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The first serious crisis since the end of the Cold War…

What was the first “serious international crisis” after the end of the Cold War? Well, there was Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait back in, which prompted the first Gulf War. Coming 9 months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I’d say it counts as a post-Cold War crisis. The Yugoslav Wars, which brought genocide back to Europe, were serious crises. The Rwandan Genocide and subsequent wars in the Congo were “serious crises”, which resulted in 5 million deaths. The attack on the US on 9/11, the Afghan war, the Iraq war…all of these are serious crises. The North Korean nuclear test was a serious crisis. The civil war in southern Sudan, the Darfur conflict, the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and a host of other natural disasters in the last 18 years all look like good candidates for the descriptor “serious international crisis”.

John McCain, it would seem, disagrees.

And this guy is running on his foreign policy credentials? It’s bad enough that he doesn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia. It’s bad enough that he can’t remember that Czechoslovakia doesn’t exist any more. But forgetting about the first Gulf War, the Rwandan Genocide, the Congo wars, the Yugoslav wars, 9/11, the Iraq war… John McCain serious scares me.

Update: Something I missed earlier – “Abskya”? Sure, I don’t expect him to pronounce the “kh” right in Abkhazia (I rather doubt I pronounce it right myself), but “Abskya”? The only way you make a mistake like that is if you’ve never heard the word pronounced, only read it. So despite having a lobbyist for Georgia running his campaign, it looks like McCain has never actually discussed the geopolitical issues, just read about them. So very reassuring…

(I also forgot to credit BarbinMD at dKos for the link & much of the list of missed crises.)

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McCain, Clinton, Obama and the gas tax

John McCain proposed a temporary repeal of the 18 cent per gallon federal gas tax over the summer, when gasoline demand peaks.  The idea is that it would give consumers some relief from high gas prices at a time when prices tend to peak.  Hillary Clinton jumped on board, but realising that taxes on gasoline are used to build and repair roads and bridges, proposed that the revenue shortfall be made up through taxes on windfall profits by the oil companies.  Apart from making only a trivial difference to most consumers as envisioned, ($3.60 if you buy 20 gallons of gas), Saurabh explains why consumers are unlikely to see the full 18 cent reduction in prices.

Only Barack Obama has said something sensible on this issue – that these are short-term measures that do more harm than good (road construction, for example, generates a lot of jobs).  But none of them seem to have mentioned one key point – higher prices are good, because they reduce demand.  The higher prices of the “summer driving season” are due to the fact that people do a lot of driving in the summer.  The increase in consumption also increases greenhouse gas production.  Higher prices reduce demand, which, in turn, should moderate the spike in gas prices.  Higher prices also push consumers towards smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles.

It makes me wonder whether anyone has tried to determine what effect a repeal of the gas tax is likely to have on gas prices.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it resulted in higher gas prices.  It definitely will have a bad effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

John McCain: passed that threshold?

John McCain appears not to understand the most basic issues in the Middle East. Writing in the Washington Posts campaign blog, The Trail, Cameron W. Barr and Michael D. Shear report:

Speaking to reporters in Amman, the Jordanian capital, McCain said he and two Senate colleagues traveling with him continue to be concerned about Iranian operatives “taking al-Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back.”

Pressed to elaborate, McCain said it was “common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that’s well known. And it’s unfortunate.” A few moments later, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, standing just behind McCain, stepped forward and whispered in the presidential candidate’s ear. McCain then said: “I’m sorry, the Iranians are training extremists, not al-Qaeda.”

Hillary Clinton believes that she and McCain have passed the commander-in-chief threshold with their knowledge of foreign policy. McCain has been happy to embrace Clinton on this one

In recent days, McCain has repeatedly said his intimate knowledge of foreign policy make him the best equipped to answer a phone ringing in the White House late at night.

McCain had to rely on Joe Lieberman to explain to most basic facts on the ground. Does McCain really think that Iran is training al Qaeda? Has he simply internalised that Bush-Cheney lie that of insurgent = terrorist = al Qaeda? Or is this part of a pattern that includes McCain’s repeated denials of simply verifiable facts? We are, after all, talking about a tired man in his seventies. His memory may not be that good. That’s not a big deal, it’s just part of life. Unless, of course, you are talking about someone who wants to be president of the US. Add that to his temper, which worries the people who know him, and there’s potential for a real problem.

H/T Bruce Wilson at Talk To Action. Continue reading

John McCain: Denialist

I suppose it takes a good measure of denialism to be able to say that the war’s not going horribly, but this still shocked me

McCain said, per ABC News’ Bret Hovell, that “It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

Really?  It’s indisputable?  No, it’s indisputable that autism diagnoses are on the rise, but there are people who wonder how much of it is real and how much of it is related to changing diagnostic standards and greater awareness.  As for strong evidence?  Huh?  Oh, you mean something like the evidence that the US is winning in Iraq, and that Saddam had WMDs?  So does McCain simply not care whether he knows anything before he chooses to run his mouth on a subject, or is this just part of his outright falsehoods (I never met with Buckingham, I don’t do favours for lobbyists,…)  Or maybe it’s the Ronald Reagan excuse – after all, he’s older than Reagan was when he ran for the presidency.

McCain said there’s “divided scientific opinion” on the matter, with “many on the other side that are credible scientists that are saying that’s not the cause of it.”

Ahh. Teach the ControversyTM, shall we?

Fortunately, ABC’s Jake Tapper got the actual facts into the story

The established medical community is not as divided as McCain made it sound, however. Overwhelmingly the “credible scientists,” at least as the government and the medical establishment so ordain them, side against McCain’s view.

Moreover, those scientists and organizations fear that powerful people lending credence to the thimerosal theory could dissuade parents from getting their children immunized — which in their view would lead to a very real health crisis.

H/T Aetiology.

Unfolding scandal

Drip, drip, drip…

Political must-reads

Josh Marshall talks about McCain’s repeated problems with the truth, and some of the issues he may have with getting out of public financing for the Republican primary campaign.  (Paul Kiel has a more detailed analysis).

Barbara O’Brien looks at several articles that analyse the challenges of being a woman/being black in a US presidential campaign, and others that talk about “what went wrong” with Hillary’s campaign.

McScandal

The more I look at this, the more apparent it is that the talking heads of cable news totally missed the point on the New York Times article on John McCain. Sure, any whiff of a sex scandal is like blood in the water, but I think a far bigger problem is that they were unable to separate themselves from the story. Worked up about the ethics of the issue, they were unable to address the news element.

Writing at Democrats.com, David Lindorf hits the nail on the head

But really, who cares whether they were shacking up on the campaign trail? McCain, after all, already double-timed his starter wife and dumped her for a trophy wife, the statuesque and wealthy beer industry heiress Cindy Hensley, so it’s not as though he is campaigning on a strong pro-family platform.

No, the reason his aides, back in 1998-2000, started working behind the scenes to keep Iseman away from McCain, and confronted McCain over his dalliances was because McCain, who had a history of corruption, most notably his card-carrying membership in the Keating Five savings and loan scandal, couldn’t afford to appear to be backsliding.

McCain was against torture before he was for it. McCain was against Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy before he was for them. McCain was against Bush’s war (or at least the way Bush wanted to carry it out) before he was for it. And, most importantly, McCain was against election campaign ethics before he was for them. From the Wikipedia article on the Keating Five:

After months of testimony revealed that all five senators acted improperly to differing degrees, the senators continually said they were following the status quo of campaign funding practices. … The committee recommended censure for Cranston and criticized the other four for “questionable conduct”.

Still, people can change. It’s reasonable to believe that McCain is now a supporter of tax cuts for the wealthy, torture and clean politics. The problem is that the evidence isn’t there.

As I mentioned previously, McCain made some bold statements in his press conference. Up until that point, the sex stuff was irrelevant. But the other stuff is murkier. Writing at TPM Muckraker, Paul Kiel point out that McCain distorted the facts – rather than being totally aboveboard, letters written on behalf of one of Iseman’s (the lobbyist at the centre of the Times article) clients prompted an objection from the head of the FCC:

As The Boston Globe reported way back in 2000, William Kennard, the FCC chair at the time, had immediately objected to McCain’s December 10, 1999 letter, replying four days later that it was “highly unusual” and that he was “concerned” at what effect McCain’s letter might have on the decision process.

If the head of the committee was concerned, I’d say there’s the appearance of impropriety. Sure, it was “business as usual”, but so, said McCain, was the Keating scandal.

There’s another part to McCain’s denial that rings a little hollow as well – the issue of his contacts with the New York Times over the story. Last night Pat Buchanan said that McCain’s lawyer convinced the Times not to run with the story in December because it was too close to the start of the primaries. David Kurtz at TPM discusses this. The wingnuts have been whining that the Times ran this story just to hurt McCain, but as Cenk Uygar points out, it really looks like they did everything to help McCain (including, of course, endorsing him while sitting on the story). If they had run the story in December, it would probably have changed the outcome of the Republican primary. If they had waited to run it in October, it might really have hurt him. Instead, they did him the favour of running it at a time when it’s least likely to do him any damage. Uygar says

I think the far simpler answer is the correct one. The McCain campaign threatened and intimidated them as the Bush team has done on countless occasions and they gave in until someone else was about to release the story. The only thing worse than being bullied by Republicans is getting scooped by your competitors.

Oh, and worse than all that – ScienceAvenger suspects that McCain is a creationist

Is John McCain a creationist? It sure looks like it from this article:

McCain told the Star that, like Bush, he believes “all points of view” should be available to students studying the origins of mankind.

H/T to Mahablog for the Cenk Uygar material.