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Convention Coverage

Well, Barack gave an inspiring speech about hope, and the future and blah blah blah. I wish I was there for this.

Nothing like a group of angry masked liberals shouting obscenities at Fox News. Do you not believe in freedom? Although, with the preemptive arrests at the RNC, it looks like that was the place to be this year. I do love a good riot peaceful demonstration. Time to get out my gas mask and my black bandana.


Went to an Obama rally last night, trying to find out if he’s really all that. Waited in the mile long line for three hours with Ruth Miller, my former editor at the Tech, and now my neighbor in the office park. The line was something to behold, full of middle school girls, old fogies, and more sober college students than should ever be in one place. Volunteers tried to get us to call prospective voters, but I demurred, having done that for MoveOn before, and knowing how painful it is. Lyndon Larouche supporters were out, spouting their nonsense about the hyperinflationary shock wave, and nattering on about the Weimar Republic. While I am concerned about our current accounts deficit, I am less than convinced that Larouche is the guy to fix it. Call me when we’re burning dollars for heat, and we’ll talk.

When finally allowed inside, we got a tiny slice of a view, but were able to hear rousing speeches by democratic luminaries such as: the mayor of Lynn, some Asian woman I had never heard of, Deval Patrick, John Kerry, and that dynamic, fresh faced phenomenon, Ted Kennedy. Kerry stank up the place, and there were some heckles from the back about his particular track record on presidential elections. Obama took the stage at around eleven, and gave a speech he probably has given hundreds of times before. It’s a pretty standard stump speech about new politics, and change, and all that good stuff. Still, he managed to be engaging, because he is one charismatic sonofabitch.

Found some good pictures by flickr user Kori Leigh. I was nowhere near this close.

Teddy K

Post ur-Tuesday update:
Looks like he’s still in it, so I’m pretty psyched. Note that most of his wins were in non-coastal, less traditionally blue states. This bodes well for general electability. It’s also interesting that the division between Clinton and Obama voters appears to be class, not race. It remains to be seen if he can adopt the Edwards message and really reach out to poor voters. Of course, his experience as a community organizer is relevant.

I also read this essay by Robin Morgan, which is a pretty compelling feminist call for Hillary, and am implicit critique of Obama. While I do find it compelling, I still think that Hillary brings out the worst of the Democratic Party, embodying all of the Clinton triangulation with none of her husband’s charisma. On a purely policy level, she just doesn’t offer enough of a counterpoint to McCain to have a chance in November. Sorry ladies, but I don’t think it’s your year.

Four Years Later

Four years after entering the Second World War, the United States and her allies had responded to an existential threat by defeating the enemy on two fronts on opposite sides of the world. Four years after preemptively declaring war on Iraq, we are still mired in a conflict that has taken 3,211 American lives and those of at least 60,000 innocent Iraqi civilians. While the initial military defeat of the Iraqi army was relatively well-executed, there was a total lack of planning for the reconstruction of a functioning society. Senior Defense Department management expressed utter disdain for State Department plans to rebuild Iraq, and many of the problems faced today can be directly traced to the inept decision-making in the first days of the conflict. With this kind of track record, we must not allow President Bush to expand the war to Iran.

Today, American troops are fighting in the middle of a civil war, unable to prevent attacks on civilians, their very presence increasing the violence. We have lost in Iraq; there is no hope of the ‘surge’ working. The influence of an extra 21,500 troops will do little to secure Baghdad’s population of 4.5 million, particularly when sectarian elements are determined to kill each other. Estimates by retired General Jack Keane and Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute put the troop strength required to fully pacify Baghdad at 30,000 troops for 18 months. While the recently installed General David Petraeus claims the surge is working, in the last weeks there has been a chlorine bomb attack in Fallujah that injured 350 and killed eight, a suicide bombing at a college that killed 45 students and staff, and at least 113 bodies found tortured and executed in the Baghdad area.

I do not list these statistics to shock, merely to demonstrate the magnitude of the violence and the challenge posed to our forces. Until recently I argued against withdrawal, feeling that we owe it to the Iraqi people, having unleashed this violence, to do our best to contain it. But the continued slaughter, compounded by the anger at the indefinite length of our presence, leads me to believe that the best course of action is to bring our troops home. The forces at work in the region: the ancient religious hatred, the militias armed with weapons we did not secure in the invasion, and the seemingly endless supply of young men and women willing to blow themselves up in a crowd, all conspire to make our overwhelming military might completely ineffectual. This is not to disparage the efforts of our troops, only the politicians who sent them in harm’s way without sufficient armor, planning, or historical insight to make victory achievable.

In the midst of the current conflict, the Bush administration seems to be invested in provoking Iran into a war. It has publicly accused Iranian agents of supplying Shia militias with the expertise and material for roadside bombs, and has deployed the USS Stennis Carrier Battle Group to the Persian Gulf. Alongside the USS Eisenhower, there is now enough firepower in the area to maintain 24-hour aircraft operations, a capability unprecedented since the beginning of the Iraq war, and a clear warning signal to Iran. While the new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates claims that we ‘are not looking for an excuse to go to war with Iran’, the White House maintains, as ever, that ‘all options are on the table’ to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power. Neoconservative author Andrew Roberts recently cautioned President Bush that his legacy will depend on whether he prevents the nuclearization of the Middle East. According to press accounts, Bush frowned and nodded gravely.

Four years after we began this war, we have little progress and much chaos to show for our enormous cost in blood and treasure. We cannot let President Bush maneuver us into another war of choice based on exaggerated evidence. Given the level of competence displayed in the pre- and post-war planning, it is lunacy to expect that we can salvage our current situation by doubling down and going to war with Iran. Any decent poker player, of which there are many here at MIT, knows that this strategy leads straight to ruin. Playing no-limit with the lives of our soldiers and innocent civilians isn’t just bad policy, it’s immoral. And a President who believes he is accountable only to God should take that to heart.

Published in the March 20th issue of The Tech

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

I spent the morning reading up on a current Supreme Court case, Frederick v. Morse, in which a high school student in Juneau, AK, was suspended for displaying a sign with that cogent message at a school-sponsored viewing of the Olympic torch relay in 2002. Interesting case, not only because that phrase might make even Scalia smirk, but because it’s a pretty clear free speech violation by the principal. The student was 18, on private property, and school was not in session. It’s hard to spin a corporate sponsored torch relay as an educational event. And because of Alaska’s enlightened marijuana laws, the poster might also be taken as political discourse, which is entirely accepted under the Tingle precedent where students wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam war. In the student’s own admission, he only wrote the sign to get on television, but he has fought the good fight all the way to the top. Can’t wait to read the transcript on this one, it’s perfect for a drinking/smoking game. Bong hits 4 everyone!

Christmas in November

For the first time in my political memory, the day after an election doesn’t feel like a funeral. We had high hopes, and they were acheieved. We’ll have to wait for Virginia, but just having Speaker Nancy is a step in the right direction. In honor of this auspicious day, please enjoy some poetry from the *Former* Secretary of Defense himself, Donald Rumsfeld. Stolen from Hart Seely,

The Unknown

As we know, 
There are known knowns. 
There are things we know we know. 
We also know 
There are known unknowns. 
That is to say 
We know there are some things 
We do not know. 
But there are also unknown unknowns, 
The ones we don't know 
We don't know. 
- Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

A Confession

Once in a while, 
I'm standing here, doing something. 
And I think, 
"What in the world am I doing here?" 
It's a big surprise. 
- May 16, 2001 , interview with the New York Times


I think what you'll find, 
I think what you'll find is, 
Whatever it is we do substantively, 
There will be near-perfect clarity 
As to what it is. 

And it will be known, 
And it will be known to the Congress, 
And it will be known to you, 
Probably before we decide it, 
But it will be known. 
- Feb. 28, 2003, Department of Defense briefing

Courtesy of David Rees’ Get Your War On

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