Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Race Matters

Would someone tell Gwen Ifill that most black voters are not racists?

Appearing this past Sunday, April 26, 2008, on NBC's Meet The Press, PBS' Gwen Ifill, after sympathisizing with Reverend Jeremiah Wright, stated

But what the, the numbers have shown us, the exit polls have shown us in the last week is that what we don't want to talk about is racism, which is, I think, a, a, a real issue. The people who said they--that race mattered to them, a lot of them voted for Hillary Clinton. I'm not calling the voters racists, but I think, at some point, we have to get back to a word that we're very scared of using in our society, which is the reason why people vote against someone because of their race is not a positive reason, it's a negative, and racism is a negative quality.

To summarize, Ifill says: A lot of people to whom race mattered voted for Clinton. I'm not calling them racists but people voting against someone because of race is a negative and racism is a negative quality.

Now, here are the results by percentage and race (black and non-Hispanic white only, so as not to complicate the issue) in a few Democratic primaries, as indicated by NBC exit polls (not all add to 100%):

New Jersey: whites: Clinton 66, Obama 31; blacks: Clinton 14, Obama 82
Mississippi: whites: Clinton 70, Obama 26; blacks: Clinton 8, Obama 92
Ohio: whites: Clinton 64, Obama 34; blacks: Clinton 13, Obama 87
Pennsylvania: whites: Clinton 63, Obama 37; blacks: Clinton 10, Obama 90

Bloc voting clearly has been more common among blacks and apparently race has played a part in the overwhelming majority of blacks voting for Obama. Therefore, if among people who said "that race mattered to them, a lot of them voted for Hillary Clinton," I think we can conclude that among people who said that race mattered to them, a lot of people voted for Obama. But I believe that most of these voters are not racist, yet Ifill cites strong white support for Clinton as suggestive of racism. I suppose, then, that Ifill believes that strong- no, overwhelming- black support for Obama suggests racism.... except she doesn't say that. So does this prominent journalist believe that Obama's support among blacks can be attributed to racism (I don't)- or is she a firm believer in double standards?

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Republican Media- No. 16

Thanks go out to Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and Andrea Mitchell, Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent of NBC News.

Two days after I reprinted the 1999 article in slate.com by Timothy Noah which described the Republican effort to tar Al Gore with responsibility for the Willie Horton hit job in the 2000 election, along comes Castellanos practically bragging how the GOP is going to replay this tactic in 2008, immediately followed by McCain enthusiast Andrea Mitchell reminding us how routine bias toward the Republican Party is.

Here are the two comments from the April 27, 2008 edition of NBC's Meet The Press:

MR. RUSSERT: Alex Castellanos, the Republican strategist, was on TV the other night and said this: "Clinton's running the ads Republicans would love to be running so--now, so we don't have to because Hillary Clinton is doing it. Yes, it could--would be hard for a Republican to run an ad with Osama bin Laden in it. Not so much now because Hillary has already done it against Obama.

"It would be difficult for a Republican to run an ad questioning does Barack Obama have the strength of character to lead the country. Well, not so much now because Hillary has already done it."

Is that a Republican sort of protecting his flank, getting ready for a rollout, or has Hillary Clinton's attacks on Obama paved the way for McCain if Obama becomes the nominee?

MS. MITCHELL: She's written the playbook for John McCain. They've done all the opposition research. I think that Obama has also had some self-inflicted wounds, notably in San Francisco, the bitter comment, which just didn't play right, and I--you know, obviously I don't think he's handled Jeremiah Wright, we can talk about that. I don't think he anticipated the impact of that and the way it would be perceived out of context or in context. But Hillary Clinton has laid out a road map for the Republicans, and that is one of the Obama arguments. The Obama supporters are arguing that she is destroying him, even if he is the nominee, and he is the presumptive nominee and the front-runner, certainly

Note Castellanos claiming "It would be difficult for a Republican to run an ad questioning does Barack Obama have the strength of character to lead the country. Well, not so much now because Hillary has already done it."

Not true. Hillary Clinton's 3:00 a.m. foreign policy ad (courtesy of The Huffington Post) and her more recent buy with images of Franklin Roosevelt, Pearl Harbor, Castro, gas prices, and, yes, bin Laden emphasize her credentials for handling a crisis. They do not criticize or demean Barack Obama in any way, but merely suggest that she is the candidate best able (and I use "best" rather than "better" because it is not a direct comparison with her current rival) to handle an emergency. Disagree with her on that point if you choose, but paranoia about either ad is neither attractive nor flattering to the frontrunner, merely indicating a naivete that it the spot is somehow beyond the pale. However, it is not surprising that a Repub consultant has spilled the beans, revealing that the GOP this autumn intends to do a "Willie Horton"- run a venomous campaign and blame it on Democrats.

Similarly, Andrea Mitchell, wife of one of the most important Republicans, Allan Greenspan, of the last 20 years. She now has said of Hillary Clinton "she's written the playbook for John McCain. They've done all the opposition research." Fortunately, we have a Weekly Standard blogger ("fortunately" the Weekly Standard- something I'm not used to typing) quoting John McCain on a conference call as claiming

All I can tell you, Jennifer, is that I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. So apparently has Danny Ortega and several others. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas's worst nightmare....If senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly.

Did Mrs. Clinton run an ad I missed about Danie Ortega and Hamas, linking them to Barack Obama? No, but that doesn't stop Mitchell from claiming "she's written the playbook for John McCain."

And "they've done all the opposition research?" Did Senator Clinton force Senator Obama to refer on the first of his two interviews with WIP Radio in Philadelphia to his maternal grandmother as "a typical white person?" Did Senator Clinton infiltrate that meeting with campaign donors and insinuate Senator Obama into contending that small town Americans "cling" to their guns and religion? Has Senator Clinton been asking the silly question about why Senator Obama doesn't wear an American flag pin? Was it Senator Clinton or George Stephanopoulos who asked Senator Obama about William Ayers- or whether Obama's former pastor "love(s) America as much as you do"? And was it Senator Clinton who dug up video of Reverend Wright- which would be a huge surprise to conservative Repub talk show host Sean Hannity who claims to have uncovered the Wright story first?

No, Andrea, Hillary Clinton isn't laying out the road map for the Grand Old Party. But you seem to be trying to.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"Anyway, dot-communism? The Xinhua News Agency reports that, in China now, there are 221 million Internet users, tying the United States for the most web users in any country. The trouble is, it means that China is growing and advancing, but, let‘s not forget, our Internet users have access to the entire Internet.

In China, sites that show protest videos in Tibet, like YouTube, are blocked by the government. Glasnost has yet to hit China, and the First Amendment is nowhere in sight."

-Chris Matthews, MSNBC's "Hardball," April 24, 2008
After Two Days, New York Times Proven Foolish

On April 23, 2008, in an editorial which instantly looked silly, the august editors of The New York Times actually wrote:

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.

Then on April 25, 2008, Michael Goldfarb on "The Blog" (creativity from our conservative Republican friends at weeklystandard.com) wrote

Earlier this month, Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Prime Minister of Hamas, told WABC radio, "We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election and I do believe he is like John Kennedy."

Responding to a question during an interview with bloggers on 4/25/08, John McCain declared

All I can tell you, Jennifer, is that I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. So apparently has Danny Ortega and several others. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas's worst nightmare....If senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly.

There you have it: two days after The NYT slammed Hillary Clinton for "demeaning the political process" with a campaign "even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it," John McCain simultaneously links Barack Obama with both Hamas and Daniel Ortega. No Democratic nominee yet, no (Democratic or Republican) convention yet, no general election campaign yet, and John McCain already has made a more vile charge than Hillary Clinton has over the course of her entire campaign for the nomination. So will the New York Times "acknowledge" that the "negativity" for which Senator McCain "is mostly responsible" (actually, totally responsible) "does nothing but harm.... to the 2008 election"?
Willie Horton And The Republican Slime Machine

"Al Gore is the one who first brought up Willie Horton." So sayeth Bruce Bartlett, now an author but described by Wilkipedia as an economist associated with supply-side economics. He was a domestic policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and was a treasury official under President George H.W. Bush." Yes, that supply-side theory, which has helped bring us an increasing trade deficit, increasing budget deficit, gas and food prices rapidly spiraling upward, and the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Bartlett, spinning his web of right-wing, highly partisan paranoia, was on the Friday, 4/25/08 edition of Laura Ingraham's syndicated talk show and has written "Wrong On Race: The Democratic Party's Buried Past." (It's not me saying conservatives always live in the past; Repubs apparently say it about themselves.)

Was Al Gore really the first to bring up "Willie Horton" (reason for quote marks to come up eventually)? In the article, entitled "Did Gore Hatch Horton?" posted 11/1/99 in slate.com and reprinted here, Timothy Noah points out that this notion had, apparently, already been spreading.

Conservative commentators have taken to repeating the mantra that Al Gore introduced Willie Horton, the inflammatory racial symbol who enlivened the 1988 presidential race, to political debate in America. On Oct. 24, William Kristol, editor and publisher of the Weekly Standard, said on ABC's This Week:

Gore's a mean, tough political fighter. Gore is the one who introduced Willie Horton to American politics in the 1988 primary against Mike Dukakis.

Kristol repeated this, almost verbatim, in a "Memo to Bill Bradley" that appeared in the issue of Newsweek that hit newsstands the following day:

Big Al can be a tough, mean player. After all, he's the guy who introduced Willie Horton to the American public in his primary campaign against Michael Dukakis.

Four days after that, Paul Gigot wrote in his Oct. 29 Wall Street Journal column:

Recall that the candidate who first raised the prison furlough (Willie Horton) issue against Mike Dukakis in 1988 wasn't George Bush. It was Al Gore.

Horton, you may recall, is a black man who, while doing prison time in Massachusetts for murder, escaped from a weekend furlough and committed a particularly brutal assault and rape. Dukakis hadn't started the state program that allowed prisoners like Horton, who were serving life sentences without parole, to take furloughs--that would have been Dukakis' Republican predecessor as governor of Massachusetts, Francis Sargent. But Dukakis, even after hearing what Horton did on his furlough, was resistant to ending the program, which the state legislature finally did after much crusading by a local newspaper. Horton's story was subsequently offered up by Vice President George Bush's campaign as evidence of Dukakis' softness on crime, and--less directly--of the Democratic party's excessive fondness for black people. (It was an ugly election.) Introducing Willie Horton to American political discourse would not seem to be something to be proud of. Is it true that Gore did so? And if it is true, was Gore's 1988 campaign guilty of injecting cryptic racist messages into the debate? The answers to these questions are, respectively, yes and no.

Gore did ask Dukakis, in a debate right before the 1988 New York primary, about "weekend passes for convicted criminals." Here is how Sidney Blumenthal, now a Clinton White House aide but then a reporter for the Washington Post, wrote it up a few months later:

An uncomfortable Dukakis, after dispassionately reciting statistics, conceded that the Massachusetts furlough program for murderers sentenced to life imprisonment had been canceled.

The issue did not take for Gore, but the exchange attracted the interest of Jim Pinkerton, the research director for the then flailing Bush campaign. "That's the first time I paid attention," said Pinkerton. "I thought to myself, 'This is incredible' ...It totally fell into our lap."

In reviewing this history, it's important to make some crucial distinctions. Gore never mentioned that Horton was black; indeed, he never mentioned Horton by name. He merely drew attention, correctly, to the damaging fact that Dukakis had tolerated a furlough program for especially violent criminals in his state even after a horrific incident strongly suggested this was a bad policy. It's conceivable, of course, that Gore was warming up for more explicit and racially tinged use of Horton's story later in the primary fight. But that would have been uncharacteristic of him. In any event, Gore dropped out of the race shortly after the debate.

Now recall what the Republicans did with Horton's story: An "independent expenditure" group aired an ad for Bush showing a picture of Horton. A Republican fund-raising letter in Maryland showed pictures of Dukakis and Horton alongside the following text: "Is this your pro-family team for 1988?" Horton told Playboy magazine in 1989 that a woman who identified herself as working for "an organization affiliated with the Bush campaign" phoned him and wrote letters to him up in prison trying to get him to endorse Dukakis. The official Bush campaign, of course, kept its distance from such efforts, and claimed to use Horton only in race-neutral ways. But there is plenty of evidence that it was heartily appreciative of the racial subtext. In his book about the 1988 campaign, Pledging Allegiance, Blumenthal quotes an anonymous member of the Bush campaign team as saying, "Willie Horton has star quality. Willie's going to be politically furloughed to terrorize again. It's a wonderful mix of liberalism and a big black rapist." Although Bush's campaign manager, Lee Atwater, always insisted publicly that for the Bush campaign Horton was never a racial symbol, Atwater slipped in a speech he gave to southern Republicans right before that year's Democratic convention:

There is a story about a fellow named Willie Horton who for all I know may end up to be Dukakis' running mate. Dukakis is making Hamlet look like the rock of Gibraltar in the way he's acted on this. [This was a reference to Dukakis' search for a vice-presidential candidate.] The guy was on TV about a month ago and he said you'll never see me standing in the driveway of my house talking to these candidates. And guess what, on Monday, I saw in the driveway of his house? Jesse Jackson. So anyway, maybe he'll put this Willie Horton guy on the ticket after all is said and done.

As was noted at the time by Thomas Edsall of the Washington Post and others, Atwater was pretty clearly equating Jesse Jackson with Willie Horton because both happened to be black. Gore never did that. He never did anything close to that.

The major point seems to be this: Gore never mentioned Horton by name, never mentioned that Horton was black, and dropped out of the race shortly thereafter. But to the evident pleasure of the Repub Party, an "independent expenditure" group acting on behalf of the GOP ticket ran an ad featuring a frightening-looking black rapist and associating him with Michael Dukakis. In this, as in so many things, the GOP has at best a tenuous grip on reality, and on the truth.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Straight Talk About The Church?

Sometimes I get to thinking: is John McCain, confused, temperamental, or self-conscious about his own hypocrisy? Fox News reports an extraordinary, if disarmingly simple, response of the presumptive Repub nominee to questions posed to him in New Orleans aboard his bus today, April 24, 2008:

Q: What is your reaction (to Hagee Katrina comments)?

McCain: It’s nonsense.

Q: Would you withdraw accepting his endorsement?

McCain: It’s nonsense, it’s nonsense, it’s nonsense. It’s nonsense. I don’t have anything additional to say about that. It’s nonsense.

Q: Do you regret accepting his endorsement?

A: It’s nonsense. I don’t have anything more to say about that. Of course–I apologize for that. It’s nonsense. I reject that categorically and I would point out there’s a lot of people who have endorsed me. They support my views. That does not mean that I support–would I consider repudiating his endorsement? I certainly condemn those parts of his remarks. I continue to appreciate his support for the state of Israel and for many of the good things that he and his church has done. But I repudiate as strongly as possible those remarks and those of the Catholic church as well.

At first glance, the fun response (to the second question) is "it's nonsense, it's nonsense, it's nonsense. It's nonsense. I don't have anything additional to say about that. It's nonsense." This is, of course, a perfect description of McCain's response and means nothing.

But McCain's response to the third question may be more revealing. First, he refuses- or, rather, avoids- repudiating Hagee's endorsement. And then he says something astonishing which is not going to be noticed. McCain said "I repudiate as strongly as possible those remarks and those of the Catholic church as well" (emphasis mine).

What remarks of the Roman Catholic Church does the Senator repudiate? Did he really mean that? Before you conclude that he couldn't possibly have been taking a shot at the Church, remember: this is all about John McCain's admiration of someone who has publicly referred to the Roman Catholic Church as "the great whore of Babylon."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Not So Straight Talk On Endorsements

ABC News Senior National Correspondent Jake Tapper, writing on the Political Punch blog on April 20, 2008, pointed out that McCain senior campaign adviser Charlie Black last month stated

What Senator McCain has said repeatedly is that these candidates cannot be held accountable for all the views of people who endorse them or people who befriend them. ... He believes that people who endorse you, people who befriend you, are entitled to their own views, but you are not held personally accountable. That when somebody endorses you or befriends you, they're embracing your views, the candidates' views, not the other way around.

To summarize: candidates cannot be "held personally accountable" for "all the views of people who endorse them or people who befriend them."

But on the 4/20/08 edition of ABC's "This Week" with George Stephanopoulos, the Repub candidate himself said of Barack Obama

I'm sure he's very patriotic. But his relationship with Mr. Ayers is open to question. ... if you're going to associate and have as a friend and serve on a board and have a guy kick off your campaign that says he's unrepentant, that he wished they had bombed more.

To summarize: Barack Obama must be held accountable for the views of someone who endorses him.

Is this the "Straight Talk Express" we still keep hearing about? Or is this a guy whose only extraordinary quality is doubletalk?
A Classic Moment

I don't believe in guilt by association but.... to all those who haven't drunk the Obama Kool-Aid, who wonder if the tens of thousands of individuals who come out to a Barack rally to cheer his applause lines, to swoon and sometimes faint, know what they're actually entranced with, comes one of the Democratic presidential campaign's most curious events.

It happened at the senator's speech, following his 9.4% loss to Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania, in a YouTube moment.

Here is Jonathan Alter's description (under "Who Are The Obama Abercrombie Guys?):

If you were watching Obama's concession speech last night then you saw them: Three guys standing two rows behind the candidate in what is usually a carefully-selected backdrop of loyal sign-waving supporters, each sporting t-shirts clearly bearing the logos of Abercrombie & Fitch. During Obama's speech, they waved their signs dutifully but also clearly communicated with each other; at one point, one of them blackberried. Obama's speech was great as usual (and nice line to slip in there about 4-or-8 years!) but it was distracting to see that huge "FITCH" in the background and see the trio of average-looking dudes bobbing behind his head. Who were they and what were they doing there?

No one knows whether this was product placement by Abercrombie & Fitch (which has denied it), a plant by the Obama campaign (which has denied it), or a prank by three guys who had shopped together (or drunk together). But we do know something about Abercrombie & Fitch Co. In an (11/24/04) article on the CBS News website describing a piece broadcast on 60 Minutes, we read that a lawsuit had been filed against the chain, charged with firing, or refusing to hire, young people "because their look was not consistent with the store's look." The lawsuit, according to the report, "alleges that Abercrombie hires a disproportionately white sales force, favors white employees for the best positions, and discourages minorities from even applying for jobs."

And what was the store's look?

It's dominated by Caucasian, football-looking, blonde-hair, blue-eyed males; skinny, tall," says Lu. "You don't see any African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and that's the image that they're portraying and that they're looking for."

Liu says she was fired after corporate officials visited the store, and, according to her, didn't like what they saw: "A corporate official had pointed to an Abercrombie poster and told our management at our store, 'You need to have more staff that looks like this.' And it was a white Caucasian male on that poster."

In an update, CBS News reported "Abercrombie & Fitch settled the class action suit against it for $40 million. As part of the settlement, the company agreed to create an office of diversity, and to recruit more black, Latino and Asian employees."

So three guys go to an Obama speech and celebrate a clothing chain, giving it free advertising. And it's a company which, until it was stopped by determined ex- (or would-be) employees who filed a lawsuit, discriminated not only against non-white employeees and potential employees, but perhaps even against all those who did not fit the Nazi racial ideal. And that is the operation these Obamites think is oh, so cool- one which avoided hiring anybody who looked remotely like a Barack Obama.
Simply The Truth

Courtesy of The Los Angeles Times, we learned on April 20, 2008:

Throngs of Chinese Americans protested outside CNN's offices in Hollywood on Saturday morning, calling for the dismissal of commentator Jack Cafferty, whose recent remarks about Chinese goods and China inflamed a community already angry about international condemnations directed at the host country of the upcoming Olympic Games.

The protesters lined Sunset Boulevard from Cahuenga Boulevard to Wilcox Avenue chanting "Fire Cafferty" and "CNN liar" and singing the Chinese national anthem and other patriotic songs. They waved Chinese, American and Taiwanese flags and directed their anger at the news channel's dark glass tower.

In a group discussion on the April 9, 2008 edition of The Situation Room, Cafferty had remarked

We continue to import their junk with the lead paint on them and the poisoned pet food and export . . . jobs to places where you can pay workers a dollar a month to turn out the stuff that we're buying from Wal-Mart. So I think our relationship with China has certainly changed. I think they're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years.

The tyrannical regime in Beijing had demanded an apology. The protests resulted when the network, understandably, noted that Cafferty's remarks were directed not against the Chinese people but against the Chinese government and that the network's commentator has periodically criticized various governments, including his own.

Still, we want to consider: Was Cafferty accurate? He contended: 1)we import junk with lead paint on them (check); 2) we export jobs to places where workers are paid minimally to turn out stuff we're buying from Wal-Mart (check); 3)Our relationship with China has changed (check); 4)They're basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years (check). Looks like 4 for 4 to me.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Debate Before The North Carolina Primary

According to Wilkipedia, these have been the debates thus far in the Democratic presidential race (not verified- others have put the number of debates held at 20):

5.1 April 26, 2007 – Orangeburg, South Carolina
5.2 June 3, 2007 - CNN 7:00pm EDT - Manchester, New Hampshire
5.3 June 28, 2007 - PBS - Washington, D.C.
5.4 July 12, 2007 – Detroit, Michigan
5.5 July 23, 2007 - CNN - Charleston, South Carolina
5.6 August 4, 2007 – Chicago, Illinois
5.7 August 7, 2007 – Chicago, Illinois
5.8 August 9, 2007 – Los Angeles, California
5.9 August 19, 2007 – Des Moines, Iowa
5.10 September 9, 2007 – Coral Gables, Florida
5.11 September 12, 2007
5.12 September 20, 2007 – Davenport, Iowa
5.13 September 26, 2007 – Hanover, New Hampshire
5.14 October 30, 2007 - NBC 9:00pm EDT - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
5.15 November 15, 2007 - CNN - Las Vegas, Nevada
5.16 December 4, 2007 - NPR (radio only) - Des Moines, Iowa
5.17 December 13, 2007 – Johnston, Iowa
5.18 January 5, 2008 - ABC 8:45pm EST - Manchester, New Hampshire
5.19 January 15, 2008 - MSNBC 6:00pm PST - Las Vegas, Nevada
5.20 January 21, 2008 - CNN 8:00pm EST - Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
5.21 January 31, 2008 - CNN 5:00pm PDT - Hollywood, California
5.22 February 2, 2008 - MTV 6:00pm EST - MTV Myspace Debate
5.23 February 21, 2008 - CNN 7:00pm CST - Austin, Texas
5.24 February 26, 2008 - MSNBC 9:00pm EST - Cleveland, Ohio
5.25 April 16, 2008 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
5.26 April 18, 2008 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
5.27 April 27, 2008 - North Carolina

Oops! There will be no debate in North Carolina. The Caucus, a New York Times blog, reported on April 22, 2008:

Mrs. Clinton’s campaign issued a statement saying: “It is unfortunate that Senator Obama has chosen to brush off the people of North Carolina by flatly refusing to debate. But we are willing to move forward with another time and location for the debate so that he has no excuse for not participating.”

An Obama campaign spokesman, Bill Burton, replied: “It’s unfortunate that the Clinton campaign decided to play politics with this — especially considering that Senator Obama agreed to a North Carolina debate long before Senator Clinton did, and their campaign took three weeks to consider and ultimately reject that proposal.”

(The Clinton campaign rejected the original date of 4/19/08 because it is the first day of Passover and the two camps then worked out the later date.)

The posting concluded "CNN and PBS have offered to sponsor a debate in Indiana ahead of that state’s May 6 primary. Mrs. Clinton’s campaign has accepted the invitation; Mr. Obama’s campaign has not." To all those who have watched the previous debates, this comes as no surprise.
Condoleezza Rice, Gun Control Advocate

As a reminder, here is the second amendment to the United States Constitution:

Amendment 2 - Right to Bear Arms. Ratified 12/15/1791.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

And here is Condoleezza Rice speaking on April 20, 2008 in Baghdad, encouraging Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki to fight the militias of Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr:

But clearly, the prime minister has laid down some ground rules which any functioning democratic state would insist upon, having to do with, you know, arms belonging to the state, not to -- not in private hands," she said. "The current circumstances come out of what I think is a very important and indeed appropriate action that the Iraqi government has taken."

To repeat: "ground rules (of) any functioning democratic state (to include) arms belonging to the state.... not in private hands." Exactly.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Republican Media- No. 15

How about those retired military officers you see on network and cable news programs passed off as experts? It turns out some have been part of a Pentagon intelligence operation, with assistance from the White House, the State Department, or the Justice Department.

The information was gathered when "The(New York) Times successfully sued the Defense Department to gain access to 8,000 pages of e-mail messages, transcripts and records describing years of private briefings, trips to Iraq and Guantánamo and an extensive Pentagon talking points operation." An article written by David Barstow in today's (4/20/08) paper lays out the case:

Analysts have been wooed in hundreds of private briefings with senior military leaders, including officials with significant influence over contracting and budget matters, records show. They have been taken on tours of Iraq and given access to classified intelligence. They have been briefed by officials from the White House, State Department and Justice Department, including Mr. Cheney, Alberto R. Gonzales and Stephen J. Hadley.

The television networks rarely if ever reveal to their audience the financial or political connections of the "experts," who sometimes do not reveal their true associations or motives to the networks themselves. Information provided often has been contradicted by subsequent inquiries and books later published.

Moreover, Barstow notes

Several dozen (of these) military analysts represent more than 150 military contractors either as lobbyists, senior executives, board members or consultants. The companies include defense heavyweights, but also scores of smaller companies, all part of a vast assemblage of contractors scrambling for hundreds of billions in military business generated by the administration’s war on terror.

The program was overseen by Assistant Secretary of Defense For Public Affairs Torie Clark, a former public relations executive, who believed the analysts she recruited, ironically, would be seen as "authoritative and utterly independent," according to Barstow. They would be

framing how viewers ought to interpret events. What is more, while the analysts were in the news media, they were not of the news media. They were military men, many of them ideologically in sync with the administration’s neoconservative brain trust, many of them important players in a military industry anticipating large budget increases to pay for an Iraq war.

Darn that liberal news media!
A Debate, Or Whatever

Stupid, offensive, or biased questions from the Democratic presidential debate, hosted by Charlies Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, on April 17, 2008:

(1) (from Gibson, of both candidates) Governor Cuomo, on elder statesman in your party, has come forward with a suggestion. He has said, "Look, fight it to the end. Let every vote be counted. You can test every delegate. Go at each other right till the end. Don't give an inch to one another. But pledge now that
whichever one of you wins this contest, you'll take the other as your running mate, and that the other one will agree, if they lose, to take second place on the ticket."
So I put the question to both of you: Why not? (LAUGHTER)
Don't all speak at once.

No, Charlie, neither candidate is going to take a pledge- binding himself/herself months ahead of the convention- which you would never asked the Repub candidate to take.

(2)(follow-up to Clinton) If it was good enough in colonial times, why not in these times?

You already asked this question, Charlie; what part of Obama's response- "I think it's premature at this point for us to talk about who vice presidential candidates will be, because we're still trying to determine who the nominee will be" didn't you understand?

(3)(from Gibson, of Obama, regarding his controversial remarks to a fund-raiser) Do you understand that some people in this state find that patronizing and think that you said actually what you meant?

There is a legitimate question or two still to be asked about Obama's comments about small-town America, but "do you understand that some people in this state find that patronizing?" is not one of them, but rather suggests a conclusion it is not Gibson's to make- perhaps his own conclusion couched in the cowardly "some people" phrase. It is itself a patronizing question, when he might have actually asked about the issues raised in the remark.

(4) (to Clinton about allegedly talking to Bill Richardson about Obama's electability) I'm not going to ask you about that conversation; I know you don't want to talk about it.

This was not a question but a comment from Stephanopoulos. Still, why should George set out to avoid asking a candidate a question because it would make her uncomfortable?

(5) (Stephanopoulos, of Obama) Senator, two questions. Number one, do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do? And, number two, if you get the nomination, what will you do when those sermons are played on television again and again and again?

Which question is worse? The hot-button issue, not about the content of Reverend Wright's remarks or Obama's response to them, but about the feelings toward his country of someone not running for office and whom very few of us have ever met or ever will; or a hypothetical question which is meant to suggest that he can't win ("played on television again and again and again")? And is the reference to playing the remarks repeatedly after the convention lay the groundwork for the GOP rationalizing this line of attack once they launch it?

(6)(follow-up to Obama) But you do believe he's as patriotic as you are?

Do you still think, George, that the candidate is going to say that his former pastor is unpatriotic?

(7) (an individual identified as a Tom Rooney of Pittsburgh, Pa.) Senator Clinton, how do you reconcile the campaign credibility that you have when you made those comments about what happened getting off the plane in Bosnia, which totally misrepresented what really happened on that day? You really lost
my vote. And what can you tell me to get that vote back?

If you've already decided that the senator lied, what purpose is served asking her what she can do "to get that vote back?" If you've decided that she lied and it's important enough to ask her about it, why would you vote for her? (Hiding behind the "man in the street" technique does not justify placing such a question on the air.) Is this ABC's backhanded way of saying what it's too cowardly to charge "Senator, you lied about Bosnia?"

(8) (from an individual identified as a Nash McCabe) Senator Obama, I have a question, and I want to know if you believe in the American flag. I am not questioning your
patriotism, but all our servicemen, policemen and EMS wear the flag. I
want to know why you don't.

Probably the worst question of the debate, but with much competition, this is not a question which would be asked of Senator McCain- who does not wear it and whose patriotism no one would doubt- and thus raises the question: are we to suspect that Barack Obama is less patriotic than the other candidates? Sorry, but Obama is not going to make you happy and say that he is unpatriotic, about which there is no evidence.

(9) (from Stephanopoulos, of Obama about William Ayers, "part of the Weather Underground in the 1970s) Can you explain that relationship for the voters and explain to Democrats why it won't be a problem?

And can you, Mr. Stephanopoulos, tell us why you take your questions from GOP TV talk show host and Repub enthusiast Sean Hannity?

At dailykos, DHinMI noted that all these topics were ignored:

The financial crisis
The collapse of housing values in the US and around the world
Health care
The declining value of the US Dollar
The decline of American manufacturing
The Supreme Court
The burgeoning world food crisis.
Global warming
The attacks on organized labor and the working class
Terrorism and al Qaeda
Civil liberties and constraints on government surveillance

Merely calling the guys who hosted the debate "biased" may be giving them too much credit.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Just Another Day With Your Olympic Hosts

According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, after a protest on Thursday, 4/17/08 in Qing-hai province's Tongren county in western China, "police moved in, beating participants and detaining more than 100 monks and laypeople," reported the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy. The Tibetans were demanding the release of clergy detained at a March 16 protest.

Receptionists at Tongren hotels....

refused to give their names (to reporters) for fear of retaliation by authorities. Officials have reportedly offered rewards for information on people leaking news of unrest to the outside world, where parts of the Olympic torch relay have been disrupted by anti-China protests.

Another term for this: police state.
A Simple Question

On Thursday, April 17, 2008 in a television interview, John McCain stated, in yet another valiant effort to have it both ways:

. . . you could make an argument that there's been great progress economically over that period of time [the Bush years]. But that's no comfort. That's no comfort to families now that are facing these tremendous economic challenges.

McCain was criticized by Senator Obama in an appearance before an estimated 35,000 people on Independence Mall in Philadelphia the following evening. However, it is now up to the media to ask Mr. McCain:

Senator, you stated that an argument can be made that there has been great progress economically over the seven-plus years of the Bush presidency. Would you make that argument for us now?
Quote Of The Week

"You're talking about an Administration that treats the truth as if it were a commodity that's as disposable as plastic gloves."

-Colonel Larry wilkerson, Chief of Staff to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, on MSNBC's "Countdown," April 10, 2008
Saint McCain

A three-fer this past week from MSNBC:

"He's always, I must say, at his most impressive the harder the question."
-Chris Matthews, "Hardball," 4/14/08

"Since then, McCain's rhetoric and his record have evolved."
-David Shuster, "Hardball," 4/14/08
(Republicans "evolve;" Democrats "flip-flop")

"John McCain's act is going to wear very well."
-John Harwood, NBC Chief Washington Correspondent, "Morning Joe," 4/16/08
(and this from a guy who likes B. Obama and adores M. Obama)

Friday, April 18, 2008

On Being "Commander In Chief"

Writing in slate.com, Fred Kaplan on 4/16/08 explains "when it comes to national-security affairs—the heart of his campaign, the center of his career—does Sen. John McCain know what he's talking about?"

Kaplan refers to McCain's (unintentional or intentional) recent mix-up among Sunnis, Shiites, and Iranians, fascinating in a candidate whose claim to the presidency is staked on a supposed knowledge of foreign policy. Still, the more revealing remark by the Arizona senator, as Kaplan recounts, was a response to whether he would divert U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan in order to quash the resurgent Taliban and capture Osama Bin Laden. McCain responded: "I would not do that unless Gen. Petraeus said that he felt that the situation called for that."

But as Kaplan points out, General David Petraeus is commander of the U.S. armed forces in Iraq and therefore not in a position to make that decision. The commander of United States Central Command, who is responsible for the entire Middle East and south Asia, was until recently Admiral William "Fox" Fallon. Admiral Fallon (no fan of General Petraeus) believes that U.S. resources should be diverted from Iraq to other crises in the region and was fired recently after stating there would be a shift in strategy in the Iraq war. Nevertheless, candidate McCain neglected to mention that he would have asked the commander of U.S. Central Command his opinion on policy.

This suggests the most serious issue. Diversion of American troops to Afghanistan, Kaplan notes, is a matter not of strategy and tactics, but of policy and priorities. It is not a decision to made by any military commander but by the President of the United States, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.

Apparently, for all the tough talk, the vaunted "straight talk" of the McCain campaign, the senator wants to take a pass on this role of the leader of the free world.

Not so, apparently, Barack Obama. In a rare moment raising an actual issue of policy, Charlie Gibson at the Democratic presidential debate on April 16, 2008 asked Obama "so you'd give the same rock-hard pledge, that no matter what the military commanders said, you would give the order to bring them home?" The Illinois senator responded:

Because the commander-in-chief sets the mission, Charlie.
That's not the role of the generals.
And one of the things that's been interesting about the president's approach lately has been to say, "Well, I'm just taking cues from General Petraeus."
Well, the president sets the mission. The general and our troops
carry out that mission. And, unfortunately, we have had a bad mission set by our civilian leadership, which our military has performed brilliantly. But it is time for us to set a strategy that is going to make the American people safer.
Now, I will always listen to our commanders on the ground with
respect to tactics, once I've given them a new mission, that we are
going to proceed deliberately, in an orderly fashion, out of Iraq, and we are going to have our combat troops out. We will not have permanent bases there.
Once I have provided that mission, if they come to me and want to
adjust tactics, then I will certainly take their recommendations into consideration. But, ultimately, the buck stops with me as the

Barack Obama, whose weak point is purported to be foreign policy, understands the role he would assume upon taking the presidency. John McCain, whose strong point is purported to be foreign policy, apparently does not understand. That will tell you something about the man the Repub Party believes should be the next President of the United States.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Not So Straight Talk On Medicare

John McCain said this during his speech at Carnegie-Mellon University of a popular government program:

But when we added the prescription drug benefit to Medicare, a new and costly entitlement, we included many people who are more than capable of purchasing their own medicine without assistance from taxpayers who struggle to purchase their own. People like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet don't need their prescriptions underwritten by taxpayers. Those who can afford to buy their own prescription drugs should be expected to do so. This reform alone will save billions of dollars that could be returned to taxpayers or put to better use.

Means-testing Medicare- a way of turning into a welfare program a successful government program so many Americans rely on. That would cut into the popularity of the program, which perhaps is the (unstated) point, and further diminish faith of the citizenry in the federal government. And that may be the larger goal- for if government is seen as completely ineffective, it is not a big leap to see the infallible private sector, and the party incapable or unwilling to question it, as deserving of blind, unquestioning loyalty.
Not So Straight Talk On Social Security

In John McCain's speech about economics at Carnegie-Mellon University, we had the biannual Repub attack on government programs that work.

Senator McCain actually said this, and without visibly crossing his fingers:

It will be American workers and their children who are left with worthless promises and trillion-dollar debts. We cannot let that happen. And you have my pledge: as president I will work with every member of Congress — Republican, Democrat, and Independent — who shares my commitment to reforming and protecting Medicare and Social Security.....

You're confused, Senator McCain. It's the national debt (artificially reduced by stealing from the Social Security trust fund) which stands at $9,202,319,223,752.84 as of 4/17/08. That's nine trillion dollars and....

As for Social Security, President Bush claims "in the year 2018, for the first time ever, Social Security will pay out more in benefits than the government collects in payroll taxes."

However, reported MSNBC's chief economics correspondent in January, 2005:

In 14 of the past 47 years, including 1975 to 1983, Social Security paid out more in benefits than the government collected in payroll, with the gap reaching $10 billion in 1983. So the projected 'crossover' point in 2018 is a relatively meaningless milestone, say opponents of Bush’s privatization plans.... Further, the emphasis on 2018 by Bush and other officials relies on “either an implication or very often an explicit statement” that the Social Security trust funds have no real assets (said Bob Greenstein, executive director of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).

Try telling that to the Social Security trustees, including Treasury Secretary John Snow, who offer a detailed list of government securities they hold, paying up to 9.25
percent interest and totaling more than $1.6 trillion.

So the "trillion-dollar debts," Senator, are not for the Social Security trust fund, but the national debt, thanks largely to George W. Bush and the ex-president of whom you continually proclaimed "I was a foot soldier in the Reagan revolution." And the worthless promises are yours- when you claim an interest in "protecting" Social Security, true to form for the mythical and ironically named "Straight Talk Express."
Not So Straight Talk On Gas Prices

Sometimes a person is accused of not being able to keep two contradictory thoughts in his/her head at the same time. Not so John S. McCain. The first quote, about gas taxes, is from McCain at his speech at Carnegie-Mellon University on 4/15/08, the second, about global warming, from an interview on MSNBC's Hardball on 4/16/08:

I propose that the federal government suspend all taxes on gasoline now paid by the American people — from Memorial Day to Labor Day of this year. The effect will be an immediate economic stimulus — taking a few dollars off the price of a tank of gas every time a family, a farmer, or trucker stops to fill up.

Climate change. Climate change. I believe that climate change is real. I think we have to act...

And I’ve said that for many, many years. I would just like to put the question this way to my fellow Americans. Suppose that we are wrong and there’s no such thing as climate change but we go ahead and adopt green technologies and we reduce greenhouse gas emissions? All we’ve done is give our kids a cleaner planet, OK? But suppose...

Suppose we are right and do nothing. Suppose we just continue this endless debate and continue the increase of greenhouse gas emissions, and we hand these wonderful Americans a damaged planet? I think the answer to that is pretty obvious. And by the way, that question was posed first by former prime minister Tony Blair.

So JSM is exorcised about global warming- except that he proposes to increase the release of greenhouse gases by suspending the federal gas tax, thus encouraging driving.

Admittedly, McCain claims that by temporarily ending the 18.4% federal gas tax and 24.4% diesel tax from Memorial Day to Labor Day the American consumer will benefit by spending less. However, I don't recall McCain recommending this 2-3 months ago as Congress was debating the proper form, and extent, of an economic stimulus package. Then, a cut in gas taxes likely would have resulted in the cost of driving, because it is a period when most driving is for cummuting and thus unavoidable. A cut in the summer months- the peak driving period as Americans drive for leisure- may instead prompt Americans to drive more, hence increasing greenhouse gases, a strange urge for a guy professing concern about climate change.

Consider, therefore, an alternative scenario: the oil companies, seeing a suspension in a gas tax and thus a cut in cost to the consumer, realize that they can raise the cost at the pump to near what it previously was- and thus increase their already extraordinary profits, all without the increase in driving and hence greenhouse gases decried by McCain. Could this be what John McCain is after? The Straight-Talk Express guy- perish the thought!
McCain Manipulating The Abortion Issue

I always have believed that John McCain was not the strongest candidate the Repub Party could have nominated to run against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. I still believe that, but his manner of addressing the issue of abortion during the April 15, 2008 episode of MSNBC's Hardball gave me concern.

Here is what the Arizona senator said in relevant part:

And I want to say that the rights of the unborn is one of my most important values, but we can have disagreement.... I realize you’re going to have to change the culture of America before there’s full respect given to the right of the unborn.

Logically or not: 1)approximately 45% of this country can be considered "pro-choice," approximately 45% "pro-life," and approximately 10% unsure or very much middle-of-the-road; 2)most Americans-virtually all of those who are "pro-life" and some who are not- oppose, even in some cases fear, the repeal of Roe v. Wade; 3)some (probably a large minority) of those who are pro-choice believe nevertheless that life begins at conception while very few of those who are pro-life believe that life does not begin at conception. Hence, most voters- the pro-life contingent and most sitting on the fence- are likely to be sympathetic to McCain's reference to fetuses as "the unborn."

Still, the brilliance of McCain's remarks is better illustrated by the declaration "you're going to have to change the culture of America." To the anti-abortion rights faction he is saying: I'm anti-abortion, period- and I recognize the decadence of 'the culture.' And to all others he is saying (with a nod and a wink), what Repub politicians have said in recent years. (This includes George W. Bush, who in response to a question at a 10/03 press conference declared "I don't think the culture has changed to the extent that the American people or the Congress would totally ban abortions.") It is this: "Don't worry, I'm not going to press for the repeal of Roe v. Wade. I'm going to talk a good game, remind you that I believe that the act of abortion is an abomination, but it'll still be an option when necessary."

If you don't believe this is an effective balancing act, consider that syndicated conservative talk show host Michael Medved on his program of 4/16/08 spoke approvingly of McCain's abortion comments, not realizing that he was being had. Or possibly, like many liberal folks (especially in the mainstream media), I am comforted by McCain's words of moderation, not realizing that at base he is, and in the White House will be, hard right. But on this issue at least, not likely- I've seen this act before. Ronald Wilson Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush: abortion to be used as a wedge issue to mollify the conservative base, but nothing really to be concerned about.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

McCain at Carnegie-Mellon

John McCain's speech on economics on April 15, 2008 (April 15- quite clever, huh?) at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pa. was unintentionally revealing.

McCain declared:

As president, I will also order a prompt and thorough review of the budgets of every federal program, department, and agency. While that top to bottom review is underway, we will institute a one-year pause in discretionary spending increases with the necessary exemption of military spending and veterans benefits.

That's right. Everything gets cut in real terms except the Pentagon. Exempting veterans benefits is commendable, but treating the military as a sacred cow will contribute to the 'favorite son' status the Pentagon has enjoyed at least the past seven years amidst redundancy and exorbitant waste.

The senator promises "no more corporate welfare -- no more throwing around billions of dollars of the people's money on pet projects, while the people themselves are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas ." However, there is less to this than meets the eye. Are "pet projects" those a President McCain doesn't favor? And will there still be "no more corporate welfare" when a President McCain declares that people no longer "are struggling to afford their homes, groceries, and gas?"

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Evil Partisanship

Perhaps the underlying principle of the Obama campaign is its belief that politics can be transcended, that our problems as a nation can be solved only if overheated partisanship people associate with Washington is overcome. When he formed his Presidential Exploratory Committee on January 16, 2007, the Illinois senator exclaimed:

But challenging as they are, it's not the magnitude of our problems that concerns me the most. It's the smallness of our politics. America's faced big problems before. But today, our leaders in Washington seem incapable of working together in a practical, common sense way.

Sometimes, though, this idealized version of possibilities buts up against reality. Campaigning in Pennsylvania for Obama, Pennsylvania senator Bob Casey, a determined foe of abortion rights, conceded of the front-runner "He has the unique skills to try to lower the temperature and foster a sense of common ground, and try to figure out ways that people can agree (but) on this issue, it's particularly hard."

Bipartisansip, post-partisanship, non-partisanship is fine- until it affects issues you care about. And writing on slate.com on 1/8/08, Jack Shafer noted another peril of bipartisanship:

Moving to the contemporary period, we discover that monument to bipartisan accord: the Patriot Act, which passed the Senate 98-1 and the House 357-66. So unified in pursuing the common interest were legislators that they barely debated the bill, and few read it. The No Child Left Behind Act passed with near unanimity, even though nobody much cares for it today.

He concluded "if you embrace compromise for the sake of compromise and ban division for the sake of political unity, you're left with parties and candidates that don't stand for anything."

Maybe Bob Casey has stumbled onto something he didn't expect.
Same Old GOP

Despite the support of Senators Obama and Clinton for "free" trade in the face of its impact upon small-town and main street America, they at least would like to maintain employment. But according to the economically right-wing, and euphemistically named, Club For Growth on March 12, 2007:

Senator McCain also voted to kill the Schumer-Graham bill,[41] which would have imposed an onerous tariff on China if it refused to revalue its currency, and voted to give the President trade promotion authority.[42] The Cato Institute aptly sums up his record on trade by designating him a "free trader" for the 105th Congress through the 108th Congress, a top accolade given out to those who "consistently vote against both trade barriers and international economic subsidies."

This might explain why McCain also opposes including provisions in trade agreements to address environmental concerns and to protect workers' rights. This puts him in synch with the Wall Street wing of the Repub Party and its merry band of plutocrats, as demonstrated in this exchange on the 4/15/08 edition of Meet The Press between Repub strategist Mary Matalin and Democratic strategist Bob Shrum.

MS. MATALIN: It's called, it's called--excuse me, it's called a dynamic global economy. You cannot...

MR. SHRUM: I hope you guys go into Pennsylvania and explain it that way.

It's easy, I suppose, to be little concerned with good-paying jobs with benefits when you're a comfortable GOP strategist or senator married to an heiress to a beer fortune. And some of these jobs are in small towns which, clearly, Barack Obama (and Hillary Clinton) are more concerned about than the opponent one of them will face this autumn.
Obama And Small-Town America (5)

Let's take a look in a greater portion of Senator Obama's response to a question at a fund-raiser on April 6, 2008. He said:

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

There are a lot of factors contributing to the loss of jobs in small towns across the U.S.A. The list might begin, only begin, with a corporate and political culture, only currently characterized by outsourcing, which has favored profits over the creation and preservation of jobs; computerization; globalization; and a transportation policy which has favored air travel and highways and nearly gutted a railroad system which once connected numerous towns across the country. (Think television's "The Fugitive" and Richard Kimball traveling everywhere by train.)

Surely among the causes of employment in, and the vibrancy of, small towns are free trade, rarely free to the American workers who sacrifice their jobs, often for the benefit of the wealthy; and immigration/illegal immigration. There is a strong argument to be made for immigration, and a good one; and a weak economic argument to be made for immigration. But there is no question that corporate America has found our weak enforcement, at the borders and at the job site, of immigration laws a boon to their profits and a bust for good-paying jobs. Arguing, therefore, that when people outraged by the deterioration of their communities "cling" to "anti-immigrant sentiment" they are being delusional is condescending, politically damaging, and just plain inaccurate.

And by the way: "cling to antipathy to people who aren't like them?" Is that a shot at Reverend Jeremiah Wright? (Probably not- Wright was born and raised in Philadelphia and Trinity United Church of Christ is in Chicago.).

Monday, April 14, 2008

Tough Times In The Gaza Strip

I take a break from Barack Obama to note a situation in the Middle East which, even by standards of the Middle East, is startling.

The New York Times reported on 4/12/08 that on the previous day, at least five Palestinians were killed by Israeli tank and gunfire in central Gaza. The Israeli incursion:

came after militants from Gaza broke through the (border) fence on Wednesday and attacked the Nahal Oz fuel depot, the transfer point from which all fuel is piped from Israel into Gaza. Two Israeli civilians employed by the company that supplies the fuel were killed in the attack. Fuel deliveries into Gaza were temporarily halted, but were expected to resume after the weekend.

Haaretz had reported on 4/11/08 that Palestinian Authority official Hussein al-Sheikh confirmed "Israel had cut off the fuel deliveries after the 4/9/08 attack, then on 4/12/08 announced resumption."

So Israel supplies fuel to the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization which would find the disappearance of the state of Israel cause for celebration. Hamas in turn diverts half of the gas in order to kill Israelis. This leads The New Republic's Editor-In-Chief Marty Peretz, a staunch supporter of the tiny nation routinely accused of apartheid, racism, and all manner of evil, to ask "are the Israelis out of their f****** minds?"


Sunday, April 13, 2008

Obama And Small-Town America (4)

There is a glimmer of hope in Senator Obama's comment to donors in the Golden State on April 6, 2008:

So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Individuals in small-town America do not "cling to guns.... as a way to explain their frustrations" but rather because they like to collect them, enjoy target shooting, want them as protection, need them to hunt, or, occasionally, find them useful in drug dealing. But the (cheap or otherwise) shot at gun owners suggests that maybe, just maybe, a President Obama would move to establish sensible control measures. When even Democratic candidates pledge fealty to the faulty, pro-gun interpretation of the Second Amendment, we'll take any "hope" we can muster.
Obama And Small-Town America (3)

Barack Obama criticized a wide swath of voters when on 4/6/08 he responded to a question in part by telling his audience of donors:

So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

They "cling" to "anti-immigrant sentiment?" What "anti-immigrant" sentiment in Senator Obama referring to? Is it opposition to driver's licenses for people who came here illegally? Perhaps. When the candidates were asked by Wolf Blitzer at the September 26, 2007 debate in Las Vegas "Do you support driver's licenses for illegal immigrants?" Obama eventually answered "yes."

Could it be their opposition to "sanctuary cities?" Perhaps. When at the 9/26/07 Democratic presidential debate at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, the candidates were asked "would you allow these cities to ignore the federal law regarding the reporting of illegal immigrants and in fact provide sanctuary to these immigrants" and Tim Russert followed up to elicit a specific answer from each candidate, Obama joined five of his fellow candidates in responding affirmatively.

Or could it be opposition to paying Social Security benefits to immigrants for the period of time they were here on an illegal basis? Obama on 5/18/06 voted to table an amendment which would have precluded an immigration reform bill (S2611) (not McCain-Kennedy) from granting Social Security benefits to illegal immigrants for the period of time they were here illegally.

Support for federal law, opposition to driver's licenses for individuals here illegally, and opposition to certain financial benefits for individuals who at that time were helping drive down wage rates and health and other benefits do not qualify as "anti-immigrant" sentiment but as anti-illegal immigrant sentiment. The senator from Illinois should know better. Or does.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Obama And Small-Town America (2)

Again, the extraordinarily revealing portion of Senator Obama's response to a question apparently posed to him about, in the words of blogger Mayhill Flower, "low levels of national pride" at a fund-raiser on 4/6/08:

So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Clinging to religion? Could this be the same senator from Illinois who Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet on January 19, 2007 spoke of having interviewed in the spring of 2004?

Obama said he was a Christian, that he has a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, that he reads the Bible regularly and prays constantly. He described his conversion experience in his mid-20s....

Could this be the same senator from Illinois described in the following way on 7/16/07 by Christian Science Monitor staff writer Ariel Sabar?

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

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.

Many of Obama's political views are "an outgrowth of his reading of some of the seminal parts of the Bible about doing unto the 'least of these' just as we would have done unto Christ," says Joshua DuBois, the campaign's director of religious affairs, paraphrasing verses in the book of Matthew.

Is this the same senator from Illinois quoted in an Associated Press article from 12/17/07?

(Obama stated) "I realized that Scripture and the words of God fit into the values I was raised in".... Obama regularly attends church while on the campaign trail, but seldom with reporters watching. He is known to invoke religious references in his speeches and has said he has a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ.
Obama's campaign has made a point of reaching out to religious voters. It has held 16 meetings in Iowa as part of a faith outreach program it is undertaking in all primary states."

And if it is, could this be the same candidate who believes people "cling" to religion "when they get bitter.... as a way to explain their frustrations?" This last candidate needs to resist the temptation to express his contempt for people who hold values similar to the ones he periodically claims to hold.
Obama And Small-Town America (1)

Barack Obama on trade agreements then:

from Obama spokesperson Jen Psaki:

"Senator Obama does not support the South Korea free trade agreement in its current form. He has serious concerns about the effect that the agreement would have on the American auto, beef, and rice industries, as well as the lack of labor and environmental protections in the agreement. Senator Obama is also troubled that the Bush Administration has not done more to help American workers who are losing their jobs as a result of the changing world economy." (abcnews.com,, 4/23/07)

And from Obama himself:

"I think that it (i.e., the NAFTA) did not have the labor
standards and environmental standards that were required in order to
not just be good for Wall Street, but also be good for Main Street.

And if you travel through Youngstown and you travel through
communities in my home state of Illinois, you will see entire cities
that have been devastated as a consequence of trade agreements that
were not adequately structured to make sure that U.S. workers had a
fair deal...." (Democratic presidential debate, Cleveland, Ohio, 2/26/08)

Now (4/6/08) from Obama speaking to fund-raisers at a home in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco:

"....So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." (from the full transcript printed on Mayhill Flower's 4/11/08 posting, "Obama: No Surprise That Hard-Pressed Pennsylvanians Turn Bitter" on The Huffington Post)

Clinging to anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain frustration? Personally and politically, I prefer the (slightly) earlier Obama, who presumably saw that middle-class and working-class Americans need help from their federal government, to the one who expressed to fund-raisers considerable contempt for Americans from small towns. And so will-would- Americans on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Bush Fib- no. 6

An article on the ABC News website describes the interview the network's senior White House correspondent, Martha Raddatz, recently had with President Bush. Check out this revealing exchange:

Bush conceded earlier that before the surge began last year, he was pessimistic about the way the war in Iraq was going.

"How worried were you?" Raddatz asked.

"I was worried. Look, I'm worried any time it looks like we're going to fail in Iraq," Bush said.

During that time in 2006, when many were saying Iraq was in a full-blown civil war, Bush kept his rhetoric upbeat, saying in speeches that We're winning" and "We have a plan for victory."

Raddatz asked the president about that, and the president insisted he did it to keep up troop morale.

So, while the President was pessimistic, he would assure his subjects- er, the American people- that "we're winning" and "we have a plan for victory." No distortion, exaggeration, or obfuscation there. Just a plain old lie.
Your 'Family Values' Party At Work

This from a Time Magazine portrait by Michael Scherer entitled "McCain: Loving His Misspent Youth" from the publication's website on 4/3/08:

"I enjoyed every single moment of my life here," he announced in a prepared speech Wednesday in Pensacola, Fla., "from learning to fly to blowing my pay at Trader Jon's."

The otherwise conservative crowd of more than a thousand supporters burst into approving applause and laughter at the mention of their storied downtown watering hole, which had dancing girls back when McCain served in the area as a young pilot. McCain's own knowing smile only added to the moment. Indeed, all week, the Republican nominee-in-waiting has been alluding to the wild days of his younger years, and crowds have been eating it up.

So the Repub Party's presumptive for president is enjoying boasting during his "biography" tour about his riotous past. Here is the message: when young, dedicate yourself to the Roman god of voluptas and throw caution to the wind; eventually, you, too, land on the brink of becoming commander-in-chief of the armed forces and leader of the free world.

In case we're unsure whom McCain hopes to influence, the campaign's media advisor assures us. "That's why we like him," (Mark) McKinnon said with a smile. "That's why he has potential appeal to young people."

Man of integrity, indeed.
Larry King, Move Over

A hard-hitting question from MSNBC's "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough to Obama communications director David Axelrod on 4/11/08:

"Is it your feeling that I'm in the tank for your opponent?"

Imagine the oversight Scarborough must have provided when he was a Republican Congressman from Florida!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"And here there's a really big contrast between, say, America's fairly unilateral role in Iraq and what's happening with the Chinese Olympics. We're seeing European leaders like Sarkozy and Gordon Brown talking maybe not about boycotting the opening ceremonies but about not being there. So this is not America on its own."

-Chrystia Freeland of the Financial Times on MSNBC's Hardball on 4/9/08
Bush Again In Flight From Reality

Fred Kaplan's piece of 4/8/08 on slate.com picks apart the speech President Bush gave today on the Iraq war- or perhaps it was on Iran, or Al Qaeda, or terrorism. One particularly revealing claim made by Mr. Bush, in his speech replete with distortion and fabrication, is highlighted by Kaplan's question "But what does the war in Iraq have to do with a terrorist attack on the United States? Where is the link?"

We find the President imagining "Today, we face an enemy that is not only expansionist in its aims, but has actually attacked our homeland -- and intends to do so again." He conflates the attack(s) of 9/11/01 ("has actually attacked our homeland") with our war in Iraq ("today, we face an enemy") and throws in an element of fear ("and intends to do so again") for good measure. Then he moves on to claim "Iraq is the convergence point for two of the greatest threats to America in this new century -- al Qaeda and Iran," conveniently neglecting to tell us that the attack 6-7 years ago came from Al Qaeda- not from Al Qaeda in Iraq. (Retired Colonel Larry Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, argues "I don't believe Iraq is a theatre in the war on terror.") He continues by contending "if we fail there" (in Iraq), "the Taliban in Afghanistan and al Qaeda in Pakistan would grow in confidence and boldness." Meanwhile, our effort against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, including any effort to locate bin Laden in northwestern Pakistan, has suffered from this Administration's obsession with its failed war in Iraq.

I could go on and on, but Kaplan already has done that for us. Besides, one could take hours to go into sufficient depth to rebut completely a president who long ago parted company with the truth.
Letting Bygones Be Bygones

One of Barack Obama's new ads in Pennsylvania features various individuals vouching for him as an understanding and compassionate individual of depth who loves children. In other words, it is at first glance a standard, positive commercial generally used to introduce a candidate to the electorate to define himself/herself before the opponent has a chance to define the candidate.

Only in this case, not coincidentally, the ad features three women, an Asian, a black, and a white. That would be Obama's sister Maya Soetoro-Ng, his wife Michelle, and his maternal grandmother Madelyn Dunham. His grandmother? Would that be the same grandmother whom the Illinois senator characterized on March 20, 2008 on WIP radio in Philadelphia thusly (transcript from the Camel's Nose website)?

But she is a uh, typical white person who, uh, you know uh if she sees somebody on the street that she doesn’t know, you know, there’s a reaction that’s been bred inta, uh, our experiences that, that don’t go away and that sometimes come out in, in the wrong way and, and that’s just the nature of race in our society.

Yes, that would be the same grandmother. Not was a typical white person of that time, but is a typical white person or, as Dan Gross of the Philadelphia Daily News noted on his blog, "especially as he spoke of his grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, in the present tense."

Now, I can understand anyone, even an extraordinarily gifted individual and politician as Senator Obama, making a mistake, or at least a strategic error. But then to use that individual to vouch for him? Nevertheless, in the spirit of being positive (admittedly characteristic of the Obama campaign), I won't suggest that is reprehensible, but rather positive. It demonstrates a remarkable openmindedness- knowing someone all one's life, eventually (apparently) recognizing her as a bigot, then being bighearted enough to accept her kind words of support.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Good News!

As you will recall, Attorney General Michael Mukasey on March 26, 2008, while speaking at a public affairs forum at the Commonweal Club in San Francisco, claimed the United States government "shouldn't need a warrant when somebody picks up the phone in Iraq and calls somebody in the United States because that's the call that we may really want to know about. And before 9/11, that's the call that we didn't know about."

That led Glenn Greenwald of salon.com to note:

Even under the "old" FISA, no warrants are required where the targeted person is outside the U.S. (Afghanistan) and calls into the U.S. Thus, if it's really true, as Mukasey now claims, that the Bush administration knew about a Terrorist in an Afghan safe house making Terrorist-planning calls into the U.S., then they could have -- and should have -- eavesdropped on that call and didn't need a warrant to do so.

So we knew either that a) the Bush Administration declined to check out a call, thereby ignoring a prime opportunity to thwart the terrorist attack(s) of 9/11/01; or b) Mukasey was lying, in order to assert the regime's claim that the old FISA, which it believes inadequate to spy on Americans, needs to be overhauled.

Now comes reassuring news. Greenwald writes on 4/7/08 on his blog that he has received from Lee Hamilton, vice-chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, the following statement (which he believes is accurate):

I am unfamiliar with the telephone call that Attorney General Mukasey cited in his appearance in San Francisco on March 27. The 9/11 Commission did not receive any information pertaining to its occurrence.

So our President of Swagger (and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice) studiously avoided holding a Cabinet-level meeting, urged by security adviser Richard Clarke on January 24, 2001 to review the Al Qaeda threat and ignored the President's Daily Brief of August 6, 2001 "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike In U.S." However, it now appears he did not ignore this particular call preceeding that disastrous day- because it probably never took place. Mukasey was merely lying- which, with this crowd, is routine and constitutes, at least in this case, great news.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"I didn't see people running up to Ted Kennedy, saying, 'Are you getting any pressure from supporting Senator Obama, any backlash?' No one is asking the white elected officials if they are getting pressure for supporting the black guy."

-Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, quoted in the 4/7/08 edition of The Philadelphia Inquirer, on criticism he, as a black, has received for supporting Hillary Clinton's candidacy
Saint John

"Those of us who have known John McCain for years- I wish I had John McCain's energy."

-Gloria Borger on MSNBC's The Chris Matthews Show, Sunday, April 6, 2008 during a discussion of the possible impact of the Arizona senator's age (D.O.B.: 8/29/36) in the general election

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Republican Media- No. 14

I would call this a "myth" but in the interests of being fair and objective (not "fair and balanced"), I'll resist the temptation.

It began when I was checking out Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey's endorsement of Barack Obama on Scranton's Times-Tribune.com (4/5/08) when I read:

It was 1992 when Bill Clinton was named the Democratic nominee for president and the Democratic National Convention shunned Sen. Bob Casey’s father, the late Gov. Robert P. Casey, who wanted to speak against the party’s pro-choice stance on abortion.

And this from chicagotribune.com (4/6/08):

His family has had disagreements with the Clintons in the past. In what many of the supporters of Casey's now-deceased father considered a rebuff, then-Gov. Bob Casey Sr. was denied a prime-time speaking role at the 1992 Democratic Convention at which Bill Clinton was nominated. Casey's opposition to abortion, which his son shares, was considered divisive among party activists.

And from the Wall Street Journal's wsj.com (3/28/08):

His father, former Gov. Bob Casey, is well-known for having been banned from speaking at the 1992 Democratic convention because of his opposition to abortion rights.

From The Caucus (3/28/08), a New York Times blog:

The elder Mr. Casey was strongly against abortion rights and did not approve of Mr. Clinton, who in turn shut Mr. Casey out of the Democratic convention.

Pretty simple explanation, but probably false. In an article (currently unavailable) entitled "Casey Closed" which he wrote for the 9-16-96/9-23-96 issue of The New Republic, Michael Crowley wrote:

According to those who actually doled out the 1992 convention speaking slots, Casey was denied a turn for one simple reason: His refusal to endorse the Clinton-Gore ticket. "It's just not factual!" stammers James Carville, apoplectic over Casey's claims. "You'd have to be idiotic to give a speaking role to a person who hadn't even endorsed you."

And Crowley quotes the late Ron Brown as stating, and later writing in Campaign for President: The Managers Look at '92:

We decided the convention would be totally geared towards the general election campaign, towards promoting one nominee and that everybody who had the microphone would have endorsed our nominee. That was a rule, everybody understood it, from Jesse Jackson to Jerry Brown. The press reported incorrectly that Casey was denied access to the microphone because he was not pro-choice. He was denied accesss to the microphone because he had not endorsed Bill Clinton. I believe that Governor Casey knew that. I had made it clear to everybody. And yet it still got played as if it had to do with some ideological split. It had nothing to do with that.

Crowley notes Casey "was about to retire from politics, and convention speeches are usually allotted to those running for re-election (and) Casey repeatedly bashed Clinton during the primaries, calling Clinton's success 'very tragic,' urging less than three months before the convention 'convention rules provide for the selection of an alternative candidate. Let's pick a winner.'"

Admittedly, Casey was rebuffed in his effort to speak against the platform when it was presented for a vote. According to a conservative website (with a preoccupation with abortion), Casey wrote in his autobiography that he had written Democratic National Committee Chairman Brown "the platform [committee] draft ... has the effect of placing the national party even more squarely within the abortion-on-demand camp. I believe this is a serious mistake for the party and would like the opportunity to present this point of view." He received no response, and contended that he received no response when he later wrote convention chairman Ann Richards. He merely received a copy of a letter sent by the convention's general counsel to its parliamentarian, claiming that, according to platform committee rules, his request was "out of order."

This was a snub. However, except for you, me, and Tim Russert when he's not talking about the Buffalo Bills or Big Russ, virtually no one cares about a party's platform, and not even Tim Russert cares about the procedures of a party's platform committee. And all this has nothing to do with the actual convention, let alone the denial of a speaking slot at the convention to a politician who was hostile to the party's nominee. I doubt that the Repub Party, understandably obsessed with winning elections, would grant a speaking slot at its national convention to someone intent on using it to bash a plank in its platform- even if, unlike in this case, that someone was willing to endorse its nominee.

Yet, somehow, the media uncritically reports that Bob Casey Sr. was denied the right to speak at the 1992 Democratic convention because he was avidly (some would say fanatically) pro-life. It is simplistic, inconsistent with most evidence, and characteristic of the Fourth Estate's habit of blaming the Democratic Party, facts be damned.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Be Still, My Heart

In an article written by Jim Kuhnhenn of the Associated Press, Barack Obama campaign manager David Plouffe enthused "many of our contributors are volunteering for the campaign, making our campaign the largest grass-roots army in recent political history."

True enough. And now, thanks to a review of "Chasing the Flame" by Philadelphia Inquirer Book Critic Carlin Romano, we know who one of those volunteers is. She is a Harvard law school graduate, a former journalist, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize as an author. Name of Samantha Power, whom Romano quotes as saying "right now, I just miss the team- I really miss the work" of, Romano says, "her 14 months as unpaid adviser" (emphasis mine).

The point isn't that Obama got what he paid for in an individual who had to leave the campaign for calling Hillary Clinton "a monster" in an interview with The Scotsman. That would be both snide and inaccurate. This is an accomplished individual, a foreign policy expert, if inconveniently intemperate. One could argue that, amidst the nine-figure campaign war chest amassed by the Illinois Senator, he could have found a few bucks to throw the way of his 37-year-old senior foreign policy adviser.

There is, however, little doubt as to how Obama was able to get by so cheaply. Power was asked if she would campaign for Clinton, whom she had said "is stooping to anything," if the latter were nominated and requested her assistance. The unambiguous reply: "I would campaign for her to the heavens. I would campaign for her absolutely." And if she adores the "monster," she swoons over Obama: "If he won and he ever wanted me back in some fashion, if I could just do a teeney-weeney bit of good for somebody of his vision and gifts, If I could move the dial of American foreign policy one one-hundredth of a millimeter..."

I'm glad I didn't learn of this as early as 4/1/08. It would have been an April Fool's posting no one would have believed.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Admission Of Failure By The Attorney General?

So stated a tearful Attorney General Michael Mukasey on March 27, 2008 during a question-and-answer session after a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco: "We knew that there had been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn't know precisely where it went. You've got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn't come home, to show for that."

Mukasey was lamenting being proscribed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act from intercepting a communication from someone outside of the U.S.A. to someone inside the U.S.A. The government "shouldn't need a warrant when somebody picks up a phone in Iraq and calls the United States," Mukasey said.

Except of course, that it doesn't need a warrant, and didn't need one in the summer of 2001. The federal government could have requested a warrant to listen in on the call of a suspected foreign terrorist to someone in this country- or monitored the conversations for 72 hours without a warrant.

Now, this could be, and probably is, just another effort to blame the FISA for the Bush Administration's own inability to detect the terrorist attacks which took place on September 11, 2001. But if instead it really happened the way Mukasey claimed, the "liberal media" no doubt will jump on this story and demand a congressional investigation of this crew of bunglers. Just kidding.


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