Category Archives: Politics

Clinton adopts “scorched earth” policy

Clinton seems to have adopted a policy of providing so much material to the McCain campaign against Obama, that he can’t win the general election, making her the obvious candidate for Democrats. She and her surrogates have now repeatedly asserted that Obama won’t win against McCain, even going so far as to claim that she and McCain have the foreign policy experience, but Obama doesn’t. Won’t that be great ammunition for the GOP against Obama in the general election? He will be able to say “Your fellow democrat thinks I’m the better candidate”.

Of course, like many of the Clinton campaign’s recent assertions, this is rubbish. According to a March 8th poll, the Washington Post reports that either of them would beat McCain, but Obama has a better chance (with a 12 point lead, as opposed to a 6 point lead for Clinton).

Of course, the irony is that the closer people look at her supposed foreign policy experience, the less real it gets. She claimed to have contributed significantly in the resolution of the Northern Ireland conflict, yet those actually involved say that her involvement was peripheral, really that of a cheerleader (no I’m not being sexist, there are male cheerleaders too you know ;).

I’m pretty confident that this will backfire. Standing in line for the caucuses here in Texas last week, one thing I heard from a number of people planning to vote for Clinton was that they felt she was being treated unfairly, and they was therefore voting out of sympathy for her.

Its hard to imagine much of that sympathy remaining if Clinton continues on her current “scorched earth” policy. It is very unlikely that remaining undecided Democrats will reward her for this strategy.

Turns out Obama won Texas by 4 delegates

Apparently the Texas Secretary of State is set to certify the official election results, and Obama has won 99 delegates, compared to Clinton’s 95.

Clinton got more delegates from the popular vote (step one of the “Texas two-step”), she won 65 relative to Obama’s 61, but Obama was way ahead in a caucus (step 2), winning 38 delegates to Clinton’s 30.

I’m surprised that Clinton isn’t challenged more every time she claims to have won Texas, seems like the news media has uncritically accepted her spin ever since Saturday Night Live made fun of them for being pro-Obama.

Obama and Clinton are different species of politician

What a shock, I know I’m really going out on a limb here, choosing my horse so early in the race ;-)

One of my frustrations during the coverage of this election is that the US media is simply awful at articulating the differences between the candidates. Rather than doing some detailed analysis, they rely on pundits whose often patronizing theories (blacks will vote for Obama, women for Clinton, black women can’t decide etc etc) are proved irrelevant after almost every state primary, yet for some reason these people still get air time.

So we turn to the Internet. My friend, Stanford Law Professor, and founder of Creative Commons, Larry Lessig, has created a a wonderful video that elegantly articulates why he supports Obama over Clinton.

If you find yourself falling into the trap of thinking that there isn’t much between the two remaining democratic candidates, you really need to watch Larry’s video, in which he argues that this isn’t just a debate between “hope” and “experience”, these two are entirely different species of politician.

British Media: RTFA

Apparently there is a growing controversy in the UK because the leader of the Anglican church, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has suggested that that Sharia law be permitted in the UK.

Unfortunately, it seems that few members of the British Media have bothered to read or understand the Archbishop’s lecture. He doesn’t advocate that the British government compel British muslims to live under this law, rather he simply argues that people should be permitted to voluntarily commit to abide by sharia law if they want to.

That really isn’t any more scary than a non-disclosure or a prenuptial agreement, both of which involve an individual or individuals voluntarily submitting to abide by a set of rules. It doesn’t replace the British legal system any more than any other contract does.

Of course, I suppose I can see the origin of the misunderstanding among the weak minded. Most people don’t consider laws to be things that you voluntarily sign up to abide by, so talk of allowing sharia law probably was bound to cause confusion among moronic journalists more interested in stirring up hysteria than spend 30 minutes reading the thing they are opining about.

The Shock Doctrine – a hypocritical short film

Found this video by Naomi Kline here:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kieyjfZDUIc]

Ironically the video is a great example of the shock tactics that it assigns to Klein’s ideological enemies. You are shown a disturbing video of someone being electrocuted, and then fed a series of assertions which are questionable given a modicum of scrutiny. Of course, most people are too busy thinking “wow, someone being electrocuted, how awful” to think critically about the assertions that follow.

To pick just one example, the video implies that the Falkland’s War was somehow used to “shock” the British public into accepting Thatcher’s moves against the entrenched unions in the 1980s. To anyone who lived through the political strife during that time, the notion that in 1984 the public was shocked into compliance by Britain’s victory in a skirmish in 1982 is ridiculous. The British public were well aware of what Thatcher was doing, indeed some of them made quite a fuss about it; Most of them, however, recognized the folly of demanding that huge amounts of taxpayer’s money be used to prop up an entire industry that was no-longer economically viable.

Klein’s video argues that advocates of a free market can only make their case successfully by shocking the public into compliance. The righteous indignation might be more appropriate if the video wasn’t itself an example of exactly this tactic.

Andrew Keen interviewed by Stephen Colbert

Andrew Keen, who I recently debated on a NY radio station, was interviewed by Stephen Colbert last night. He appeared completely oblivious to Colbert’s brand of humor, earnestly asking whether Colbert believed that there were WMDs in Iraq. Of course, Colbert’s character is a slavish devotee of the current US administration, so the response was predictable.

Keen seemed to get quite frustrated with Colbert, apparently missing the joke completely. Colbert, even in character, did a pretty good job of demolishing Keen, who readily admitted to being an elitist (I doubt the snobbish sounding English guy defending elitism in the media garnered much sympathy among the show’s viewers).

I must say that Keen’s publicist must be some kind of genius to get him all of this coverage despite his transparently lame arguments. If there is a media elite, Keen most certainly isn’t a member.

On WNYC tomorrow – 10am EDT

I’m participating in a debate on the Brian Lehrer Show tomorrow morning at 10am EDT, or thereabouts, you should be able to hear it if you are in New York, or also over the Internet.

Apparently I will be debating Andrew Keen, who seems to be of the opinion that the Internet will do terrible things to our culture because it diminishes the power of the media oligarchy. Yup, this is the same media oligarchy that brings us a never-ending succession of uninspired reality TV shows, news about Paris Hilton, and great movies like “Battlefield Earth”, “Stop or my Mom Will Shoot!”, and “Showgirls”, however will we survive without them?!

It is actually somewhat hard to believe that this guy really thinks what he appears to be saying, so I guess I will hear what he has to say on the show, and disagree with anything that strikes me as unreasonable. Its entirely possible that this is all just flamebait to stir up interest in his new book among bloggers, who are predictably incensed by this guy’s arguments. If so, it seems that people are biting.

Its been a while since I’ve done a live broadcast, lets hope I haven’t lost my edge :-)

Sicko – and the US healthcare system

Here is an email I sent to Michael Moore, in response to his movie Sicko. I am not so naive to think that he would actually respond, but I thought you might find it interesting anyway:

Hi Michael,

I agree with you that the healthcare system in the US is a failure,
and having lived in the UK for several years relying on the NHS, I
also agree with you that the UK national healthcare system is
definitely preferable to the current private sector system in the
United States.

However, it does not follow that nationalized healthcare is the only
possible remedy. Is it not possible that with appropriate regulation,
market forces could provide an effective healthcare system?

I ask because while I’m not a native of the United States, I’ve
noticed that most people here have a serious distrust of their
government, and often regard the private sector as being the lesser of
two evils, the worse evil being the public sector.

Having personally dealt with government bureaucracies in both the UK
and the US, I can well understand this. For example, if you have
questions about how to file taxes in the UK, you can go to the Inland
Revenue (the UK’s IRS) and they will feed you tea and cookies while
they explain the system to you, often pointing out ways you can reduce
your tax burden. Can you imagine the IRS giving you tea and cookies
while they patiently explain how you can pay less tax?

Really I think this is a cultural difference, and given that changing
the culture of the US government may be an even more challenging task
than reforming the healthcare system, does it not make sense to
consider whether there is a system of regulation and/or incentives
that could promote a market-orientated system for the provision of
healthcare in the United States?

Kind regards,

Ian.

Tim Berners-Lee on NPR losing the net neutrality debate

Just heard TBL on “Talk of the Nation” on NPR on the network neutrality issue, Berners-Lee was arguing in favour of it, David Farber was arguing against.

I must say that unfortunately Berners-Lee is doing a terrible job of explaining his point of view, as are many advocates of net neutrality. The contrary point of view, which sells itself as a “don’t let the government screw up the Internet with unwarranted regulation”, is frankly more persuasive purely by virtue of the fact that it is much easier to understand.

As with proponents of software patents in the EU, opponents of network neutrality don’t have to win the argument, they need only persuade people that it is too complicated to understand, and therefore it is best left alone (in the case of EU software patents, leaving it alone meant not changing the Directive).

As I see it, there should be a bias against regulation, however the problem is that the Internet, or rather then infrastructure on which it is built, is itself a product of regulation and government subsidy – which is why most people in the US have very few choices about where they can obtain broadband service.

Update: There is a great debate between Vinton Cerf and David Farber from earlier today that looks like it is much more informative (I’m watching it now) – link to real video file.