick. If Edwards were at all serious about fighting poverty, he would know that by far the most effective method of doing so is by allowing freer and more open trade with the third world. But Edwards isn’t serious about fighting poverty; he’s serious about wanting the union vote. So he consistently voted against new trade pacts while in the Senate and called for NAFTA to be renegotiated. Either he knows what harm his protectionist policies would inflict upon the third world – in which case he’s a cynical xenophobic sleezeball – or he doesn’t, and is thus a fool who should be kept away from public office at all costs. Neither option leaves him looking all too good.
So, I’ll leave it at this: I will not vote for John Edwards in the primaries. I will not vote for John Edwards if he nominated – I will not vote or vote for an acceptable third party candidate (Bloomberg, I’m counting on you). And I will not vote for John Edwards’ reelection in 2012 if he is elected president in 2008.

Ford

Pros:
Helsinki Accords.
John Paul Stevens, though what makes Stevens a great justice is what made Ford regret appointing him.
He kind of seemed like a nice guy.
Cons:
Basically everything else. You know – pardoning Nixon, giving the green light to Suharto’s rape of East Timor, botching the response to the Mayaguez Incident, mismanaging the “swine flu” thingamajigger, etc. But especially the first two. Nixon deserved to be raked over the coals, not just for Watergate, but for COINTELPRO, for killing Allende, for siding with the Pakistani government as it butchered the Bangladeshi people, for everything the Church Committee and the Roosevelt Commission found, for running a White House where aides were planning the killings of journalists and the firebombings of think tanks, hell, for having psychopaths like Chuck Colson and G. Gordon Liddy within an 100-mile radius of the White House. And Ford let him off scot-free. That’s not even remotely forgivable. But at least it didn’t lead directly to the massacre of a quarter million people. Ford’s actions in Indonesia did. I can’t even start to imagine how he could sleep at night after that.
P.S. Still doubt that Ford’s pardon of Nixon was a mistake of monumental proportions? Read Brad Plumer on the subject. He makes the case for “maximum vengeance” quite well. Oh, and this SNL skit is so much funnier today than it was when it aired.

Research 2000 Just Loves Me This Christmas

After showing Obama in a tie for first in Iowa, Research 2000 has yet better news:

In a New Hampshire presidential primary, a new Research 2000 poll shows that Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) leads the pack of potential 2008 candidates in the Democratic race with 22%. However, she’s closely followed by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) at 21%, John Edwards (D) at 16% and Al Gore at 10%.

The most important thing about this and the Iowa poll is that they drastically underrate Obama’s support. Every potential primary voter knows who Gore, Edwards, and Clinton are. A much smaller number has even heard of Obama. If he had the same name recognition as those three, he’d be number one with a bullet.
Side note: in both the New Hampshire and Iowa polls, Giuliani and McCain are neck-and-neck for first place, with everyone else far behind. Until a viable conservative contender catches on (Gilmore’s still my best guess), this is the race on the GOP side, and the other candidates are basically superfluous.

More Genocide Apologism

Ugh. Matt Yglesias is so consistently right about so many things and yet so consistently wrong on genocide and Darfur that it makes me want to gag. Responding to a proposal by Mike O’Hanlon for a dedicated genocide-fighting division in the Army (which is unnecessary given the success of air power in Kosovo, but which is a nice thought in any case), Matt quotes from his upcoming book:

Unfortunately, to many liberals and many members of the administration, Kosovo came to be viewed not as an unusual case — an outlier defining the limits of when liberals would endorse the use of aggressive force absent U.N. authorization — but as setting a baseline for an ill-defined new era of humanitarian militarism. Michael O’Hanlon, a Brookings Institution scholar thought to have been in line for a top post in a hypothetical Kerry administration, penned a 1999 article advocating military intervention “whenever the rate of killing in a country or region greatly exceeds the U.S. murder rate, whether the killing is genocidal in nature or not” utterly without reference to the United Nations or any other sort of multilateral authority. He listed ten countries — Sudan, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Angola, Bosnia, Chechnya, North Korea, and Kosovo — where interventions would have been warranted by this standard during the Clinton administration alone. Mercifully, he conceded that fighting the Russian Army in Chechnya was not a very pragmatic option (as he says, it “would have risked a major-power war between nuclear-weapons states with the potential to kill far more people than the intervention could have saved” ) but gave no consideration to the possibility that launching unprovoked unilateral military strikes at the rate of one every nine months or so would destabilize the entire international system. Indeed, despite O’Hanlon’s demurral on the Russia front, later that year The New Republic was lamenting that “Milosevic-like deeds by Milosevic’s allies will provoke only scolding followed by winking” rather than some unspecified more robust action.

Now, first off O’Hanlon is being ridiculous here. Somalia, Liberia, and Angola were civil war situations that, as we are learning in Iraq, are unsolvable through third-party military intervention. Chechnya, of course, is unfortunately off the table due to fact that the perpetrator was Russia. Same with North Korea, which has and had enough artillery pointed at Seoul that any intervention would kill far more people than it would save. But Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo all were great opportunities for intervention – and Clinton proved that in the latter two cases, cheap and easy air strikes could do the trick. And in Rwanda, bombing the radio stations ordering the attacks would have done a lot to cut back the genocide, if not end it entirely (giving more funds and support to the RPF – the group which ended the genocide eventually – would have also been a good policy also). Matt is being dishonest if he thinks that genocide interventions require more than simple air power, because the only two genocide interventions the US has ever conducted (Bosnia and Kosovo) were entirely air operations and were entirely successful. Why he would oppose applying such cheap, simple, and effective tactics to Sudan is beyond me.

I Don’t Understand Pitchfork

I save most of my music shopping until the end of year most years. I trust that the appropriate sites – read, Pitchfork – will figure out what good stuff was released in the last year so that I don’t have to. Well, they’ve really screwed me over this year. So, I go to Pitchfork’s top 10 looking for a few CDs to treat myself to. At No. 1 is Silent Shout by The Knife. I head to iTunes – the stuff’s okay, but avant-garde Swedish disco really isn’t my thing. So onto No. 2 – Return to Cookie Mountain by TV on the Radio. I ignore the fact that both the album and the band have terrible names and head back to iTunes. Dear God is this stuff bad – not just bad, emo bad. Okay, I’ll give Pitchfork one more shot. No. 3 is Ys by Joanna Newsom. I ignore the fact that I have no idea how to pronounce the album’s name, and go to iTunes. And it’s a harp album. Where the shortest song is 7 minutes. And there are five songs. And the 30-second preview of each puts me into a nice and comfortable sleep.
What the hell, Pitchfork? This isn’t a bad year for music. Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not by Artic Monkeys was overhyped, but it was still very good, and it’s not even on your list. Same with Broken Boy Soldiers by The Raconteurs – not as good as Get Behind Me Satan, but still very good, and also not on your list. And Let’s Get Out of This Country by Camera Obscura was bloody fantastic, and yet that gets it No. 45 by your metrics. You bastards gave be your own PET No. 21 and they don’t know how to play their @#$%ing instruments. Gah.

God Loves Me

As if to definitely prove my last post, a nothing short of awesome poll out of Iowa was just released:

A new Research 2000 poll in Iowa shows John Edwards and Sen. Barack Obama tied among likely Democratic caucus voters with 22% each. Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack trails with 12%, followed by Sen. Hillary Clinton at just 10%. All other potential candidates are in the single digits.

Obama is now the frontrunner. His name recognition among Iowa Democrats is a fraction of that of Clinton, Edwards and Vilsack. And he’s tied for first place with nary a campaign visit (note that Edwards has been working the state all of this past year). If this keeps up, Iowa is Obama’s to lose. And if he scores a victory by several points or more, the nomination is his to lose as well – recall that a 5.8% margin of victory in Iowa guaranteed Kerry the nomination. And while Edwards is clearly still in the running (if a tier below Obama), this should prove that Hillary is truly a paper tiger. Why she’s dubbed the frontrunner when she’s a non-presence in the first and most important primary contest is beyond me.

Edwards and CtW

Today’s column by Bob Novak purports to detail Edwards’ appeal to the Change to Win unions (Teamsters, SEIU, UFW, UNITE-HERE) that broke off from the AFL-CIO in the summer of 2005. Given that CtW’s endorsement of Edwards has been predicted basically since CtW’s creation, this premise seemed sort of boring at first. But reading the piece, it seems to convince me not of Edwards’ overwhelming appeal to CtW, but of the growing possibility that it will sour on him. See this section, for instance:

Edwards’s unusual step of selecting former representative David Bonior of Michigan as his national campaign manager has been described as enlisting a laborite politician to woo labor. But Teamsters officials regard Bonior as less their friend than a friend of the United Auto Workers. Some believe Edwards would have been better advised to stick with his former campaign manager, Nick Baldick, an experienced political operative who has been given the task of advising Edwards on the early tests in Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire. Baldick is renowned for saving Al Gore from oblivion in the 2000 New Hampshire primary.
The labor operatives pondering their ’08 decisions also confess they are less than comfortable with a prominent role in the campaign for Edwards’s wife, Elizabeth, who never has been a political spouse who stays in the shadows. It is not good news for Edwards if some Teamsters are put off by the triumvirate of John Edwards, Elizabeth Edwards and Dave Bonior.

This is very, very good news for Obama. If Obama can paint Edwards as a Gephardt type, mired in Old Labor-style protectionism and less concerned with issues like health care that are SEIU head Andy Stern’s bread and butter, there’s a very real possibility that he could get CtW to stay neutral, if not endorse him outright. Either of those options would be very, very good in Nevada, where CtW unions have a heavy presence.
On a somewhat related topic, does anyone actually see a possibility of Hillary Clinton winning any of the first three primaries? Edwards is the man to beat in Iowa, and despite his relatively abysmal name rec Obama is about even with Hillary, and he will undoubtedly pull far ahead of her after he actually starts campaigning. In Nevada, who wins depends more or less on how CtW acts, which would be on either Edwards’ or Obama’s behalf; Hillary isn’t even in the picture. And in New Hampshire, from personal experience and the press coverage of his visit to Manchester I can say that Obama is the frontrunner; Hillary doesn’t engender anywhere near the same excitement, and Edwards isn’t even on the radar screen. So where does Hillary fit in? And if she loses all three of the first contests, how on earth could she win the nomination? Just winning Iowa won Kerry the whole nomination. And if that’s the case in 2008, Hillary doesn’t have a chance.

Speaking Ill of the Dead Is Ever So Much Fun

I think approximately no one is saddened by the death today of Turkmen dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, whose brutality and proclivity for self-worship was detailed excellently by hilzoy at Obsidian Wings a little over a year ago. An interim crony of Niyazov’s has taken over, but with opposition figures returning it seems that civil turmoil is likely. Let’s hope it ends up more like Czechoslovakia in 1989 than like Czechoslovakia in 1968.