Monday, March 31, 2008

Bush Promotes The Chinese Regime

Reuters reports on March 31, 2008 that Senate Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has asked President Bush to consider boycotting the Olympic Games to be held in Beijing, China. In an interview to be telecast on ABC's Good Morning America on 4/1/08, the longtime critic of the Communist regime is quoted as saying "I think boycotting the opening ceremony, which really gives respect to the Chinese government, is something that should be kept on the table." She stated "I think the president might want to rethink this later, depending on what other heads of state do."

At least one head of state already has decided what to do. Chancellor Angela Merkel has decided against attending the opening ceremony, reminding us of the remarkable turnaround in German government and society since the end of World War II.

There is a strong argument, though little support, for going much further. In her article entitled "Boycott Beijing" posted on on 3/24/08, Anne Applebaum counters the standard arguments against boycotting the upcoming Olympics. Boycotts may accomplish a great deal, she notes, as in that of South African athletes from international competitions which helped end apartheid. Additionally, the Olympics can be not only a force for good but also for evil, as in the propaganda coup scored by Adolph Hitler when Nazi Germany hosted the 1936 Olympics. And the Games are perhaps the best place for demonstrations, inasmuch as "the modern Olympics were set up with a political purpose: to promote international peace by encouraging helalth competition (among) nations."

But the least the leader of the Free World can do is to skip the opening ceremony. Instead, White House spokesman Emily Lawrimore said the President "has also made it very clear that the Olympics will shine a bright light on China regarding a variety of issues. These games will provide China with an opportunity to put it's (sic) best face forward."

In a rare if unintended display of honesty, the Administration is not even bothering to pretend that the Games will focus attention on the brutal regime in Beijing, its military buildup, its arguably incomparable air pollution, aid to the Sudanese government in support of genocidal militants, or any other characteristic of this near-fascist state. Rather, they are delighted the Red Chinese will enjoy the fruits of valuable propaganda: "an opportunity to put its best face forward." It's a fascinating position for a President who, when speaking of the Persian Gulf, feigns a fondness for democratic states.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rice- Right, But Wrong

In a wide-ranging interview conducted by Nicholas Kralev of the conservative Republican newspaper The Washington Times on March 27, 2008 and published the following day, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of race in American society, her attraction to George W. Bush, the proposed boycott of the Beijing Olympics, and the foreign policy aims of the remainder of the Bush Administration.

And Iraq. Difficulty rebuilding Iraq, the Secretary claimed, has resulted from "how truly broken the society was." For that, she blamed primarily the Saddam Hussein regime but also argued that now "agriculture is virtually dead in Iraq" as a result of United Nations sanctions.

It would have been naive to expect Ms. Rice to assume for the debacle of Gulf War II any of the blame herself or on behalf of the president she so admires. For a failed Cabinet member trying to establish herself as a political figure in the GOP, it is more convenient to allude to the one success of the venture- overthrow of Saddam Hussein- and blame the United Nations, historically a fun target of the Republican right. Perhaps she is modeling herself after this president in the manner of one of his most enduring traits, the ability to find blame anywhere and avoid looking in the mirror.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Fellowship And Religion

Joshua Green on 3/26/08 summarized on The Atlantic Monthly's blogsite an intriguing facet of the profile he had written of newly-elected Senator Hillary Clinton in November, 2006. Green describes the association of Mrs. Clinton (who joined after her election in 2001) with The Fellowhip (also known as The Family), a Christian religious group formed in the 1930s to "minister to political and business leaders throughout the world" and headed by Douglas Coe. He assiduously avoids any public profile and archives of the group are locked up and classified at the evangelical Wheaton College in Illinois.

The Fellowship is comprised of several small groups which meet informally for testimony, prayer and discussion. One group, which assembles Wednesday mornings, is led by Coe and includes Clinton among approximately a dozen Senators. Most of the Senators, it appears, are both political and theological conservatives, described by David Kuo (at one time a Bush official in the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives who has since criticized the Administration) as "powerful evangelicals."

These groups, and the individuals which comprise them, scrupulously avoid publicity and I don't know what to make of the involvement of Hillary Clinton- negative, positive, or indifferent. Clearly, though, the lack of attention given to The Fellowship in a presidential campaign in which the leading candidate's relationship with his "spiritual advisor" has become an important issue reflects the media's obsession with avoiding any examination of religion. This is the case unless the matter explodes on YouTube- and even then, there is an allergy to discussion of the actual religious aspect. It is critical, we are told, for a candidate to express "faith"; meanwhile, no insight is offered as to what the faith actually is or the impact it may have on the political positions, or the governing style, of the office-seeker.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Alan Greenspan, Really?

In a recent meeting with the Editorial Board of the Philadelphia Daily News, Hillary Clinton recommended a "high-level emergency group" to address the issue of high-risk mortgages. She suggested that the members might include Robert Rubin (a supporter of hers), Paul Volcker (a supporter of Barack Obama), and Alan Greenspan (a supporter of John McCain). When Greenspan spoke before the Credit Union National Association 2004 Governmental Affairs Conference, Washington, D.C. on February 23, 2004, he stated:

American consumers might benefit if lenders provided greater mortgage product alternatives to the traditional fixed-rate mortgage. To the degree that households are driven by fears of payment shocks but are willing to manage their own interest rate risks, the traditional fixed-rate mortgage may be an expensive method of financing a home.

He also has been a champion of deregulation. When he gave the Federal Reserve Board's semiannual monetary policy report to the Congress (before the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, U.S. Senate on March 7, 2002), Greenspan declared:

Both deregulation and innovation in the financial sector have been especially important in enhancing overall economic resilience. New financial products—including derivatives, asset-backed securities, collateralized loan obligations, and collateralized mortgage obligations, among others—have enabled risk to be dispersed more effectively to those willing to, and presumably capable of, bearing it.

So Senator Clinton was asked by the Editorial Board about her recommendation of the nation's most important economist, who promoted adjustable rate mortgages and deregulation of the financial industry and failed to recognize the housing bubble. She replied:

Not only that, but the Fed didn't act while he was there. But he has a calming influence still to this day on Wall Street -- don't ask me why because I never understand what he's saying -- but nevertheless people respond to that Delphic oracle approach. I think it would be wise to include him. And recently he's come out, and very smartly so, that we have to deal with housing and maybe we need to have some kind of buyout mechanism for mortgages. So he's moved on his understanding and depth of the problem -- but you know you could pick three others. You just have to have some demonstrable involvement of presidential leadership...

We've gone through seven years of an Administration which, with the help of the Congressional Medal of Honor, rewards incompetence at every turn. Calling on a guy who helped bring on the mortgage debacle is no way to address the nation's housing crisis.
John McCain, Expert

John McCain has a reputation (largely undeserved) for "straight talk" and, in fact, he has been honest in one area: his knowledge of economics. Here area few of his hits:

- In an article by Jonathan Chait of The New Republic, published on 1/21/00 and posted that date by the conservative "I didn't pay nearly the attention to those issues in the past. I was probably a `supply-sider' based on the fact that I really didn't jump into the issue..."

- In the 12/18/07 column "Political Intelligence" by Boston Globe writer Sasha Issenberg posted on "The issue of economics is not something I've understood as well as I should. I've got Greenspan's book."

- In the 11/26/05 online issue of The Wall Street Journal, from an interview by the paper's editorial board: "I'm going to be honest: I know a lot less about economics than I do about military and foreign policy issues. I still need to be educated."

And McCain's brilliance "about military and foreign policy issues?" In Jordan on 3/18/08, according to The Washington Post's blog "The Trail," McCain stated it was "common knowledge and has been reported in the media that al-Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran, that's well known. And it's unfortunate." Or at least, would be unfortunate if it were true, as McCain acknowledged seconds later after Joe Lieberman whispered into his ear. A careless error, or lack of knowledge? The Trail reports "he said several times that Iran, a predominately Shiite country, was supplying the mostly Sunni militant group, al-Qaeda. In fact, officials have said they believe Iran is helping Shiite extremists in Iraq." (And the day before he had told syndicated conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt "as you know, there are al Qaeda operatives that are taken back into Iran, given training as leaders, and they’re moving back into Iraq.")

Economics, foreign policy. How about culture? As this youtube video entitled "The Real McCain" indicates, on the Hardball College Tour, on October 18, 2007 Senator McCain told host Chris Matthews and the live student audience "gay marriage should be allowed." Eleven minutes later, after a commercial break, he stated "gay marriage should not be legal." Asked by George Stephanopoulos on ABC's This Week about civil unions, John McCain is seen as stumped for a few seconds.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression in China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world."

-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on March 21, 2008, while speaking to thousands of Tibetan exiles at the Dalai Lama's headquarters in Dhamsala, India
The Republican Media- No. 13

"Maybe we should elect John McCain to get us out of this war." It isn't the absurdity of this statement, from Chris Matthews on the 3/24/08 Morning Joe on MSNBC, that is significant. It's that Matthews had spent roughly the previously five minutes explaining to Pat Buchanan, Mika Brzezinski, and Pat Buchanan how important he thinks it is to withdraw our soldiers from Iraq "swiftly." Matthews' emphasis was on the danger of having American troops objects of anger for anti-western extremists and he noted that Democrats in the fall election will knock McCain for finding acceptable leaving soldiers in Iraq 100 years. Criticizing use of "surge" instead of "election," Matthews had roundly criticized the media's acceptance of politically strategic terminology from the Bush Administration and asserted "the definition of 'victory' is Americans get to come home, they don't get to stay there."

Matthews responded to Buchanan's reference to congressional Democrats failing to extricate the U.S.A. from Persian Gulf War II, comparing their fear to the "lost China" slur of the (Joe) McCarthy era. Matthews' comment came on the heels of a reference to the value of electing Republicans to end the war and apparently to the "Nixon goes to China" idea, that only someone, or some party, associated with one course of action could avoid the vicious attacks inevitable if the other party were to take the action.

Warning to Barack Obama (Clinton already believes, or is pretending to believe, that she is getting bad press): Once the general election campaign formally begins, after the convention(s), most of the excitement of the media over a potentially historic election ends; then, it's Republican vs. Democrat- and to make matters worse, the Repub is media icon McCain. If a member of the media who opposed the war when it began (supporting it briefly after military victory was swiftly achieved) and has opposed it now for years

Sunday, March 23, 2008

On Divisiveness

Mickey Kaus in his blog on has an interesting take on what was otherwise a commendable denunciation by Barack Obama of Jeremiah Wright in the senator's 3/18/08 speech in Philadelphia, Pa.of 3/18/08. Obama stated, definitively and forthrightly:

As such, Rev. Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive.

Kaus intriguingly wrote:

Doesn't Obama mean Rev. Wright's comments were 'not only divisive but wrong,' rather than the other way around? Isn't it worse to be wrong than "divisive"? Is unity the overriding virtue for Obama?

Given one of the overarching themes- post-partisanship- of the Obama campaign, perhaps this was a rhetorical question. Still, it is insightful and brings to mind (at least, my mind) the vote on the Iraq war resolution of 2002.

Obama boasts, understandably, that while Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the resolution authorizing President Bush to take military action he might deem warranted against Iraq, Obama spoke out against the vote. His was the right stance, as he, his surrogates, and campaign officials repeatedly have reminded us.

But was it unifying? Or was it divisive? Voting in favor of the resolution supported by the White House- the wrong move on policy and now, it appears, politically- was in fact unifying. It was a vote to support our President if he decided to take action, even rash action. Voting against the resolution, some Democrats feared, would be exploited by Republicans in the succeeding couple of election cycles as being traitorous- or at least divisive.

Given that- and Obama's emphasis both in his impressive and inspiring speech this month and in his campaign- one can reasonably ask how the Illinois Senator would have voted on the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resoulution of 2002 had he then been a member of the United States Senate. It is only a hypothetical question, but one I think without an obvious answer.
Remember Those Nuclear Weapons?

As a Democrat, my heart leaped a few weeks ago at very hopeful news. Condoleezza Rice's name was floated as a possible veep selection for John McCain.

Oh, I knew there was almost no chance. Rice is not associated with any state and therefore would be unlikely to bring any particular electoral votes into the Repub column. Further, there is no indication that she has any particular knowledge of, or interest in, anything except foreign policy- not unlike the fellow at the head of the ticket. Presumably, her name was thrown out as a Repub bid for the "political correctnesss" so many of zthem excoriate, figuring that any black at the tail end of the GOP ticket would take some of the wind out of Obama's sails. That's fairly absurd, but the idea of taking black Americans for granted by the party that claims the Democratic Party does so is not surprising.

Recently, though, as the San Diego Union-Tribune's website reported on 3/21/08:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she called Obama to apologize for the unauthorized access to his computerized passport file by three department contract workers, two of whom were fired over the incidents.
“I told him that I was sorry and I told him that I myself would be very disturbed if I learned that somebody had looked into my passport file and therefore, I will stay on top of it and get to the bottom of it,” Rice told reporters.

Give her credit for effort here, though given Rice's record (think Middle East peace process and U.S.-Russian relations), I wouldn't assume any effort will be met by success. Far better would be a mere acknowledgement of a mistake that she made a few years ago. I bring you back an interview she had with Wolf Blitzer on September 8, 2003, which the CNN anchorman reported on January 10, 2003: "Dr. Rice then said something that was ominous and made headlines around the world. 'The problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapons. But we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.'"

The famous "mushroom cloud." Condi Rice in the vanguard of the fear merchants of the Bush Administration. On March 7, 2003, twelve days before the President launched Gulf War II, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei reported in "The Status of Nuclear Inspections in Iraq: An Update"

There is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.
There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import uranium since 1990.
There is no indication that Iraq has attempted to import aluminium tubes for use in centrifuge enrichment. Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminium tubes in question.
Although we are still reviewing issues related to magnets and magnet production, there is no indication to date that Iraq imported magnets for use in a centrifuge enrichment programme.
As I stated above, the IAEA will continue further to scrutinize and investigate all of the above issues.

And the relevant conclusion: after three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq.

What have we heard from the foreign policy "expert" of the Bush regime, Condoleezza Rice? No apology and no acknowledgement that she misled the American people. The idea that this individual could even be considered for national, elective office demonstrates the contempt for the truth- and lack of talent- of the Republican Party.

Saturday, March 22, 2008


In an "On Language" column published in The New York Times on February 18, 2007, William Safire referred to Tom Oliphant quoting Kirk O'Donnell, former counsel to Tip O'Neill, as saying of Social Security “after the Greenspan Commission fix, I asked Kirk how come nobody got electrocuted. Always sharp, he replied that the third rail is not like the one in the subway: if a Republican foot and a Democratic foot touch it simultaneously, nothing happens.”

Linking to this column, a weblog I never had heard of, at, cited fifteen occassions in which a different issue was referred to as the "third rail of American politics." Social Security, health care, immigration reform, abortion, Arab-Israeli peace process, same-sex marriage, new taxes, welfare state, economic disparity, the draft, eminent domain, gun control, medicare, domestic surveillance powers, gas prices all have been cited as the elusive "third rail," suggesting that most experts have no clue what a third rail is.

And neither do I. Still, it came to mind when I was reading of the flare-up over Jeremiah Wright, race, and white grandmothers fearing black people. As this article in the July 16, 2007 issue of the Christian Science Monitor noted

More than the other Democratic candidates for president, Obama has made faith a centerpiece of his campaign.

He has warned the left against ceding the mantle of religion to the evangelical right. He speaks of the church as an abiding force in American public life, from the Boston Tea Party through the abolitionist and civil rights movements. He suffuses his speeches with biblical allusions – "I am my brother's keeper" is a favorite phrase. And he has cast his generation of black leaders as modern-day Joshuas, after Moses' successor, who led the Israelites to the Promised Land.

Obama now has been singed by the issue of faith. Meanwhile, liberal pundits/politicans/activists have pointed out the support John McCain has received from a couple of characters. Consider Reverend John Hagee, who has attacked the Roman Catholic Church, the people of New Orleans, and made light of a "slave auction" at his church, and who contends "It's true that [John] McCain's campaign sought my endorsement." And McCain boasts of the support of Reverend Rod Parsley, the Senator whom he has called his "spritual guide." His organization advocates prosecuting adulterers and compared Planned Parenthood to the Nazis, and he has vociferously attacked Islam, arguing there is no distinction between its moderate and extremist adherents.

But these endorsements got little media attention, a tiny fraction of the criticism Barack Obama has received from his relationship with Reverend Wright. Apparently, faith is not a "third rail" in the same manner as Social Security: a Republican and a Democratic foot have touched it simultaneously- and a furor has ensued, all directed against the Democrat, none against the Republican.

This also should serve as a cautionary tale to Democratic politicians, who have bought the line from the mainstream media that they must pledge allegiance to "faith" (the word "religion" appears to be illegal) or be annihilated by Republicans. Barack Obama has been the most outspoken about "faith" of all the Democratic candidates who have run for president during this cycle- and now his connection with his pastor not only has led to a swoon in his ratings but has caused unease among voters, who now look more carefully at racially-tinged remarks the Senator has made or might still make. Consider Obama's comment 3/20/08 on Philadelphia's WIP, a Philadelphia sports station: "But she is a typical white person who, you know, if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn't know, there is a reaction that has been bred into our experiences that don't go away and sometimes come out in the wrong way..."

The point is not that politicans must avoid religious behavior or activities when they are running for, or are in, office. Nor must they necessarily avoid any expression of their religious beliefs. But we should not assume that addressing openly and honestly (or dishonestly) one's Christian beliefs is a risk-free political tactic for a Democrat who aspires to the presidency.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Most Important Speech?

Following- and even preceding- Barack Obama's Wright/race speech on March 18, 2008, MSNBC's Chris Matthews and other pundits referred to the address as the most important of his career.

Wrong, twice. There was Mr. Obama's rousing "One America" keynote speech at the 2004Democratic National Convention, which brought rave reviews and launched his national political career. You remember it:

Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America; and There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America; and The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue States: red states for Republicans, blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.

Then there was the speech State Senator Obama gave before an anti-war rally in Chicago, Illinois on October 9, 2002, in which he asserted:

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors...and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.
I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

Although the speech itself isn't often quoted, Obama's public opposition, as reflected in this address, to impending war has served as the rationale for his campaign and is asserted again and again by the Senator and his surrogates. It has proven especially valuable as a defense- although arguably inadequate- to the charge that he is not qualified to be Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. Invariably, the Obama forces argue that Clinton flubbed her most important vote by authorizing President Bush to use military force in Iraq. Barack Obama's opposition to the war has not been consistent, but that is an argument for another day.
Quote Of The Week

"We're on Israel's side and, despite that and perhaps because of that, on the side of the peace process."

- German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking before the Israeli parliament (Knesset) in Jerusalem on March 18, 2008
The Negative Side Of "The Speech"

There were a few aspects of Barack Obama's speech about race in American society which I found really disappointing. These were:

1) This time, we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

The cause of job losses in the United States are many. Among them are "the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit." But also involved is "that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job." And the issue, though Obama implies otherwise here ("that someone who doesn't look like you"), is not racism. It is that someone is taking your job. At a lower wage. And, oh, perhaps someone who isn't in this country legally. Our concern about the corporation interested only in profits and the government that aids and abets it must not blind us to the reality that the same private sector is happy to lobby that same government for policies increasing the labor pool (with legal or illegal workers) and thereby drive wages down.

2) I can no more disown him than I can disown my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

That was a long time ago, Senator, in a land now barely recognizable. It is a cheap shot against your own mother.

3) I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community.

This speech was given in response to the controversy over Obama's former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Ultimately, though it was clever to pose the issue as to "disown" an individual (no one could be for that- in fact, Pat Buchanan commended Obama for standing by his man!), there is still the matter of an adult sitting week after week (if in fact he did attend church regularly), year after year, insufficiently concerned about the rantings of an irrational man to raise an objection.

Looking back over the last two postings, the positive and the negative, I can't avoid the conclusion that it was a very good speech, dealing as it was with two very difficult issues- Reverend Wright and race- in nearly as effective a way as possible. However, the major purpose, understandably, of the address was to enhance Obama's bid to gain the presidential nomination and I can't figure how that will play out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Plus Side Of "The Speech"

Barack Obama in his speech of 3/18/08 on the role of race in American society made some cogent points. Consider these:

1) But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's efforts to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country....As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive....

This was an unequivocal, decisive, powerful denunciation of statements of a supporter. It may be unparalleled in American politics, a far cry from the more typical "If any of my remarks have offended...."

2) Legalized discrimination — where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions or the police force or the fire department — meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between blacks and whites, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persist in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

Drawing a link both between historical discrimination (note the use of the past tense) and current discrepancies between wealth in the white and black communities is instructive.

3) The real culprits of the middle class squeeze — a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns — this too widens the racial divide and blocks the path to understanding.

Two good points here: identification of structural inequities in the American economy; and an understanding that the "resentments" (I would have preferred the unbiased "opinions") are "grounded in legitimate concerns.

4) (a)And in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense.
(b)Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition.

I joined these two because they are a welcome departure from the more disquieting aspects of the Obama campaign. Obama in (a) seems to understand that sometimes politics is not a win-win; choices have to be made, priorities set. And in (b), Obama has finally found himself able to deliver at least an implied criticism of Ronald Reagan.

5) ....they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country.... (including) a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

Realistic, accurate, and measured statement.

6) This time we want to talk about how the lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care, who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington....

Not a profound point, but one that bears repeating, and only Democrats will do so: emergency rooms are filled. And without universal health care, they will only get busier- and emergency rooom personnel and services do not come cheap, though Republicans (hell bent on convincing us that we have the greatest health care system in the world) seem to believe otherwise.
The Olympic Games

As some eagerly, and some of us less eagerly, await the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China, we recall the hope of the naive and the hype of the economically self-serving that the "Olympic Games will have definitely a positive, lasting affect on the Chinese society."

So saith International Olymic Committee President Jacques Regge, as related by Joshua Kurlantzick in "Swifter, Higher, Crueler (subscription required)," which appeared in the 2/27/08 issue of The New Republic. Kurlantzick notes that the reality has been far crueler than predicted. Brad Adams, head of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, warns "we are seeing the gagging of dissidents, a crackdown on activists, and attempts to block independent media coverage," a conclusion consistent with that of Amnesty International. According to Kurlantzick, Financial Times has revealed that the Chinese government has assumed "greater swathes of government bureaucracy" while a new law restricts "foreign news agencies working in China and also tightened control of the domestic press by launching a crackdown on 'false' news and shutttering some 18,000 blogs and websites since April," 2007. Anxious to avoid negative publicity once the media arrives for the Games, "Chinese authorities have arrested, abducted, and simply beaten activists, writers, and lawyers."

And what about the reaction of George W. Bush, head of the party which once masqueraded as singularly anti-Communist? Mr. Bush has promised to attend the Olympics, calling to mind attendance at the Berlin games by nations which thereby signaled acceptance of the legitimacy of the Nazi regime. Human Rights Watch's Asia Advocacy director, Sophie Richardson, told the New York Times "Mr. Bush is providing "an enormous propaganda opportunity to an abusive government."

A president who toppled Saddam Hussein at the cost of nearly 4,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, and an effective fight against terrorism could lead in defying the brutal dictatorship in Beijing. Of course that wold involve offending Mr. Bush's corporate benefactors, but there is always a first time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The NRA And Criminals: Perfect Together

I'm not making this up.

Amy Worden of the Philadelphia Inquirer's Harrisburg bureau reports today (3/18/08) of an effort to attach amendment A6178, requiring handgun owners to report lost or stolen weapons, to crime-code bill S.B.1845. Handgun owners would have three days to report guns that are lost or stolen and would not be prosecuted if the weapon were not connected to a crime or if the owner did not know the gun had been lost or stolen.

Where is the NRA, you ask? The National Rifle Association's chief lobbyist in Pennsylvania, John Hohenwarter, charged "it's setting up a system that criminalizes victims of crime." Even if the amendment were to pass, and "it was unclear whether proponents had the 102 votes needed to pass" it, there is no problem if the gun owner chooses not to report a lost or stolen gun, facing a penalty only if he/she knew it was gone and it was used in a crime.

Isn't stealing a gun a criminal offense, and wouldn't a law-abiding citizen report it? The NRA apparently doesn't think so. The National Rifle Association: preserving the rights of criminals to own handguns.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fear: Thy Name Is McCain

Reuters reported on March 14, 2008 of a curious comment by Senator John McCain:

Republican presidential candidate John McCain said on Friday he fears that al Qaeda or another extremist group might attempt spectacular attacks in Iraq to try to tilt the U.S. election against him.

McCain, at a town hall meeting in this Philadelphia suburb, was asked if he had concerns that anti-American militants in Iraq might ratchet up their activities in Iraq to try to increase casualties in September or October and tip the November election against him.

"Yes, I worry about it," McCain said. "And I know they pay attention because of the intercepts we have of their communications ... The hardest thing in warfare is to counter someone or a group of individuals who are willing to take their own lives in order to take others."

DHinMI on 3/14/08 at dailykos had an interesting take on this:

McCain isn't president, so why would he think the voters would punish him for failing to prevent another Al Qaeda attack on the United States?
Oh, that's right, because McCain is really running to complete George W. Bush's third term as President, and in that moment of candor, he let slip his greatest fear, that the voters will figure out that by embracing George W. Bush, McCain embraces all of Bush's failures.
(And speaking of embracing Bush's failures, McCain today was in Iraq with Dick Cheney- MSL.)
Yes, I know that Senator McCain is raising the specter of another terrorist attack so as to plant the idea that Al Qaeda is afraid of him. But McCain may be right. We both worry that Al Qaeda will attack the United States shortly before the presidential election, which would likely inure to the benefit of the more hawkish candidate, the war veteran, John McCain. That could be smart strategy on their part; after all, what could be better for recruitment of Islamic terrorists than election of a President willing to keep American- i.e., western- troops on Muslim land for the next 100 years?
Obama On Clinton On The War

One of the major themes of the Obama campaign has been the superior judgement State Senator Obama, who spoke out against the forthcoming war in Iraq, has shown to that of United States Senator Hillary Clinton (D.- NY), who gave a floor speech in support of the resolution, then voted for it. Now, Hotline On Call reports that the Obama campaign is circulating a new video emphasizing Clinton's vote for S.J. Res 45, with the words "It's a question of judgment. It's a question of preparation. It's a question of accountability. Was it a vote for "inspectors" ... or a vote for war?" flashing on the screen. This is a point consistently emphasized by the Obama campaign- that everyone knew that war was coming and Clinton's vote authorizing force by President Bush was tantamount to a vote for war. Clinton, meanwhile, steadfastly has maintained that hers was a vote not for war, but for inspections.

So who's right? There are a few interesting, and salient, passages in the New York Senator's speech on that unfortunate day, October 10, 2002. She stated "some people are in favor of attacking Saddam Hussein now (but) this course is fraught with danger (and) a unilateral attack, while it cannot be ruled out, on the present facts is not a good option." She argued "I believe the best course is to go to the UN for a strong resolution that scraps the 1998 restrictions on inspections and calls for complete, unlimited inspections with cooperation expected and demanded from Iraq." She worried "if we were to defeat this resolution or pass it with only a few Democrats, I am concerned that those who want to pretend this problem will go way with delay will oppose any UN resolution calling for unrestricted inspections."

Finally, Clinton explained, "my vote is not,however, a vote for any new doctrine of pre-emption, or for unilateralism, or for the arrogance of American power or purpose-all of which carry grave dangers for our nation, for the rule of international law and for the peace and security of people throughout the world.... A vote for (the resolution) is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President and we say to him- use these poweres wisely and a last resort."

Hillary Clinton, then stating "I will take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a UN resolution and will seek to avoid war, if at all possible" (emphasis mine) was fooled by George W. Bush. She used bad judgement, which she appears finally to have conceded when at the 2/26/08 debate in Cleveland, Ohio, Tim Russert asked "But to be clear, you'd like to have your vote back?" and Clinton responded "absolutely. I've said that many times." (O.K., she has not.)

This is true: Hillary Clinton voted to authorize President Bush to use military force if he found it wise; Barack Obama demonstrated wise judgement in his speech opposing military action. But the Obama campaign, aided by a lazy media, has contended all along that Clinton's vote was a vote for war. And, as the evidence demonstrates, they have been wrong, and continue to be wrong.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Why A Member?

David Broder, who has been a Washington Post columnist longer than perhaps most Americans have been alive, has a valuable insight every couple of years. The most recent came during today's (3/16/08) episode of NBC's Meet The Press, when Broder stated: "What was it about Reverend Wright that attracted Obama when he had, as a newcomer to Chicago, choice of any of the number of churches or pastors to go to?"

I don't get around as much as some people do, but it seems to me this question hasn't been asked a whole lot. Was Mr. Obama attracted by the: denomination? theological stance of this congregation (which, as a member of the United Church of Christ, whose polity is "congregational," is self-governing)? friendliness of the parishioners? size of the congregation? geographic proximity to his home? inspirational nature of Pastor Wright's sermons? content of Pastor Wright's sermons? beauty of the church building? church's outreach to the black community and interest in fostering African-American consciousness? preference of his wife for this church?

It's a question that needs to be asked but, with the squeamishness of the media in dealing with theological matters, might never be- which would be a critical omission.
Obama and McCain React To Clergymen

Senator Barack Obama's has responded to the hateful, anti-American exhortations of his (recently retired) pastor, Jeremiah Wright, by posting on The Here they are in relevant part,reprinted from RealClear Politics, followed by my comments:

I vehemently disagree and strongly condemn the statements that have been the subject of this controversy. I categorically denounce any statement that disparages our great country or serves to divide us from our allies. I also believe that words that degrade individuals have no place in our public dialogue, whether it's on the campaign stump or in the pulpit. In sum, I reject outright the statements by Rev. Wright that are at issue.... All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.

I have one problem with this explanation- the too-common resort of politicians to denouncing/criticizing/disagreeing with "any" statement. It smacks of a blanket condemnation, intentionally avoiding acknowledgement of any specific statement being unacceptable.

But I'm being picky. Obama's statement otherwise is forthright and definitive. He asserts "vehement" disagreement with "all of the statements that hve been the subject of controversy" and maintains "they in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country." Note that the Senator: 1)condemns the statements; 2) says they do "not reflect my attitudes" (personalizing his opposition to the remarks); and 3) acknowledges that they contradict a ("my") "love for this country." Pretty strong stuff.

We all know about John McCain's tepid response to Reverend John Hagee's remarks about Roman Catholics and his failure to respond at all to Hagee's remarks about blacks, homosexuals, and an apparent lust for war with Iran: "We've had a dignified campaign, and I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee's, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics" (emphasis mine).

But how about Reverend Rod Parsley, pastor of the Pentecostal megachurch World Harvest Church of Columbus? At a campaign rally on February 26, 2008 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Parsley endorsed McCain as "a strong, true, consistent conservative" and McCain in turn called the evangelical minister "a spiritual guide." And I suppose this is the spiritual guidance the fellow from
Arizona gets from him:

Parsley has argued "The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore." Similarly, he says "It was to defeat Islam, among other dreams, that Christopher Columbus sailed to the New World in 1492…Columbus dreamed of defeating the armies of Islam with the armies of Europe made mighty by the wealth of the New World. It was this dream that, in part, began America." And, Mother Jones bureau chief David Corn says of Parsley "in 2007, the grassroots organization he founded, the Center for Moral Clarity, called for prosecuting people who commit adultery. In January, he compared Planned Parenthood to Nazis. In the past Parsley's church has been accused of engaging in pro-Republican partisan activities in violation of its tax-exempt status."

The mainstream media has focused attention on Reverend Jeremiah Wright but has virtually ignored Reverend Hagee and Reverend Parsley. Given that the latter two are extremists who have endorsed the traditional media's favorite politician, that comes as no surprise.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A Clarification On Obama

On February 3, 2008, two days before Super Tuesday, I posted a blog explaining my (reluctant) preference for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama- or, rather, my preference for the presidential bid of Hillary Clinton, rather than for the individual herself. I believed, and still believe, that she would be the better president, notwithstanding her recent reprehensible comment implying that John McCain is more qualified than Obama to be president.

I was, though, not fully satisfied with my explanation, not in the reasoning, but rather in the inartful way in which it was expressed. I had been searching for a way to assert my dissatisfaction with a campaign which had downplayed race, but accentuated a generational divide; placed almost mythical faith in "hope"; basked in the mythology of Camelot and implied contempt for the administration of President Johnson; and believed naively in the possibility of conciliation, both in the United States Congress and abroad, rather than in muscular realism.

And then, behind in my reading, I recently read "Forever Young," an article in the February 27, 2008 "Washington Diarist" column in the New Republic by Leon Wieseltier. It is a phenomenal article which expresses far better than I did, or could, the reasons I believe a Clinton Presidency would be more successful than an Obama Presidency. Therefore, I am here not only linking to the piece but reprinting it below, without further comment because anything I might add could only detract from the insight and elegance by which it is expressed.

The New Republic

Washington Diarist
by Leon Wieseltier
Forever Young
Post Date Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What you think of a presidential candidate is in large measure determined by what you think of the world. Different circumstances call for different talents, different sensibilities, different approaches to power. "Leadership" comes in many forms. A sterling individual may be historically inappropriate; and a person whom it is impossible to admire may accomplish significant things. The question of whether Barack Obama will make a fine commander-in chief finally depends on your view of the direction of history in the coming years. I cannot escape the foreboding that we are heading into an era of conflict, not an era of conciliation. I do not mean that there will be many wars, though I cannot imagine that the threat to American security from Al Qaeda and its many associates can be met without a massive and sustained military operation in western Pakistan, and I cannot imagine any Pakistani government ordering such an operation. It is not "the politics of fear" to remind Obama's legions of the blissful that, while they are watching Scarlett Johansson sway to the beat, somewhere deep inside a quasi independent territory we might call Islamistan people are making plans to blow them to bits. (Yes, they can.)

One of the striking features of Obama's victory speeches is the absence from these exultations of any lasting allusion to the darker dimensions of our strategic predicament. He makes no applause line out of American defense. And jihadist terrorism is only one of the disorders in an increasingly disordered world. The most repercussive fact of our time is surely the transformation of China. The "metrics" are all staggering. Quantities, quantities, quantities. China already has the power to wreck the American economy. However many tanks and fighters it has, its hoarding of American dollars is itself a kind of arsenal. And the bounty of wealth that it promises American business, the fantasy of greed-fulfillment that it represents, makes it almost impossible to conduct a serious discussion of the implications of this emerging world power for American principles and American interests--certainly not in Washington, where, when it comes to the art of dodging debate, Beijing is better than Bandar. What China wants, China gets. Not even the gold medal in tyranny that Beijing will win in its Olympics will make a difference. Meanwhile the authoritarian Putin has punkishly succeeded in restoring Russia to its inglorious heritage, reminding the world of the old formula that capitalism plus state power equals fascism. In Iran, none of Ahmadinejad's domestic troubles seem to have modified the state's sense of ascendancy, or its will to nuclearize itself, or its appetite for instability in its region. In Iraq, the streets are safer but the sects are not sweeter. In the Korean peninsula, diplomacy has gone ominously cold. In Palestine there are two Palestines, and one of them belongs to Hamas. In Darfur--well, you know, because everybody knows. In Latin America, the failures of liberal economics have sullied the reputation of liberal politics. And so on.

All this even before we attend to the elimination of poverty. And into this unirenic environment strides Obama, pledging to extract us promptly from Iraq and to negotiate with our enemies. What is the role of a conciliator in an unconciliating world? You might think that in such conditions he is even more of an historical necessity-but why would you think that all that stands between the world and peace is one man? George W. Bush was not single-handedly responsible for getting us into our strategic mess and Barack Obama will not be single-handedly responsible for getting us out of it. There are autonomous countries and cultures out there. The turbulence that I have described is not caused by misunderstandings. It is caused by the interests of powers and the beliefs of peoples. Beijing, Moscow, Tehran, Pyongyang, Islamabad, Gaza City, Khartoum, Caracas-does Obama really believe that he has something to propose to these ruthless regimes that they have not already considered? Does he plan to move them, to organize them, to show them change they can believe in? With what trick of empathy, what euphoria, does he hope to join the Shia, the Sunni, and the Kurds in Iraq? Yes, he made a "muscular" speech in Chicago last spring; but I have been pondering his remarks about foreign policy in the ensuing campaign and I do not detect the hardness I seek, the disabused tone that the present world warrants. My problem is not with "day one": nobody is perfectly prepared for the White House, though the memory of Bill Clinton's "learning curve" is still vivid, which in Bosnia and Rwanda cost more than a million lives. My problem is that Obama's declarations in matters of foreign policy and national security have a certain homeopathic quality. He seems averse to the hurtful, expensive, traditional, unedifying stuff.

"False hopes?" Obama told a crowd in New Hampshire. "There's no such thing." How dare he? There is almost no more commonplace trait of human existence (and of African American existence) than false hopes. I want universal health care, but I do not want to be relieved of the little that I have understood, and learned to accept, about the recalcitrance of the world. After Bush, who is not for a fresh start? But there is something unfresh about Obama's movement for freshness. We have been this young before. "She starts old, old," Lawrence wrote, in his discussion of the Leatherstocking Tales, "wrinkled and writhing in an old skin. And there is a gradual sloughing off of the old skin, towards a new youth. It is the myth of America." So can we agree on a ground between cynicism and myth? Or must we have Camelot once more? After all, being young again is also a way of living in the past. There was something mildly farcical about the Kennedys' endorsement of Obama-of this candidacy that is alleged to signify an alternative to the dynasties, and a break with ideological antiquity; but worst of all was its brazen delight in mythologization. (Thanks to the Obama campaign, millions of Americans now hold that John Kennedy was a great president and that Lyndon Johnson was not responsible for making civil rights and voting rights into law.) I understand that no one, except perhaps Lincoln, ever ran for the presidency on a tragic sense of life; but if it is possible to be too old in spirit, it is possible also to be too young.

© The New Republic 2008
The Apology Issue- Ferraro And Iraq

One of the most interesting comments, I think, about the controversial statements of former U.S. Representative and now-former Clinton finance committee member Geraldine Ferraro came tonight, March 12, 2008, from Chicago Tribune columnist and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson. Robinson, recognizing in the wake of Ferraro's resignation that Mrs. Clinton had criticized the comment(s) but not dismissed Ferraro, noted "I guess the Clinton campaign has decided that apologies are for wimps."

That it has. And in so doing, this controversy is analogous to that over Senator Clinton's vote for the Iraq war resolution in 2002. The following exchange took place toward the end of the Obama-Clinton debate on February 26. 2008 at Cleveland State University:

RUSSERT: Before you go, each of you have talked about your
careers in public service. Looking back through them, is there any
words or vote that you'd like to take back?

Senator Clinton?

CLINTON: Well, obviously, I've said many times that, although my vote on the 2002 authorization regarding Iraq was a sincere vote, I would not have voted that way again.

(a few moments later)

RUSSERT: But to be clear, you'd like to have your vote back?

CLINTON: Absolutely. I've said that many times.

But surely she had not said that many times. It was the first time that Hillary Clinton had acknowledged that she should have voted against, rather than for, the resolution. Still, even at this time she did not apologize for her vote and, in fact, if it was a sincere vote, any regret would not appropriately take the form of an apology. And I think that she has calculated all through this campaign that the American people would interpret an apology, and generally interprets apologies, as for "wimps." She is right- except, of course, that she did not realize that she might not even get through the nominating process, where Democratic voters look more kindly than the electorate at large on acknowledgement, even apologies, for serious mistakes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Is This The Obama Campaign?

I received a fund-raising appeal yesterday from Obama '08. The donation card read "we are the ones we've been waiting for... we are the change we seek." (Note: I did not add the ....)

I have a few questions:

1)Am I the one I've been waiting for?
2)Are only the Obama supporters (I am a nominal Clinton supporter) the ones who have been awaited?
3)Why have these individuals been waiting for themselves- haven't they already been there or are they still looking for themselves?
4)Weren't these individuals waiting for Obama- or the change an extraordinary individual such as he can bring- rather than themselves?
5)Is this truly "the end of history," now that the change sought has been located in themselves?

and ultimately:

Is this campaign an exercise in self-actualization?

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Thought about Steve King (R.- Iowa)

It's hard to resist commenting on the remarks made by Representative Steve King. During the tour announcing his bid for a fourth term in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Iowa Republican noted his support for the election of John McCain and contended in part:

I don't want to disparage anyone because of their race, their ethnicity, their name -whatever their religion their father might have been. I'll just say this: When you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States -- I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam?.... Additionally, his middle name (Hussein) does matter. It matters because they read a meaning into that in the rest of the world. That has a special meaning to them. They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says: Pull out of the Middle East and pull out of this conflict.

The bigotry implicit in these remarks doesn't interest me; King cannot compete with Reverend John Hagee. Neither does the reference to Obama having an unusual middle name; I'm aware that if the Illinois senator is nominated, there will be plenty of references to Obama's middle name by Republicans, probably each time McCain declaring how shocked, or offended, he is by such tactics.

Instead, I'm intrigued at 1)the (probably intentional) misunderstanding of the Middle East policy of a candidate who says that if there is actionable intelligence that Osama bin Laden (in whom Republicans once were interested) is in Pakistan and that government doesn't take action, he would- a position about which the Repub candidate for president has expressed skepticism; and 2) that Barack Obama's background, be it African-American or misrepresented as Muslim, does matter. This is a notion, I think, held by many Americans, including many supporters of Obama (and, incidentally, by Don Imus, who loves and supports John McCain, but who believes a President Obama's background, however he interprets it, would improve our image abroad.) It's a perspective held by many on the right, and by many on the left. And it is wrong. An American president named Barack Obama, or Barack Hussein Obama, born of a father from Kenya and having lived in Indonesia and the island of Hawaii, would be fascinating and perhaps heartening to much of the world. For about 15 minutes. Thereafter, each regime would get on with looking out for its national interest, positively or negatively, and react as necessary to the conduct of American foreign policy.

Consider Libya. On December 19, 2003 Prime Minister Blair of England and President Bush announced that the government of Moammar Gadhafi had agreed to dismantle its nuclear weapons program and permit inspections by international agencies. As wrongheaded- and inept- as George W. Bush has been in conducting foreign affairs, this appears to have been a victory for the west- won because the action Libya took was in its national interest.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Saint McCain

"At what point do you stop doing what is right and start doing what the American people want?"

-Scott Pelley, in a question posed to John McCain during a profile of the senator on the 3/9/08 edition of CBS' "60 Minutes"
Saint McCain

And now: how to turn a calculated admission of ignorance by a candidate into an expression of his concern ("that he would like") and humility ("conceded to reporters")....

"It's an issue that he has conceded to reporters that he doesn't know as much about as he would like."

Jim Acosta of CNN, 3/8/08, on John McCain and the economy
The Republican Media- No. 13

From: 1)USA Today: "McCain Rejects Hagee's Views on Catholics"; 2)Chicago Tribune: "McCain Rejects Anti-Catholic Views"; 3)Philadelphia Inquirer: "McCain Rejects Backer's Views On Catholics"; 4)Associated Press: "McCain Rejects Anti-Catholic Views".

And now for Senator John McCain's actual statement: "We've had a dignified campaign, and I repudiate any comments that are made, including Pastor Hagee's, if they are anti-Catholic or offensive to Catholics."

If they are anti-Catholic? Exactly how negative, how vile, would comments have to be for John McCain to concede that they are anti-Catholic? How about "apostate church," "false cult system" (by the way, what are "true" cults?), and "the great whore?"

At least Roman Catholics get an insincere near-excuse. According to, Hagee has said of the people of New Orleans: "Hurricane Katrina I believe that the Hurricane Katrina was, in fact, the judgment of God against the city of New Orleans" (National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" on 9/18/06); of a "slave sale" at his church: "slavery in America is returning to Cornerstone" and "make plans to come and go home with a slave" (Wall Street Journal, 7/27/06); and of women: "Do you know the difference between a woman with PMS and a snarling Doberman pinscher? The answer is lipstick. Do you know the difference between a terrorist and a woman with PMS? You can negotiate with a terrorist" (Hagee's book, "What Every Man Wants in a Woman"). McCain's explanation? ".... I am against discrimination and anti-Semitism, anti-Catholic, anything racial." "Anything racial?" Is that racism, racist codes, racist remarks, other races? He doesn't say.

It is extraordinary that the mainstream media is loathe to question John McCain's welcome of support from John Hagee while so fastidious about practically anything the two Democratic candidates say..... except that it's not extraordinary, but typical.

Friday, March 07, 2008

The Republican Media- No. 12

Tim Russert asked Barack Obama at the 2/26/08 Democratic presidential debate in Cleveland, Ohio about the endorsement by Louis Farrakhan of the Illinois senator. Obama proceeded to condemn Farrakhan's anti-semitic statements as "unacceptable and reprehensible;" said he had been "very clear of my denunciations of him and his past statements;" and noted that he had not solicited the support of Farrakhan (though he did not quite repudiate it).

But why the media silence about John McCain and Reverend John Hagee, pastor of the 17,000 member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas? As the Democratic Party (not unbiased, but sources of the remarks are noted) has pointed out, Hagee alternately has made statements which are: anti-woman; anti-Catholic; anti-black; and attributing Hurricane Katrina to God's wrath against homosexuality. And that's not including his statement "the coming nuclear showdown with Iran is a certainty." McCain's response? "When he endorses me, that does not mean that I endorse everything that he stands for and believes in. I don't have to agree with everyone who endorses my campaign."

So what does Hagee believe in that Senator Mccain does not? We may never know, now that the traditional media is gearing up for general election mode and with it, its usual preference for the Repub nominee.

James Fallows of has reported (obviously, disapprovingly) "on March 5, 2008 in a live CNN interview just now, Sen. Clinton repeated, twice, the 'Sen. McCain has a lifetime of experience, I have a lifetime of experience, Sen. Obama has one speech in 2002' line."

Similarly, on March 1, 2008 Fernando Suarez of had reported“I think you'll be able to imagine many things Senator McCain will be able to say,” she said. “He’s never been the president, but he will put forth his lifetime of experience. I will put forth my lifetime of experience. Senator Obama will put forth a speech he made in 2002.”

I believe a)though the Obama camp's charge that the Clinton campaign viciously inserted race into the campaign, though legitimate, was distorted and largely inaccurate; and b) the criticism that Hillary Clinton on CBS' 60 Minutes did not sufficiently rebut the false rumor that Senator Obama is a Muslim was dead wrong.

But the recent statements in which Senator Clinton argues that she and Senator McCain are experienced (apparently on foreign policy) while Senator Obama is not experienced are of a different kind. John McCain might use either or both statement against Barack Obama in a general election- and Senator Obama is qualified to be President (though arguably- less so than Hillary Clinton). But the comparison also was unnecessary.

Unfortunately, in usual American political discourse, "experienced" is synonymous with "experienced in foreign affairs." No one will question John McCain's "experience" (though he already has acknowledged not knowing much about economics). Mrs. Clinton, therefore, could have said something like this: "John McCain will claim a lifetime of experience. I will challenge him with my lifetime of experience. But how will Barack Obama be able to respond?" (This would not leave a good soundbite for the Repub campaign, given that not only has Obama's experience not specifically be denigrated, but John McCain would not be anxious to quote someone stating that he will claim a lifetime of experience.)

The New York senator still would have gotten her point across- assuming, of course, that she merely wanted to claim superiority to her Democratic competitor, and not bolster the Republican challenger.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Red- uh, Mainland- China Again

The Associated Press reports today, 3/7/08, "China will be stricter on foreign performers after Icelandic singer Bjork shouted "Tibet! Tibet!" at the end of her concert in Shanghai this week, the government said Friday," apparently after performance of her song "Declare Independence."

Chinese sensitivity, and resort to totalitarian tactics, over oppression of the Himalayan region is not surprising, given that it is, after all, a totalitarian state. (I hesitate to note that the government's concern that the comment "hurt Chinese people's feelings" brings to mind the impetus behind so many speech codes in our own country, though not so much as to prevent me from mentioning it.) The response of the "Culture Ministry" to what we Americans, and much of the world, recognize as legitimate (even mild) political expression should remind us of the nature of the Chinese regime, especially alarming in the world's largest nation.
Just The Usual Nonsense

It is entertaining periodically listening to right-wing talk show hosts, if only to be amused by some of the outrageous things spewed. And so it was that a man from Erie, Pennsylvania called Sean Hannity on February 5, 2008 and voiced alarm that either a President Obama or Clinton would impose disastrous economic policies and increase income taxes on middle-income families such as his. Hannity, attempting to mock the tax policy of the Democratic candidates (who are opposed to extending tax cuts for the wealthy), quipped "obviously, if you make $50,000 a year, you're rich."

Honestly, he really said that. It doesn't matter that Senator Obama at the Democratic debate in Philadelphia in October, 2007 said:

We are going to offset some of the payroll taxes that families who are making less than $50,000 a year get a larger break. I want to make sure that seniors making less than $50,000, that they get some relief in terms of the taxes on their Social Security. Those kinds of progressive tax steps, while closing loopholes and rolling back the Bush tax cuts to the top 1 percent, simply restores some fairness and a sense that we're all in this together.

Nor that Senator Clinton explained in a speech on 10/8/07 posted on her website:

For middle class Americans, I will extend the tax cuts including the child tax credit, the marriage penalty relief, and lower income tax rates that they currently pay. And I will reform something called the Alternative Minimum Tax, the AMT, to make sure it doesn't hit middle class families with higher tax rates. It was never intended to do that. I will also expand the Earned Income Tax Credit to help families that are struggling to join the middle class. And I will be providing tax credits to help small businesses pay for health care.

There you have it. One candidate suggests lowering payroll taxes for families earning under $50,000 and cutting Social Security taxes on middle-income elderly people; the other candidate, cutting the marriage penalty, extending the child tax credit, and lowering income tax rates for the middle class. Hannity's comment was, however, a clever way of avoiding telling the caller, and the audience, that struggling families of moderate income such as his do have a stake in seeing that another Repub is elected President: with lower taxes on the wealthy, and less federal aid to states, we can all bask in the Republican way: higher college tuition rates, decreased funding for local schools, perhaps resulting in higher local property taxes. Or perhaps John McCain can follow George W. Bush's lead and cut health care for veterans and for soldiers returning from Iraq, all the while proclaiming the "support the troops" slogan.

But let's thank Sean Hannity and his fellow GOP shills for reminding us that for them, money is the issue: more for them and their corporate allies, and continued struggle for the middle class.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Reverend Wright vs. Reverend King

"The eleven o'clock hour on Sunday is the most segregated hour in American life."
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

"Unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian." (emphasis mine)
-motto of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago, Illinois

Perhaps Barack Obama's pastor, Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., would like to explain why he believes the segregation deplored by Dr. King is now acceptable, even laudatory.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Hillary Convinces The Voters

Comments by Hillary Clinton from several presidential debates:

- but it has been an honor, because it has been a campaign that is history making.
You know, obviously I am thrilled to be running, to be the first woman president, which I think would be a sea change in our country and around the world ... you know, enormous hope and, you know, a real challenge to the way things have been done, and who gets to do them, and what the rules are. So I feel that either one of us will make history. (Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio, 2/26/08)

- And, you know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored. (University of Texas, Austin, Texas, 2/21/08)

- You know, this campaign is obviously an incredible opportunity for so many people to become involved, to be part of making history. You have got a son of the South. You've got an African-American. You have a woman. What better way to celebrate the legacy of Dr. King than to look at this stage right here tonight? (Palace Theatre, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, 1/21/08)

- You know, several of us would never have had a chance to stand here and run for president -- a Latino, an African-American, a woman -- if it hadn't been for the progress of America over my lifetime. And I am thrilled to be running to be the first woman president.... And it has been my goal over the course of my lifetime to be part of this great movement of progress that includes all of us, but has particularly been significant to me as a woman. (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada, 11/15/07)

- I am proud to be running as a woman.... And when I'm inaugurated, I think it's going to send a great message to a lot of little girls and boys around the world. You know what is great about this is look at this stage and look at the diversity you have here in the Democratic Party. (Adler Theatre, Davenport, Iowa, 9/20/07)

- Well, when I was growing up I didn't think I would run for president, but I could not be standing here without the women's movement, without generations of women who broke down barriers, the civil rights movement that gave women and people of color the feeling that they were really part of the American dream. (Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa, 8/19/07 as a special edition of ABC's "This Week")

.... and from the campaign trail, as reported by, of Mrs. Clinton's appearance at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina on 1/13/08:

"I am so proud of my party, I am so proud of my country and I am so proud of Senator Barack Obama." She added later in the speech, "I am standing here, Senator Obama stands before you, as a result of the generations of men and women who protested and picketed."

Diversity. Breaking down barriers. An historic election. Proud of Barack Obama.

Given a choice in this "historic election" between nominating a black man, the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review, father from Kenya; and nominating a woman, the wife of a former president, the Democratic electorate (narrowly) appears to have chosen the former.

Diversity. Breaking down barriers. An historic election. Proud of Barack Obama. Hillary Clinton has won her argument. And lost the nomination.

And "Genocidally" is Not an Adjective

Respectfully, councilwoman, you've been punked, as the tweeter may have been. I was, too, when I saw the tweet with the associated vide...