2008 (UPDATED)

2008 was a historic year; even though I’m a pretty young guy, I don’t think I’ll ever forget it, and I certainly hope I don’t. 

Of course, getting Barack Obama elected was the easy part.  The hard part starts on January 20th, 2009, when the new administration starts to tackle the problems left behind by the Bush administration.

There are plenty of lists and retrospectives out there written far better than anything I could produce.  But, for tonight, here’s that famous Will.I.Am video, which helped get me through some of the more trying periods of the election:

And here’s Jed Lewison’s fantastic retrospective of Election Night 2008: 

Happy New Year, everyone.  Go out there and have some fun tonight; you’ve all earned it.  But we have our work cut out for us starting tomorrow.

UPDATE: Here are the 10 worst predictions of 2008 from Foreign Policy.

And here’s another list of the 10 worst predictions of 2008 from BusinessWeek.

Fiscal Conservatism

I guess “fiscal conservatism” means paying people with IOUs:

[California] State Controller John Chiang warned Tuesday that the first group to get hit in the wallet by California’s budget debacle is likely to include legislators – and it could happen as early as Feb. 1.

The bad news is that next in line to get IOUs instead of cash would be Californians awaiting state income tax refunds and companies that do business with the state.

In a letter to state agencies, Chiang said his office was projecting the state would run out of cash around the beginning of March.

Without a deficit-closing deal between legislators and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Chiang said, his office “has no choice but to pursue the deferral of potentially billions of dollars in payments and/or the issuance of individual registered warrants, commonly referred to as IOUs.”

[Emphasis mine]

Also, Governor Schwarzenegger’s pointless antagonism of state legislators isn’t helping.

Remember, Arnold Schwarzenegger became Governor because his predecessor, Gray Davis, had almost the exact same budgetary problems as he’s having now (it’s funny how well-funded recall campaigns only seem to crop up when it’s a Democrat mismanaging the state, right?).

But  hey, isn’t this how conservatism works? Get elected by attacking the incumbent for doing something bad, then do that same bad thing once you’re in office, mismanage your government, pointlessly insult your political opponents,  and then declare that you’re the good guy and everyone else are the bad guys.

I won’t dispute the fact that California’s government is broken and has been for a very long time.  But it doesn’t help when you elect (and re-elect) people to run the state who clearly have no idea what they’re doing.  I support the idea that anyone should be able to get elected to public office, but it’s clear that Schwarzenegger isn’t a very good governor, and the fact that he’s serving his second term as the leader of America’s largest state and the world’s fifth-largest economy is a sad reflection on California politics.

Israel-Palestine: Unintended Consequences

Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab writes in the Washington Post:

The disproportionate and heavy-handed Israeli attacks on Gaza have been a bonanza for Hamas. The movement has renewed its standing in the Arab world, secured international favor further afield and succeeded in scuttling indirect Israeli-Syrian talks and direct Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. It has also greatly embarrassed Israel’s strongest Arab neighbors, Egypt and Jordan.

While it is not apparent how this violent confrontation will end, it is abundantly clear that the Islamic Hamas movement has been brought back from near political defeat while moderate Arab leaders have been forced to back away from their support for any reconciliation with Israel

In all likelihood, Israel is probably trying to weaken Hamas, not strengthen them; but, just like the war in Iraq, their attempt to reduce terrorism simply ended up increasing it. Violence and victiminzation are extremely effective recruiting tool for terrorist organizations, who wave the bloody shirt of what they portray as western aggression to radicalize Middle Eastern Muslims and swell their own ranks.

It’s in Israel’s–and probably Palestine’s–best interests for Hamas to become weakend, so they will be replaced by the more moderate Fatah in the next elections.  Unfortunately for everyone, Israel’s heavy-handed actions (even though they do have a right to defend themselves, their response was a bit over the top), which have lead to the deaths of between 300 and 400 Palestinians, has virtually guaranteed that Hamas will remain in power, further complicating the road to peace.

Swing And A Miss

Big John Cornyn’s just started as head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and he kicked off his new office by attacking Al Franken over the Minnesota recount.  But it looks like he tripped over a big pile of fail on the way to whatever point he was trying to make.

Let’s parse:

Al Franken is falsely declaring victory

Actually, the Franken campaign is expressing confidence that they will win, not saying they’ve already won. It’s a narrow distinction, but if Cornyn is going to hit Franken over it then he should at least get his facts straight.

based on an artificial lead created on the back of the double counting of ballots.

Actually, when Coleman sued over the alleged duplicate ballots, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled he didn’t have enough evidence to prove that even a single ballot was counted twice. But good try there.

His campaign’s actions in the last several days on the issues of rejected absentee ballots are creating additional chaos and disorder in the Minnesota recount.

Actually, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that there were about 1,300 improperly-rejected absentee ballots that should be counted, and they ordered the Franken and Coleman camps to work together to determine which of those votes should be added to the recount.  Franken is the one saying all of those votes should be counted since they were improperly-rejected; it’s the Coleman campaign who has creatied chaos and disorder by insisting that only 136 of those ballots be counted.

Those actions, coupled with the recent comments by Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who suggests seating someone even if there is an election contest, are unprecedented.

Actually, like TPM points out:

Cornyn alleges that it is “unprecedented” to seat someone while an election is still being disputed. As recently as 2007, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) was seated without prejudice by the majority-Democratic House while his election was being contested, and in 1997 the majority-Republican Senate provisionally seated Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) after her GOP opponent alleged irregularities in her very narrow win.

Moving on:

Minnesotans will not accept a recount in which some votes are counted twice

First, see point #2 above.  Second, I don’t really think the junior Senator from Texas knows much about what the people of  Minnesota will or will not accept.

and I expect the Senate would have a problem seating a candidate who has not duly won an election.

What’s the definition of someone who duly wins an election? You duly win an election by  getting the most votes. As it stands, Al Franken has the most votes.  And while Norm Coleman may go to court and try to sue his way back into office, right now Al Franken has duly won the Minnesota election.

Thus, the United States Senate should seat Senator Franken, and ignore the moronic fauxtrage coming from people like John Cornyn.

Putin 2012

At least that’s what seems to be taking shape in Russia:

Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev signed a law extending presidential terms from four years to six on Tuesday in a move seen as paving the way for Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency.

Medvedev’s final endorsement of the legislation follows its quick approval by the Kremlin-controlled parliament and all of Russia’s 83 provincial legislatures. The change won’t apply to Medvedev’s current term, due to end in 2012.

Putin was barred constitutionally from seeking a third straight term as president. He tapped Medvedev, his longtime protege, as his favored successor, ensuring a landslide victory in a March election.

Putin then became prime minister and leader of the United Russia party, which dominates the parliament.

Putin remains popular and is still seen as the man calling the shots in Russia.

There’s a chance the global financial crisis may take a toll on Putin and Medvedev’s popularity, but I question whether there will be a large enough backlash to destroy Russia’s most influential political machine. It’s likely that Putin–and by extension, Medvedev–will control Russia’s polity for the foreseeable future.

This constitutional amendment won’t help Putin win back the Presidency in 2012–his popularity should take care of that–but it will give him significantly more power if he gets back into office.  The consolidation of power in Russia is highly disturbing, as is the consolidation of political power anywhere, and this only serves to make Russia’s democracy weaker.

Russia’s backsliding away from democracy and toward Soviet-style strongman governance should be a cause for significant concern in the western world.  If they want to repair their tattered relationship with the United States, this is not the way to get there.

Senator Danny O’Donnell (D-NY)?

New York Governor David Paterson is still interviewing candidates to replace incoming Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the Senate.

One of the people he’s spoken to is Danny O’Donnell, an openly gay New York State Assemblyman:

Mr. O’Donnell met with Mr. Paterson for about 45 minutes on Monday afternoon in the governor’s Midtown office for what Mr. O’Donnell said was his formal interview for the Senate seat.

To say Mr. O’Donnell, known for his active support of gay rights issues, including same-sex marriage, was overly optimistic about his chances would be a stretch. He put his odds of getting the seat at about one in 10, or “about the same as the population of gay people in the world.” But Mr. O’Donnell did offer that he believes the governor has yet to settle on a final choice.

“I didn’t get the impression that a decision was coming anytime soon,” Mr. O’Donnell said. “I have the sense that he was really weighing what people were saying. I can tell when people are listening to me and actually listening, and listening to me just because they’re supposed to listen. He seemed to be very intent on focusing on and absorbing what I think my strengths might be.”

If O’Donnell is chosen, he would be the first LGBT American in the United States Senate. Of course, he shouldn’t be chosen just because of that.  But if Paterson decides he’s the best person for the job and appoints him to the Senate, it would represent a major step forward for equal rights.

Burris (UPDATED X4)

I have to say, Blagojevich’s selection of Roland Burris is almost brilliant.

Blagojevich picked someone not affiliated with any of Illinois’ political machines.  He picked someone who isn’t a close ally of his.  In fact, Burris has run against Blagojevich in the past, and he condemned Blagojevich’s pay-to-play scheme as “appalling.”  In addition, Burris is the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois; he’s a distinguished public servant who has earned a lot of respect among Illinois politicians.

In other words, Blagojevich picked someone so sterling, so clean that he’s practically daring Harry Reid and the Democrats to expel him.  In fact, Rep. Bobby Rush actually dared them to expel Burris:

There are no African-Americans in the Senate, and I don’t think that anyone, any U.S. Senator who is sitting right now would want to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate. I don’t think they want to go on record doing that.

[…]

Let me remind you that the state of Illinois and the people of the state of Illinois in their collective wisdom have sent two African-Americans to the U.S. Senate.  That makes a difference. This is not just a state of Illinois matter … but indeed, by this decision, it has tremendous national importance.

I disagree with Rep. Rush.  I don’t think that, if a Senate seat is won by a minority, it should always be held someone from that minority group. While I believe wholeheartedly in increasing the diversity of the United States Senate, America is a a democracy; we give people power because we think they will do the best job.  In  this case, Burris won’t be able to the best job; the taint of scandal and illegitimacy will hang over him for his entire tenure in the Senate.

Still, this puts Senate Democrats in a tough position.  Under any other circumstance, Burris would be a fantastic choice. But these aren’t other circumstances.  While Burris might be a good candidate with a strong record, he’s only going to the Senate because of Rod Blagojevich; that, in and of itself, disqualifies him. I just hope that Harry Reid has the spine to follow through with his promise to kick out anyone Blagojevich appoints.

UPDATE: Here’s a welcome sight–Harry Reid is showing some spine:

The Senate will not seat Roland Burris if Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich attempts to appoint him, a Democratic leadership aide said.

Majority Leader Harry Reid views Burris as “unacceptable,” the aide said.

Now, if only Reid was as willing to stand up to Republicans as he is willing to stand up to his fellow Democrats…

UPDATE II: Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is saying he won’t certify Burris’ appointment, which would keep him from the Senate:

As I have previously stated publicly, I cannot co-sign a document that certifies any appointment by Rod Blagojevich for the vacant United State Senate seat from Illiois.

Although I have respect for former Attorney General Roland Burris, because of the current cloud of controversy surrounding the Governor, I cannot accept the document.

Of course, there’s some question as to whether White has the legal authority to defy Blagojevich. Here’s what Illinois law says about the Secretary of State’s role in appointments:

Sec. 5. It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State:

  1. To countersign and affix the seal of state to all commissions required by law to be issued by the m   Governor.
  2. To make a register of all appointments by the Governor, specifying the person appointed, the office conferred, the date of the appointment, the date when bond or oath is taken and the date filed. If Senate confirmation is required, the date of the confirmation shall be included in the register.

In other words, if White resists the appointment, this will wind up in court and it will probably be resolved in Blagojevich’s favor. The only way this appointment can be prevented–if it even can be prevented at this point–is if the Illinois legislature removes Blagojevich from office before White is compelled to certify the appointment.

We’ll just have to see how this plays out.

UPDATE III: President-elect Obama responds:

Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy

UPDATE IV: While Burris isn’t a strong Blagojevich ally, he is a supporter–Burris served as the Vice-Chair of Blagojevich’s gubernatorial transition team and has raised money for Blagojevich in the past.