Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Republican's Lament

From Sullivan:

I was shocked when I turned to the conservative blogs looking for others who shared my dismay and found a celebration going on. They really honestly believe that Palin’s “inexperience” and Obama’s “inexperience” are equivalent. I have had no luck at all in the past 24 hours trying to explain that Obama is quite obviously an impressive man (with whom I disagree on almost every major issue) with extraordinary qualities of organization, discipline and leadership. I see nothing in Palin’s record to suggest that she has any such qualities.

He is a man who has spent his adult life thinking serious thoughts about serious issues and having serious conversations about them with other serious, well-informed people; while Palin quite as clearly has done none of those things. He was the president of the Harvard Law Review; she was the point guard on her high school basketball team.

McCain is violating his own slogan of putting "Country First" by putting a neophyte lightweight in the shotgun position (good thing she knows how to shoot one of those, I guess). He'd rather win an election than protect his country.

McCain's real Veep

Philosoraptor has the scoop.



Glenn Greenwald posts a fantastic piece today. St. Paul, MN police raid houses of people who are suspected of planning protests at the Republican National Convention. The accompanying video is fantastic in its description of how armed police officers in masks and riot gear broke into these houses, displayed no warrants to do so, took laptops, etc., detained individuals, and deliberately attempted to intimidate them into giving up their plans to protest.

Typical. And repugnant. I thought stuff like this was illegal. Where's the probable cause? Some were charged with "conspiracy to commit riot," which a lawyer quoted in the piece described as so vague as to allow pre-emptive strikes like this against even peaceful protesters. The lawyer believes that the law is unconstitutional, but since it had never been tested in court, it was invoked for these raids.

Obama's campaign should jump on this while investigating the Denver police as well.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

...let no man tear asunder

The London Daily Mail features a side by side comparison of what Michael Jackson would have looked like at 50 had he not had all those surgeries. See for yourself:

Not Much Better

From the Los Angeles Times today on Mrs. Palin:
Let's be honest: The learning curve that confronts Palin is the steepest facing a vice presidential candidate in recent memory. That McCain was willing to take this gamble may not be a sign of desperation, but it gives a new and unsettling meaning to his claim to be a maverick.

Worst. Editorial. Ever.

The New York Times has lost its balls. Today they published what arguably was the absolutely most vapid editorial ever on the subject of Gov. Sarah Palin's selection as VP nominee by John McCan't.
Governor Palin’s biography — from union member to “hockey mom,” from gun enthusiast to ethics scourge — will play out in the campaign. That campaign should be a little more intriguing now that it includes the unexpected voice of a woman on the Republican ticket.
Is that the best they've got? I can imagine that the Editor-in-Chief's third grade teacher attended the Editorial Board meeting yesterday, wielding the admonition "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all."


Fake Trailer for "The Shining"

You remember "redrum, redrum" don't you? You remember, "Heeeere's Johnny!" right?

Well, this re-imagining of Kubrick's film as a heartwarming family film is just priceless. I love the soundtrack.

Friday, August 29, 2008

You Know Obama is Young and Fresh when...

... you realize that he's three years younger than Michael Jackson, who turns 50 years old today.


On second thought, MJ, don't Shake Your Body Down to the Ground. At your age and after umpteen plastic surgeries, you might not be able to get back up.

My older brother is also 50, so just know that I'm joking (a little).

Game Over

Politico's Mike Allen found the sound bite that has already tarnished the Palin glow. In an interview with CNBC's Larry Kudlow a month ago she was asked about being interviewed for the VP slot. Her response:

As for that VP talk all the time, I’ll tell you, I still can’t answer that question until somebody answers for me what is it exactly that the VP does every day?
Granted this is a bit out of context. She did go on to say that she's used to working "real hard" at her current job. She just wanted to be sure that the job was "fruitful" before she could start addressing the question.

I realize that Alaska is a remote kind of place, but has she not seen the meatiness of the job in the last 16 years between Gore and Cheney?

Either she's bad at playing dumb or (as I said) she's a lightweight. Perhaps both.

Again, I apologize if this sounds sexist, but she'll be a stick of Juicy Fruit for Biden to savor during their 90 minute debate.

Reader comment, cont.

In response to my earlier post of a reader's comment, the same reader writes:
Point taken. But they need to start fighting and forget the Marquis of Queensbury rules.
Are you kidding me? Did you listen to that speech last night? Or Clinton's? Or Biden's? Or Kerry's? Or Hillary's? Or Gore's? There are six heavyweights right there who just tore into McCan't this week. While it's true that the media has already forgotten all those speeches today, the next two months will be bloody awesome watching. I'm waiting for McCan't to get unhinged during the debates. Did you read this interview in Time? He's on the edge of insanity.

Obama put it well last night by basically defining insanity and relating it to a McCan't presidency:
For 18 long months, you have stood up, one by one, and said, "Enough," to the politics of the past. You understand that, in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same, old politics with the same, old players and expect a different result.

The gloves are off. Biden has 36 years in the Senate dealing with women of all stripes on both sides of the aisle. He'll do just fine.

Don't buy into the media hyperventilating about Sarah Palin. She eats, drinks, and poops just like you and me.

Crude, yet...

Elvis Dingeldein, who I first discovered when reading Bob Cesca's live-blogging comments during the Democratic National Convention, has his own website called Clusterdouche. He has posted a crude, yet funny assessment of the McCan't pick for VP.

And really, isn’t that what the nation needs right now? Not competence or hope for a new direction but the basest, most cynical grab-assing for that handful of bitter, twisted PUMAs and CHUDs that would vote for any vagina-owner – even one that would crush a woman’s right to choose and breeds like a West Virginian – rather than admit their girl got beat by a black man. “We have no shame,” says McCain aide Gunther “Black and Decker” Testosterone-Gunownerton. "Our candidate has an abysmal record on women’s rights, he left his first wife after a crippling car accident to screw some rich Republican robot, so we’ve got some serious pandering to do. And yes, women simply are that stupid. We’ve got this sewn up now!”
Could the Republican nominee actually be vetting the next ex-Mrs. McCan't? Interesting idea, but I doubt it. Looking at her husband, I am pretty sure he could kick McCan't's saggy ass. And Cindy still has all that money and all that beer. What better way to buy off the media at barbecues?

Reader comment

A reader writes:

Let us not forget Karl Rove, who is probably, even as I write this, spinning a beautiful pro-life tale about this woman whom, even if she had known about the challenged child, would have elected to keep it and not have an abortion. Plays well in the Bible belt and energizes the base. And also, let us not forget that it is Karl Rove we need to be fighting, not McSame. McSame is, unfortunately, about as smart as George W. and will let Rove handle everything.
I agree that her evangelical roots and pro-life stance and decision to keep her baby will go down well with the right-wing base. But I disagree on the Rove front. Rove is a target for Obama's surrogates, to be sure, but the nominees need to attack their opponents, not Rove. And McCan't is a LOT smarter than Bush.

The Palin issue will only be an issue because the media makes it so. The Obama campaign can dismiss her pretty quickly and respectfully. And she will disappear as this race becomes what it should be: a decision between a doddering old man with nothing new to say, and a vibrant young man full of new ideas.

Palin is out of left field. I don't predict she'll freeze up before the cameras or on the debates, but she's clearly out of her league. No offense to my female readers, but Biden is Einstein next to the soccer mom from Wasilla, Alaska.

Bloggy reaction to Palin

Cesca, the funny and the serious. First the funny:

Pale and Palin '08

And now the serious:

Senator Obama has run one of the most successful campaigns in the history of American politics, and he defeated the most popular Democratic brand in the world. Raises $50 million per month. Organized the most energetic, historic convention... ever. And he chose a near-perfect running mate in Senator Biden. That's his "executive" experience.

What does Governor Palin have that qualifies her to be a breath away from the presidency when two wars are being waged and the economy is disintegrating?

McCain might as well have picked Cindy McCain.


Drilling for oil is [not] going to win the election. In fact, it's insane that it should win the election. It's fine, even important, as part of a longer-term energy diversification policy. But I don't see how a focus on drilling for oil is going to win over independents in an era of petrol-fueled-wars and climate change.

And yes, there's always a balance between a president's qualities and a vice-president's. That's why Obama picked Biden. It's why Bush picked Cheney. But a future vice-president in war time should have some record of even interest in foreign policy. [...] She's had two years of executive experience as governor of a state with not many more people than the District of Columbia.

I reserve judgment of this pick until we see her and him together. And I can see the sense of it from television's angle, from diversity's angle, and from the change angle. She may well also be a great pick for the future of the GOP. But, still ...


It's a daring pick but I think a very weak pick. I'm perfectly happy with it. [...] John McCain's central and best argument in this campaign is that Barack Obama simply lacks the experience to be President of the United States. And now John McCain, who is a cancer survivor who turns 72 years old today, is picking a vice presidential nominee who has been governor of a small state for less than two years and prior to that was mayor of a town with roughly one-twenty-seventh of the citizens that Barack Obama represented when he was a state senator in Illinois. [...] Palin is manifestly less qualified [than Obama]. And that undermines the central premise of McCain's campaign.
Joe Klein:
In a weird, clever, way, Palin's inexperience serves to illuminate Obama's...and so Democrats, especially Joe Biden, would probably be wise to tread carefully here. The Republicans can easily make the argument that they got their ticket order rightside up--experience over a compelling new face--and the Democrats got their order upside down. They can make that argument...we'll see how it flies.
On one side we hear, "It's the economy," and Obama spent a lot of time in his speech last night on that ground, more than what he spent talking about the wars. On the other side, we hear, "We're in wartime." Best to have a VP who has the gravitas in that arena.

Let's not forget: Bush 43 was governor of a giant state, and yet his "executive experience" in running that state has ultimately proven worthless, as he has run the economy virtually into the ground. We are literally a house of cards, as I told someone in the News department of KTTV yesterday. Palin's experience as mayor of a small town, and half a term as governor of a sparsely populated state, will provide the GOP ticket with almost no tangible strength on economic matters. And Bush 43's inexperience on the international front has had grave consequences for America -- even with a VP as solidly experienced in foreign policy as Cheney. As I said earlier, she's a political lightweight.

This choice will prove out to be purely political, an attempt to grab disappointed Hillary fans and shore up McCan't's lack of support among evangelicals. She's anti-abortion, but has supported gay rights, according to Wiki. She's a she, so Biden runs the risk of seeming ungentlemanly if he zings her (but all he has to do is follow Obama's lead there since he so effectively neutralized Hillary during the primaries).

This pick will blow up in McCan't's face. He tried to be clever, but at the end of the day, it's just lipstick on a pig.


McCan't's pick for VP, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin is a political lightweight all around. Less than two years as governor -- a couple of state budgets, some tax cuts, some spending cuts -- but that's all. She has no national exposure, and you couldn't get a more remote state if you tried than Alaska. Further, this is the state of Senator Ted Stevens, who is under indictment, who won the Republican primary there. And she defeated the incumbent Republican governor in the primary after he ran into ethics problems as well. That should tell you a little about the political climate (and perhaps the character of the voters) in that state. And to her credit, she seems to have earned a solid reputation up there.

The Down's Syndrome child was born just last April, her last of five children. Of course, having a child with Down's is a huge challenge for any parent, she's also got four other children, including one who is serving in the Army. Her ability to manage a challenging family was established long before having this fifth child, and I give her full credit for her strength as a parent. As governor, however, she likely has access to the highest level of care there is, so I would hardly compare her level of challenge to anything the average American parent would deal with in a similar situation. To me, the Republicans would be opening up a huge can of worms -- and would reveal Mrs. Palin to be of questionable character -- to make any more out of this information than just a human interest story about being challenged as a parent. As Obama said last night, when you have nothing to run on, you make "big elections about small things."

Children with Down's can usually walk, talk, feed themselves, brush their own teeth, etc., with effective speech, physical and occupational therapies. There are some health issues, and learning disabilities, of course, but it's not cerebral palsy, or autism, or other serious neurological disorder, which require significantly greater effort on the part of the parents. It's a genetically-based, chromosomal disorder that physical development, speech, and cognition to varying degrees, and affects physical appearance as well, but there are literally thousands and thousands of people with Down's who lead happy, healthy lives.

The issue personalizes her, to be sure, but in the end, she's not running for president and voters who pick McCan't because of her and her special-needs child will be a small minority. And I would contend that McCan't picked her for strategic reasons, not because he thinks she's capable of filling his shoes if he were unable to lead.

This choice is also an ineffective effort to show voters that the Republicans can embrace change just like the Democrats can. But let's not forget that nothing in the Republicans' choice is historic in any way except for the Republicans themselves. They are 24 years behind the Democrats in putting a woman on the ticket. They are behind the times on this war, behind the times on caring for American families, behind the times on reforming education, behind the times in fiscal responsibility, and behind the times in supporting the needs of women in the 21st century.

And no amount of political gamesmanship or weak attempts at egalitarianism will erase their failures since 2000 or their desire to continue those failures moving forward.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

"I've Looked into His Soul"

That's what Bush said about his pal, Vladimir Putin, a few years ago. Not the same relationship today, eh?

Reuters reports that Putin accuses "somebody in the United States" of provoking the conflict in Georgia "with the aim of making the situation more tense and creating a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of U.S. president."

While he never said which candidate, it moved the White House to call the accusation "patently false."



A new conservative blog has popped up as an answer to DailyKos, and this one looks to offer an eclectic mix of culture and politics. Headed by's David Kuo, who ran Bush's Faith Based Initiative before he resigned in protest over the war in 2003, he has brought on some great writing talent: James Poulos, a PhD in politicial theory based in DC; and Peter Suderman, who are both active contributors to Reiham Salam's The American Scene.

These individuals are not progressives -- they are conservative (anti-tax, pro-small government), but they are sensible and pragmatic, a la Andrew Sullivan. Like the progressives, they recognize the folly of endless war, unchecked executive power, and shitting on the Constitution that mark the current Republican movement.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New McCan't Ad

I'm not going to link to it or upload it here, as it's just a steaming pile of McManure. He superimposes an Obama "quote" over a shot of Iranian soldiers, suggesting that Obama believes that Iran poses no serious threat to the U.S. Fear-mongering at its worst. The Obama quote is so far out of context as to show just how far the old man will go to win.

Sullivan found the full Obama quote. Read it below, and, if you wish, go to YouTube and find the offensive ad.
"Strong countries and strong Presidents talk to their adversaries. That's what Kennedy did with Khrushchev. That's what Reagan did with Gorbachev. That's what Nixon did with Mao. I mean, think about it: Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us. And yet we were willing to talk to the Soviet Union at the time when they were saying, 'We're going to wipe you off the planet.' And ultimately, that direct engagement led to a series of measures that helped prevent nuclear war and over time allowed the kind of opening that brought down the Berlin Wall."

Sounds pretty presidential to me.

The Media Script

I'm not imagining this, people. From TPM:

What's going on? Every thing that I think should be a plus for Obama turns out to be much more complicated. I'm a little worried about tomorrow night. 80,000 cheering people. Fantastic speech. Great spectacle. Am I going to wake up on Friday morning and find that all of these so-called positives are bad for Obama?
The race was too much of a landslide for Obama, and the media needed to ratchet up the drama so that the race appears closer than it really is. All News. All the Time. Will Obama pull it out in the end? Will McCan't surprise everyone? Will Bill attend Obama's speech?

And the big one: Will George W. Bush suspend the Constitution and declare martial law if Obama wins?


Heh. Hat Tip: Kos.

Not "Four More Years of the Same"

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer repeated that refrain a number of times during his folksy yet tough speech. And yet I had the ill feeling in the pit of my stomach that a McCan't presidency would be far worse. Inherent in the word "more" when it is used to describe something undesired is the idea that more is worse.

And today, Andrew Sullivan sticks a butcher knife into the idea of a McCan't administration as the worst of all possible worlds. With my emphasis, dig this...
My main worry with John McCain is foreign policy. ... That everything that has been awry with this [Bush] administration would be made worse by his. Seeing the world as a series of enemies to be attacked rather than as a series of relationships to be managed and a series of foes to be undermined has proven of limited use. Even the successful removal of the Taliban has led, six years later, to a long and grueling counter-insurgency with no end in sight and a reconstituted al Qaeda in a nuclear-armed, unstable state. The invasion of Iraq - in the abstract, a noble cause against an evil enemy - has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the displacement of millions, the price of $3 trillion ... all for a less despotic Shiite government in league with Iran, making contracts with China. And that's if it turns out as a success (emphasis Sullivan). Along the way, the US has lost a vast amount of its moral standing and its legitimacy as a global power-broker. Insofar as neoconservatives do not understand this, and cannot understand this, they are a clear and present danger to the security of the West. Their unwillingness to understand how the US might be perceived in the world, how a hegemon needs to exhibit more humility and dexterity to maintain its power, makes them - and McCain - extremely dangerous stewards of American foreign policy in an era of global terror. They are diplomatically and strategically autistic.

Rant time: I need to remind some of you that Mr. Sullivan is no Democrat, and no liberal. He is a dyed-in-the-wool conservative of the Buckley and George Will stripe. He does not subscribe to the neoconservative (now Republican) idea that America is this fearsome behemoth churning out new realities of worldwide democracy through heavy-handed empire-building, through military and other means; that America's economic interests are the same as its strategic and military interests; that American citizens are simply the means to the end -- unchecked, near-dictatorial power -- rather than those whom the President and his/her administration are elected to serve; that the United States Constitution is a static document that was never built to withstand the changing mores of the generations that have succeeded its framers; and that to a President, the Constitution is only a document of mere suggestions on how to govern this country, not of carefully crafted and mostly brilliant laws from which he/she is not immune.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DNC Reax to Day 2

I've read Andrew Sullivan and Bob Cesca, and there are some doozies. Not from the bloggers but from their readers.

A Sullivan reader on Hillary's speech:
When she gave us the stories like all candidates do, it was something I expected. But when she turned it around and asked her supporters if they were in it for her or for the people in those stories, that's what sold me, an Obama guy. My wife cried. I actually got goose bumps when she said that. And some may quibble over how much more she should have spoken about Obama, I think she did quite a good job. She put the onus on us, the voters. Trust Obama. She says she does. Now, it's our turn to answer the question.
And Cesca's reader Elvis Dingledein, posting in the comments section of Cesca's live-blogging post:
Wow, "Petro-Dictators." Put that on a T-shirt, bitches!

Speaking of T-Shirts, let's make this viral, shall we: John McCain - POW, or PO-Dubya?
I kept waiting for more attacks on McCain. I kept waiting for Hillary to pull an Ann Richards "born with a silver foot in his mouth" kinda line, and then...
Well, John McCain says the economy is fundamentally sound. John McCain doesn't think that 47 million people without health insurance is a crisis. John McCain wants to privatize Social Security. And in 2008, he still thinks it's OK when women don't earn equal pay for equal work.

Now, with an agenda like that, it makes perfect sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together next week in the Twin Cities. Because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart.


I watched MSNBC, and they aired exactly one second of Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer's speech, so I didn't get to hear where he broke out with the "Petro-Dictator" label to refer to Middle East heads of state who were hostile to American values yet were receiving billions of American dollars (borrowed, by the way, from China). Reminiscent of "Islamofascist." Or "Narco-terrorist." I loved it! Here is something else he said:
Even the oil and gas industry knows that Senator McCain has it wrong: we can't simply drill our way to energy independence. If you drilled everywhere... if you drilled in all of John McCain's backyards -- even the ones he doesn't know he has -- that single answer proposition is a dry well.... Barack Obama understands that the most important barrel of oil is the one you don't use.
When he pointed to the delegates from Colorado, and Michigan, and Florida, and Ohio and Pennsylvania, and to all those in the "cheap seats," to "get up off your hind ends and stand up," and asked them if the country could afford four more years of the same, if they were ready for a change, and if they knew who was going to bring that change to America, that for me was the moment when I first saw a unified convention.

Bob Casey, the "pro-life" Democrat who took the stage to redeem his dad's getting snubbed in 1992 because he was anti-abortion, also had a good line:
John McCain calls himself a maverick. But he votes with George Bush over 90% of the time. That's not a "maverick," that's a sidekick.
Take that, McBush!

You're going to see all over the newspapers, and on all the TV stations, in the corporate media, that there isn't enough attacking going on. Of course you will: that's the script that they've been rehearsing. That's the way they want this to go so that they can then show how the Republicans play that game and play it so well. Oh, be prepared, people, for the most hate-filled four days you'll ever see in Minneapolis. Four days of how Obama isn't this, or is too much of that. Not one concrete idea will come out of that convention that hasn't drooled out of some Republican's mouth since 1999. And the media will treat it like a love-fest.

More of the same, indeed.

Monday, August 25, 2008


I was writing the last post about Romney and McCan't's Faustian contract regarding his candidacy which hooks him into the Rove Matrix. I started thinking about the movie The Matrix and that seen between Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving) and Cypher (Joe Pantoliano). I then thought of the name Cypher and its different connotations. A "cipher" is a code, a secret message, a symbol; but it is also a nobody, a nonentity. Interesting in the context of the movie since his goal is to disappear into the Matrix in exchange for giving up Zion and the resistance. But I wanted more.

Where else had I heard the name "Cypher?" Then it hit me. I remembered the movie Angel Heart released in 1987, with Mickey Rourke, Lisa Bonet, and Robert DeNiro. A dreadful film. Horribly bloody and full of Method acting from Rourke and DeNiro. DeNiro! He played a shady character named Louis Cyphre (clever French spelling since it was set in the French Quarter of New Orleans). You didn't know who this Cyphre was until the end, when you put his first and last names together. LouisCyphre. LouCyphre. Lucifer. He was the Devil!

So then I drifted back to The Matrix and Cypher. I hadn't read the graphic novel, but could the writers have been playing with that name as a metaphor for the Devil? Perhaps. The parallels were there.

That drifted me back to McCan't and his Faustian contract with Rove. Faust, as you know, signed away his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge. I then thought of the name McCain. Of Cain. Cain killed Abel, brother killed brother. Imperfect analogy, but a murderer is a devil, an evil person.

So goes my idle mind...

Rests where he's staying, nowhere he knows
A place where nobody cares where he's straying, or where he goes.
To find no one in particular, footloose, adventure still
No thoughts for reasons he does all he's doing, has time to kill
And still he's killing the time.

from "Time to Kill," Gentle Giant, 1975

One Can Only Hope

The biggest gift McCan't can give the Democrats is selecting Mitt Romney to be VP. A Sullivan reader delivers a spot-on assessment. Choice quote.
McCain called Romney a flip-flopper dozens of times on record, said he cost thousands of jobs as head of Bain and of course questioned his commitment on Iraq. That doesn’t include all the things Romney said about McCain, like attacking McCain on taxes, attacking him for not having a clue on the economy and a host of other issues. Obama’s folks would have a bevy of pre-made ads just using the ads that McCain and Romney ran against each other in the primary.

The reader believes Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty would be a better choice. What McCan't needs is a prominent Christian(ist) conservative who has little to no negatives that the Democrats can attack. He/she can't be a lightweight, needs to be a strong speaker/debater, and has to have the stones to attack Obama relentlessly while maintaining a Teflon sheen that repels counter-attacks.

No one in the Republican candidate field has those credentials. Republican, by definition today, means too many negatives to count. But there are plenty of heavyweight Christian(ists) who could apply. Unfortunately, McCan't has already signed his Faustian contract by hooking into the Rove Matrix. I don't think he can get any deeper into Hell than that.

There are at least four Republican readers of my blog, and I'd like to hear from them. Whom would you choose?


OK, I know you've all been waiting on pins and needles to hear what I have to say about Senator Obama's pick of Joe Biden for VP. I've kept you in the dark long enough...

Biden is a very good choice; not as good a choice as other potentials (Clark, Sebelius), but better than others (Clinton, Bayh).

Why? Well, for one Biden is not as good as Clark because Clark would have been a much more enthusiastic, much more aggressive attacker of the Republican candidate (and I believe, like Josh Marshall does, that this is the primary job of the VP candidate). Also, Sebelius would have silenced the PUMA contingent who wants to disrupt the convention and make it about Hill and Bill. As if the Clintons mattered anymore! The only one who truly believes Hillary Clinton matters -- other than Hill and Bill -- is John McCan't.

Biden is also better than Evan Bayh, who for all of his youthful exuberance was an ardent supporter of going to war in Iraq. He comes from one of the most conservative states in the midwest, and I don't believe he would have brought the state into the blue column this year.

Biden has a big mouth, likes to use it, and has frequently been an outspoken critic of the Bush administration. His speech after being selected had some choice words about McCan't as well regarding sitting around the kitchen table.

Still -- and this is my primary worry -- he has been serving in the Senate for over 30 years. That negates any argument he can make that McCan't is a Washington insider. Joe's been on the inside a very long time. I personally don't like the record of sitting members of Congress running for the highest office. Of the 43 presidents we have had, only three -- JFK, Warren G. Harding, and James Garfield -- were members of Congress at the time they were candidates. One thing these three men have in common is that they all died while in office. Having two sitting Senators, one a long-term office-holder, on a single ticket makes me pretty nervous.

On the bright side, Biden's voice is refreshingly candid at a time when too many candidates speak in measured, canned sound bites (funny, but isn't the word "candid" in "candidate"?). In the news today, it was reported that the Obama campaign has "warned" Biden to stay on message. OK, I'll buy that, but don't muzzle the guy such that he loses his ability to connect with his sword. In a campaign where the other side has proven unafraid to go as outlandishly negative as the public will allow, it's not enough to have shields.

Obama Hits Back

He puts out an ad in response to one put out by McCan't backers attacking Obama for his association with former Weatherman Bill Ayers.

It's a good job, but he'll need to do more of this. One target Obama failed to hit is the group that paid for the ad. The American Issues Project is a Swift-Boat type group that is spending $3 million on ad buys in key states to release smears of Obama in the hopes of persuading some voters to switch over to McCan't.

Suggested Content for Obama's speech in Denver

Drew Westen has some good ideas. In suggesting three different narratives Obama could use to brand McCan't, this is the one I think would work best:
McCain is out of touch with the American people; that he has no idea of the suffering his party and their policies have inflicted on working Americans; that a man who can't remember how many houses he has, whose wife says the only way to get around Arizona is by private jet, and whose closest economic advisor thinks people who lose their jobs or can't keep up with the bills through no fault of their own are just whiners clearly doesn't understand what middle class families are experiencing.

Drawing a clear, unadulterated distinction between how McCan't grew up, how he has lived his life before and after Vietnam, and how his upbringing influences his worldview, and the rest of us is essential. Further, it's a way to downplay the five-plus years McCan't spent in the Hanoi Hilton (which McCan't is using the same way Giuliani used 9/11 during his campaign, as in "Noun/Verb/POW"). It's the economy, stupid.

Here's an idea I don't think would work:
[A] vote for McCain is a vote for continuing the failed policies of George W. Bush, policies that have weakened us economically and threatened our national security in a world whose greatest dangers lie in international terrorism (which require coordination with other nations, not condescension toward our allies, refusal to speak to our enemies, and saber rattling when we have no sabers left to rattle).

It's not a bad idea to call attention to Bush's failed strategy of how we got into this war, and how his foreign policy and economic policies have put us in danger, but that's so 2004. Further, it's a really bad idea to say something like "we have no sabers left to rattle." One, it's not really true. Two, it can be perceived (and used by the other side) as a put-down of our military strength and the soldiers fighting now. And third, it's a malaise-like comment that would invite comparisons to Jimmy Carter (which McCan't is already trying to do by calling an Obama presidency the second term of Jimmy Carter).

Westen believes that reaching voters on an emotional level is the way to win their votes, and he's right. Anytime you can touch a person on that level you will see more of your message sink in. If you don't believe me, just look at NBC's Olympic coverage and see how much they tried to connect with viewers on an emotional level. It's the best way. And Westen has a good idea when he suggests:
And he needs to attack McCain and his allies directly for questioning his patriotism and to redefine turning American against American as un-American.

This is a good way to tap into the unreleased anger of many voters. "Y'know, I see our neighbor every day. I run into them at the store, the gas station, the YMCA. So what if they're voting for the other guy, they're great people! I can still have that friendship and disagree with them! Why is it that McCan't is telling everyone that if I vote for Obama I'm un-American? That pisses me off!"

Since there are going to be very few undecided voters actually watching convention coverage, how are they going to see Obama's attempts to reach out to them? Well, many of you could visit my website and get choice tidbits that I think you'll want to hear. Or surf around yourselves: there will be plenty to see.

Less than one hour till kickoff time.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Green Home

This is a great idea. Modular construction, recycled and green materials, rain water storage for future irrigation. I particularly loved the folding glass doors that completely open up the house, paired with the sliding wood shade that cuts down on sunlight while preserving cross ventilation.

Video here.

Obama gains an independent voter

Susan Eisenhower bolts the GOP. Don't blame her for registering independent though, as the Dem Party does have a serious identity crisis.
[A]s the [Republican] party threatens to trivialize what promised to be a serious debate on our future direction, it will alienate many young people who might have come into party ranks.

They mishandled what became a crisis in the Caucusus, and this has undermined U.S. national security. At the same time, the McCain camp appears to be comfortable with running an unworthy Karl Rove–style political campaign.

[T]here will be some joy for me in my new status [as an Independent] since I will be able to speak for myself, and not as a member of a party that has, sadly, lost its way.
Now if only the Bush twins would do the same.

Timetable is on the table, cont.

The other day I posted about the Bush administration's inking a draft agreement for a withdrawal timetable in Iraq, one that would get the troops completely out by the end of 2011, and one which looks eerily like the one Obama discussed with Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki, which suggested withdrawal a year earlier.

Now, HuffPost blogger Marty Kaplan weighs in.
Now that Condi has negotiated the very timetable for withdrawal from Iraq that this administration has been calling treasonous for the past three years, will anyone hold them accountable for the pure political motivations for their turnaround? Or will America be as obscenely forgiving of this attempt to deprive Obama of an issue as they've been willing to take amnesia pills about the gang that preferred "[My] Pet Goat" to "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US"?
Uh, no, and no. Is he kidding? But wait, there's more:
Depend on a revisionist account from the White House that makes this stunning reversal the inevitable consequence of all they've done before. But just because they're good at propaganda doesn't mean we have to be good at stupid.
Uh, yeah right. Marty is being a little optimistic about the collective memory of the American electorate. The Bushies, and the McBushies for that matter, live smack-dab in the middle of "Idiot America." If Obama can manage to get any traction out of the withdrawal timetable now, it would take massive amounts of ad buys in that region, and it would accomplish precious little. He needs to reach swing voters; do the swing voters share that laziness? Well, if a recent study is to be believed, swing voters already have their minds made up on a subconscious level, and their decision to vote one way or another may have little or nothing to do with the issues at hand. That may be, but I can't imagine a voter at this point who likes enough about both candidates to be undecided.

A must-read analysis of the Georgia/Russia conflict

No, it's not my analysis.

Paul Berman writes for The National Review (TNR) and has written several books on terrorism, power, and politics. He has posted a devastating and important piece on TNR online that paints the Russian invasion of Georgia as a watershed moment in international relations: namely, the end of the post-1989 era.

I've been reading a lot about how this invasion means the Cold War is over, mainly as a way to illustrate how the Republican nominee is most at home when dealing with old-school military conflicts. However, Berman points out seven "nail-biting" thoughts that Russia's invasion of a tiny, seemingly inconsequential neighbor shifts the balance of power around the world, and not in the favor of the U.S. or its democratic allies.

I admit to paying very little attention to the conflict when Georgia and Russia squared off over a couple of small pro-Russia Georgian provinces that wanted independence from Tblisi. Now, my attention will be glued to this conflict and what might develop in the months to come.

Berman acknowledges the need to blame Bush/Cheney, but to exercise restraint:

The invasion of Georgia offers yet another astounding display of incompetence on the part of the Bush administration, on top of the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the response to Hurricane Katrina, and the mortgage crisis. The Georgian disaster possesses, however, the potential of outdoing the sum total of those other disasters.

To heap blame and contempt on the Bush administration is therefore a just, reasonable, and hygienic thing to do--but only for five minutes. On the sixth minute, which has already arrived, it will be necessary to come up with a response.

Berman's very nuanced suggestion for a response is to wean ourselves off of petroleum and to distance ourselves from the conflicts inherent in working with the non-democratic countries that deal us the black stuff. He rightly points out that Russian's leaders are afraid, and this fear is what drove them to invade Georgia. At first I didn't get it, but as it relates to the development of a "green" U.S. economy, I see clearly now that American efforts to become less oil independent will have serious repercussions to what Berman calls their "primitive prosperity."

Think about it: we reduced our driving by 12 billion miles in the month of July alone; 10 billion miles in June. I have marvelled at how uncrowded the 405 Freeway has become on weekends. Earlier this year, the 23 mile drive from my in-laws' house to mine on a Sunday evening would have taken me 45 minutes or longer; now, I cruise the trip in under 25 minutes door to door. Now, the speed with which we have seemingly adapted to higher fuel prices is mind-boggling. This has to be sending shock waves throughout the petro-world, from oil companies to governments. If serious efforts are then made by the next president to transition this country away from fossil fuels and towards a greener future, I predict you will see spasms of anxiety all over the world. Oil prices will fall as OPEC nations look for buyers to take up the slack (which will be harder to come by as the U.S. assumes the lead toward greener technology). The Russian economy which depends largely on oil revenues will be sent spinning downward, and might force it to seek help from -- of all countries -- China, fast becoming the next world economic superpower. The U.S. dollar will strengthen and a new worldwide economic expansion will take place, with the green and petro sides competing against one another for dominance.

Of course, a lot of this expansion could be short-lived. Americans are notoriously lazy; the last time we cut back consumption over high oil prices, OPEC reacted and prices plummeted, and we gave up the fight. Would we do that again this time? Hard to say. But I bet there are many who have learned their lessons. Most of us see the folly in increasing offshore drilling as a way to insure a supply of oil for us in the future. As Berman puts it, "fossil fuels have become the engine of reaction, all over the world...."

It's Gonna Get Ugly, Folks!

TPM's Josh Marshall discusses his "bitch slap" theory of electoral politics. For McCan't, the caution here is to avoid hitting so hard so early on that he leaves himself vulnerable as having no ideas behind the attacks. The ads his campaign keeps churning out are creative enough and make use of Obama's vulnerabilities, to be sure, but he's not scoring direct hits.

Obama needs to keep up the attacks and force McCan't into making too many mistakes or tiring himself out, leaving himself open and vulnerable to those occasional jabs and hooks, the way George Foreman did against Muhammad Ali in 1974. Money quote (emphasis mine):
What we'll see now is whether Obama keeps McCain on the run with a continuing line of attacks or whether they'll let up after this one reactive pick-up from McCain's mistake. The House? gaffe exposes two of McCain's biggest vulnerabilities -- 1) the contrast between his old soldier pseudo-mystique and the pampered life he's lead for almost 40 years and 2) the age-related wobbliness which has his campaign aides keeping him largely off limits to the traveling press. These dovetail with his loose-cannon approach to critical foreign policy questions.
For his part, also, Obama needs to be a man about the McCan't onslaught, and do all the blocking and deflecting without breaking a sweat, even going so far as to taunt McCan't: "Is this the best you've got?" I'm reminded of the Neo vs. Morpheus fight scene in The Matrix between Lawrence Fishburne (Morpheus) and Keanu Reeves (Neo), when Morpheus exhorts Neo to "Stop trying to hit me and HIT ME!" Neo then makes with the dizzying hands and shows Morpheus what he's capable of doing, but that runs counter to my message: the old, wobbly McCan't is clearly not Neo, not The One.

Watch it here. The moment is about 3:30 in.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The "Wall of Separation" Strengthens

A new Pew survey reveals that a slim majority favor keeping churches out of politics. For the first time in over a decade, attitudes have shifted away from religious groups' having influence over political issues.

Here's the big kicker:
"Overall, the number of people who say churches should not endorse political candidates is up slightly, but among Republicans it is up 11 points, and among white evangelical Republicans it is up 19 points," said Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.
Time to increase calls for churches to back off politics. Jerry Falwell is dead, his Moral Majority long obsolete. Pat Robertson increasingly sounds like a candidate for a straightjacket and a padded cell. Ted Haggard is coming to terms with being gay and trying to kick meth. John Hagee has fallen off the front page of the corporate media. Ralph Reed is a disgrace with a dead political career. Jeremiah Wright has faded into the background. Even the Pope's voice hardly rises above the din of arguments over how many houses McCan't owns and can't influence the discussion over when life begins. Only Rick Warren has made a splash, albeit a minor one that will quickly fade once the conventions begin.

Maybe, just maybe, reason can return to political debate. Hope is still alive.

Tsk, tsk, tsk

John Hawkins, Right Wing News:

This is disappointing, not just because it's apparently untrue that Cindy McCain spoke to Mother Theresa, but because it makes you scratch your head. The McCains adopted a little girl from overseas. That's an amazing, incredibly compassionate thing to do. Why embellish a story like that?

Granted, "fish stories" aren't necessarily unusual. People will add a little detail here or there to make a story better, but it doesn't look good when a politician does it -- and since John McCain has repeated the story, it looks like Mr. "Straight Talk" is going to end up having to explain on the campaign trail why he and his wife fudged a story about something as intimate as the circumstances under which they came to
adopt their own daughter. They should know better than that.

Incidentally, this website's post just before the above, on Limbaugh's comment today that "nobody [in the Democratic Party] had the guts to stand up and say no to a black guy."
Maybe 15 years ago in this country, people might have been too terrified of being called "racists" to point out the truth about Barack Obama. But today, in a time when the word "racist" means "threatening to the interests of the Democratic Party" or "Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton need some more money" about 95% of the time, it's a lot harder to intimidate people into pretending the emperor is wearing a full set of clothes.

"More of the Same"

YouTube video from "punditfish" that shows all too clearly who John McBush really is.

The blind leading the blind

A Orange County reader of the Los Angeles Times writes a letter in response to a Rosa Brooks' op-ed regarding the McCan't-Georgia connection. Brooks points out:

Between Jan. 1, 2007, and May 15, 2008, while Scheunemann was also a paid McCain advisor, Georgia paid his firm $290,000 in lobbying fees.

And what did Georgia get in return? Well, no troops, that's for sure. But they got Scheunemann's (expensive) pledge to garner U.S. support for Georgia's admission to NATO and for its claims to South Ossetia, and his commitment to use his ties to politicians such as McCain to advance Georgia's causes. McCain has sponsored legislation supporting Georgia's claims over South Ossetia, an issue on which he was lobbied by Scheunemann's firm. And as recently as mid-April, Scheunemann was simultaneously taking money from Georgia and actively preparing McCain for supportive calls with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Is it any wonder that Saakashvili concluded that he had the backing of the U.S. Republican power structure when it came to South Ossetia?

The reader then writes:

Is there anything bad that has happened in the world in the last century that Brooks doesn't blame on the United States -- and particularly the Republican Party, with special emphasis on George Bush?

I haven't done the research, but I feel confident that she blames the U.S. for the Soviet invasions of Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan and probably the downing of Korean Air Lines Flight 007 too.

He's right about one thing: he hasn't done the research.

Another McCan't Lie

This one involves Mother Theresa, for God's sake. The campaign website had a story about the family's adoption of one of two baby girls Cindy McCain brought home from Bangladesh in 1991. The website initially stated that Mother Theresa herself had implored Mrs. McCain to bring the babies to the U.S. This was not true, and the website has been corrected.

Sullivan shrewdly points out (emphasis mine):
A story that shows the McCains' genuine compassion and faith is embellished over the years to make the story a little more perfect, a little more salient, a little better as a narrative. It's especially important to add these embellishments when your goal is to appeal to a fundamentalist base, when your own prickly, personal and private faith isn't very marketable. And when your adopted daughter is Bangladeshi, and when that fact has been disgracefully used against you by the Bush machine in 2000, and when some fringes of your base get queasy about multi-racial families, what better way to describe the adoption than as something Mother Teresa herself "implored" you to do? More interesting: the first actual reports of this event do not mention this fact. They are added later.

Gloves are off!

Finally, Obama sharpens up. This is response to McCan't admitting he doesn't know how many homes he owns:
There is just a fundamental gap of understanding between John McCain's world and what people are going through every single day here in America and you don't have to be a Nobel Prize laureate economist. You just have to have a little bit of sense to understand that we cannot go through the same eight years of the failed economic policies that George Bush has put in place.

That was good. This is better:
Some of you saw the Saddleback Forum where [McCan't] was asked what was rich and he said 'I don't know maybe if you make $5 million, $5 million then you are rich,' which I guess means if you are only making $3 million a year you are middle class. I guess that's what he meant. His top economic adviser said the other day that Americans should stop complaining, that they've become a nation of whiners, that all these economic policies we are talking about is a mental recession. That if you just changed your mind you would be ok....

McCan't spokesman Brian Rogers had a pretty good written comeback, though it was full of holes:
Does a guy who made more than $4 million last year, just got back from vacation on a private beach in Hawaii and bought his own million-dollar mansion with the help of a convicted felon really want to get into a debate about houses? Does a guy who worries about the price of arugula and thinks regular people "cling" to guns and religion in the face of economic hardship really want to have a debate about who's in touch with regular Americans?

The arugula comment is particularly nasty.

As for income, McCan't's website shows that his wife made $6.1 million in 2006 (pdf), most of which was earned through capital gains and passive income, and paid nearly $1.75 million in taxes (pdf). Since McCan't himself believes one is rich if one earns $5 million a year, that would make her (and him) pretty rich indeed. Her 2007 returns are not posted, but it could be that they are on extension until October of this year. The website includes links for his 2006 and 2007 tax returns, as well as links to financial statements for the John & Cindy McCain Family Foundation (does anyone think that this does not mark him as one of the elite?). McCan't had adjusted gross income of about $339,000 in 2007, excluding over $58,000 in non-taxable navy pension income. Of course it makes sense for he and his wife to file separately, as $339,000 shows him to be just an ordinary middle class guy, doesn't it? A really telling bit is that he paid $17,700 in alimony to his ex-wife (only 5%? what a nice gesture from a guy who dumped his wife after she became severely injured). The foundation also shows that he donated almost $257,000 in the past two years from the sales of his books, plus another $105,000 from community assets last year.

Obama, on the other hand, had adjusted gross of under $1 million in 2006, more than $551,000 of it from book income. He paid $278,000 in federal taxes, over 28% of gross. (Cindy McCain, who earned $6.1 million in 2006, paid the same tax rate.) He took a credit for child care expenses. He made more in 2005, over $1.65 million, but before that they averaged just $244,000 a year since 2000, a relatively modest figure for two lawyers.

This marks the first time I've actually viewed their tax returns, and I have to say that now I fully understand the complete nonsense that the McCan't campaign has been spitting out about Obama being out of touch with regular Americans. If these facts were out and compared side by side, it would show just the opposite. In truth, McCan't (and before him Clinton) is trying to show in a subtle way that Obama is not presidential material not because he's elitist, or rich, or too exotic. It's because he's black. They are playing the race card (and then blaming Obama for pulling out the 'playing the race card' card!).

It's gonna get ugly.

Timetable is on the table.

Bush sent Condi Rice to Baghdad to nail down a draft agreement for withdrawal of American troops. It looks like the Iraqis have pushed for complete withdrawal by the end of 2011.

Nowhere in this article does it say that Obama has been campaigning on the idea because Bush and McCan't want a permanent presence there to keep an eye on Iran and potentially launch attacks (not to mention protect our oil interests).

Watch for the Republicans to take all the credit for making it happen (and they'll get it too, thanks to a sleeping press corps).

Another campaign issue stolen away from Obama.

More fight advice

...and Josh Marshall agrees with Eskow:
Don't demand or beg or please or even ask. It's silly and weak and achieves nothing. McCain's weakness is that he's abandoned everything he always said he believed in, just to be president. Against Bush/Rove attacks? Now they run his campaign? Reform? Now he's for all of President Bush's economic policies. It's the mix of flip-flops and moral failures that made his one time admirer diagnose him with a "severe
character defect
." A lot of people can see McCain's moral and character problem. But it needs bringing to the surface. Obama should come at it soft and his surrogates hard. It has the deep virtue of being true. Whatever else, STOP BEGGING.

Good advice, Josh, but truth isn't a prerequisite. If it was, we'd never have gone into Iraq and Bush and Cheney might have been impeached by now.

After School, Behind the there

Eskow wants to see a fight.

McCain's not reluctant to do whatever it takes to win. If his opponent is, the results will be all too predictable. If the past month's caution was born of a desire to protect Obama's lead, forget about it. That lead is gone. He may have hoped to avoid a brawl, but he can't. It's on.

But, some may ask, what about McCain's war record? The answer is simple: Stop bringing it up. That's their job, not yours. Remember, Bob Dole was a war hero
too - and he lost. ...

I'm ready for a website that attacks rather than defends.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Photo caption contest winner

Since my original post on June 10, only one person submitted an idea for a caption this photo.

Well, this photo has gone viral and everyone's been using it on their blogs. Today I saw the winning caption, thanks to Bob Cesca's Goddamn Awesome Blog!

McCain Fever -- Catch it!

America vs. the Soldiers of Jesus

Kathleen Parker of

At the risk of heresy, let it be said that setting up the two presidential candidates for religious interrogation by an evangelical minister -- no matter how beloved -- is supremely wrong.

It is also un-American.

For the past several days, since mega-pastor Rick Warren interviewed Barack Obama and John McCain at his Saddleback Church, most political debate has focused on who won.


The winner, of course, was Warren, who has managed to position himself as political arbiter in a nation founded on the separation of church and state.

The loser was America.


His format and questions were interesting and the answers more revealing than the usual debate menu provides. But does it not seem just a little bit odd to have McCain and Obama chatting individually with a preacher in a public forum about their positions on evil and their relationship with Jesus Christ?

Yes, yes, YES! Horribly odd! Why do both parties feel that appealing to these types of voters is in line with, to paraphrase the title of McCan't's book, the Faith of Our Fathers? When Bush's aide whispered in his ear on Sept. 11, 2001 that America was under attack, little did many of us realize who the attackers really were. I think most of us will agree that while the 9/11 attack was a horrible event that seared the reality of terror into our minds forever, it was not entirely unprovoked. It was partially in response to a perceived affront to Islam -- that we somehow threatened their way of life as we continued to get deeper into relationship with Islamic governments over oil commerce.

America is still under attack, and actually has been under attack for decades. The warriors are quieter. They couch themselves in words of peace, brotherhood, and spiritual awakening. Yet they have infiltrated our institutions across the country, from school boards to city councils to the two chambers of the U.S. Congress to the White House. They are the Christianists, who, like Islamists, are committed to imposing a radical form of Christianity, including literal interpretation of the allegorical words in the Old and New Testaments, on our society. Calling us a "Christian nation," they attack laws at all levels of our society that do not promote their worldview, all the way up to our Constitution. They create new laws that do promote their worldview, and jam up our court system, all the way up to the Supreme Court, to gain legal validation for their tactics. After all, this country's population is overwhelmingly Christian, so how hard can it be to find a judge who allows his religious views to influence his interpretation of the law? They get elected to public office or get appointed by those elected, and surround themselves with like-minded individuals, excluding those who don't feel as they do.

Sitting by are those of us, Christian or otherwise, who passionately believe in the beauty and simplicity of our Constitution to protect and defend believers of all types, to make room in this country for them, and to celebrate what's possible when people work together despite our differences. But we're forced to be passive; after all, we are VASTLY outnumbered. Or are we? Do most Americans want a government which endorses a specific religion (or worse, claims to tolerate all belief systems but allows constituents to secretly ignore the law)? Is it really true that, as billmon wrote, "[t]he voters ... don’t seem to care much one way or another – as long as gas doesn’t get too expensive and the military casualties aren’t too high (or can be kept off the TV)?"

Reader Comments

Hey, folks, wanted to take a little time out to thank those who send me replies to my posts. Once in a while I post a reader's response.

There are some of you who reply via email directly to me because that's how you get my posts. That's fine, and please keep doing that if you wish. What I would really appreciate, however, is if you could post the comments directly to the website. So, when you get the email, you click on the link that takes you to the website, then follow the links to post a comment on a particular post.

I read and moderate all comments for publication. Since I don't get that many right now, I have the time. What I ask of you, dear readers, is that when you do post a comment, if you wish to include a reference to a story on the web, please simply include a link to the story rather than embedding the whole body of the story into your comment. This happened to me today with a new reader who paid me a nice compliment. While I am grateful for the compliment, I am unable to edit comments (naturally) and couldn't remove the embedded story. So I decided to reject the comment rather than publish it because 1) the embedded story was long; and 2) the story was one I had alluded to in an earlier post.

So, please keep the comments coming! And thank you for reading.

Redefining McCan't

In case you haven't been reading it, much has been discussed about a story about McCan't's time in captivity, when he encountered a kind Vietnamese guard who used a stick to draw the sign of the cross in the sand for McCan't to see, indicating that he too was a Christian. McCan't has used this event to define the moment when he found his faith. Fair enough, but apparently there has been some controversy surrounding this imagery. Some have argued (incorrectly) that the actual image belongs to Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn who wrote The Gulag Archipelago, while others attribute it to Charles Colson, the chief counsel for Nixon who became a minister after serving time related to the Watergate scandal, who appears to have made the Solzhenitsyn tale up.

McCan't biographer Mark Salter, who co-wrote Faith of My Fathers with McCan't, appears to have embellished the story in that book, unapologetically so. When confronted by a National Review contributor about the similarity of McCan't's story with the Colson myth, Salter responded:
I'll leave the ... controversy to people with a lot more time on their hands than I have and a lot less reason than your typical paranoid schizophrenic. Introducing a note of common sense — such as the possibility that an ad maker used a little artistic license — often disturbs them more than it helps.
No matter; it seems the Obama campaign is in consensus that McCan't didn't make it up.

All this, however, is prelude to a TPM post today that features a reader's observations about missing the target. The reader believes that going after McCan't in this way only helps McCan't by making him look picked upon. But he has an alternative strategy, one which I think is a good offense and points to how McCan't has consistently altered his public image to make him appear more electable, which Sullivan wrote about and I featured here. The reader's idea:
[The cross-in-the-sand story] can be used to neutralize his POW sainthood. Someone needs to compare working with the Rove proteges to working with the Vietnamese torturers. The construction can go like this: John McCain said that Karl Rove deserves a special place in hell for the false accusations against him in South Carolina [during the 2000 campaign]. I think this place in hell also holds his Vietnamese torturers and, in fact, anyone who uses torture. Well, John McCain is now working with Karl Rove's people to get elected. The very same people who slandered him. I guess he would work with anyone, maybe even his Vietnamese torturers, to get elected. We should judge a man by the company he keeps when times are tough.
TPM's Marshall thinks it's a case of "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em." I'm in the middle on this one. I think McCan't has literally made a Faustian pact with the Rove machine to salvage his campaign. And to some degree this has worked, if the latest Zogby poll is any indication (Warning! Warning, Will Robinson!). This is a great place for Obama to hit McCan't hard, especially given McCan't's earlier comments that Obama would rather lose a war than lose an election.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Funeral Fun...

I'm speechless. Really.

The Agony of Irony

Think and decide, then vote. Sullivan nails it, and nails it hard.

The cross-in-the-dirt story - although deeply fishy to any fair observer - is in the realm of the unprovable. But the actual techniques used on McCain, and the lies they were designed to legitimize, are a matter of historical record. And the government of the United States now practices the very same techniques that the Communist government of North Vietnam once proudly used against American soldiers. When they are used against future John McCains, the victims will know, in a way McCain didn't, that their own government has no moral standing to complain.

Now the kicker: in the Military Commissions Act, McCain acquiesced to the use of these techniques against terror suspects by the CIA. And so the tortured became the enabler of torture. Someone somewhere cried out in pain for the same reasons McCain once did. And McCain let it continue.

These are the prices people pay for power.

Hilzoy Holla, cont.

I royally screwed up. hilzoy is not, in fact, Andrew Olmsted. Major Andrew Olmsted was tragically killed in Iraq in January 2008. If I'd only managed to read some on the website I would have figured this out.

hilzoy is a woman, her real name I can't find on the Obsidian Wings website.

Apologies to all.

And Ted Rall is railing about...

...why McCan't will win in November. The admonition to Obama with less than 90 days to go:

Obama has already traveled too far down the Path of the Kerry, repeatedly voting for funding a war his entire candidacy is predicated upon opposing, not to mention government spying on U.S. citizens and, most recently, the embarrassingly cheesy spectacle of endorsing offshore oil drilling. I mean, really: Do any right-wing conservatives believe he really means any of this stuff?

If he is to make history by salvaging his campaign from its current neck-and-neck status with McCain, Obama will have to rally the Democrats' liberal base by throwing them some red meat: immediate withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, socialized medicine and a sweeping credit crisis bailout plan (all interest rates legally reset to prime) would be a start. He'll also need to beat up McCain (fairly) for agreeing with Bush about just about everything--and pledge to hold the Bushies responsible for their crimes.

I laid out a grand stump speech for Obama here.
And let's face it: George W. Bush is the most unpopular president we've ever had. And he's their #1 role model.
The time to start fighting back and end the rope-a-dope was weeks ago, but Obama can still pull this one out if he stops listening to the center of the Democratic Party.

Americans care about...

...the weather, it seems, more than almost anything. Apropos of my earlier post which referenced sports scores.

Hilzoy Holla

I'm liking hilzoy -- aka Andrew Olmsted -- more and more. From his blog, Obsidian Wings:

Does McCain really want to argue that no one could have opposed the surge without being motivated by blind ambition, even though it was opposed, at the time, by the commanders in Iraq, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Iraq Study Group? I suppose someone might try to argue that even these people were looking out for their own self-interest, but that would be a hard argument to make in the case of Generals Casey and Abizaid, given that their opposition to the surge reportedly played a role in their being replaced.

If John McCain wants to smear everyone who opposed the surge, let him say so. If not, he should accept that it is possible for reasonable people motivated by love of their country to differ on this question, and find a more honorable line of attack.

McCan't... can't. He's a Republican, remember?

I Can't Laugh It Off Anymore

The unabashed self-righteousness of the Bush Administration was in full display the other day, as Condi Rice responded thusly to a reporter's question:

Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power. That's not the way to deal in the 21st century.
This is the so-called expert on Russia?

Greenwald had this to say:
Other than our media elite, is there anyone who doesn't recognize how absurd it is for Rice to be issuing a sermon like that? Who is the target audience for that? And what does it say about our political discourse that Rice knows she can say things like that with a straight face -- and, before her, that John McCain can do much the same -- without its being pointed out how darkly laughable it is?
I want to see someone from the media elite -- a Couric, a Williams, or a Gibson -- go Olbermann on this subject. Talk straight to the camera as though it were Rice or McCan't, and visibly spit his/her rage at how brazenly cynical and dangerous it is not to take responsibility for how aggressive a country we really are. "Oh, but our rage is Good and Just." Blecch.

16 hours without a correction -- must mean something

I first saw it on Cesca's blog, who picked it up from Talking Points Memo, who found it on the original AP story. It's quite telling that it was published 16 hours ago and hasn't yet been corrected. The paragraph in question (emphasis mine):

His top contenders are said to include Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Less traditional choices mentioned include former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, an abortion-rights supporter, and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Democratic vice presidential prick in 2000 who now is an independent.
Cesca's great line was, "The typo isn't 'prick' of course -- the typo is 'in 2000.' As we all know, Senator Lieberman is a prick all the time."

Shallow, but so what?

CNN's Jack Cafferty opines correctly that the Republican nominee has the intellectual depth of a soapdish, or at best, George W. Bush. A decent point:

Where are John McCain's writings exploring the vexing moral issues of our time? Where are his position papers setting forth his careful consideration of foreign policy, the welfare state, education, America's moral responsibility in the world, etc., etc., etc.?

John McCain graduated 894th in a class of 899 at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His father and grandfather were four star admirals in the Navy. Some have suggested that might have played a role in McCain being admitted. His academic record was awful. And it shows over and over again whenever McCain is called upon to think on his feet.

You will read variations on this theme all over the internet (including on this blog). You rarely see this commentary in the broadcast media. You won't hear from Barack Obama. Why is that? Why is it anathema to point out that one's opponent is an intellectual lightweight? How, at 71 years of age, does a presidential candidate get to skate by without so much as a single publicly expressed moment of introspection?

I'll tell you how: since the old media is dumbed down to the lowest common denominator -- i.e., the average, numbed out American more concerned about sports scores than the value of the dollar against the euro -- the old media cannot afford to step over that line. Further, if a candidate like Obama, or one of his surrogates, made such a suggestion about McCain's shallowness, you would see the pundits and anchors falling all over themselves to paint Obama as an elitist (again) for denigrating his opponent's shallow intellect relative to his own, which is dizzying.

Further, there is a certain appeal to short answers. One of the most effective things Bush ever said in eight years was uttered during the 2004 campaign: "You may not always agree with me, but you always know where I stand." Let's assume that Bush was being sincere, which I know is a stretch. I'll admit that sometimes it's refreshing when someone stands by his convictions come hell or high water. I think the most successful people in life are single-minded about their purpose in life. The real trouble comes when one says one thing but means another, of course. Also, to some untrained ears, a nuanced approach can sometimes come off as wishy-washy.

This is essentially why McCan't got rousing cheers at Saddleback last weekend. The simpletons present in that church could not grasp that there were complex shades of gray in every question posed by "Pastor Rick," and when Obama answered carefully and thoughtfully, it came off like that guy in Bible study 10 years ago who challenged conventional wisdom and caused the others to look at each with furtive glances as they shared secret thoughts about the non-believer in their midst. On the other hand, McCan't, unable to tackle such subtleties, fell back on stump speech rhetoric and black-and-white answers, which appeals to these people of blind, unbending faith.

Obama's speechwriters can and should get blunt for the stadium speech in Denver. When 50,000 people are listening, best to be concise. And, since this is the start of a war for the presidency, pull out that goddamned sword!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Unchecked American Hegemony

An very insightful analysis by ex-blogger billmon over at DailyKos. Basically he illustrates how totally lame our Executive and Legislative branches are pertaining to NATO expansion.

The painful summation:

The national security state is doing exactly what it was designed to do, but without any of the external checks and counterbalances that existed during the Cold War – the war it was originally created to fight. The domestic political system, meanwhile, has atrophied to the point where it’s simply an afterthought – a legislative rubber stamp needed to keep the dollars flowing. With no effective opposition, the machine can run on autopilot, until it finally topples off a cliff (as in Iraq) or slams into an object (like the Russian Army) that refuses to get out of the way.

And that, ultimately, is the most depressing thing about this story: Even after the fiasco in Iraq, the bloody failure in Lebanon, the downward spiral in Afghanistan and, now, the futile posturing in Georgia, there’s absolutely no evidence the US foreign
policy elite is inclined to moderate its ambition to re-organize the world along American lines. Nor is there any sign the political class (including, unfortunately, Barack Obama) is rethinking its lockstep support for that agenda. The voters, meanwhile, don’t seem to care much one way or another – as long as gas doesn’t get too expensive and the military casualties aren’t too high (or can be kept off the TV). If anything, it looks like bashing the Russians is still good politics, if only for the nostalgia value.

The second to last sentence is really painful to read for me. We have become a nation of F-TOGs (F*ck the Other Guys) and all we want is to be free -- free from worry, free from bills, free from responsibility, and free from thinking.

Let the Bayh-er Beware

Eskow sounds off on how bad a decision choosing Evan Bayh would be for Veep. Money quote (emphasis from the author):
But the other big reason to avoid Bayh is that it would read as weakness. Obama would be telegraphing to the electorate that he doesn't think his own talents or his "new Democrat" approach are enough to win the day. He would be saying that he doesn't believe he can make it without having someone on the ticket who represents the timorous Democratic politicking of the past eight years.
Eskow believes, as I do, that General Wes Clark is the man to choose. A strong leader, a strong military background. The guy's got a mouth on him, and I think that with Obama, he needs someone who'll go on the attack. Choosing Bayh would mean choosing someone who was strongly in support of going to war, which Obama has used to differentiate himself from most of his Democratic opponents.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

More Saddleback Reaction

A Sullivan reader:
More and more, November seems to be shaping up, above all, up as a referendum on the American people -- on what we collectively are prepared to take responsibility for. If McCain wins, we'll deserve him.
Ouch. More if this reader's comments here.

Music We Recently Enjoyed

Hanging out in the Central Garden of the Getty Museum Saturday afternoon, my family and I heard a performance by a true blues man, a young guy who has his ears and voice rooted in the traditions of American music from the slave era to the mid-20th century. His name is Guy Davis, and he's the son of actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. He came out with a harmonica, a couple of acoustic guitars, and a banjo, and just blew us all away. He didn't shout, didn't get all flashy with his musicianship, and didn't bring out a caricature of a blues voice. He was so authentic. The boys were dancing all around, and when he played his guitar, they stood there and watched.

Here's a picture of him with the boys (Max is wearing his pork-pie hat). Check his stuff out here.

Saddleback reaction

A reader writes:
[A]fter Obama's "nuanced" showing with Rick Warren last night, as opposed to McCain's strictly black-and-white answers which brought down the house, [it] makes me very nervous about Obama's chances come November. Obama's position on "marriage" also didn't make any points with the gay community, but that is another story. I believe he's sold out to the right, trying to get votes.
What I saw last night told me that the American public has been so dumbed down by the jackass who currently occupies the White House that McCain will almost certainly get in should he choose Ridge to be his VP. together they will play the fear card and we'll have another four years wherein the United States will be an also-ran power and China will take its place as a world leader.
Another reaction can be found here. Money quote:
It's said by people smarter than me that all Obama has to do in a room like [Rick] Warren's made-for-TV sanctuary is to survive, be not scary, and earn respect. If that's true, he surely did that last night, and among some of the younger evangelicals, he may actually win a vote or two. But with Warren's claim to a kinder, gentler biblical imperative than is found by elders such as [Pat] Robertson's, it was profoundly disheartening to see an almost knee-jerk response in favor of unbridled, war-mongering jingoism, advanced by a guy who probably doesn't even like them.
First of all, I think it's way too early to count Obama out among evangelicals. Sure, some will vote for him but many will not. But let's not panic about this: evangelicals are not nearly as powerful as they were. Their multitudes have saddled us with the worst president in U.S. history, and they got precious little for it in return. Their biggest achievements were Roberts and Alito. Mostly, though, Bush ignored them completely.

Obama's own reaction to last night:
McCain says, "Here's my plan, I'm going to drill here, drill now," which is something he only came up with two months ago when he started looking at polling.
I didn't even see this "event." I sat it out in favor of hanging out with my family. But I'll say this: It's just one meeting. At this point in the election, neither candidate's message looks too focused to me. They are all over the map, pandering here, tailoring there. McCan't has absolutely nothing to offer except rehashed Bush/Cheney talking points. Having a few Christianist soldiers roar in approval (ironically, their biggest cheer was apparently about offshore oil drilling, a most secular topic if I ever heard one) doesn't mean the end for Obama.

Obama, however, needs to get back to "Change" and outline in a clear way what he will change and how he plans to do it. Big, visionary change. Get us out of Iraq change. Economic stimulus change. Alternative energy change. No more partisan sniping change.

This country is experiencing serious growing pains. Judging by this last primary season, the Democrats had a woman and an African-American man battling it out for the nomination. None of the old white guys had a chance. On the Republican side, there were more old white guys, no money, no vision, and no clear-cut choice except to be another version of George W. Bush.

He has to be the president who starts the ball rolling toward a New America, an America that looks totally different from the way it looks now. when the Boomer Generation gets its real first president.

Think about it: Obama needs to hit hard with statements like this:

"Pay attention to how much more the other side wants us to endure: More economic hardship except for the wealthiest Americans. More spying on Americans. More assaults on our Constitution. More war. More torture. More dead American soldiers. More enemies who want to harm us. More dependence on foreign oil. More and more Bush failure. More Cheney secrecy. More Tom DeLay power-grabbing and more lobbyists. And, if control of the Congress rests with the Democratic Party, more partisanship. And let's face it: George W. Bush is the most unpopular president we've ever had. And he's their #1 role model. So, if that's what you really want, if you really think that you've got it better now than you did in 2000, if you really want to gamble away another four years on more of George W. Bush's failed domestic and foriegn policies, then go ahead, drink that Kool-Aid and vote for the other guy. But if you're just a little bit tired of sitting at what feels like a roulette table, waiting for your number to come up, if you're a little tired of wishing your son or daughter or husband or wife or father or mother could just get out of Iraq and get back home, if you're just a little tired of being lied to about how to solve our energy issues, if you're tired of wondering if your job will be there next year or if you'll still have your house, and if deep down you think that more of the same probably isn't what you need right now, then there's a place you can go to be a part of changing what we can and will do. And while I'm just one man, all it really takes is one to get things started."