Saturday, August 30, 2008

Parsing a joke

Lindsay Graham, McCain's constant traveling companion and the Tweedledum to Lieberman's Tweedledee, made light Sarah Palin's lack of foreign policy experience in an interview with Wolf Blitzer:
BLITZER: You have a lot of foreign policy experience. You’ve traveled all over the world and met with world leaders. Joe Biden has a lot of foreign policy experience. He’s done the same thing. He’s chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Does she have any actual foreign policy experience? Has she met with world leaders like you have, like Biden has? Has she really gone around the world and done any of those things?

GRAHAM: You know, I don’t know where she’s traveled to. And I know the people I’ve met. But it’s not meeting people that matters. President Bush met President Putin. And I don’t think it matters just meeting people.

You look at people’s judgment. You know, Governor Palin took on Ted Stevens . If she can take him on, she can take on the Russians.

Graham, of course, is trying to sidestep the issue with a joke, but it isn't an issue that can be made to go away that easily. Her limited experience is a valid concern. While some Democrats might feel hesitation in directly attacking her selection on that basis, they should have no qualms about calling the Republicans on their hypocrisy and double standard in criticizing Obama for lack of foreign policy experience while giving Palin a pass for the same.

Graham's lame attempt at humor caught my attention for two reasons other than its failure to avoid the subject. First, when did Sarah Palin "take on" Ted Stevens? He supported her in her 2006 run for the governor's mansion. He is supporting her now, despite the implicit insult of her scrubbing his earlier endorsements from her website. The agree on most issues and are in lockstep on the issues of economic exploitation of Alaska's resources.

Second, why is a prominent Republican using another prominent Republican as a boogey man? Stevens is under indictment for corruption and seriously facing defeat in a reelection bid for the first time since Palin was in grade school. Has he really become so radioactive that other republican congressmen use him as the but of a joke and paint him as someone who need to be stood up to? Is this a signal that the GOP has given up on their senior member in Congress and decided to throw him under the bus?

An unexpected side effect of Palin's moment in the spotlight might be that it sheds more unwanted light on Stevens' crumbling empire of cronyism and corruption. It also presents an opportunity for the Democrats. While we should be doing our best to hang Bush around McCain's neck, we should work equally as hard to make sure Stevens is firmly attached to Palin.

Why aren't we fighting

In one respect, the Sarah Palin pick is a big success for McCain. He has managed to completely banish the Democratic candidates from the news while everyone tries to find out who she is and debates whether the choice was a good one or not. Come Monday, the news will turn to the Republican convention and how they handle the issue of Hurricane Gustav as it moves on to the Gulf Coast. By the time the Democrats are next mentioned in the press, eight or nine days will have passed.

Some of that was predictable and inescapable, but not all of it. I have to ask why the Democrats didn't have a counter-stunt ready for yesterday. They knew McCain was going to make an announcement on Friday and try to seize the weekend news cycle. Even if the a Democratic stunt was bumped to the second or third ranked political story, it would still have waved the flag and said "we're still here" through the weekend. Instead the only sign that the part even exists is their reaction to McCain and Palin (which means the story is still Republican and not Democratic).

I have this sick feeling that some twisted sense of fair play made the Democratic strategy masters decide it McCain's "turn" to have the news on Friday--that they refrained from getting in his spotlight because it was his birthday or something. Democrats have a chronic inability to tell the difference between fighting fair and rolling over and playing dead. Too often the choose the latter thinking it is the former. The Republicans are not going to give up power nicely. We need to have fighters in charge of the Democratic Party. Otherwise, the next four years will give us the revolting spectacle of a Democratic Congress giving a Republican President everything he asks for without ever putting up an honest fight. In other words, more of the same.

Friday, August 29, 2008


John McCain has chosen first term Alaska governor Sarah Palin as his running mate. The McCain campaign is throwing out its strongest argument against Obama by picking someone with no foreign relations experience and less than two years in a statewide office. Prior to becoming governor a year and a half ago, she was mayor of Wasilla, a community of 6000, just northeast of Anchorage.

As I see it, this is the McCain campaign's thinking behind picking Palin: She's young, she's energetic, and she's attractive, which they hope will balance McCain's worst image problems as a tired, old man in bad health. She's very pro-life and visibly Christian (she supports the teaching of creationism in the public schools), which they hope will motivate the religious right not to sit the election out. She has a handicapped child, which is another plus with the pro-life crowd and will allow the campaign some compassionate conservatism points. She's from the not-insane wing of the party (which is very small in Alaska) that should appeal to moderates and independents. She's a girl, which is a transparent pander to the PUMAs.

On that last point, I'm reminded of the conservative pundits in 1988 who predicted women would flock to the Republican banner because Dane Quayle was cute. It was a condescending attitude then and its a condescending attitude now. Very few women are shallow enough to be fooled by such a transparent ploy.

Palin is mostly untouched by the slime surrounding Don Young, Ted Stevens, and the rest of the Alaskan Republican Party, but she does have her own mini-scandal involving an attempt to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the Alaska State Troopers. Naturally, she blames over zealous underlings. She is strongly pro-development, which in Alaska means favoring the resource extraction and construction industries, and favors drilling anywhere and everywhere.

Don't underestimate her. She could really change the tenor of the race.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Creative, but neglected, cartography

Bryan at Why Now? has a nice post on the gerrymandered borders of Central Asia which led me to reminisce about my own interest in lines on maps.

When I went to grad school in the eighties to study the multinational communist states of the USSR and Yugoslavia, nationalism was considered an old fashioned subject. The hip subjects of the day were social and economic questions. The professor who ran the dissertation writing seminar, and who taught intellectual history, actually cut me off one day when I was discussing my research into the Yugoslav national question with a brusque comment that he found nationalism boring and wanted to hear about someone else's work.

Nationalism, besides being denigrated as part of old school political/diplomatic history, was also in disgrace because of nationalist writing--that is historical narratives being produced as tools of nationalist propaganda. No seemed willing to acknowledge the difference between nationalist history and the intellectual history of nationalism, which was what interested me. Besides, the argument went, all of the national questions had already settled by WWII and decolonization. My peers and supervisors also seemed unaware of the irony of rejecting a topic for historical study because it had happened in the past.

Of course, as the nineties showed, they were completely wrong about national questions being settled. Just because you draw a line on a map and give the people within that line a common name and parliament, doesn't mean they think of themselves as one people. Americans have always combined and confused the two concepts of nation and state. Right up till 1991, historians and pundits were telling each other that people in the USSR thought of themselves as Soviets first and Georgians, Ukrainians, or Latvians second. The Kurds today most certainly do not think of themselves as Turkish, Iranian, or Iraqi first.

Borders, as a subtopic of nationalism, got even worse treatment than the intellectual history of nationalism. Once upon a time, external borders were a major topic of diplomatic history and boundary commissions were covered along with treaty negotiations. That went out of style after WWII, but at least it did get covered up to that point. Internal borders, on the other hand, have never been well studied. As administrative decisions, they don't leave a nice trail of diplomatic dispatches and memoirs by international statesmen. Good examples of this neglect are the volumes of the Hoover Press's Studies of Nationalities series published in the 80's and 90's. The volumes on the Uzbeks and Kazakhs barely mention the establishment of the soviet republics and don't mention changes in their borders at all.

There is a certain academic urban legend that all border decisions made by communist regimes were made with Machiavellian divide and conquer principles in mind. That's not entirely untrue, but it's only part of the story. The internal boundaries of the Soviet Union were drawn over a period of about thirty-five years. In some parts of the country, particularly the Russian heartland, old imperial provinces were left in place for convenience sake. Other borders, where there was no national question involved, were shifted about for practical economic and geographic reasons.

When national questions were involved, the decisions were certainly more cynical and got more attention from higher on the Party food chain, but they still involved a variety of criteria. In the twenties a cohort of genuinely idealistic anthropologists had a hand in drawing territories for the peoples of Arctic Russia and Siberia that gave them room to practice their traditional economies. Later these policies were abandoned and the "small nations" were forced to give up their nomadic ways and learn Russian while their territories were flooded with Russian settlers and political prisoners. I suspect--though I don't know for sure--that something similar happened in Central Asia with a mixture of idealistic anthropologists, cynical commissars, and changing state goals being reflected on different stretches of border.

The tragedy of treating internal divisions as administrative minutiae, beneath the attention of real scholarship, is that when empires break up, these administrative lines become national borders. The powers that be are deathly afraid to renegotiate borders for fear of opening the door to questioning hundreds of bad borders around the world. Meanwhile, numerous wars have already been fought in Africa, Asia, and Eastern Europe over the persistence of lines that were not meant to be borders.

Hurricane Gustav Heads for the Gulf

Hurricane Gustav hit the southern coast of Haiti today and is pointed at the oil and gas producing coasts of Louisiana and Texas. For the last few months Republicans and conservative talking heads have been falsely claiming that hurricanes Katrina and Rita didn't spill a drop of oil and that off shore oil rigs can ride out hurricanes unscathed. I wonder how many of them would like to demonstrate their confidence by watching Gustav from a rig. After all, Gustav is only about half the size of Katrina, so it should be, as they say, a breeze.

Russia recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia

Both houses of the Russian parliament unanimously passed resolutions urging President Medvedev to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia. Since both hoses are dominated by parties loyal to Putin and Medvedev it's no surprise that Medvedev made the proclamation doing so. The only real question was whether he would do so immediately or hang onto the resolutions and use them as a threat in negotiations with Georgia and the West.

For Putin, Medvedev, and their parliamentary supporters, this is the trifecta of Russian nationalist pride. First it's payback to the West for invading Iraq and recognizing Kosovo over Russian objections. Russian nationalists felt that both of those events were a slap in the face and have been burning for the chance to make an equivalent gesture in the face of Bush and the West. Second, it expands Russian influence in an area bordering the Middle East. The Georgian government calls the act an unconcealed annexation of its territory and in a way it is since neither state will be able to maintain their independence without Russian protection. Third it punishes one of the countries most responsible for breaking up the Soviet Union. Georgia, along with the Baltic states, was uncompromising in its desire to end the Soviet Union. Most other soviet republics were open to preserving some form of union, but Georgia insisted on nothing short of total divorce. The Russian nationalists have held a grudge against Georgia ever since. As a bonus, the action sends a warning to all of the other former Soviet republics not to ignore the bear.

What next? In a way, the specifics of the Georgian situation are only a minor detail in a much more dire larger picture. Russian nationalism is on the march and a new cold war has broken out. Even before 9/11 Bush and the Neo-cons were provoking Russian nationalist resentment with their talk of being the only super power. Their rush to repudiate arms treaties and expand NATO was seen as a direct threat by Russians. McCain poured gas on the fire with his talk of throwing Russia out of the G8 and forming a new UN without Russia or China. Many of the more childish minds on the right are thrilled at the idea of going back to bear baiting and the Cold War of their youth. To them Russians are the only enemy really worth hating. Should we be surprised that the feelings are matched on the other side?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Today is my birthday

I hated it when the first day of school fell on my birthday.

Friday, August 22, 2008

It's not me

I want to take this opportunity to dispel the many rumors in the press that I have agreed to be Barack Obama's running mate. Though I appreciate the support and confidence of the many who have pushed for my inclusion on the Democratic ticket, I think it is more important that I spend time with my family watching the cats grow through their prime years. My Clever Wife and I will now retreat to my mother's palatial estate in the country to celebrate my birthday.

Have a nice weekend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Russia threatens to attack Poland

It looks like Putin's gang has taken the Bush Doctrine of preventative, unilateral military action to heart.
WARSAW, Poland — The United States and Poland signed a deal Wednesday to place a U.S. missile defense base just 115 miles from Russia -- a move followed swiftly by a new warning from Moscow of a possible military response.

Negotiators sealed the deal last week against a backdrop of Russian military action in Georgia, a former Soviet republic turned U.S. ally, that has worried former Soviet satellites across eastern Europe. It prompted Moscow's sharpest rhetoric yet over the system, which it contends is aimed at Russia despite Washington's insistence the site is purely defensive.

After Wednesday's signing, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dismissed any suggestion the 10 missile defense interceptors -- which Washington says are intended to defend Europe and the U.S. from the possible threat of long-distance missiles from Iran -- represent a threat to Russia.


Such comments "border on the bizarre, frankly," Rice told reporters in Warsaw. "The Russians are losing their credibility," she said, adding that Moscow would pay a price for its actions in Georgia, though she did not specify how.


Hours after the signing, Russia's Foreign Ministry warned that Moscow's response would go beyond diplomacy. The system to be based in Poland lacks "any target other than Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles," it said in a statement, contending the U.S. system "will be broadened and modernized."

"In this case Russia will be forced to react, and not only through diplomatic" channels, it said without elaborating.

In one of my first blog posts, written as the invasion of Iraq was beginning, I mourned what I believed was the end of a century of painfully achieved international law and a return to gunboat diplomacy. So far, things are turning out just as I feared they would.

McCain was never tortured

Andrew Sullivan makes the point that, according to the definitions used by the Bush administration, nothing the Vietnamese did to McCain counts as torture. The North Vietnamese merely used what the Bush administration calls "enhanced interrogation" and defends as perfectly acceptable in defending the national interest. Since McCain eventually approved the use of such techniques when he voted for the Military Commissions Act, apparently he no longer believes he was tortured either. It's an interesting argument. I would love to hear McCain himself explain the seeming contradiction. I guess the only real victim of torture here is logic.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I do not heart insurance

Earlier last week I spent a few days visiting my mother. I left my travel bag in her living room and so have had to improvise to get around the things I left there. Mostly, this has not been a problem. I have other clothes. I have a spare set of house keys. There is another tube of deodorant in the bathroom. I usually read several books at once, so I just picked up a one of the ones I left at home. The irreplaceable item has turned out to be an expensive prescription I need to take every day.

At first I thought I could get the pharmacy to give me a two week supply to tide me over till my next trip to Mom's. Well, they said, they could, but the insurance wouldn't pay for it. My insurance will not pay for the prescription to be filled more than once in a thirty day period. At first glance it might appear that they are trying to prevent me from doctor shopping, stockpiling a drug, and becoming a bloated and deranged drug addict like Rush Limbaugh. But a closer look at the rules show that this isn't the case. They don't prevent me from getting the drugs; they just refuse to pay for the second filling.

It took three days to sort it out so that I could get a supply to cover me till I regain the bottle I left at Mom's. The pharmacist and my doctor played phone tag and eventually figured out that a new prescription for a different dosage would be covered by the insurance. This means I have two prescriptions for the same drug. If it was an opiate, I would be well on my way to Rushdom. Unfortunately, three days was plenty of time for me to get quite sick. I worked a street fair Saturday. We're having a heat wave this weekend. By Saturday night I was stoked, dehydrated, and going through withdrawal.

Both political parties and presidential candidates support only those changes to our system of delivering medical services in this country that protect the role of the insurance companies. Why? As a consumer of health services, what do value do the insurance companies provide to me that couldn't be provided better by eliminating them and going to a single payer system?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Where does he put it?

Rick Warren, the televangelist who is hosting the faith forum with John McCain and Barack Obama today is being marketed by the press as a new breed of politically active Evangelical who is a less divisive figure than previous televangelists. I don't see it. From my seat (one of the cheap seats, to be sure) the only real difference I can between him and a Swagart or a Robertson is of style. He appears to spend less on haircare products. He presents the same old culture war policies in slightly less confrontational language and that seems to have the pundits swooning.

Earlier this week, over at The Atlantic, Jeffery Goldberg interviewed him.

JG: What are you, as a human, a Christian, and an American, commanded to do when you know a genocide is taking place, a documented genocide?

RW: In the Old Testament, it says that if you have the power to do something good, then you have to do it. You're not to avoid helping somebody in their time of need. Shoot, the Torah says that if you find a cow in a ditch you've got to help it out. Even if it's the enemy's cow, you've got to help it out. We've got this compassion fatigue in America. It's why we have a slow genocide going on in Darfur.

JG: So America has a duty to help.

RW: The answer is, we must do all we can. People say America is not the policeman of the world. We may not be, but the Bible says, if you have been blessed, then you are to care for people who can't care for themselves, you are to speak up for people who can't speak for themselves, and to defend the defenseless.

JG: Some people argue that we're not so great ourselves.

RW: The difference is that there are no death squads in America. The worst you can get here is that you can get blogged, you can get Lewinskied, on the Internet. There is a difference between that and living under oppression, living with fear for your life. That's why whether or not they found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is beside the point. Saddam and his sons were raping the country, literally. And we morally had to do something.

Matt Stoller had something to say about that: "So invading Iraq based on lies is not bearing false witness, as long as the end goal is just?" It is a fair question.

I happen to agree with Warren that, as a powerful and influential country, we have an obligation to try and influence the world to make it a better place, but I find his answer frustratingly incomplete. How do we decide which actions to take in response to which bad players? Over which countries should our leaders fabricate evidence, lie to our own people, villify our allies, assemble a Potemkin alliance, and invade? Over which ones do we use international law and alliances to wage war against? Which ones are treated to sanctions, or to dirty looks? Which ones do we continue to do business with while ignoring their crimes? I could easily make arguments that the people of North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Belarus, and Equatorial Guinea would benefit from having their governments deposed. How do we decide which ones should get which treatment. Warren has no answers. he simply falls in with the Bush loyalists in assuring us that the need for removing and killing Saddam and his sons was strong enough to justify any action by our government.

But his statement raises another question. he says, "Saddam and his sons were raping the country, literally." When bad guys "rap[e] the country, literally," exactly where do they insert their penises? It's important that we know this, because this seems to be the action that determines whether our leaders are justified in bearing false witness and violating their vows.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A food meme

Chad Orzel has a food meme up on his blog. This is the usual list style meme where you bold the items that you have experienced.

1. Venison (deer and elk)
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses (maybe, I never pass the cheese samples in the market without tasting)*
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl (I've had them each separately)
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects (yes, but not intentionally. Eating mosquitos in your dinner is part of camping)
43. Phaal
44. Goat's milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald's Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (I'm not sure what this means. The only kaolin I know is a type of clay used in ceramics and pharmaceuticals. I have taken pills with kaolin clay in them. There is a mental illness called pica that involves compulsive eating of dirt. Some soils are used in traditional medicines. And, of course, no childhood is complete with a certain amount of dirt-eating.)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs' legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash (In Budapest, no less)
88. Flowers (Nastutiums, roses, artichokes, lavender)
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa (I've had regular harissa)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox (I prefer the stronger, dry style smoked slamon from the Northwest)
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

That's 59; not very impressive. Items not on the original list, but that I think I deserve credit for:

101. Moose
102. Bear
103. Caribou
104. Retsina
105. Ćevapčići
106. Postum
107. Fried halibut cheeks
108. Cracklin
109. Injera
110. Home brewed wine or mead

What belongs on your list?

* It would be possible to do separate memes just to name all of the types of cheese a person has tried, or spices, or animal species (fish, fowl, and mammal), or animal parts. Another possibility is how many of the items on the list have you cooked.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Foreign exotic Hawaii

Talking head Cokie Roberts thinks it is elitist of Barack Obama to visit his grandmother in Hawaii:
As we've talked about before, in this year that should be such a Democratic year given all the other indices, he is tied in the polls and stage-sided in the polls and going off this week to a vacation in Hawaii does not make any sense whatsoever. I know his grandmother lives in Hawaii and I know Hawaii is a state, but it has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place. He should be in Myrtle Beach, and, you know, if he's going to take a vacation at this time.

The correct way to keep in touch with the common man is to go stay in one of the eight houses your millionaire wife bought.

By saying such nonsense, Roberts is just showing how provincial and narrow-minded her own East coast pundit world is. Hawaii is a very middle class vacation destination for people on the West coast and no more unusual than going to Disney World in distant and exotic Florida. Obama is going to his home town to visit relatives. What could be a more middle class vacation than that?

Sometimes I cut Roberts some slack because I remember when her father died while visiting the state where I lived, distant and exotic Alaska. This, however, is insulting, not just to Hawaiians, but to anyone on the West coast. As a Southerner, she should have a clue about this kind of regional stereotyping.

Update: Roberts made the same tone deaf point on her other gig at NPR, this time calling Hawaii "odd" and "exotic."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Original Maverick my butt

John McCain's latest campaign ads are calling him "the original maverick." To those of us of a certain age, James Garner is the original Maverick. If I was going to compare McCain to a character in a sixties television show I would cast him as Grampa Amos (Walter Brennan) in The Real McCoys or Uncle Joe (Edgar Buchanan) in Petticoat Junction. What are your casting suggestions?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Kansas Democrat engages in gay bashing

A last minute anti-gay campaign helped a Kansas Democrat eke out a victory in yesterday's statehose primary. The concern trolls who have been telling the Democrats that we need to embrace the religious right's "family values" narrative must be happy today.
Inga Taylor, a Victory-Fund endorsee, had outraised and out-organized her opponent, Gail Finney. But Finney and her supporters launched a late mail, e-mail and phone campaign highlighting Taylor’s sexual orientation and contributions to her campaign from the Victory Fund. Finney is the Vice-chair of the Sedgwick County Democratic Party.


Late Tuesday, when the scope of the anti-gay effort became apparent, Victory Fund president and CEO Chuck Wolfe sent an emergency request to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sibelius, asking her as titular head of the Kansas Democratic Party to denounce Finney’s tactics and call on her to remove herself from the race and to step down from her party position. Sibelius did not respond by the time polls closed Tuesday night.

Sibelius has been widely talked up as a possible vice presidential choice for Obama and as someone poised to make a big splash in the national party. Let's hope she takes a firm stand against this sort of Republican hate and fear politics. If Finney is a delegate to the national convention, this would be a good time for the credentials committee to take a stand. This kind of crap has no place in our party.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Run, Alan, Run

For those who were depressed over the prospect of an election without Alan Keyes, cheer up! He found a party loony enough to nominate him. He’s running under the banner of the California wing of the American Independent Party, which is the party that endorsed segregationist George Wallace back in 1968. For the last few election cycles, the California AIP has been acting as a local branch of the Constitution Party (who passed Keyes over at their nominating convention in April). But, the Constitution Party has been showing some splinters lately.

The whole history of the various schisms and reunions of the AIP and the Constitution Party is too complicated for me to cover here (even if I understood it). The high altitude version goes something like this: The AIp was founded in California in 1967 and became a national third party as George Wallace's party after he left the Democratic Party in 1968. They never again attained that level of prominence and split in 1976 between the neo-Confederates in the South and the mere ultra-conservatives in the rest of the country. In the eighties, the California AIP affiliated with the Populist Party of Holocaust denier Willis Carto, but left after the Populists nominated David Duke in 1988. In 1992, they affiliated as the California branch of the U.S. Taxpayers Party. The U.S. Taxpayers Party became the Constitution Party in 1999.

The Constitution Party is a weird hybrid beast. In many states is has formed branches from the ground up, but in others it took on existing third parties as its official affiliates. They have never quite managed to merge all of the affiliate parties together into a single body. In 2006, nine state parties disaffiliated because the national convention didn't take a hard enough line on abortion.

This year, after failing once again to get the Republican nomination, Alan Keyes showed up at the Constitution Party convention and tried to take the nomination, but they went with someone who had actually been a member of the Party for more than one week. Keyes went off to sulk. Meanwhile, the AIP of California, which had supported Keyes had some kind of leadership crisis (I don't know many of the details) which resulted in two groups claiming to be the real AIP. One group is still affiliated with the Constitution Party and supports its candidate. The other took control of the party website and nominated Keyes as its candidate. The Keyes faction has been recognized by the California Secretary of State's office as the heir to the AIP's ballot position. Rest assured, there will be lawsuits.

This only puts Keyes on the ballot in one state and will probably result in some brawling between the Constitution Party, the California AIP, and possibly the AIP factions in other states. It promises to be great fun for third party watchers everywhere.

Update: Just in case you don't think this will be the most fun campaign of the season, consider this: Keyes' running mate is Pastor Wiley Drake. Pastor Drake is the former 2nd Vice President of the Southern Baptists and briefly gained notoriety last year when he called on his flock to pray for the deaths of various Americans United for Separation of Church and State staffers who were involved in filing an IRS complaint against him for violating the tax exempt status of his church by officially endorsing Mike Huckabee. God did not answer their prayers.