February 27, 2008

What if Republicans ran the Democratic debate?


TPM's Veracifier put together a great clip called "When Russert Attacks" that shows how absolutely goofy and over-the-top Russert was during the debate.

Watch it here.

Well, they did last night.

Aside from the performance of the candidates, the overwhelming thing that could be taken away from last night's Democratic debate was that moderators Tim Russert and Brian Williams were essentially representing the Republicans.

Nearly every single question were questions that took as their basis some Republican talking point or attack. And nearly every question was designed to benefit, not the voters, but the Republicans.

The only redeeming aspect of this was that it allowed the candidates to get used to responding too, and refuting, these often distorted or untrue assertions and assumptions, and presumably, dispell them or address them before they are allowed to gain wider currency.

For instance, Russert, in his annoying habit of trying to act intense and getting entirely too excited about his often stupid questions, practically demanded that Clinton release her joint tax returns filed with President Clinton.

Why did he say she had to do this? Because she'd made a loan to her campaign (which was repaid within 48 hours by donations) and therefore her finances were public business.

First of all, is there ONE Democrat anywhere in the country that gives a damn whether Hillary releases her and Bill's tax returns? If there's more than 5, I'd be surprised.

No, the only people who are chomping at the bit to get at these are .... Republicans, represented ably by Russert.

But Timmy wasn't done. Acting as though he were a lawyer who had just produced the smoking gun in a dramatic courtroom, he practically leaned over his desk in demanding that Hillary release the personal logs from her entire 8 years in the White House. These are logs which detail her daily activities.

When's the last time you heard one of your neighbors or maybe someone at a party remark about how they were troubled that Hillary hadn't released her personal schedules from her White House years nearly 8 years ago?

What? You haven't? Why, it must be very important, or Russert wouldn't waste time during the last debate on it, surely.

Well, he did, acting like a prosecutor and demanding that Clinton agree to release them in their entirety.

Is this to benefit the Democratic voters who are making this choice? Is this because this is an issue of concern for many voters?


It's because the Republicans want to get their hands on these documents so bad they can taste it, in order to spend thousands of hours pouring over them doing opposition research... digging for anything they can suggest is dirty or rotten.

That's the ONLY people who want these records, and Russert, good boy that he is, dutifully spent a portion of the debate trying to pin down Clinton into giving the Republicans what they want.

And this from the party who gave us Dick Cheney, a man who to this day refuses to disclose who attended his Energy Policy meetings in the White House, and who demanded that his home in D.C. be erased from Google satellite images, the only location in the world that is erased from Google Earth.

And they don't seem to have had any problems with Bush/Cheney running by all accounts the most secretive administration in history. Guess it's only AFTER you're put in office that you can then refuse to share anything whatsoever with the public who put you there.

In another bizarre attempt at "gotcha" syle, Russert wasted a large chunk of time trying to tie Obama to Louis Farrakhan, the infamously anti-semitic Muslim leader.

In trying mightily to somehow portray Obama as buddy-buddy with this creep, Russert had to make the Republican fantasy that .... see if you can follow now... Farrakhan has expressed anti-semitic views in the past.... Farrakhan has said he's glad to see a black man running strongly for president, and he hopes Obama will win... and Obama's minister in Chicago had once said something flattering about Farrakhan.

See? Obama is anti-semitic. What a joke.

What do you have to believe to make this leap? That Obama should be ASSUMED to share Farrakhan's anti-semitic beliefs because he attended a church .... whose pastor once said something positive about .... Farrakhan.

So this is a fair question? Yet this is what lead Pumpkin-head to DEMAND that Obama denouce Farrakhan? Again, Russert starts out with the ASSUMPTION, presumed to be fact unless contradicted by Obama, that using this bizarre link, Obama must be anti-semitic and therefore requires that he denouce and repudiate Farrakhan and anti-semitism or else stand accused of it himself.

Again, is there ONE SINGLE Democrat in the world for whom this is a big problem? No. Is it a Republican angle that they hope to smear and attack Obama with? Yes.

The questions and lines of attack last night had every indication of having been handed down by Russert and Williams' corporate bosses, not in an attempt to provide informationa and insight to the voters who will make the choice, but to attack them with every possible issue they could to enable Republican efforts to make them look as bad as possible.

Russert seemed on the verge of hyper-ventilating when he asked one of his patented, and utterly stupid, hypotheticals. WHAT IF we announce a gradual withdrawal, and WHAT IF the Iraq government then says that we should just get the hell out completely and kicks us out, then WHAT IF al Queda starts... I don't know... building army bases or something? WHAT WILL YOU DO THEN?????!!!!!

Such questions don't serve any purpose except to aid the right wing in trying to give them something to distort into the Dems being weak on defense (GE, the parent company of MSNBC and Russert and Williams' boss, is the country's largest defense contractor.)

Hypothetical questions such as that are simply unserious and have no bearing on reality. But Russert felt that reeling out this Republican scenario and then demanding that the candidates respond was the thing to do.

Thankfully, both Clinton and Obama refused to fall for such nonsense. Fred Thompson and all the other Republican candidates flatly refused to give any response AT ALL to any hypothetical questions during one of their previous debates.

When Clinton responded by pointing out that Russert asks a lot of hyptothetical questions, Russert shot back, "But this is reality!", to which Clinton calmly informed him, no, it wasn't, it was a hypthetical he'd made up. Apparently Russert can't distinguish between dramatic scenarios he makes up in his head and reality.

Russert/Williams/NBC clearly feels it's more important to ratings to try to increase dramatic conflict between the candidates throughout, typically using Russert's shaky practice of constantly putting up video of past statemtents designed to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the candidates. But they couldn't even get that right, running the wrong clips at the wrong times.

Good moderating isn't a game of "stump the candidate" or do whatever you can to provoke an awkward moment or goad candidates into getting angry. But you couldn't tell from watching these guys.

How does playing candidates engaging in political campaigning, trying to knock their opponents, then demanding that they respond help inform voters? It doesn't. It simply is fodder to try to create conflict.

It's to the Dems credit that they largely refused to take the bait.

If this election is the one where people reject the politics of the past, let's hope that somehow it can reject the media coverage of the past as well and somehow get networks to actually take the matter more seriously than viewing it as just another reality show for people's entertainment.

The idea that they're providing a public service seems to the the last thing on their minds.

This was billed as Clinton's last shot at making her case. Instead, what is likely the last of 20 debates among Democrats, ended with two Bozos acting like they were on a last desperate effort to provide Republicans with something to work with.

Thankfully it didn't work as hoped.

It was really an embarassing effort by Russert and Williams and resulted in less being revealed about the candidates than previous debates, leaving the candidates themselves to try to discuss real issues that are important to voters, rather than the distracting attempts to pin them on issues only of interest to those who want to deny either of them the White House.


I wrote the above only moments after getting done watching a recording of the debate, so it's a little nice to see that the blogosphere is full of people who observed the same thing, namely, how disgusting Russert's performance was.

This post at Crooks and Liars provides a video clip of perhaps Russert's worst moment among many during the debate... the positively frantic attempt to insinuate that Obama is somehow anti-semitic and not to be trusted.

It also provides links to several other posts decrying Russert's performance as a Republican shill, lazy and shallow journalist, and someone more out to inject himself into things than provide any illumination.

Of particular interest are the posts at Digby's Hullabaloo, Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo and Illinois' own Arch Pundit.

Thanks to a loyal reader for steering me to the C&L post.

February 24, 2008

Random thoughts on the campaign

Clinton is apparently using Captain Kangaroo's suit designer.

Obama is left handed and clutches his pen/pencil between his thumb and forefinger.

In a typical Midwestern manner, Obama pronounces the word "to as "ta". As in "We need ta bring lower costs ta health care."

The press is determined to denigrate and dismiss Clinton at every opportunity and ascribe calculating or negative motives to literally everything she does, says, or even appears to be doing or saying.

Pundits nauseatingly leaped on her for the touching moment at the end of the most recent debate in which she sincerely professed how honored she was to be running along side Obama, immediately suggesting that it must mean that she had given up entirely and was resigned that she'd lost the race, or saying that it was all just an act, a calculated move to generate "pity" votes.

And these were the same pundits who have whined long and loud demanding that Clinton be "more human" and show her "real" side, connect to audiences and stop being so scripted.

And this is what happens when she does.

It's truly gross in it's cynicism and unfairness. There seems to be a rule that you must NOT give Clinton a break.

In the foggy distant past (11 days ago) the day after the Potomac primaries and when Clinton still held a slight lead over Obama, I flatly stated that Obama would win both the nomination and the presidency. I still believe what will be the case, but a part of me enjoys the thought of Clinton actually becoming the nominee.

Not because I think she will be, but because it would prove literally ALL the pundits and people in Democratic politics dead wrong.

Almost across the board, they share a secret fear that Clinton, with her high negatives, would galvanize the right and rally the Republicans into a massive effort to defeat her, with a good chance that they would.

But this is utterly wrong-headed, as has been previously proven.

The idea I secretly relish is that Hillary and Bill would be right out there in their faces as the Democratic nominee.

This would most certainly inspire a near rabid reaction from the right, to be sure. On this they're right.

But what they fail to realize is that the Clinton's literally drive the right OUT OF THEIR MINDS.

Through decades of hate campaigns and the circulation of stories and myths matched in their utter fiction only by the level of hateful gullibility with which they've been adopted as fact by the mouth-breathing right, these people would literally come unglued if Hillary were poised to take the White House.

We all know what this would mean.

It would mean that they'd go way, way, WAYYYY overboard, be unable to resist putting out things that were SO ugly, SO unbelievable, SO preposterous and hateful, that it would blow up in their faces.

Hillary, of course, would sail along above it all, and with every salvo of increasingly insane attacks they'd launch, the more she'd serenely and confidently brush it aside and continue to focus on winning.

And every time she'd escape their rabid unhinged attacks, they'd only spend MORE millions and get MORE extreme and literally insane in their rage and hatred.

And in the end, the public would reject these efforts by rich, radical nut-cases, and soundly and clearly reject their negative and hateful "politics of the past" which treats them like idiots, and the American voters would elect Clinton president of the United States, partly as a clear rejection of the cynical and demeaning Republican style of division, distortion, and lies.

Yeah, that would have a certain deliciousness.

Too bad it won't happen.

Ralph Nader announced that he's running for president for the third time around this morning on Meet the Press.

I'm not sure how I feel about it at the moment, but I will say something radical, which is that Ralph Nader is most definitely NOT a radical. He's perfectly rational, his issues are perfectly important and relevant, and he has every right to put them forward if none of the two party candidates wants to do so.

I share his sense of outrage at the clear efforts of the two parties to raise artificially high bars to allowing third party candidates to either get on the ballot, or if they achieve that, to participate in debates.

The transcript of a portion of Nader's own words from today's Meet the Press appear below.

In the meantime, you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about Nader and what he's fighting for at www.votenader.org.

Nader announcement

The following is a transcript of some of Ralph Naders remarks on Meet the Press in announcing his third run for the presidency.

Full transcript and videocast of the program available here.

In this excerpt, Nader lays out some of the problems he sees unaddressed by the candidates of the two parties and his response to the Democratic attempt to blame his campaign for their loss in 2000.

Nader's contentions are certainly worth reading.

MR. RUSSERT: Will you run for president as an independent in 2008?

MR. NADER: Let me put it in context, to make it a little more palatable to people who have closed minds. Twenty-four percent of the American people are satisfied with the state of the country, according to Gallup. That's about the lowest ranking ever. Sixty-one percent think both major parties are failing. And, according to Frank Luntz's poll, a Republican, 80 percent would consider voting for a independent this year.

Now, you take that framework of people feeling locked out, shut out, marginalized, disrespected and you go from Iraq to Palestine/Israel, from Enron to Wall Street, from Katrina to the bungling of the Bush administration, to the complicity of the Democrats in not stopping him on the war, stopping him on the tax cuts, getting a decent energy bill through, and you have to ask yourself, as a citizen, should we elaborate the issues that the two are not talking about?

And all the candidates--McCain, Obama and Clinton--are against single payer health insurance, full Medicare for all. I'm for it, as well as millions of Americans and 59 percent of physicians in a forthcoming poll this April. People don't like Pentagon waste, a bloated military budget, all the reports in the press and in the GAO reports. A wasteful defense is a weak defense. It takes away taxpayer money that can go to the necessities of the American people. That's off the table to Obama and Clinton and McCain.

The issue of labor law reform, repealing the notorious Taft-Hartley Act that keeps workers who are now more defenseless than ever against corporate globalization from organizing to defend their interests. Cracking down on corporate crime. The media--the mainstream media repeatedly indicating how trillions of dollars have been drained and fleeced and looted from millions of workers and investors who don't have many rights these days, and pensioners.

You know, when you see the paralysis of the government, when you see Washington, D.C., be corporate-occupied territory, every department agency controlled by overwhelming presence of corporate lobbyists, corporate executives in high government positions, turning the government against its own people, you--one feels an obligation, Tim, to try to open the doorways, to try to get better ballot access, to respect dissent in America in the terms of third parties and, and independent candidates; to recognize historically that great issues have come in our history against slavery and women rights to vote and worker and farmer progressives, through little parties that never ran--won any national election.

Dissent is the mother of ascent. And in that context, I have decided to run for president.

MR. RUSSERT: As you know, Ralph Nader, they'll be Democrats all across the country who are going to find this very disturbing news, and they'll point again to 2000. This was the vote count. Al Gore winning the popular vote, but you've got 2.7 percent, nearly three million votes, in 2000. Then Florida, Florida, Florida. As you remember, George Bush won Florida by 537 votes. You've got 97,488. Democrat after Democrat says to this day, Ralph Nader, if your name had not been on that ballot, Al Gore would've carried Florida. Exit polls show he would've carried Nader voters 2-to-1. Gore would've been president and not George Bush. You, Ralph Nader are responsible for what has happened the last seven years.

MR. NADER: Not, not George Bush? Not the Democrats in Congress? Not the voters who voted for George Bush? But there were Democrats in Florida, 250,000 of them. You know, I wish we'd have Al Gore on this program someday Tim and ask him, "Why did you not become president in 2000?" And I think what he's going to tell you is he thought he did win Florida, but it was taken from him before, during and after the election from Tallahassee. Katherine Bush--you know the secretary of the state...

MR. RUSSERT: Katherine Harris.

MR. NADER: Harris, rather, and Jeb Bush, all the way to that terribly politicized Supreme Court decision. But the, the political bigotry that's involved here is that we shouldn't enter the electoral arena? We, all of us who, who, who think that the country needs an infusion of freedom, democracy, choice, dissent should just sit on the sidelines and watch the two parties own all the voters and turn the government over to big business? What's really important here is, if you want to look at it analytically, is there--Mr. Gore would, would tell you if he won Tennessee, anything else being equal, he would've been president. It's his home state. If he won Arkansas, everything else being equal, he would've been president. The mayor of Miami sabotaged the Democrats because of a grudge, didn't bring thousands of votes out. Quarter of a million Democrats voted for Bush in Florida. There is all kinds of thievery in Florida.

So why do they blame the Greens? Why do they blame the people all over the country who are trying to have a progressive platform, not just the environment. What was their crime? Why, why, why isn't there tolerance for candidates' rights the way there is a building tolerance over the last 50 years for voter rights? Because without voter rights, candidate rights don't mean much. And without candidate rights--more voices and choices--voter rights don't mean much. I--I'm amazed at the liberal intelligencia here. They are analytic and they deal with all kinds of variables, but when it comes to 2000 election, it's just one variable.

And I might add that Solon Simmons and other scholars--he teaches at George Mason--have shown that by pushing Gore to take more progressive stands, he got more votes than the votes he allegedly--were withdrawn from for the Green party. Twenty-five percent of my vote, according to a Democratic pollster, exit poll, would've gone to Bush. Thirty-nine percent would've gone to Gore and the rest would've stayed home. Every major--every third party in Florida got more votes than the 537 vote gap. So let's get over it and try to have a diverse multiple choice, multiple party democracy the way they have in Western Europe and Canada. This bit of, of spoiler is really very astonishing. These are the two parties who've spoiled our electoral system, money, they can't even count the votes, they steal--the Republicans steal the votes, and the Democrats knock third party candidates off the ballot. That's their specialty these days.

February 23, 2008

Obama on out-off-control private military

Sen. Obama has made his views known on rogue, secretive, private military for profit companies. These outfits are paid a staggering amount, hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars, amassing literally an armed force that outnumbers uniformed military in Iraq. They own and operate so many aircraft that they're literally amassing their own air force.

Obama realizes the implications of allowing corporations such as Blackwater to get so large they're out of control, and the dire prospects that they'll be used in the future within the U.S., as they were during Hurricane Katrina where armed Blackwater patrols roamed the streets accountable to no one and under no one's command.

Local politicians are utterly clueless and/or willfully blinded by getting some benefit out of allowing this to happen under our noses.

It doesn't take a lot of brainpower to see the potential for real problems with this situation, conflicts with regular military, local law enforcement, etc.

Do we really want a bunch of highly armed professional thugs employed to keep order, with the perceived authority to shoot to kill, detain or arrest citizens, etc.?

Local pols have been quiet about this issue, with the exception of one peculiar commenter who thinks Blackwater is needed because our military just can't handle doing what Blackwater does, (nonsense) and since there's large sums of money involved and flying around, this person likely sees a lot of it coming his way and couldn't care less about what it may lead to or whether the very concept of military for profit, accountable to no one but stockholders, is a good idea.

They couldn't care less about the large Blackwater operation expanding nearby, and won't say a word about it, UNLESS someone in the local press pursues the matter and makes a point to do their research and press these politicians about it.

I don't recall the American people being asked whether they wanted to fund such private armies, do you? As a matter of fact, they've become billion dollar behemouths without your government saying a word about it. It's only when they got murdered, mutilated, and hung from a bridge (the relatives of these mercenaries are sueing allegeing a total cover-up by the company and horribly callous treatment of family members, including lying and denying information.) or when they stage murders of innocent Iraqi civilians that they get into the news at all. Otherwise, they'd be reaping their millions without the public even being aware of what's happening.

Contracting out laundry or mess services is one thing, hiring a for-profit company to create a shadow military is another entirely.

The people have a right to know what stance our representatives are taking with regard to having a multi-million dollar armed camp in our midst.

I'd humbly suggest that this is a ripe topic for a local media outlet to pursue. I'd be happy to point them to resources to bring them up to speed with the huge Blackwater base expanding just north of the Quads.

Want private military for profit in American streets?

As an update to the post below regarding a bill conceived by Illinois State Rep. Julie Hamos, the "Limitations on Private Military Contractors Act", it's been learned that Representative Hamos is waiting until she receives at least five co-sponsors before bringing the bill to the floor for debate and vote.

This would be a great opportunity for our local representitives Boland and Verschoore to take a principled stand against the real possibility of such for-profit miitary corporations being used to patrol and arrest Illinois citizens.

The bill does nothing to stop their questionable activities abroad, but lays down a marker of sorts to ensure that their plans to expand into domestic security isn't welcome in our state.

Where do these legislators stand on this issue, and will they lend their names as co-sponsors of this far-sighted and reasonable bill?

February 21, 2008

Time for local legislators to step to the plate.

Rep. Julie Hamos has introduced a bill into the Illinois legislation called the Limitations on Private Military Contractors Act which establishes as public policy that private military contractors should not receive state funding or support in Illinois.

The bill sets 3 important limitations on their function and use:

1. No state funds may be used to contract with or purchase services from private military contractors for training of law enforcement or security Guards.

2. No military weapons or explosives may be used by private military contractors in Illinois except on secured U.S. military bases or regulated facilities.

3. No personnel trained by private military contractors may be used to patrol, guard, control, contain or arrest any Illinois resident.

This legislation shows foresight and should be supported by all Illinois residents who don't wish to have their tax dollars shoveled into supporting a multi-billion dollar military-for-hire corporation who've been involved in many reckless murders in Iraq and who's plans include patrolling areas within the United States.

In light of Blackwater's huge expansion plans for their camp just north of the Quad Cities this is a measure of importance to our area.

Check out State Representitive Hamo's web page. It puts to shame any sites of our elected officials, and instead of dry, lame self-promotion only, with pages that offer nothing but pictures of the politician, it's full of information and insight into what's going on and what Hamo's is working on, and light on fluff.

Hamos even provides some substance, such as her thoughtful and engaging year end appraisal of the legislative session. These are the things that inform constituents and also show that their representitive has a brain and what she's working on and why.

Do our Reps. Boland and Verschoore and Sen. Jacobs support her reasonable and much needed bill?

Note: Barack Obama supports regulating out of control private military.

Comments left here indicate to me that Sen. Jacobs doesn't share Obama's views, if Jacobs even has any views on this important constitutional issue.

February 20, 2008

McCain's corrupt relationship with female lobbyist

Breaking in the NY Times:

Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, in his offices and aboard a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s clients, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.

This is from nearly 10 years ago, apparently, but it certainly ties McCain in to the Republican culture of corruption, including the matter of his being a member of the notorious "Keating 5" in the past, a giant ethical blot on his record that has been largely unmentioned until now. (McCain is the only member of the Keating 5 still in congress.)

While some will charge scandal mongering, I look at the piece as a sort of "Meet your Candidate" sort of pulic service. The article in the New York Times provides a thorough background on McCain's involvement in his relationship with this lobbyist, as well as his past background involving scandal and attempts at playing the reformer.

McCain, old, grizzled, mired in the dubious ethics of D.C. and incestuous relationships with lobbyists, promising more war and less jobs, and a grim march into a grim future, vs. Barack Obama.

I'll take that match-up any day.

February 19, 2008

Funny business

I caught Lewis Black's "History of the Joke" on the History Channel last night. It was a really interesting and funny show, interviewing dozens of famous and not-so-famous comics about what components make up "the perfect joke", why people laugh, and other topics.

It reminded me of one of the all time funniest movie/documentaries I've seen in my life, (or am likely to), "The Aristocrats", in which, again, dozens of comedians tell and disect a joke who's claim to fame is that the sicker, more absolutely gross, more disgusting and twisted you can make the set up, the funnier the punch line, which happens to be, "The Aristocrats!" (Ironically, one of the most vile, sick (and funny) renditions in the film is delivered by Bob Saget, the Funniest Home Videos guy.)

At any rate, thought I'd share a few of the jokes from the show. (Just pretend it's someone really funny delivering them.) I may add a few more later.

The first couple are G rated.

Q. Why was the raspberry sad?
A. Because his mother was in a jam.

Knock, knock.
Who's there?
Oswald who?
Oswald my bubble gum.

Then there's...

A guy walks goes to see a doctor,
The doctor tells him, "You've got to stop masturbating."

"Stop masturbating? Why?"

"I'm trying to give you an exam." (rim shot)

OK, OK, I remember another. (don't stop me, I'm on a roll.)
I'll clean this one up a little.

A guy and a woman are standing in an elevator.

As they stand there, the woman asks, "Can I smell your butt?"

The guy responds indignantly, "No."

The woman says, "Oh, then it must be your feet."

Thank you... thank you.... I'll be here all week.
Don't forget to try the veal.

A Nation of Dunces

A loyal reader has tipped me to a piece in the Washington Post by Susan Jacoby, the author of "The Age of Unreason", a book previously discussed here a couple days ago.

Jacoby elaborates on "the dumbing of America" and it's well worth a read.

Having experienced the glut of truly stupid and/or ignorant people who felt called to leave comments here, as well as witnessing the progressive dumbness of popular TV shows and the shallow, ignorant laziness of many TV pundits and "news" people, those paid millions and charged with informing the American public on issues critical to our well-being on widely watched "news" shows, and have long wondered just what the hell is going on.

I'm just glad I'm not the only one who's noticed.

What the...?!

I was watching yesterday's episode of "Hardball" when Chris Matthew's began the show by introducing the topic of the Clinton campaign's rather desperate attempt to cry plagiarism against Obama for having used some catch phrases that had also been used by his close friend and ally and Massachusetts governor, Deval Patrick.

Patrick issued a statement saying he didn't mind a bit, that he and Obama often trade thoughts and ideas and that he'd used some of Obama's phrases in the past. The Obama campaign also cited several instances of where Clinton had cadged phrases that Obama had used first as well.

As a matter of fact, Obama is shown on tape on at least one occasion actually saying, "as my good friend Deval Patrick puts it...." before he uses the phrase about "just words" that are in question.

This didn't stop Pitchfork Pat from trying to insist that this was just as bad, just the same, as when Joe Biden was caught plagiarising nearly word for word a huge chunk of a speech from British labor party leader Neil Kinnock. This happened early into Biden's previous run for president, and it sunk his campaign.

One, borrowing a phrase from a close friend and supporter, one directly stealing the written words of a politician you've never met. Yes, there is a difference.

Now with visions of Biden dancing in their heads, folks like Buchannon, who knows better, and the Clinton campaign, who knows better too, are trying to make this phoney charge stick.

It wasn't unexpected for Matthews to discuss the issue, but the graphic shown to introduce the topic sure was.

Later in the show, Matthews briefly said the graphic was "a mistake" and appologized.

Gee, ya think? But seriously, what's going on at MSNBC? That's one hell of a "mistake". Was the graphics editor drunk? The obviously got the text correct, so who's idea of funny was it to put up Osama's picture?

Oh, I get it, Osama.... Obama... hey, they sound alike. VERY funny. Oh, make them stop.

Kind of ironic that as Matthews and Pat Buchanon were raking Obama over the coals for what amounts to a big nothing burger, saying he should be more careful about making mistakes, Matthew's own show is getting this slopppy.

But later in the show, Matthews made up for any misdeeds by running this picture and heroically refraining from any snide remarks.

Finally, Bush getting the respect he deserves during his tour of Africa.

If we don't continue giving the very wealthiest a giant tax break, how will we survive?

The top one percent of households received 21.8 percent of all pre-tax income in 2005, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s. (The top one percent's share of total income bottomed out at 8.9 percent in 1976.) This is the greatest concentration of income since 1928, when 23.9 percent of all income went to the richest one percent. (Piketty and Saez)

The above figures include capital gains, which are strongly affected by the ups and downs of the financial markets. Excluding capital gains, the richest one percent claimed 17.4 percent of all pre-tax income in 2005, more than double what that figure was in the 1970s. (It bottomed out at 7.8 percent in 1973.) This is the greatest concentration of income since 1936, when the richest one percent received 17.6 percent of total income. (Piketty and Saez)

Between 1979 and 2005, the top five percent of American families saw their real incomes increase 81 percent. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth saw their real incomes decline 1 percent. (Census Bureau)

In 1979, the average income of the top 5 percent of families was 11.4 times as large as the average income of the bottom 20 percent. In 2005, the ratio was 20.9 times. (EPI, State of Working America 2006-07, Figure 1J)

All of the income gains in 2005 went to the top 10 percent of households, while the bottom 90 percent of households saw income declines. (EPI Snapshot, March 28, 2007)

Bear in mind that the data in the charts below only reflect data through 3 or 4 years ago. With Bush giving them everything they ask for, the top 1% has continued widening the gap since then.

The gulf between rich and poor is approaching it's historic high not seen since 1928, just prior to the great depression.

The rich are getting richer, and the rate at which they're leaving the other 99% of us behind is accelerating.

This tells the story. Top 1% of the wealthy control 34.3% of the wealth, the next 9% control an additional 36.9, and the bottom 90% possess just 28.7% of the country's wealth. And these are figures from 4 years ago. The proportions are likely even more skewed today.

This shows the rate at which income has grown for the top 5% wealthiest people in the U.S., and the rest of Americans divided into 5 equal groups. While the lowest 20%'s income has actually fallen since 1987, the richest 5% has grown a full 81% and the rate is accelerating.

How has your after-tax income been faring? If you were in the top 1%, you've been doing pretty well. Your after tax income rose 176% in just the five years ending in 2004.

And of course, we can't forget those poor, put-upon CEOs, the ones who, if you listen to Republicans, are practically on street corners selling pencils, they're taxed so heavily. Here's how they did compared to the average wage earner.

Despite the incessant yammering of right wing ideologues and propagandists trying to convince us that the tax burden is simply crushing us, the U.S. already enjoys one of the very lowest tax rates as a percentage of GDP in the world.

Beyond that, those wealthy enough to fall within the top tax bracket in the U.S. have been paying 35%, the lowest rate in 14 years.

As this chart shows, the only time the top tax rate has been lower is prior to the great depression. In order to pull the country out of the economic crash that corrolated with top rates of only 24%, the rate was raised nearly 40% to 63%, and rose steeply after that.

Between 1932 and 1986, the top rate was never lower than 50%, much less during a time of war. As a matter of fact, during World War II, the top tax rate paid by the very wealthy reached a whopping 94%!!! How did we survive?

Under the anti-tax zealots arguments, that should have utterly destroyed our entire economy. Yet oddly, the post war years were one of the biggest booms in U.S. history.

They often point out that JFK cut tax rates, but during his administration, the top rate simply went back down to 91% from 92%. Not exactly the same as Bush's reckless slashing.

The only period in modern history that the top tax rate has been lower than it stands today is the two years from 1988 through 1990, when it stood at 33%, and for one year, 1991, when it was 31%, a rate, by the way, that was unsustainable and forced Bush I to raise rates again.

See the chart titled, "Partial History of U.S. Federal Income Tax Rates Since 1913"

February 17, 2008

Happy Birthday to this

It kind of slipped past, but Valentine's Day marked the third anniversary of the launch of The Inside Dope. Guess that makes this the granddaddy of local blogs.

Some numbers may be in order:

Number of visits: 305,669
Total page views: 485,708
Average visits per day: 441

Number of posts written: 2,249

Number of comments (excluding my own): over 10,000

February 16, 2008

Inside Dope juke

I'd forgotten how much I like Lucinda Williams. She's not like the other girls.

Thought I'd share a couple faves...



Changed the Locks

I thought I'd try to add a little description for these, but found it was impossible, which is probably why I like them so much.

You'll need the free RealPlayer (or iTunes) to listen.

Of interest is that Bo Ramsey from Washington, IA performed on two of William's albums, 1998's "Car Wheels on a Gravel Road", and 2001's "Essence" after having opened for her on tour in 1994.

Ramsey has played electric and slide guitar with popular bands in eastern Iowa ranging back to Mother Blues in the 70's, to his band the Sliders beyond that, before branching out into producing other Iowa talents and establishing a distinct Iowa blend of folk, blues, country and rock.

Attention java junkies

Today (Saturday 16) is the grand opening of Youth Hope Coffee, a business set up by the Christian Friendliness organization. The shop is owned and operated by students with the goal of teaching them through experience what's involved in successfully running a business and to develop work ethics.

Youth Hope Coffee offers a convenient drive-thru window and is located on the south-west corner of 41st and 12th avenue in Moline.

Christian Friendliness has really been doing big things since aquiring property at the location a few years ago. It now includes a gym, a game room, several other meeting rooms, offices, and a portion of the building which is intended to eventually house an auto detailing service with the same goals as the coffee shop.

Stop by, get some great coffee, support a good organization, and help them off to a good start. (I think Starbucks will survive.)

The Age of Unreason

** UPDATE ** A piece in the New York Times discusses "The Age of Unreason" and elaborates on the hostility towards knowledge that is pervading our culture.

Bill Moyers routinely offers thoughtful and interesting topics and interviews on his "Bill Moyer's Journal", offered on PBS and aired locally Sundays at 10:00 p.m. on WQPT and Fridays at 9:00 p.m. on KIIN (channels 10 and 12 respectively on Mediacom cable.)

Moyer's usually has authors who've written on topics that affect the country's political discourse and debate, such as the role of religion in politics, media coverage and shaping of our political discourse, and last week, the impact of the staggering national debt.

But Moyer's also interviewed guest Susan Jacoby, author of "The Age of Unreason".

Her topic was of particular interest as I'd been wanting to write something about the incredibly frustrating (to me) fact that arguments and rationales offered by Republicans so often simply don't make sense when you apply even a small amount of thought, yet no one seems to notice or care.

For instance, the argument for banning gay marriage holds that if it's permitted, that it will somehow destroy traditional marriage. That's lunacy, of course, yet it's allowed to be repeated unchallenged, and without demanding that those spouting it explain exactly how this could possibly be true. (That is, in the real world we live in, not the land of right wing propaganda where reality and logic are nothing but quaint notions.)

Or the whacky argument that we have to send soldiers to their deaths and spend trillions in a spectacularly ineffective and fruitless effort in Iraq, or we'll have to fight the terrorists here, maybe on Brady Street or something. Preposterous, illogical, an utterly false choice, yet again, treated as a credible argument and completely believed by millions of dupes.

Or perhaps the notion put forward by McCain that we again have to keep sending soldiers into a meat-grinder for little or no benefit or else it will allow the "terrorists" so sing and dance and say, "In your FACE, America" and boast that they had "beat" us somehow. McCain says THAT possibility, in effect, would be a fate worse than death, the deaths of thousands more good Americans and innocent Iraqis to be specific.

I don't know about you, but frankly, I don't really much give a damn what that handful of lunatic terrorists think. I'm not going to support dragging our country down the tubes just for bragging rights. It makes not a lick of sense, is irrational and irresponsible, yet again, millions seem to think it's a great way of thinking and are all for sending other people to their deaths to avoid the spectre of a handful of nut-jobs thinking they'd defeated us. It's insane.

I mean, come on now people. If you're going to be fooled and mislead, at LEAST make it harder than THAT! I mean, shouldn't politicians have to at least WORK at pulling the wool over your eyes? Just how damn gullible can you BE?

Or one of the biggest illogical hoaxes, the notion that if you let the very richest Americans pay little or no taxes, that the country will magically reap more tax revenue and everyone will benefit. Hows that for wishful thinking?

We even have one wild and crazy commenter here that would like to argue (endlessly) for this notion with anyone that wants to waste their time. Of course, his argument consists entirely of quoting right wing anti-tax group figures and simply saying anyone who doesn't believe in the patently illogical notion that the more you cut revenue, the more it increases revenue, just doesn't "get it".

If I click my heels together three times will it help?

Jacoby notes that such absurd and patently false notions are treated as somehow sane due to the fact that the right has adopted a "vocabulary that makes wishful thinking sound rational."

She used the example of the right's argument that the surge is working.

Yes, when we sent in thousands more soldiers, the incidence of suicide bombings went down. But that is comparing apples to oranges. How many suicide attacks were there before we invaded the country?

That's right boys and girls, exactly ZERO.

So can the surge really be considered success? And what happens when we begin to draw down troop levels, as has already begun (though recently slowed down)?

Of course, violence will likely spike right back up.

Yet the right wing has many gullible and otherwise intelligent people convinced that they've cracked the case, that we're finally "winning" in Iraq, therefore it would be folly or even disastrous if we began to drawdown our military presence there. It just isn't so.

How many times have you heard Bush or some Republican put forth some facts or an argument that made the little truth alarm in your head go off? Yet you then hear it repeated by sober looking people and begin to doubt your own sense or reality and reason?

It happens nearly daily, as recently when Bush said ominously that somewhere, ter'ists were plotting an unthinkable horrible attack on YOU and your family, and if congress didn't give him the ability to spy on you and your family without any control or oversight whatsoever, then your blood would be on Democrat's hands.

But yet he announced he'd refuse to sign a bill extending this illegal spying (according to him, the only thing between us and terrorist annihilation) unless it gave telecom companies that allowed him to spy on you without court order immunity from lawsuits.

Just try to absorb the cognitive dissonance in that move alone.

Here's what we're being asked to believe, as best as I can put it.

Dems are putting the entire country in dire peril by not agreeing to extend illegal wiretapping provisions. Bush's own security chiefs note that this will not affect the surveillance in the slightest, but after a year, if it's allowed to expire, they'll have to (horrors) ask the rubber stamp FISA court to grant a warrent, even if they do so two days AFTER having begun the surveillance. This is how things stood before Bush insisted that he must be able to spy completely without anyone knowing what they were doing, or who or what they were spying on.

THAT's the big issue. Bush is simply insisting it's too much trouble to get a warrent, even retroactively, from a court which grants 99.99999% of all warrant requests. That's what is putting us in near certain peril of terrorist attack.

And as if that wasn't a huge enough lie, he then turns around and refuses to agree to extend what he says we urgently need because the Dems won't allow the Republicans to ram through telecom amnesty with little or no debate.

Amnesty for telecom giants, who supposedly did nothing wrong. But even though they have done nothing wrong or illegal, Bush is willing to do what he's trying mightily to say the Dems are doing, namely putting us all in jeopardy of near certain calamity and horrid death (according to Bush) by refusing to do anything unless the Dems are steamrolled into granting protection for his buddies in the telecom corporations.

And what's the argument for giving them a free pass? Why, that they're outstanding patriots who voluntarily cooperated to protect us all from evil, and they shouldn't be exposed to the possibility they might be punished, because that would put a "chill" on corporations to "help out" in the future. And by "helping out", we of course mean secretly complying with blatantly illegal and unconsitutional actions against all of us in secret with no notice that our privacy is being invaded.

Yes, this is really what Republicans are arguing.

Right wingers then flock to try to somehow rationalize and defend what clearly makes no sense or doesn't hold up to rational thought. And the result is these preposterous efforts to convince people that they should ignore logic and instead embrace their wishful thinking. (Which of course has little to do with reality at all.)

Jacoby also points to intellectuals on the left whom she believes mistakenly feel that all that needs to be done is to focus people on the outrages of Bush and the Republicans and create a backlash. She feels that the real problem, and where those on the left should instead focus, is the massive, "ignorance and erosion of historical memory that make serious deceptions possible and plausible."

We see a lot of this as well. The example she touched on is the utter disregard for the sacrosanct (until Bush) notion of separation of powers, and their attempts to destroy it by many means, including Bush asserting that he has the right to enter into long term treaties without any approval by congress, as he did in signing an agreement to support and defend Iraq recently, despite it being stated about as clear as it can get in the constitution that only congress has such authority.

The instances of this abuse are numerous and most people aren't even aware of it, yet it's been going on ever since Bush/Cheney got into office, complete with dozens of "signing statements" whereby Bush simply declares that he doesn't agree with a law that the legislature passed, so he therefore is not going to recognize it or obey it.

The Bush administration has long held a position of the "unitary executive", a complex legal theory which essentially holds that the President hold unlimited power, is essentially a dictator who doesn't need to get permission from congress or the courts for anything, nor does he or anyone in his administration have to respond to congressional requests for information (which is why congressional Dems finally stood on their hind legs and cited his lawyer and chief of staff for contempt of congress for simply refusing to even show up when subpoenaed by congress), and that anything he does is legal, simply by virtue that it's the president who wants to do it. And no, this is not an exaggeration.

Or another favorite right wing fairy tale, that of the supposed "out of control judiciary", which maintains that judges have no right to rule against, well, them or what they want.

They argue that judges have no right to issue interpretations of the constitution that they don't agree with, when in fact, they not only have that right, it's their sworn DUTY to do just that.

Yet if any judge issues a ruling that they believe defends the constitution against right wing efforts to subvert it, the judge and court are then scorned as evil "activist judges", condemned for "making law from the bench", code meaning that they issue a ruling they don't agree with.

The fact that this is nothing but a slimy attempt to intimidate and villify judges who happen to issue rulings they don't agree with, all wrapped up in illogical pseudo-intellectual window-dressing is clear, yet millions still buy such tripe.

Jacoby also posited an interesting notion. She holds that a good and effective president should not so much be the "commander-in-chief", but the "educator-in-chief", in that they should endeavor to educate the American people about the issues they hope to take action on BEFORE their opponents are able to throw millions in PR bucks into propaganda to mislead the public against it.

She argues that a president has to provide the public with factual information so that they can participate, feel involved, and come to informed conclusions.

She cited Clinton and Bush as being horrible at this.

For an example, she cited the failed effort of the Clintons to reform the health-cares system. She noted that the conventional wisdom is that the insurance lobby effectively crushed it. Not so, Jacoby argues.

She said the Clinton's mistake was in developing this plan largely in the dark, then springing it on the public. The insurance lobby then put out their infamous "Harry and Louise" ad which distorted the issue before people knew what the hell the Clintons were talking about. It allowed the corporate lobby to distort and put out all sorts of false notions to a public which didn't know any better, and it was effective enough to swing public doubt against the Clinton's proposed changes.

What Jacoby argues is that a good president would have begun an effort to inform the public and draw them into the debate early. They would have explained the issues, made an effort to distribute information that people could educate themselves with, explaining and contrasting various approaches to dealing with the health care crisis, what's at stake, and making them see the benefits of what they would propose, as well as the need for it. But this needs to be done BEFORE the opponents are able to distort the issue and mislead the public with a "Harry and Louise" style PR effort.

An informed and knowledgable public is FAR less likely to buy such patent lies and distortions, which brings us to the reason not much is done to stem the growing stupidity of the public. Because the stupider and more gullible we are, the easier it is for corporate interests to get us to go along with what is in THEIR best interests and often against our own.

Have you been concerned at the dumbing down of the rationales and arguments for what the Republicans want to do? Has it ever struck you that these jack-asses often don't even care if they make sense or not?

When you hear Mitt Romney, a guy that could have been president, say flat out that Democrats want to surrender to terrorists, do you not wonder how we've come to this point, where a legitimate political leader could even THINK of uttering such a contemptible lie in public?

Have any other examples of this seeming bizarroworld that we've been hauled into in the past 8 years?

And isn't this part of the reason so many have so much hope for Barack Obama? That he won't subject us to such blatant disrespect as to repeatedly lie to us for personal political gain, and might start treating us like adults?

If you'd like to see more of this interesting interview, and let her speak for herself in a MUCH more cogent and persuasive way, hop over to the Bill Moyer's Journal website and watch it yourself. Better yet, make sure to tape or catch it each week. You'll be the better for it.

More from the predator party.

Cadged from the estimable Roger Ailes (not THAT Roger Ailes)

Robert A. McKee, a long-serving Republican delegate from Western Maryland, announced his resignation yesterday after authorities, who say they are conducting a child pornography investigation, seized two computers, videotapes and printed materials from his Hagerstown home.

First elected to the House of Delegates in 1994, McKee was chairman of the Western Maryland delegation and sponsored legislation to protect minors from sexual predators. McKee, 58, also resigned yesterday from his post as executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Washington County, a child mentorship program where he has worked for 29 years.

February 14, 2008

Thursday night video

Caught this on CNN...

A response to the McCain's apparent campaign theme by way of a parody of the popular "Yes, We Can" video posted here a few days ago.

And I think it might be appropriate to play this at some point during Obama rallies. Seems to fit the mood of the times.

Longtime R.I. County Democratic Chairman Gianulis to resign

John Gianulis, chairman of the R.I. County Democratic Central Committee for over 40 years, has announced his resignation of the post due to health concerns.

Gianulis has led the county party to a remarkable run of electoral success over the years, ensuring that Democratic candidates have dominated the area at county, state, and national levels for decades.

Now in his early 80's, Gianulis continued to retain his seemingly boundless energy and focus but has decided to step down due to health issues.

Best wishes to John G. and gratitude for his very long and successful efforts in behalf of the Democratic party and candidates.

One of the very first posts on this blog almost exactly three years ago posed the question of who should take the reigns as county chair after Gianulis.

It would be impossible to fill Gianulis' shoes, but who would be the best to succeed him as county chair? Aside from who would be best, who likely will?

And feel free to offer your thoughts on the legendary John G.

Republicans insist on protecting us from certain terror attack, unless giant telecom corporations are not protected from lawsuits... then not so much.

This is truly outrageous.

President Bush comes on yesterday to intone that somewhere terr'ists are planning an attack so devastating that it would make 9-11 "pale by comparison". And... he went on, this will happen unless congress agrees to continue to allow our government to spy on our telephone and internet communications at will, with no court oversight, and no warrents. Just whenever they feel like it.

They've been doing this for a long time, and it's been revealed that giant telecom corporations have illegally allowed them to come into their facilities and essentially reroute all internet and phone traffic onto government computers. Not just communication from known terror suspects to Americans. Not just communications outside the country either inbound or outbound, but ALL communications. The last e-mail you sent likely went to the government, as your phone calls.

Many people don't think this is constitutional, let alone legal, and have filed suit against the telecom giants for illegally assisting the government in illegal spying on U.S. citizens, namely, you and I.

So Bush tells us that the entire country is in peril of a horrendous attack unless congress allows him to continue spying literally without restraint or limit on all Americans.

BUT, unless the bill extending this Orwellian practice includes a provision that makes it impossible to sue the telecom giants for breach of privacy, he'll veto the bill.

So... let's see here... The country is under threat of serious attack, massive and devastating death and destruction. That's why the government must be allowed to spy on Americans without warrent and without judicial approval.

But evidently the threat isn't so bad that they can't allow the bill authorizing the spying to expire if their corporate pals aren't excluded from normal legal proceedures.

Bush tries to suggest that if Dems or anyone else thwarts this bill, we'll all die. But then when they offer to authorize it as it is, he refuses to sign it unless there are protections from any legal action against the telecoms.

Which is it? Is Bush lying his ass off about the threat involved? Or is he putting protecting his corporate buddies ahead of our security?

And now the Republicans in the House are staging some goofy stunt by walking out in protest of the Democrats efforts to stall the spying bill.

What's worse in all this is that it's passed the Senate and has made it through the house only due to many Dems, particularly those from the south, helping Bush in this effort.

But yet they don't think it's important enough to pass unless it sheilds corporations from lawsuits? It's not important enough to accomplish on it's own without this illegal protection for corporations who unquestioningly helped participate in unconstitutional spying on all of our communications?

The whole matter just reeks and is exhibit A of the sort of bull that Americans have simply had enough of from this crowd of idiots, who constantly use the threat of terror in a transparent attempt to sheild corporate interests.

Truly, Bush should be impeached for being willing to do so over and over again with impunity. If he was concerned about our security, he'd simply pass the bill. But unless it helps corporate interests, he won't. What does this tell you?

February 13, 2008

Barack Obama is our next President

After watching coverage of last night's "Potomac Primaries" and seeing the results, as well as heeding the numbers as they were crunched, I have no problem making such a bold statement.

Here's my opinion as to why it's come to this. It's VERY long, so for our more harried readers or those who simply want to cut to the chase, there's a very brief summation at the bottom and you can scroll to that.

If you've got a few minutes and are so daring as to risk actually considering my thoughts on the matter, read on.

Hillary Clinton's campaign is beginning to take on the aura of a tragedy, a seriously sad lost opportunity. A woman so eminently qualified, who has literally spent her entire life working and sacrificing to nearly super-human levels in her political career as well as her husband's, poised only a short time ago as being a near certain first female President of the United States, now inspiring the hoards of pundits and prognosticators to adopt an almost deathwatch mentality about her campaign.

Obama and Clinton are both such excellent candidates, each for their own reasons, not the least of which are the historical firsts they each represent. In that respect alone, I've long dreaded seeing one of them lose, as was inevitable. I could only hope that it was somewhat gentle and dignified, though losing such a hard-fought battle can never be anything but devastating.

If it's clear that Obama is the nominee, then at least initially, the great enthusiasm of that result will be tempered by the realization that Hillary Clinton lost. A woman who, if the Dems ran the party like the Republicans, would have been a lock, due to it being "her turn" so to speak, a person who's paid her dues in the trenches and then some. The most viable candidate in history to have a real chance at becoming this country's first female president, a result that would have heartened women around the world and reflected well on us as a nation. And that dream will be dead, at least for the moment, with no assurance that it will come again anytime soon.

Without going too far into the numbers and calculus of the thing, it appears now that Clinton will need to rack up nearly impossible margins of victory in the few states she still seems likely to win in order to emerge with enough pledged or regular delegates to then make it plausible for super delegates to give her the nomination. Number crunchers estimated that she'd need to win with a 60% or better plurality in Texas and Ohio to accomplish this.

If she emerges after these primaries trailing Obama by only a slim margin, it might allow the super-delegates to consider voting her way. But if it proves that she's behind by a considerable amount, that makes it that much tougher for super-delegates to then turn around and hand the nomination to her without risking an enormous firestorm of protest, a situation that all wish to avoid.

With staff being replaced and leaving, the whiff of money woes, and Obama's string of victories in the last two rounds of caucuses and primaries, it's allowing the pundits to begin sticking a fork in her campaign, as they did so consistently and often last night. One would pop up and try to urge moderation by saying that she's been down before and one should never count her out, but this was consistently overruled by assertions that Clinton is in deep, deep, trouble.

Why did Clinton falter when, after all, she was considered a mortal lock for the Dem nomination, flush with cash, at the controls of this huge and nearly unstoppable party organization nationwide, connections up the wazoo, and on and on?

Her campaign was simply too slow on the draw.

When the competing messages were shaping up as change vs. experience, I could see that was net loser for Clinton. People would argue that they wanted change, therefore, were supporting Obama.

I realized at the time and even observed here on more than one occasion that experience does NOT mean that you can't effect change, the ideas are clearly not mutually exclusive. That fact should be obvious, yet the Clintons were asleep at the switch, and allowed these competing themes to become entrenched, and allowed Obama to suggest that because she was "experienced", that therefore she couldn't, or wouldn't, bring the much needed "change" to the nation's politics.

Despite having the argument that you have GOT to have vast experience at working the levers of power in D.C. in order to bring about change, and therefore she was far better suited to get actual results than someone who could be portrayed as still wet behind the ears in navigating the corridors of power in the nation's capitol, she was effectively boxed in and silenced.

If she had been able to simply articulate this plainly, she could have effectively neutralized, or at least stalled, Obama’s' wildly successful premise that he was the only one truly capable of bring change, a premise upon which he's built his entire appeal.

Clinton let Obama steal a march.

Perhaps they were lulled by a false confidence. Perhaps they simply picked experience as a theme and were just too rigidly wedded to message discipline to be able to change or alter it on the fly. Who knows?

Though she tried to inject "change" into her message, sometimes to an almost comic degree as she did during one particular debate when she talked about how experienced she was at "making change" so repetitively it was as though she were running for laundromat attendant, not president of the United States.

But by then it was too late, and again, she didn't make the simple argument that you need experience in order to make things happen in D.C. They were apparently so scared of even mentioning her experience in Washington, fearing, rightly, that Obama would use it to further paint her as a creature of the "old" politics, that she was boxed in completely.

She couldn't make her case without having to weasel around it, she couldn't simply state that she had the experience in government to actually bring about change, rather than simply call for it.

And more than any other factor, Clinton simply has the historically tragic fate (for the chance of a woman president) of running against Barack Obama.

Despite the thousands of excuses or opinions of how Clinton lost the race (as I believe she will) the simplest and truest reason will likely be lost. The bottom line is that Obama was just more appealing to more people. It's not rocket science.

Despite the media obsession on slicing and dicing exit poll data and carving us up into nice, neat little demographic categories, reading the tea leaves and pronouncing the significance of how candidate X did with lower income rural white female college educated Lutherans, in the end, none of it matters.

Her opponent outdoes her on nearly every level, and brings more electricfying enthusiasm, crowds, devotion, and inspiration, than has been witnessed in generations. Obama represents something larger than himself, a powerful yearning for change away from the right wing politics that has so damaged our national mental health by promoting division and fear.

To her vast credit, Hillary has in effect been the underdog all along, but no one knew it yet. Obama is a phenomenon that would be hard for anyone to compete with. (It would be really tough for Abraham Lincoln to compete. (He'd probably never make it past Iowa these days. Too liberal, too ugly (ewwww! A mole!) and what's with that beard?! And the Republicans would run with the fact he once lived with another man and they slept in the same bed.)

The fact that Clinton has made it as close as it is serves as testament to her skill, savvy, intelligence, and drive. But in a race where even the smallest missteps can be incredibly costly, she's made a few, and that may end up being the difference.

If Clinton doesn't prevail, there will be thousands of post-mortems. Just thought I'd get mine in early.

More people find Obama appealing, more people agree with his message, and more people voted for him. Real simple.

In Obama's case, I sincerely don't think race and gender played nearly as large a role as some suggest. And even allowing for that, Clinton more than offset any racial advantage for Obama with her wide, but increasingly dwindling, edge with women voters.

Obama has been cutting steadily into every group which Clinton was relying on, particularly women and Latinos. This shows that their support of Clinton wasn't really strong, and to Obama's obvious gifts of persuasion.

Clinton wants a ton of debates, and no wonder. She generally does well in them, and they're her only opportunity to truly showcase her vast knowledge on policy issues which might highlight perhaps the biggest gripe about Obama, the "Where's the Beef" factor, for lack of a better way of putting it.

Obama, sensing his front runner status though hoping to avoid that label, is seeking to limit the number of debates, currently set at only two more, I believe.

Everyone calls for Obama to be more specific on policy questions, but as Pat Buchanan rightly points out, why the hell do you want to start doing that when you're moving the ball down the field and everything's rolling your way? Sure, it's helpful, and even essential in giving voters a reason to vote for you, but when they're already voting for you, why risk it? When you're riding a huge balloon, why pass out pins?

The post election speeches and their coverage really gave a snapshot into the reality at play here.

Poor Hillary had to come out on stage at an event in El Paso, TX. (She’s apparently conceding WI and not campaigning there, which will likely prove costly in my opinion).

Then some overstuffed local pol, a congressman, who will forever be known in my mind as the asshole from El Paso, stood there wandering around the stage delivering nearly Clinton's entire stump speech and trying to rally a crowd which was already going nuts (After all, Clinton is standing RIGHT THERE.)

But this guy didn't get it. It would have taken the jaws of life to get the microphone out of his hands. He went ON, and ON, and ON, and ON, and ON, and ON. All the while leaving Hillary standing there awkwardly with nothing whatsoever to do as he turned his back on her and wandered around the stage as if it was HE these people had come to see. It was pathetic. This went on for about 7 full minutes as the networks had pundits babble to take up time until this wad finally remembered that there was a presidential candidate on stage with him and reluctantly gave up the microphone.

By that time, the crowd was sick of cheering and likely exhausted by this blowhard, but they gamely cheered Hillary when she was finally allowed to speak.

But then what emerged was nothing but her standard stump speech. Very lackluster after such a long wait. The crowd was enthusiastic, but not overly so. It resembled the typical, old style, boring as hell, nature of the typical political rally where everything seems forced and unnatural. You know, the kind where the candidate could say that they'd just gotten done eating their first born child and the crowd would reflexively cheer and wave their signs. (Many upside down of course.)

Then to add further indignity, they cut away from Hillary mid-speech (again likely due to the asshole from El Paso's interminable "introduction".) and went to the enormous and wildly enthusiastic crowd at a gigantic arena in Madison, WI where Obama was bounding to the stage.

His speech was largely composed of his standard stump speech, but with some new material added which was every bit as powerful as people have come to expect. This time he gently swiped at McCain, tying him to Bush on several issues. And perhaps more importantly, he did a fantastic job of both acknowledging and effectively dismissing the charge that he's just a pie-in-the-sky idealist, and taking on those who mock his idea of hope for the country.

He lay out in stirring terms that hope was a real thing in this country, and that without hope; we would not be the great nation we are today, listing a long list of historical accomplishments which began with hope for a better tomorrow. He effectively turned it back on those cynics by saying that cynicism is a sad outlook, and pounded away repeatedly that following that sense of hope will not be easy or quick, but require very hard work and dedication.

By merely mentioning that this year, George W. Bush won't be on the ballot, the crowd erupted into such a loud cheer that the microphones were overloaded and started cutting out. Even in such a huge arena, you could literally hear the rafters ringing.

Obama repeated his recent call to young people to get involved. Perhaps the loudest frenzied cheering of the night occurred after he'd said he would propose a $5000 grant to help with college tuition, BUT that it wouldn't come free, that young people would have to pay it back by serving at homeless shelters, joining the Peace Corps, or putting in time on other civic duties. In exchange for the country investing in them (young people), they'd invest in their country.

Rather than shocking the supposedly slacker generation, this demand for them to take a stake in the country elicited a thunderous cheer, as it has every time it's mentioned in Obama's speeches. It's hard to imagine anything more heartening that the realization that young people in this country not only don't mind pitching in, they seem to desperately WANT to do their part, to become involved in improving people's lives and making this a better country. But no one had ever asked them to. Until now.

Obama says to the young essentially, "I'm going to put you to work." and they go absolutely wild in enthusiastic approval. Young people have never been asked to be involved, to become stake-holders in the future of this nation. Why no one has bothered to do this for decades is almost unbelievable. Obama realized that these young people were just sitting around waiting for someone to recognize them, to take them seriously, to ask them for their help.

Why have candidates routinely all but ignored young voters in the past? I can only conclude that it's largely due to the fact that they can't cut huge checks to campaigns, and in that respect, those who haven't focused on them deserve to be beaten, as Obama deserves their support for having the vision and foresight to realize what an untapped resource they truly are. And boy are they responding, and in numbers that should make every American proud.

That is yet another reason Obama will be the next president. And not only that, but why the Democrats will enjoy an even larger advantage for decades to come. Obama asked these young people to participate, and they gladly responded... by becoming Democrats.

Then after that cacophonous reception and such a stirring speech that even Chris Matthews said that it gave him, "chills running up and down my leg". (Not sure I want to go there.) we were treated to what had to be one of the oddest, most incomprehensible speeches of this campaign by John McCain.

Standing on a small platform was this fossil (by comparison with Obama) and as if to purposely highlight the theme of old age, just behind him stood one of the few guys older than he is, the pompous Sen. Warner from Virginia, along with a bevy of lily-white, paunchy, Republican party hacks.

Some visual.

But McCain's speech was .. I'm not sure how to describe it other than it was simply incomprehensible and seemed to contradict itself on several occasions.

I guess I just don't understand conservative code or something, but it simply didn't seem to make any sense.

He, I guess, tried to take some swipes at Obama by suggesting that … I don't know… that he was in it for personal glory or some weird thing. He keep jumping around from extolling personal responsibility and that politicians didn't come to D.C. to help out individuals, but voters expected politicians to work for voters personal interests, ... I'm sorry, but it truly made little sense.

Perhaps the more whacky thing was when at one point McCain seemed to take a whack at Obama's message of hope and healing by saying that if you simply say those sorts of things without them being "backed up by proven and solid ideas" then they're nothing but "platitudes".

McCain then proceeded to launch into an almost unbroken string of platitudes in which he spouted pre-fab lines about freedom, liberty, justice, strength, prosperity, and who knows what other incredibly oblique terms.

McCain looks as dry as dust, and his words fell out of his mouth as dry as dust.

Pat Buchanan said it sounded more like he was briefing a flight crew than giving a critical political speech.

I'm already sick to death of his "my friends" rhetorical device, and I'm sure it won't be long before many people pick this up as emblematic of McCain's phoniness. Coming out of McCain's mouth, "my friends" sounds like a veiled threat.

And aren't Obama's "platitudes" proven ideas? Or are only McCain's ideas not "platitudes"? By proven ideas, does he mean things like throwing good billions after bad and thinking the world's problems can only be solved by sending in thousands of troops and billions in weapons? Is he telling us that the Bush ideas he enthusiastically endorses are the "proven ideas" he intends to follow?

McCain is truly the anti-Obama, as in the opposite of positive is negative; the opposite of light is darkness.

Cliff notes summation post-Tuesday February 12th primary:

Clinton is sliding, and Obama is ascendant. I don't see this changing, and Clinton's last few life boats are increasingly drifting away. Obama wins the nomination.

McCain is pathetic next to Obama, both visually, thematically, inspirationally, and on issues. McCain = old, really old, the past, endless war, Bush's third term. Obama = the future, youth, hope, change, restoration.

While the usual Republican reliance on smear, lies, voter suppression and pouring millions into negative campaign ads and attempts to invent negatives for Obama will make it competitive, Obama walks away and wins by a convincing margin in November.

Obama is our new president, the country rejoices, not only that Obama is our leader, but that the truly horrid and incompetent leaders of the past Republican era are swept out, repudiated, and out of our faces, along with their negative and destructive mindset that has brought nothing but shame and hardship on this country, amid the return of hope that we can recover, stick a fork in the negative Bush/Rove politics of fear and division, lead the country by explaining why we can do better, not why we can't. Offer the real hope that collectively, we can haul this ship of state off the rocks and usher in a new and brighter era of politics and American leadership around the world.

If you build it, they will come.

February 12, 2008

Not so super scenario revisited

OK, here's the hypothetical (though likely) scenario:

The fierce and hard fought battle between Obama and Clinton continues until just prior to the convention.

Obama emerges with more of the popular vote in the primaries and caucuses, has more pledged regular delegates, and has won many more states than Clinton.

But due in large part to her and Bill's development of relationships with party pros and establishment types, nurtured over decades of campaigns and two presidential terms, they're able to call in debts, favors, or otherwise wheel and deal and bring in many more establishment party pooh-bahs and elected officials, otherwise known as superdelegates, and due to this factor alone, Clinton is named the Democratic nominee to face McCain.

What would you feel like?

Would you accept the process? Or feel it was very unfair?

Would it help or hurt your enthusiasm for supporting Clinton?

How would you react?

What would be the effect on the general election which, after all, would at this point be looming only a few short weeks away?

News you can use

Whip this out next time your friendly neighborhood dupe throws around the term "tax and spend" to describe the Democrats.

Blue columns represent Democratic administrations, Red represents when oh-so-fiscally responsible Republicans have been in office.

Click here to view larger, clearer version.

February 10, 2008

Foreign governments pour cash into McCain, Clinton, Romney campaign.

This is worth noting. Not proof of anything nefarious, but a bit hinky in my opinion. Evidently we no longer have countries, but just gigantic corporations who realize the best way to get what they want is to put money in politician's pockets.

More detail here.

Story here.

Who said it?

Just had this famous quote brought once more to my attention. It's a shame it wasn't quoted more often while the right was perverting the term to the point where politicians wouldn't be caught dead accepting the label.

Let's hope that era of spinelessness is over.

What flaming far-left radical said this?
If by "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by "Liberal", then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal".

Reader poll results, and new poll

Since the field has dwindled to two, the poll asking readers their preference for the Democratic presidential nomination is over.

The results, unsurprisingly, are as might be expected in an area where Obama enjoys strong support and is a native son, so to speak.

The poll receieved a healthy 544 total votes, and the results are:

Answers Votes Percent
1. Barack Obama 199 37%
2. Hillary Clinton 111 20%
3. John Edwards 92 17%
4. Dennis Kucinich 31 6%
Al Gore 33 6%
Joe Biden 35 6%
5. Bill Richardson 17 3%
Wesley Clark 17 3%
6. Christopher Dodd 9 2%

The new poll asks readers which Democratic candidate would be more likely to defeat the all but certain Republican nominee, John McCain.

The poll can be found in the sidebar to the right.
Please take a moment and cast your vote.

February 9, 2008

Curiouser and couriouser

Obama wins Louisiana, Washington state, Nebraska, and one of my favorite spots, the Virgin Islands.

Hillary wins zip, but is predicted to win Maine tomorrow.

Even more interesting was Huckabee's surprising showing, winning Kansas, and the race too close to call at the moment in Louisiana and Washington state, indicating that the hard-core conservatives are flocking his way now that McCain has been all but named the Republican nominee.

It seems impossible for Huckabee to actually pull it off and catch up with McCain, but the clear swing towards him is pretty clear evidence that arch-conservatives are making it clear they're not willing to go along with the idea of McCain as their standard bearer.

The perpetually angry conservatives are apparently making their feelings known at the ballot box.

Counts by news organizations still have Clinton with a slight edge in delegates after tonight, so the mini-landslide for Obama still doesn't break the deadlock between the two candidates.

One of the pundit army made an observation that I found interesting tonight as well. They noted that in the past, Republicans have had plenty of opportunity to choose McCain as their candidate, seeing as he's been trying to be president for decades, but conspicuously passed every time. There's a good reason for this, they implied, and that is that he's simply not that popular among the ideological far right that has so effectively hi-jacked the party.

Could McCain represent a push-back by the less fanatical wing of the Republican party and a return to at least semi-sanity? In that resepect, McCain may be the Republican party's last chance to save itself.

Of course, I couldn't be more happy if the zealots are successful in carrying out their ideological death wish by undermining anyone who they view as not sufficiently submissive to their radical ideology The right wing loves to stop thinking and follow authority almost as much as they love viciously attacking anyone they see as not doing so.

Thoughts? Observations? Predictions?

February 8, 2008

Is the light at the end of the tunnel the headlight on an oncoming locomotive?

I'd intended to write a thorough post re-visiting the topic of super-delegates and the real chance that the Dem nomination might head right into the weeds if something doesn't develop soon, but constant interruptions and other matters delayed it until now, so I had to do a quick and dirty unedited version, though it ended up massively long, as usual. Bear with me, or, if you prefer, just skip the thing.

It's long been observed, with a fair degree of truth, that the Democratic party is adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Now that distinct possibility is looming with both the prospect of the primary being decided by a group of elected officials and big wigs cutting deals madly and essentially invalidating the votes of millions of previously energized and optomistic Democrats, Independents, and many Republicans who have placed their palpable desire for a new direction after so many years of waiting on either Hillary or Obama.

There was much more news about this topic today, including Dem Party head Howard Dean's reported stance that he doesn't want to allow the race to go to the convention, and if it appeared that's where things were heading, he would instead try (how?) to negotiate something with Clinton and Obama. What this would be seems clear... convincing one or the other to step aside in exchange, it's presumed, for some juicy plum or other. But seriously, what are the chances of either of them accepting such an ultimatum? Zilch, in my opinion.

Then there's Dean's kicking the ball down the street when questioned about the other very troubling development, namely, Clinton's stated desire to try to somehow ensure that the Florida delegates are seated at the convention, flagrantly ignoring the party edict that both she and the other candidates had previously agreed to.

To me this is simply reprehensible, a cheap attempt at a dirty move. Unless there's more to it than is apparent, I can't believe she'd try to pull such a stunt, and it decidedly lowers my opinion of her and her campaign.

Then in response to this willful attempt by Clinton to foment a true crisis in order to try to grub some delegates she has reason to believe will go to her, Dean punted the ball by observing that he'd have nothing to do with that, and that it would instead by up to a panel of party hacks on the credentialing committee to make a decision.

Some were then suggesting that Dean or others are suggesting essentially having "do-overs" in Michigan and Florida, the two states the party has sanctioned for breaking with party wishes and moving their primaries ahead on the calendar despite the promise that if they did, none of their delegation would be seated at the convention.

Now they appear to be considering lifting this punishment, creating the almost ludicrous scenario of the two states holding their primary elections AGAIN.

This is despite the fact that all candidates had pledged not to campaign in either state. Yet Hillary brazenly broke this pledge only after being defeated in S. Carolina, when she immediately flew to FL to make several campaign appearances, won the primary, and then crowed that she was going to ensure the FL delegates got seated.

If the two states do indeed hold their primaries again, Hillary can expect to benefit greatly, as she won both states on the "real" primary date, though both were SUPPOSED to be beauty contests with no delegates awarded, or at least allowed to vote at the convention.

Now that's all stood on it's head.

So much for that iron-clad punishment. If this occurs, it will appear that the party is unable, or unwilling, to stand up to Clinton at best, and will obviously create a firestorm over the apearance that the party leadership is giving an unfair edge to Clinton.

This of course would absolutely torpedo the fervent hopes for a party energized and firmly united behind Clinton, were this to put her over the top. A nightmare situation any way you slice it.

And that's not even getting to the perhaps larger headache, the increasing likelihood that the choice of Democratic presidential candidate will be decided by a relative handful of party insiders and elected officials, thus effectively invalidating the votes of millions of amped up, motivated Democrats, Independents, and even Republicans.

This will NOT play well with them, and as I noted in a previous comment on this topic, Dem consultant and former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazille has already flatly stated on CNN that if it gets to the point where the 800 some odd super-delegates decide who the nominee is to be, she'll immediately quit the party.

After the debacle of Florida and the Supreme Court in 2000, and the truly loathsome swift-boating of Kerry and the voting fraud in Ohio, and after having waited 8 excruciatingly long and painful years for a chance to put a new kind of Democrat in the White House, the Dems appear to be headed once again straight towards an incredible mess.

Their best laid plans didn't anticipate a dead heat or the chance that the nomination would be thrown to the super-delegates, and if it did, it didn't take into account the ramifications.

If this close and passionate contest goes down to a tie, a tie decided by party insiders and hacks, then expect some loud and long and justified howling from millions and millions of Dems as they have their high spirits for a new style of politics crushed by a decidedly old style manner of choosing a nominee... and one that disenfranchises them all and causes the very problem that the rule changes that created the super-delegate system was designed to avoid. Namely, to put more power in rank and file hands and move it away from party honchos.

Nancy Pelosi gave what I found to be a rather disingenuous defense of this system yesterday, suggesting that she'd have no problem with the super-delegates, of which she of course is one, deciding who the nominee will be.

She suggested that the rules are working just fine. The very reason the rules were changed, she suggested, were so that average Dems could caucus and vote without pressure or having to worry about the presence of party big-wigs and elected officials. To hear her tell it, this was simply to get the heavy-weights out of the process and allow average Dems to vote freely for who they preferred.

But she was pretty disingenuous when she stated that "the vast majority" of delegates are picked by the rank and file at caucuses and primaries. Not so.

As I understand it, the super-delegates make up a full 40% of all delegates. The remaining 60% representing regular delegates sure the hell don't represent any "vast majority".

If neither Obama or Clinton is able to break the clinch they're in within the next month or so, this could get real ugly, real fast folks. Offer your thoughts and observations about this looming nightmare here.

I'd also encourage you to revisit some recent threads and comments that touch on this topic as they contain info and links to pages explaining the somewhat complex delegate situation.