Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"The Lamest Duck"

Joe Klein sums up Bush's eight years in one paragraph of his brilliant essay.

In the end, ..., it will not be the creative paralysis that defines Bush. It will be his intellectual laziness, at home and abroad. Bush never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and regulation that was necessary to make markets work. He never understood, or cared about, the delicate balance between freedom and equity that was necessary to maintain the strong middle class required for both prosperity and democracy. He never considered the complexities of the cultures he was invading. He never understood that faith, unaccompanied by rigorous skepticism, is a recipe for myopia and foolishness. He is less than President now, and that is appropriate. He was never very much of one.
I particularly enjoyed the sentence about faith. Skepticism is what makes faith so rewarding. If all one did was spend his whole life obeying what his parents, clergy and community told him, he would be a lame excuse for a human being, a shell filled with intellectual meringue.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Where Am I?

Last Saturday was "honey-do" day, Sunday I worked for a local realtor by sitting one of his open houses, and Monday I actually had business to attend to.

While I love writing in this blog every day, you'll forgive me for actually attending to my day job making mortgage loans. My being busy might be a signal that things are improving (or just that my employer is gaining in market share while the market tanks even further). Either way, good for me.

In the meantime, visit Andrew Sullivan, HuffPost, Glenn Greenwald, Talking Points Memo, and Swampland, for some up to date analysis and excellent writing.

I'll be back soon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Return to Sanity

I posted earlier about Nebraska "safe-haven" law intended to protect unwanted babies and infants. Now the state has amended its law to restrict the age of children that can be dropped off to 30 days or less.

Parents of 35 children -- 29 of them older than 10 -- have dropped off their kids at Nebraska hospitals since the law took effect in September, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services. Five came from other states, with parents traveling to Nebraska from Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Florida and Georgia.

Officials said no infants were among the children left at hospitals

View from The Cocoon

Last night on NPR, Mike Huckabee told host Robert Siegel that he believed the Republican Party needed to move more towards social conservatism to survive. In discussing his new book, Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America, Huckabee said that the fiscal conservatives with libertarian attitudes on social issues were "faux cons." He singled out Mitt Romney as a classic example, whose views he said "represented a 180-degree turn" from views Romney had taken when running for Massachusetts governor.

Huckabee believes that the anti-gay, anti-abortion planks of the party can continue to be a winning strategy for the party. Well, maybe, if the goal is to turn the party into a 100% evangelical Christian and radical Catholic party. But Huckabee lives in a bubba-bubble. Attempting to turn New Testament theology into political power will further marginalize the Christianists and result in the eventual splintering of the Republican Party into at least two, perhaps three distinct segments: the radical theocons, the socially moderate low-tax corporate class, and perhaps a group that tries to take the best from both worlds.

It has been very enjoyable watching the wheels turn on this crippled party-wagon.

Fifty-Eight, cont.

In re-reading my post from yesterday, I realized I missed a third benefit of Ted Stevens' election defeat: it prevents Sarah Palin from appointing someone to replace him (perhaps herself or The Dude) had he won the election and then been booted by the Republican Senate conference. How could I have forgotten that little tidbit?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Cross posted at Open Salon:

So Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich has now defeated Ted Stevens for Alaska's contested Senate seat. That accomplishes two very important things: one, it cleanly eliminates a convicted felon from the Senate chamber, a person who is a clear enemy of progress and the kinds of change we need; and two, it brings the Democratic Senate majority to 58 seats, two shy of a filibuster-proof majority.

Weeks ago, I read in DailyKos a post from Kos himself that Democrats needed to crush the Republicans. Well, from a popular vote perspective, Obama doubled the victory margin that Bush43 had over Kerry, and was the first Democrat in more than 30 years to win with more than 50% of the vote. From an electoral college viewpoint, Obama annihilated McCain, beating him 365-173, a 192-vote margin.

In the Senate, the Dems have so far picked up eight additional seats. In the House, it's a gain of 20 more seats, and an 80-seat majority. Some pundits were saying that only a super-majority in the Senate would signal a Dem blow-out. Not to be glib, but I PISS ON THEM!

So, now we have two unresolved seats remaining: in Minnesota, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman leads Al Franken by about 200 votes amidst a statewide recount which is due to be completed by or before Dec. 5. It looks promising for Franken. In Georgia, Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss, who you might remember won the Lee Atwater Award in 2002 when he successfully conflated his triple amputee opponent, Democratic incumbent Max Cleland, with Osama bin Laden, will face a runoff election on Dec. 2 against challenger Jim Martin. Rasmussen has Chambliss by 4% in their latest poll, with a margin of error of + or - 4%, so it's a statistical dead heat. If you know any voters in Georgia who are election-fatigued, call them and tell them to go vote!

Even though I think 58 or 59 seats in the Senate will be enough to have the GOP by the balls, getting to 60 would be an achievement like no other in this polarized nation. Having Georgia with a blue seat would effectively draw a blue line around the south and prairie states who refuse to acknowledge reality. It's only fitting that a museum honoring biblical creationism, and Branson, MO (where old entertainers like the Osmonds still think they are relevant), are in this territory.

Blog Type?

I don't know the mechanic's of this (if any), but this site can "analyze" a blog as to how its writers think, and with which parts of their brains. I plugged in my blog's URL and it revealed this:

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generelly prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.

It labelled me as left-brain dominant in my thinking, highly logical, fairly intuitive and practical, with a need for a sense of order and details, and a reliance on habit. Pretty damn accurate, I have to say, although I much prefer the safety and security of a desk and laptop to a black-and-white or fire truck. Sullivan fell into the same category.

I also have another blog at Open Salon, which generally consists of reposts of what I post here, but also a few original things as well. Here's what the analyzer said about that one:

The logical and analytical type. They are especialy attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

I'm actually impressed...

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aye, Aye, Aye!

Sullivan posts about National Review's decision to shill for Bush for the last eight years.

I'm not shocked that NR abandoned journalistic integrity in order to defend the Bush administration or other Republican politicians. I assume it's also happening on the other side. But to see it just laid out there like some internal memo from an insurance company that plainly advises denying all claims three times to discourage policyholders, it feels creepy as hell.

From Peter Gabriel's "We Do What We're Told (Milgram's 37)" --
we do what we're told
told to do

one doubt
one voice
one war
one truth
one dream

Monday, November 17, 2008

Politically Incorrect -- and Just Damn Funny

My three-year-old son, Eli, is whip-smart and ferociously independent. He loves to play the guitar and sing Jewish songs (that he learns in pre-school), wearing his yarmulke like our Rabbi.

He's the most energetic little boy I know. He'll play for hours out back, bouncing a whiffle ball of our concrete patio and whacking it with his bat. It's a treat to feel one of his screaming line drives whiz past your ear.

The boy is also a complete sponge when it comes to soaking stuff up. As Lisa and I discussed the election, sharing a few details with Eli's older brother Max, he took it all in. He even sat with me during the debates and laughed when I yelled at the TV after a particularly loathesome McCain answer.

Since the election is over, I've noticed that Eli calls any young, thin, handsome black man "Barack Obama." Last night we were out at a restaurant with our next door neighbor, and Eli actually pointed to a black man and said, "Barack Obama." I was not sure of what to say except to say in a silly way, "No, Eli, Barack Obama lives all the way in Washington where he's getting ready to be president. He doesn't come to this restaurant to eat." Then he pointed to the man's female companion, an Asian woman and said, "Barack Obama." And then he started swaying in his seat and singing, "Barack Obama. Barack Obama." Man, this kid's hilarious.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Horrible Reality

Nebraska's Safe Haven law was written to protect infants born to teens or other women who for whatever reason cannot keep their children. Problem is, the state didn't put an age limit on the kids. So there have been numerous older children, all but six over the age of 10.

Now, the state is changing the law, but not before more than two dozen teenagers have been dropped off from places as far away as Georgia and Florida.

Honestly, I can't see how they couldn't have foreseen this happening. That's some pretty incompetent lawmaking and governing.


Yglesias posts this morning that there is a faction of military leadership that likes the idea of withdrawing from Iraq because they prefer to gear up for a more conventional Russia or China scenario.

Matt has a wise take on this. Rather than focus on the military right now...
...we need to think about what our major priorities are on the international agenda — I would say stabilizing the world economy, combating climate change, curbing nuclear proliferation, eliminating al-Qaeda, and promoting peace and development in the poor world — and then think realistically about the military’s ability to contribute to advancing our agenda on those items relative to other modalities of national power.

During the Bush administration, the Pentagon civilian leadership has been nearly a complete mess (Rumsfeld, Feith, Wolfowitz -- all the spawn of Cheney). And for more than seven years, we have devoted so much time and energy to military matters that so far have yielded dubiously positive results (Taliban and al Qaeda resurgent in Afghanistan, Iraq's government still incapable of political stability and with no way to manage their own security needs, and Iran ever closer to having nuclear weapons), that it would be a blessing for President Obama to shift his priorities.

I see a massive diplomatic undertaking starting shortly after inauguration, with his Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton?) and her best underlings spanning the globe -- from Russia to China, from France and Germany and Britain to the Baltics and Belgrade and Baghdad, from Australia and Argentina to India and Indonesia -- to take the president's message to our allies and strategic partners that we are on a new mission to repair the damage of the last eight years (torture, rendition, treaty withdrawal, saber-rattling, Islamophobia) or at least to promise a new commitment towards talking first rather than shooting first. (Whew, long sentence!)

Re-brand the United States. Re-brand the presidency. Re-brand Americans. It is noteworthy to want to promote democracy around the world, but before that you have to promote peace. We have seen how force-feeding democracy worked so far in Iraq, and how it has failed to spread outside of Kabul to the warlord-run countryside of Afghanistan. Even in the seeming bright spots (Ukraine, and to some degree Pakistan) there is much to fret over. And I will not engage in debate with anyone over the disgusting bloodying of our own Constitution, but that's truly what we have exported.

Whenever the president-elect, or your Senators or Congressmen, makes moves in this direction, send a small contribution and a note of support to that politician. When they do something in the other direction, hold them accountable and empower them to consider differently. After all, they work for us.

Amidst the Rant, Something Useful

Frank Schaeffer is the author of CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back. He posted Tuesday on HuffPost about Sarah Palin.

This is why she'll never be president:
The Religious Right, the racists, the anti-gay hate-mongers are now not only marginalized but thoroughly out of step with even members of their own former constituency. For instance the Gordon College student newspaper (Gordon is an influential Evangelical College north of Boston) endorsed Obama this year. Many
young evangelicals voted for the Democrats. James Dobson, Fox News, Limbaugh et al. were utterly powerless to do more than stir up hate. They are losing the next generation of their "base."

And this, a bit of a solution for how to turn the whole country blue in a generation:
What's the best defense against the rube/Palin voters derailing the Republican Party forever? If the statistics of who voted for whom are correct, the education of white people in the deep South and their economic empowerment is the best answer. Maybe it will take a black Democratic president to figure out some affirmative action program that can get our southern born-again white underclass into colleges and thereby save the Republican party.

Education of underprivileged minorities works. Just look at Head Start.

Man Free of AIDS 20 Months Post-Surgery

From HuffPost Thursday:

Dr. Gero Huetter said Wedneday his 42-year-old patient, an American living in Berlin who was not identified, had been infected with the AIDS virus for more than a decade. But 20 months after undergoing a transplant of genetically selected bone marrow, he no longer shows signs of carrying the virus.

"We waited every day for a bad reading," Huetter said.

It has not come. Researchers at Berlin's Charite hospital and medical school say tests on his bone marrow, blood and other organ tissues have all been clean.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One Soldier's Account

CNN profiles Iraq war vet Colby Buzzell who blogged from Iraq during his deployment in 2004.
I observed a man, dressed all in black with a terrorist beard, jump out all of sudden from the side of a building, he pointed his AK-47 barrel right at my fucking pupils, I froze and then a split second later, I saw the fire from his muzzle flash leaving the end of his barrel and brass shell casings exiting the side of his AK as he was shooting directly at me. I heard and felt the bullets whiz literally inches from my head.

He was blogging anonymously before the Army found out who he was and confined him to base. Then he posted an anti-war rant from Jello Biafra (singer for Dead Kennedys) and they ordered him to stop. Only 10 weeks, but it seems to have struck a nerve. He compiled his blog posts and journal entries into a book, called "My War," published in 2005.

Now he's home, divorced, diagnosed with PTSD, and regularly contributes to Esquire. If you want a good read from this man, go here, and learn that there really is a draft (just among guys who've been deployed already). Scary stuff.

They're All Gone

The LA Times reports today that John "Mitch" Mitchell, the drummer for legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix, died Wednesday in a Portland, OR hotel room. He was 61. The county coroner said it was apparently natural causes.

Mitchell was the last surviving member of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a trio of Mitchell, Hendrix, who died in 1970 at age 27, and bassist Noel Redding, who died in 2003.

Over 18 months, the band released three of the most incredible albums in rock history: "Axis: Bold as Love," "Electric Ladyland," and "Are You Experienced?" As a young guitarist growing up in the late 1970s, I went back and listened to those albums with my friends while we smoked and smoked and smoked. "Purple Haze" and "Manic Depression" indeed.

Hendrix shocked the world when he emerged on the scene in 1966 (yikes, that was a long time ago). He made it OK to be weird, OK to improvise. He also made it OK for black artists to play rock music instead of pure soul or pure R&B. Sly Stone, Prince, Vernon Reid (Living Colour), Lenny Kravitz, Nile Rodgers, Slash (Guns 'n Roses), even American Idol judge Randy Jackson (who played with Journey) owe a debt of gratitude to Hendrix. Not to mention every flamboyant rock guitarist of any race: Allan Holdsworth, Eddie Van Halen, Stevie Ray Vaughan (RIP), Jimmy Page, Kevin Eubanks (The Tonight Show band), Hiram Bullock (his solo on Sting's version of "Little Wing" just blows me away), Jon Butcher, and even the pop stylings of John Mayer.

With Mitchell's passing, that incendiary band is all gone. RIP, Mitch.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Fringe on the Left

Ted Rall makes some good points about the popular vote revealing that we're still a sharply divided country, but this vote was not fear-based. More than any other election, even 1992, Americans reasoned this one out. True, it was not hard for most, given that McCain's candidacy was backward-thinking, dishonorable, and wildly off-kilter.

What Obama's election reveals is as nuanced as the president-elect's thinking: we went from a nation that 45 years ago had institutionalized racism and could never conceive of a man with dark skin to be a supermarket shift manager, let alone president; to a nation that celebrates the ascendancy of any person who has vision, courage, composure, and above all, compassion for everyday Americans. Plus, he didn't come from a southern state! Can I get an amen, brothers and sisters?

That and a Commodore 64 Will Get You...

For the most reality-challenged post of the day, I bring you Hugh Hewitt:
The best rule of politics I have ever heard was the direction to unify our side and divide theirs. The latter is going to take care of itself in short order as the demands of the Democratic coalition cannot all be met, even in significant part. The task for the GOP and conservatives is to make sure the big tent is still standing and that everyone, even media elite pundits, are welcome there if they can agree on the one true test: Ronald Reagan was a great president.
And so was FDR, and so was JFK, and so was Lincoln, and so was Jefferson, and so was Clinton. So what? If Hewitt means that the Republican Party needs to rally around the principles of Ronald Reagan in order to survive, you can count on the party staying out in the cold for at least one generation. The tsunami of young voters who don't have direct experience of Reagan in their lifetimes, who have rebelled against their parents who grew up in the '80s and voted Obama, plus the combination of boomers who woke up from their stupor to discover their retirements at risk and the older generation of Americans who will make their final journeys over the next 20 or so years, and you've got a permanent Democratic majority. If Obama can fashion and successful implement New Deal 2.0, modern presidential politics will begin with Bill Clinton and become enshrined with Barack Obama.

Prop 8's More Dangerous Brother

Gay author and sex advice columnist Dan Savage extends the horror of banning gay marriage to its very logical extreme, as a recent law passed in Arkansas proposes:
Most ominous, once “pro-family” groups start arguing that gay couples are unfit to raise children we might adopt, how long before they argue that we’re unfit to raise those we’ve already adopted? If lesbian couples are unfit to care for foster children, are they fit to care for their own biological children?
If a state can potentially nullify marriages that were legal before the passage of Proposition 8, and to ban non-married, cohabitating couples of any sexual orientation from adopting children or being foster parents, what's to stop a state from declaring adoptions or foster arrangements as no longer legal and taking happy children away from loving parents and/or guardians?

Sullivan and others see a newer, stronger civil rights-oriented, community outreach-centered, movement on the horizon.

A Multi-Party View?

Matt Yglesias shows how the Swiss deal with their system.

It's refreshing to see people living in reality.

Is Palin a Progressive Now?

Italics mine, from a CNN interview (hat tip: TPM):

BLITZER: I just want to sort of footnote, was [the Ayers-association attack] your idea or did somebody write those lines for you?

PALIN: It was a collaborative effort there in deciding how do we start bringing up some of the associations that perhaps would be impacting on an administration, on the future of America. But again, though, Wolf, knowing that it really -- at this point, I don't want to point fingers backwards and play the blame game, certainly, on anything that took place in terms of strategy or messaging in the campaign.

Now is the time to move forward together, start progressing America.

I'm with ya, Governor! Let's make progress... starting with your exit from the national stage!

Well, I Got Had, Didn't I?

From the Arizona Republic:
Billionaire T. Boone Pickens said that his Texas wind farm is on hold because natural-gas prices have dropped but that his plan for wind power and natural-gas vehicles is still viable to reduce foreign oil imports.

You will recall that I was very excited about Pickens's flying the wind-power banner during a year when green technology was very much a part of the general election discourse. However, given the trouncing that oil has taken in the world marketplace recently, and given how much real money Pickens is likely to have lost in that process, I'm not surprised that he's holding onto his gold rather than spending $2 billion of his own money to seed windfarm development in the Texas panhandle. And it does make more sense right now to spend money on natural gas given its cheapness. Leaving the risky, expensive stuff to the federal government is typical; it's just sad that an innovative citizen is no longer among the leaders in the private sector.

Concerned citizens ought to be hoping for higher fuel prices soon to kick-start wind power as a serious alternative. Consider this 3.6 megawatt tower that GE produces with a 104 meter rotor diameter. One such tower would produce enough energy annually for nearly 400 average homes. A field of 500 of these towers could light up a city of 500,000 with capacity to spare.

On Palin

Sullivan's still pounding the war drums to call her out.
Her candidacy, in short, was indefensible. It remains indefensible. Until the mainstream media, the GOP establishment, and the conservative intelligentsia acknowledge the depth of their error, this blog will keep demanding basic accountability.

In light of the fact that Palin never did a press conference, never produced medical records, and was caught in a series of almost laughable lies, I wholeheartedly endorse Sullivan's call to continue the pressure on her. As of today, at least, she's a serious contender for the Republican nomination in 2012 (which should tell you a lot about the state of the Republican Party and how much work they need to do to improve their credibility). I think bloggers are going to transform the mainstream media (see how Nate Silver owned this year's election polling) and the way they handle candidates. Since the Palin pick, the press have found their spine and started asking the questions that need to be asked, although they have still to ask many more questions. As the Obama presidency kicks off and the wreckage of the Bush administration is revealed, new and old media must work together to build a new fourth estate that is as powerful a check and balance on governmental power as the other three. Obama has already shown deference to the role of Congress by standing aside while the Senate figures out what to do about Joe Lieberman and Ted Stevens (though I'm sure he has his opinions and has let them be known in the appropriate manner). Let's hope that his future Supreme Court nominees are celebrated for their judicial indepedence, Constitutional scholarship, and absence of any personal relationship with any prominent member of the Executive Branch (Miers, Scalia).

Holding Bush to Account?

Iconoclastic former NPR host Bob Edwards ("Morning Edition") posts a piece on HuffPost that relates the Obama victory to Jim Crow in his Louisville, KY hometown. He also warns that the press is still going to keep an eye on Obama:

I want to preface these remarks by assuring my listeners that if President Obama makes one false move, my producers and I will hold him to account and scrutinize him with the same fervor as we have President Bush.
As the first sentence in the piece, this quote sets the tone for the rest of the article. As much as I admire Bob Edwards and loved his folksy, easy-going manner as the host for ME, I couldn't get behind anything else in the article except for his overcoming his father's racism. No one at this point can seriously agree that the so-called liberal media scrutinized Bush in any meaningful way.

In comments to the article I wrote:
It was only after the Democrats took back Congress in 2006 that any significant ink or airtime was spent digging deeply into the Bush administration. Until then they were too afraid of appearing unpatriotic to say anything. And, understandably, they were human and wanted an end to terrorism in our country. Too bad they pinned their hopes on the wrong people for way too long.

This article got me thinking about the lengths we as a people are willing to go to keep from harm. I understand that it's normal to want to stay safe and to do whatever is needed to protect oneself or one's family and loved ones.

But "whatever it takes?"

It's true that we've had no terrorist acts on our soil in over seven years. But the price of this absence of terrorism (note that I didn't use the word "safety") has been dear, indeed. In a conversation with a relative the other day, we discussed whether preventing such acts from occurring justify doing "whatever it takes." This was in the context of my vehement insistence that Bush had radically undermined the Constitution, in particular the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures and relates to a person's reasonable expectation of privacy. My relative disagreed, saying that Bush was justified in using extraordinary measures to secure peace in our country. In response, I asked where such measures stopped -- would it be OK to declare martial law and demand confiscation of all guns owned by private citizens? Would it be OK to shut down or take over the press? To deny people the right to peacefully assemble or to petition the government? At what point, then, do we stop being a democracy and become a dictatorship?

No, the press did a ridiculous job of "pressing" Bush to justify his actions and the actions of Cheney and the Cabinet secretaries. In some ways, they censored themselves, out of fear: fear of being painted as too "liberal" and un-patriotic; fear of losing readership and even more money in an already-dwindling marketplace; fear for their own personal safety. We were all understandably shocked and frightened watching the World Trade Center collapse and the Pentagon burn. Every ring of that bell at the 9/11 memorial service at ground zero, when the each of the victims' names was read, jolted like a strong aftershock. But the press had an obligation not to join us in the cocoon; they were supposed to be out there like the firefighters and police officers, risking their lives (or livelihoods) to get the information that we all needed. In particular, during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, the press stopped reporting news, and became an extension of the Bush administration's press office.

Mr. Edwards may have learned his lesson, but he shouldn't distort the recent past to justify his new-found love for his work.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Harrowing Veteran's Story

Anthony Acevedo deserves the Medal of Honor. Instead he was told to keep quiet and never talk about his experiences.

Acevedo sees it differently. For a soldier who survived one of the worst atrocities of mankind, the military's reaction is still painful to accept. "My stomach turned to acid, and the government didn't care. They didn't give a hullabaloo."

It took more than 50 years, he says, before he received 100 percent disability benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Please remember why we observe this day and keep in that way.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Don't Forget This Story

Remember when the press reported that mega-insurance giant American Internation Group (AIG) received an $85 billion bailout from the federal government? Well, the original plan, which was announced on September 16 and gave the government an 80% equity stake in the company, was quickly followed by another bailout of $38 billion on October 8. Three weeks after that, it got another $21 billion. Total $144 billion so far. This bailout is the poster child for all bailouts, because more than any other bailout so far, it has come to symbolize what many see as the socialization of private business.

Now comes word of an expanded bailout of $150 billion announced today. It is made up of a $25 billion write-down of the original $85 billion loan to $60 billion, a purchase of $40 billion in preferred shares, and purchase of $53 billion in mortgage-backed securities owned by AIG. "Preferred" shares in a company allow the purchaser to get their money out before shareholders of common stock.

I am so skeptical of this bailout at this point. I mean, what really happens if AIG fails? According to an interview with former AIG chief executive Maurice Greenberg, AIG is tied to many firms through its various complicated financial contracts. If AIG fails, then all these contracts will have to be unwound -- and the ripple effects of this unwinding are very far reaching, on a global basis. Investments purchased and resold and resold would come crashing down on the balance sheets of dozens of financial services companies, including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley. It's not a surprise, then, why they decided to become federally chartered bank holding companies rather than just Wall Street investment banks. In the wake of Lehman's being allowed to fail, they'd be able feed from the federal trough if they are in similar circumstances. And AIG's problems are likely tied very tightly to Goldman and Morgan, so if AIG fails, then Goldman and Morgan get to apply at the Fed window for bailout money too, because now they're banks.

It's important not to forget this ongoing story -- one, because it has implications that are likely to reverberate all the way down the financial food chain (in political terms, "Main Street"); two, because Barack Obama's administration will inherit this problem and his handling of it will certainly provide grist for the mill in 2010 and 2012, on both sides of the aisle; and three, because now that the government has taken a $25 billion loss on this bailout, it's important to see how, or if, we will ever be paid back to the point where the government is no longer a shareholder.

My bet is that the government shoulders the whole bailout and loses everything.

Words From the Wise

Robert Reich, a professor of public policy at UC Berkeley, was Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton administration. He is a respected progressive voice on economic matters. He posted a thoughtful essay yesterday on TPM regarding what we need to do to get out of this "Mini-Depression." Money quote:
Government spending that puts people back to work and invests in the future productivity of the nation is exactly what the economy needs right now. Deficit numbers themselves have no significance. The pertinent issue is how much underutilized capacity exists in the economy. When there's lots of idle capacity, deficit spending is entirely appropriate, as John Maynard Keynes taught us. Moving the economy to fuller capacity will of itself shrink future deficits.
If there is a larger target for Republicans to shoot at in the next two years, I have yet to find it. But Obama's got clear vision on the economy and is putting together the right team to help him solve the problem. If he manages public expectations in the right way, and clearly articulates why putting people back to work is more important than the budget deficit in the short term, then the public will stay with him. Trotting out stupid arguments about socialism will only hurt the Republicans now, as it didn't stick during the campaign and won't stick during the first Obama term.

About As Gracious As He Can Get

Bill Kristol waxes semi-snarky in his Monday column in the NYT:

It will be tougher yet if [Republicans] underestimate Obama. His selection of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff suggests that Obama’s not going to be mindlessly leftist, and that he’s going to shape a legislative strategy that is attentive to Congressional realities while not deferring to a Congressional leadership whose interests may not be his own. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were both tripped up in their first two years by their Democratic Congresses. Obama intends for Emanuel to ensure that that doesn’t happen.

And Obama has the further advantage of inheriting a recession that will give him a very tough first year or two (for which he won’t be blamed), but that should be followed by a recovery well timed for his re-election bid.

So Obama will be formidable. But conservatives should welcome the challenge. It’s good for conservatism that conservatives will have to develop refreshed ideas and regenerated political skills to succeed in the age of Obama.

And it wouldn’t hurt for Governors Sarah Palin, Mitch Daniels, Bobby Jindal and the other possible 2012 G.O.P. nominees to begin bringing some puppies home for their kids.

I think this is about as magnanimous as Kristol will allow himself to get. With an eye focused sharply on taking back the White House as soon as possible, Kristol manages to recognize that Obama is capable of making smart choices in how to govern. He understands that Obama "gets" Americans quite capably, since he happens to be one himself.

Still, I'm irked by the "mindlessly leftist" comment above. Until I started to pay close attention to Bush43 after 9/11, I had always thought that presidential administrations were never "mindless." I even recognize that Reagan himself had a nuanced view of the world. In fact, his direct assault on the Soviet Union to bring about the end of the Cold War (finally mopped up by his successor, Bush41) was fantastically executed, even thought it added trillions to the debt load for future generations to retire. Bush43 surrounded himself with sharp tools, to be sure, but never used them to their fullest potential. Straightjacketed by his pathological need to outdo and individuate from his controlling father, W never used those tools to their fullest potential. He eschewed thoughtful deliberation in favor of gut instinct. It is the typical tack a recovering alcoholic in AA would take, looking for "God shots," or signs from above, to guide his decisions. This incurious take on the world was exacerbated by his excessive boorishness -- touching the German chancellor inappropriately, referring to the former Russian president as Vladimir while doing a press conference, or his predictable testiness whenever the press asked difficult questions -- and his public displays of fake confidence ("I'm the Decider"). Today, I recognize mindlessness in presidential politics. It's simply idiotic for Kristol to consider that Obama would not do a complete 180 on the past eight years and devote major grey matter to the affairs of state.

The roller coaster continues.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Plugged Into the Matrix

Palin biographer Kaylene Johnson writes an "If You Knew Sarah Like I Know Sarah" op-ed on Because it's so damn hilarious, I had to paste the whole thing. My comments are parenthetical.

WASILLA, Alaska (CNN) -- In a year when Alaska celebrates 50 years of statehood, it can be argued that our state finally joined the union August 29, 2008, when Gov. Sarah Palin was nominated by Sen. John McCain as his vice presidential running mate. (So up until 2008, all Alaskans were secret secessionists?)

Suddenly, everything Alaskan and everything Sarah came under micro-scrutiny as media from all over the world descended on small-town Alaska to find out more about the woman who held the possibility of becoming the most powerful leader in the world. (as if that were so unusual!)

In the harsh light of that scrutiny, we learned a few things about our governor. And we learned a few things about ourselves. What surprised many Alaskans was the warrior persona that grew up around Palin as she took on the role of partisan pit bull. (This illustrates how the growing Christianist community in Alaska, indeed most Alaskans in general, is willing to overlook glaring character flaws. Case in point: Ted Stevens' reelection)

Although she campaigned against rabid partisanship in her bid for the governor's office, we learned that when the job calls for it, she is capable and willing to become a hard-liner for her party. Her legacy as governor, however, has been based more on cooperation than confrontation. (or, perhaps, flat out theft, as in the funds earmarked for the Bridge To Nowhere, a project she turned down but kept the money)

Many of her staunchest supporters here were Democrats who appreciated her willingness to reach across the aisle to get the job done. With team spirit and a singular vision, Palin achieved more progress in two years toward the development of a natural gas pipeline than the previous two administrations put together. (a pipeline that, to my knowledge, has yet to be built)

Once Palin became McCain's VP pick, the investigation became politically charged, and many of the alliances Palin had created across party lines became strained. (this was mainly due to the McCain campaign's meddling in state affairs in an effort to keep their precious VP pick from getting stained)

From the McCain/Palin perspective, the investigation had become a political witch hunt (you mean, like Republican calls to investigate the Obama/Ayers connection? Or the Khalidi connection?). Conversely, Democrats accused the McCain/Palin camp of stonewalling. And so it went, with Palin burning some hard-won political capital right up to the day before the election, when the state's personnel board exonerated her. (A personnel board comprised of the governor's hand-picked cronies does not exonerate the governor: it provides her with political cover. The legislature's investigation determined that she had illegally abused her power over and over again. Stay tuned for competing narratives on this topic in 2012)

Her popularity before being launched on the national stage was more than 80 percent; today, her popularity in the state ranges between 64 and 68 percent, figures enviable to most politicians in America. Even so, she will have some political fences to mend on the home front. (If Ted Stevens win re-election and he then steps down, it leaves his Senate seat open to whomever Palin wants to put there: herself? The First Dude? Her future son-in-law? If she wants to mend fences, she'll stop the political shenanigans and cronyism that soured so much of the country on the Bush administration [remember Brownie?])

People close to Palin told me early in the campaign that the McCain camp's "handling" of Sarah Palin was unfortunate not only to Palin but to the campaign. (That's what "people close to Palin" would say, of course! If anything, there was no good way to "handle" Palin as she was a farcical choice in the first place. McCain did himself in on the day he picked her. Then again, I have my theories about that.)

Putting a muzzle and straitjacket on her and then scripting her so tightly that she came across as foolish was a "colossal blunder," according to one of Palin's closest aides. Her national poll numbers grew increasingly negative. (No, McCain had to muzzle and straitjacket her because she was an ignoramus. The only VP candidate more completely unprepared than she was Ross Perot's selection, retired Vice Admiral James "Gridlock!" Stockdale.)

Even so, Palin drew enormous, enthusiastic crowds throughout the country and energized McCain's flagging candidacy, not a bad debut for a newcomer to the national political stage. (Debut, OK. Performance, abyssmal. Denouement, deservedly pathetic.)

Home-grown supporters were willing to take to the streets in Alaska and across the nation to seek a victory. One group of supporters organized, calling themselves Alaskans for Reform.

One of the organizers, Mary Havens, told me that after their offers to volunteer were rebuffed by the McCain camp, they set up their own shop, conducted rallies and raised $24,000 for the campaign. (By contrast, the readers of Bob Cesca's Goddamn Awesome Blog raised nearly $10,000 without rallies, just by posting a few witty blog entries.)

Many of these hard-core enthusiasts were the same people who succeeded in their grass-roots, statewide effort to put Palin in office in the first place. Through groups like Alaskans for Reform, we learned that Alaskans don't need anyone's permission to stand up for what they believe. (Congratulations on passing American Civics 101!)

The people who know Sarah Palin best say that she joined the McCain campaign with a sincere desire to do what was best for America. She hoped that she would succeed in helping John McCain ascend to the presidency. (I never would suggest that Sarah Palin was savvy enough to have any other motive.)

Instead, she stood by McCain as he made a concession speech congratulating Sen. Barack Obama on winning the White House. (Reports I've read in recent days suggest that Palin had asked to address the Arizona crowd, and had been sharply rejected by campaign management. That would not be the time to be announcing her candidacy in 2012!) The next day, in Palin's more characteristic style, she called on Americans to unite in supporting the new administration as the nation faces the challenges that lie ahead.

As for 2012, if Palin chooses to run for the presidency, she will now know just how intensely personal and ugly a campaign can get. She will have the traction of being a household name. She will have more experience. And perhaps most important, she'll be running for office on her own terms.

Governor Sarah Palin has a big job to do: govern Alaska well. She might also be Alaska's next senator. Whatever she does, the country would do well to ignore her for at least a couple of years. She'll come back -- as "fatal cancer" often does.

The Wages of Sin

Here is another Daily Beast piece, this one by Scott Horton, that suggests Bill Kristol at the NY Times was a "mole" for Palin and her handlers in the campaign.

What emerges on a close reading is this: Palin and those closest to her inside the campaign were eager to wage a Lee Atwater-style campaign designed to demonize Barack Obama, with Palin as the figure leading the charge. McCain was resisting this push or at least attempting to keep it within tight boundaries. Kristol campaigned against the McCain strategy, boosting Palin.
Well, they failed at that, didn't they? The take-away for me here is that they grossly overestimated Palin and her appeal beyond the radical fundamentalists.

Incidentally, Atwater pioneered the methods of campaigning perfected by Karl Rove in 2000. He died in 1991 at age 40 of a malignant brain tumor. Before he died, he converted to Catholicism and wrote a bunch of apologies to those he had harmed. Noble effort, that. But karma got him good. The message to me is that when you screw with people's lives that way, there is a dear price to pay. Atwater paid with his life. Rove's bill hasn't been delivered to him just yet, but it will. Palin is running a tab right now, and God help her if she doesn't abandon that plan.

The Stupid Party

Hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for highlighting this piece by Jeffrey Hart over at The Daily Beast.

Jeffrey Hart is professor emeritus of English at Dartmouth College. He wrote for the National Review for more than three decades, where he was senior editor. He wrote speeches for Ronald Reagan, when governor of California, and for Richard Nixon. He's got serious conservative bonafides going back 40 years or more.

Here's the essential crux of his piece:

Does any reasonable person not believe that gays and lesbians deserve respect
and equality? Not today’s Republican Party. Expert translators from Arabic have been dismissed for being gay. And applicants for the post of certified public accountants in the Iraq Green Zone have been asked about their view of Roe v. Wade.

Both Obama and McCain supported federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. An embryo is a cluster of cells the size of the period at the end of this sentence. It takes a strange mentality to equate that with a seriously ill human being. (Bush, August 2001: “It’s wrong to destroy life in order to save life.”)

But science never sleeps, and embryonic stem cell work has been going on around the world in advanced nations, as well as in state or privately funded laboratories here. Harvard is planning a new billion-dollar science campus, with a major cell-research laboratory. Promising advances of various kinds are being explored world-wide.

So here we are in 2008. With its indispensable Southern and, more widely, evangelical base, the Republican Party has become the stupid party.


In its embrace of the religious right under George W. Bush, the Republican Party became the stupid party. And committing suicide along with it has been the conservative movement. The party united around god, guns and [hating] gays is finished.

Hart also called Obama "the real conservative in 2008," and "the new Reagan."

Dear readers, the Obama victory this week renders the Republican Party of George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Bill Kristol, and Sarah Palin a farce of a political movement. They are not conservative (largest expansion of government in history since 2001, largest budget deficits in history, $10.5 trillion in debt). They are religious radicals, neo-fascists, and -- thank God -- an ever-shrinking minority in the United States of America.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

It's OK To Be Smart Now

As we approach Jan. 20, 2009 and the "End of an Error," we rejoice at the departure of the most intellectually incurious president we have ever had. Yale, Harvard MBA, multiple business owner -- no matter. He was painfully stunted from the neck up. A president needs to be vigorously intellectual, to be able tear things down, even though he might not always use that intellect when he makes decisions. With 8,000 things in his face every day, a dazzling mind is an OK thing to have. I shudder to my core when I think that Sarah Palin might have ascended to the VP's office having only recently learned that Africa was a continent.

Had McCain/Palin been successful, you know what that would have been? Well, I'm going to use a big word now, one that I came across for the first time today, but one that definitely sums up what I mean: Kakistocracy: government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens, by the worst of society. Pronounced a certain way, the first two syllables of this juicy word sound like the word my grandmother used to describe her grandchildrens' bowel movements. Fitting.

Let Go of Joe?

HuffPost reports on the up-in-air fate of Sen. Joe Lieberman, the "independent" Democrat from Connecticut who campaigned for McCain and failed at coaching Sarah Palin to be an effective mouthpiece for the campaign.

It's very possible that he may be booted from all his committee spots as early as today when he meets with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV).

I say boot him. President Obama will have enough bipartisan balance in his cabinet (we hope) that would make diluting the legislative power of the Senate unnecessary. I don't see where the Democratic Party owes him anything. He says he caucuses with the Democrats, but then he campaigns with McCain? Plus, he's on the wrong side on Iraq and Afghanistan.

I'm not a stickler for party loyalty, which is why I was so glad to see so many conservatives bolt the McCain-Palin ticket during the campaign. But he showed himself to be a turncoat at a time when his influence in the Jewish community was most needed to propel Obama to the White House. Knocking him down a few pegs may kick him over to the Republicans permanently, but at this point, would anyone be surprised to find out that he's really a Republican?

Have We Really Grown As a Nation?

The Obama margin of victory was decisive in the electoral college -- 190 votes, a better than 2-to-1 rout. The campaign, running a 50-state strategy, captured more states that went Republican in 2004 than I think many thought possible: Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana(!), Nevada, and Colorado. They even came within 5% in Georgia and Montana.

The thousands of volunteers on the ground just plain outperformed the Republicans in every way.

But have we really grown as a nation in electing a bi-racial president with a black father? If you look at a map showing the way the votes were distributed, you'll see that a great swath of territory in the South, the Great Plains, and the Northern Rockies, leaned quite heavily against Obama. I want to believe that race did not play a part in this most important election of my lifetime. I mean, if you look at the black vote, they went 90% or more for Obama, but that doesn't reveal anything because black folks typically go Democratic at that rate anyway.

I'm talking about the South and its shameful past of slavery and Jim Crow laws. It's only been 44 years since the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. And it's not as though the racist white establishment in that part of the country suddenly shut off its racist beliefs when the laws changed. Many of those people are still around after all these years, and they still vote.
Further, lots of white Christianist folks moved down to the South from other parts of the country because of that region's "family friendly" suburbs (largely white). For that part of the country, I would say that they have a long way to go before I would consider it a place of growth.

In other parts of the country, Obama won decisively. In Hawaii, he took 72% of the vote; only Washington, DC was higher than that (not even Obama's home state of Illinois did that well). Now, from a racial point of view, there just aren't enough black folks in this country to score that big a victory.

To me, this was a victory based on demographics. The only demographic group that McCain won was people over 65. Obama took his own age group by a slim margin, and scored a good win among 30-44 year olds, but he just crushed McCain 2-1 in the under-30 crowd.

And this is where I see the hope. Among these folks, all of whom were born in or after the late 1970s, racism just doesn't play a role. This is the generation that saw MTV videos rotating from white to black and back again seamlessly. The generation whose sports heroes were as much Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Tiger Woods as they were Peyton Manning, Larry Bird, and Andre Agassi. The generation that saw the Huxtable family as conventionally American. My sons have play dates with kids of all ethnic and racial backgrounds. I have hope that my generation has taught the next one well enough that this blindness to skin color or ethnicity will stick and endure. We have too much at stake.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

They Knew

Yes, the McCain campaign knew from the start that Sarah Palin was a blockheaded and painfully ignorant political lightweight. According to this Fox News reporter, it's been revealed the day after the election, now that nothing is off the record anymore, that essentially McCain chose her after minimal consideration and based on the strong recommendation of Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard.

And yet, even though they knew right away that she didn't fit the bill, they still went ahead for two months, bullshitting all of America with this farce of a candidate. McCain's first choice, Joe Lieberman, put his entire political career in jeopardy (and has now ruined it permanently) to try to inject some brains into this pin cushion of a politician, and smiled in the background like a dutiful little man, like a sleazy trusty at Treblinka. Just waiting to be named Secretary of State in the McCain administration. And now that he's heading back to the Senate, he is sure to lose all his choice committee positions.

This was the one they chose to be next in line for the presidency? This is what they called putting country first?

She thought Africa was a single country! She couldn't identify the countries that were parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)!

Having her in the shotgun seat is the ONLY reason why the Republicans didn't lose by 20 points.

The Fox News anchor on the left in the video says that the network's analysts studied the charts on McCain's standing in the polls, and concluded that the turnaround that put Obama in the lead for good occurred right after Palin's interview with Katie Couric. And it was revealed that Palin refused pre-interview prep work from McCain's staff!

She is FAR worse than Bush in the "govern by the seat of your pants" dept. All I can say is I am profoundly grateful that the Obama recognized the farce early enough to neutralize any potential appeal she might have had beyond the Christianist base of the GOP.

The Story Will Be Told

Investigative journalist Sy Hersh talks to The Guardian:
The unknown quantity of voter racism apart, however, he is hopeful that Obama will pull it off, and if he does, for Hersh this will be a starting gun. 'You cannot believe how many people have told me to call them on 20 January [the date of the next president's inauguration],' he says, with relish. '[They say:] "You wanna know about abuses and violations? Call me then." So that is what I'll do, so long as nothing awful happens before the inauguration.'

Another Alaskan Disaster

First we had the Exxon Valdez, then Sarah Palin. Now we have the convicted felon who won't leave.

Stevens (R) * 106,351 48%
Begich (D) 102,998 47%
* incumbent
99% of precincts reporting.

Still not called either way, but if it goes for Stevens, this will set a new low for Alaskans, the election of a convicted felon to the US Senate. Isn't this the kind of thing Governor Palin was supposed to root out, the mav'rick hockey mom?

So here's howI predict it will go if Stevens is declared the winner:
  1. He gets sworn in on Jan. 20, 2009.
  2. He is sentenced for his crimes.
  3. He is forced by Senate Republican leadership to step down.
  4. Governor Palin appoints a new Republican (herself?) to take his place.
An alternative eliminates #1 if #2 happens first.

The Final Bush Push

Maybe I should call it a Bush Putsch, as he's so clearly attempting to overthrow the government.
In the waning days of his administration Bush, Cheney, and his cabinet are pushing through new laws, rules changes, and regulations that undermine abortion rights, the environment, and of course, civil liberties. The NY Times reports it in an editorial published Monday.

My all-time favorite:
The administration has taken other disturbing steps in recent weeks. In late September, the I.R.S. restored tax breaks for banks that take big losses on bad loans inherited through acquisitions. Now we learn that JPMorgan Chase and others are planning to use their bailout funds for mergers and acquisitions, transactions that will be greatly enhanced by the new tax subsidy.
Ay caramba. Screw those poor homeowners! We're going shopping Wal-Mart style for new businesses.

More Reader Thank Yous

A reader writes:
It's more like, thank you Shrub for sucking so badly and for being such a boil on the ass of humanity, that you forced millions of us to get off the couch and do something about it before it got even worse.

Thank You, George W. Bush, cont.

A reader writes:

Thank you George Bush, for saying that you consult with God every night, and that you feel you have been chosen by Him to do this job; this has shown me the importance of free will, and the morality of taking responsibility for the consequences of one's actions.

To that comment, another reader writes:

It taught us that sometimes that small voice we hear in our head is actually our own ego speaking and not God.

Thank You, George W. Bush

After my first wife and I split up in 1995 after six years of marriage, I began a nearly three-year journey trying to heal and discover who I was as a man. Along the way, I spent a weekend in April 1996 at a Masonic Temple in Pasadena with about 200 other men, all of us wounded in some way, at the beginning of the same healing journey. During those 48+ hours, I came to face the collection of deep resentments I'd formed over the years against my father.

That wasn't the revelation for me; I'd known about them for some time. What did wake me up, however, was that in order for me to move on, to become the man I'd always wanted to be, I had to "clear" those resentments with my dad. And in this big ballroom, surrounded by men I came to trust and feeling very safe, I figured out that instead of blaming my dad for all the shitty things I believed he'd done to me or said to me as I was growing up, I needed actually to thank him. I had an amazing opportunity to turn those painful events in my memory into practical life lessons -- for after all, what is a father's job other than to prepare his children for life? And isn't every father given whatever tools he has from his father? After I'd done that, I could come to love him on his terms. I was ready to stand with my father as a man, instead of merely a big boy.

Today, I will use that tool again to clear with George W. Bush, who "fathered" 300+ million of us for the last eight years. We all know what he did; the list is unbelievably long. And yet, let's face the fact that he was a product of his own father and his upbringing. He was taught to be incurious, to be ideologically rigid, to be spiritually shallow, to be sinister, to be a thief of elections, to squander goodwill, and to be an ultimate failure.

So thank you, Mr. President, for stealing the 2000 election from Al Gore, because it taught us to be more vigilant, more mindful, and more protective of our precious right to vote.

Thank you, Mr. President, for withdrawing the USA from international arms treaties, because it taught us, in this world of such different nations, how fragile we are, and how beautiful peace is.

Thank you, Mr. President, for choosing Dick Cheney as your Vice President, because it taught us that true leaders never delegate the hardest jobs to subordinates with nothing to lose.

Thank you, Mr. President, for turning an abundance of international goodwill in the aftermath of 9/11 into a healthy dose of international scorn and derision, because it taught us that we are not too big to accept help or too powerful to be humble.

Thank you, Mr. President, for lying to us about weapons of mass destruction and exposing our susceptibility to deception when we are afraid, because it taught us that no matter how terrifying a situation is, we must always keep our wits about us to avoid serious judgment errors.

Thank you, Mr. President, for prohibiting embryonic stem cell research, because it taught us the immeasurable value of science and its promise for future generations.

Thank you, Mr. President, for completely bungling the invasion of Iraq, because it taught us that presidents need to consult with real experts with real ground-level experience in warfare, instead of just using our gut.

Thank you, Mr. President, for the "Mission Accomplished" banner, because it taught us that the hardest work often comes after we think we're done.

Thank you, Mr. President, for letting New Orleans and its inhabitants die, because it taught us that, whether we are black or white or whatever, we are Americans and we deserve respect from our leaders.

Thank you, Mr. President, for Abu Ghraib and black sites and extraordinary rendition and waterboarding, because it taught us that even countries like ours, which claim to stand for humanity, can betray humanity if the people don't pay attention.

Thank you, Mr. President, for spying on us illegally, because it taught us that liberty is more important than a transitory need for information.

Thank you, Mr. President, for signing statements, because it taught us that no one is above the law -- no one.

Thank you, Mr. President, for being so ideologically rigid and spiritually shallow, because it taught us to be open to all ideas and tolerant of all belief systems.

Thank you, Mr. President, for trying to form a permanent Republican majority, because it taught us to fight with all we've got to preserve the progressive ideals that work best for the most Americans.

And finally, Thank you, Mr. President, for letting John McCain hug you and vote with you so often, because it taught us that the idea of living another day with all the things you've done was so unbearable that we needed a huge change, that we needed Barack Obama.

Really, Mr. President, thank you so very much. We love you. You did a great job.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Rove's Stool Concedes

Transcript of McCain campaign manager Steve Schmidt from the McCain campaign plane, right after McCain's final words to the press:

He's [McCain's] been working very hard over the last 100 days of the campaign. Long day yesterday. Late night. Early start this morning. And he's going to cross the finish line head up, running all the way. We will see results here in a few hours. . . . It's the only way to finish anything that you do in life, that's a competitive venture, which is full speed. . . . We did our absolute best in this campaign in really difficult circumstances. We had some tough cards to play all the way through, and we hung in there all the way. You look back in the middle of September, [the] economic collapse of the country, a number of different things. We did the best we can in historically difficult circumstances from a political climate. It is entirely doubtful that anyone will have to run in a worse political climate than the one John McCain had to run in this year. And we have a path to victory. We are going to know what it is in a few hours. But certainly on a personal level I am very proud to have a chance to be associated with John McCain. He's a hell of a good guy. . . . The global economic collapse in the middle of September occurred at a time when we were ahead in the race, dropping the right-track number to roughly 5, 6, 7 percent, which are numbers that I don't think will ever be seen again in any of our lifetimes. It was a bad economic environment throughout the election, where people were angry at the incumbent party. At the end of the day, I don't think there is another Republican that the party could have nominated that could have made this a competitive race the way that John McCain did. It's one thing we know for sure is that at a Congressional level the Senate Democratic majorities and the House Democratic majorities will expand. The party has been very unpopular. The president's approval numbers were not helpful in the race. But the party as a whole is unpopular with the American people, and that was a big albatross.
Sounds like a concession to me.

I'll be eating comfort food tonight and possibly getting drunk (if the wife will not object).

One Small Voice

Could it be?
Yes, it could
Something's coming
Something good
Maybe tonight

-- from West Side Story, Stephen Sondheim

Aww, don't go flaming me for knowing the lyrics to a Broadway tune! I'm frickin' giddy today! I've been waiting to vote in this election for over a year, toying with the idea of voting in another Clinton (thank God I came to my senses!), considering a third party vote (once McKinney was the Green Party pick, I abandoned that idea but quick), and getting more and more enraged as Republicans pulled out every racist, bigoted, fear-mongering card they could in their desperate attempts to deflect attention from their epic failures in the past eight years.

This morning, I voted for Barack Obama, in a straight Democratic vote across the board. I almost picked a Republican for Congress because I do not like Maxine Waters (old school liberal), but in the end I went with her because I never heard a peep from the other candidates during the campaign. Plus No on Prop 8, Yes on Prop 2 (poor chickens!), Yes on Prop 3 (good for the kids), No on Prop 4 (parental notification prior to an abortion), No on Prop 7 (after a friend of mine in the solar business wrote to tell me hurt his employer's ability to grow), and No on all the others except Prop 11 (the veterans bill). I voted for Measure R (the traffic bill), and no on the rest of the county measures.

I voted at Cowan Avenue Elementary School, right after Max got dropped off. The school auditorium actually serves two precincts. For my precinct, my wait was about three minutes. For the other, the line snaked up the aisle from the first row nearly to the back row, about 20 deep, probably about half an hour. There were at least double the number of poll workers this time, including, for the first time, a young kid no more than 20 with a pierced eyebrow and half the energy of the seniors working the table with him. Oddly enough, I usually recognize at least a few people since I live in such a little neighborhood, but this time, I didn't know a single person.

The energy in the room was high (particularly from me). After voting, I double-checked the ballot and turned it in, waiting until the ballot box light turned green. Yea! My vote counts!

On my way up the aisle, the lines had grown. I walked back to the house, taking one more look at the Obama yard sign on my lawn adjacent to the little flag I planted next to it. Then I hopped in my car and started off for work.

Every polling place I passed along the way had lines out the door. The last one, a car dealership in Santa Monica, had a line from the showroom door about 40 feet off the street to the sidewalk and down to the corner. I estimated about 60-70 people in line. One of my associates at work said it took him two hours to vote at his place in Hollywood.

I want to hear your polling place stories! Please email or post your accounts!

Know hope!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Epic Post

I started reading Andrew Sullivan's blog, The Daily Dish, a long time ago, after seeing him on Bill Maher and liking what I heard. Andrew's blog is one of the most highly-read on the internet. He sometimes posts up to 50 times a day, and draws from all sorts of influences.

As a lifelong progressive, I found much to disagree with him on, but I also heard a voice of reason, of intellect, and especially, a voice of truth before ideology. I saw how important it was to pay attention to voices on the "other side" because not all Republicans are of the same cynical stripe as Bush or Cheney, or as religiously fanatical as Falwell or Robertson (or now Palin). From Andrew, I learned to appreciate intellectual conservatives like Marc Ambinder, Reihan Salam, David Brooks, and David Frum, and more faith-based conservatives like David Kuo and Rod Dreher. I also came into contact with strong progressive voices like those of Glenn Greenwald, Ezra Klein, Matthew Yglesias, JoshMarshall, and DailyKos.

Andrew's most recent post is called "Barack Obama For President." Andrew's been an unabashed Obama supporter, at first because he loathed the Clintons and wanted them humiliated (he got his wish), but later because he came to exemplify the best and the brightest in this country. This post is long (hence my headline), but it is a must read. He sums up the failures of the past eight years and frames them as what they have meant for this country: added physical danger an imperiled Constitution. He then turns his attention to why Obama is the logical choice for president:

If I were to give one reason why I believe electing Barack Obama is essential tomorrow, it would be an end to this dark, lawless period in American constitutional government. The domestic cultural and political reasons for an Obama presidency remain as strong as they were when I wrote "Goodbye To All That" over a year ago. His ability to get us past the culture war has been proven in this campaign, in the generation now coming of age that will elect him if they turn out, in Obama's staggering ability not to take the bait. His fiscal policies are too liberal for me - I don't believe in raising taxes, I believe in cutting entitlements for the middle classes as the way to fiscal balance. I don't believe in "progressive taxation", I support a flat tax. I don't want to give unions any more power. I'm sure there will be moments when a Democratic Congress will make me wince. But I also understand that money has to come from somewhere, and it will not come in any meaningful measure from freezing pork or the other transparent gimmicks advertized in advance by McCain. McCain is not serious on spending. But he is deadly serious in not touching taxes. So, on the core question of debt, on bringing America back to fiscal reason, Obama is still better than McCain. If I have to take an ideological hit to head toward fiscal solvency, I'll put country before ideology.
The idea that Sullivan is a flat-tax supporter, a tax cut supporter, and a believer that Obama is a fiscal liberal -- coupled with his support for Obama as president -- should bring a grin to my more conservative readers. It also makes me wish that the progressive movement had this strong a voice. Glenn Greenwald strongly took Obama to task for supporting the FISA Reform Act, but that voice is coupled with solid progressive fiscal policy that believes in the benefit of government spending. What the progressive movement needs is a voice that hates taxes as much as the most rabid anti-tax Republican, but who recognizes that there are more important things to think about. If someone knows of a prominent anti-tax progressive, please forward me his name. (If there aren't any, then I guess I found my niche!)

It should also be noted that Sullivan is British, not American. He has adopted the US as his home, and his love for this country is clear in his post. He is gay and married and is HIV-positive. I send him every post I write, so if you're reading this Andrew -- thank you for your love of this country and your clear, reasoned voice. America needs you: stay healthy and happy.

Underestimating the American People

Months ago, I emphatically wrote that I believed the Americans were, collectively, stupid people:

If one is not truly astonished at how stupid Americans are, then he/she is too jaded to care enough to do something about it. Perhaps being an elitist in this case is a good thing: to tell your neighbor who puts a McCain sign on his front lawn this summer that, as an idiot, he wouldn't recognize a good candidate unless it was spoon-fed to him by Fox News or Rush Limbaugh, and that you'll pray for him to see the light (that always gets 'em, you know, saying you'll pray for them). Then you put a bigger sign on your front lawn for Obama which reads, "Literally, Figuratively, Intellectually and Spiritually Superior."
I caught some flak from readers about this statement. Well, this post today from hilzoy got me thinking about that statement. In particular, I looked at this:

It's a real relief, after years of watching politicians grab as hard as they can for each micro-advantage at each moment in time, to see someone with larger sense of what matters: of the arc of a campaign, of when you can afford to hang back and let your opponent wear himself out, and when you need for everything to come together.

It also shows a lot of confidence. Not the kind of arrogance the McCain campaign complains about, of which I have seen very little evidence, but the kind of confidence that allows you to play a long game, rather than clawing for every apparent advantage, no matter how insignificant or counterproductive in the long run; to hold back sometimes; to choose understatement; and to keep your eyes on the prize. That, and discipline and self-restraint.

When I go back and recall how voters in this election stayed generally more focused on the issues that matter -- the economy, the war -- and away from stuff like $150,000 in clothes and silly issues like abortion, I am heartened to see that Americans collectively exceeded my expectations this year. I attribute that mostly to the candidacy of Barack Obama, whose restraint, careful reflection, and reasoned responses to the questions posed to him displayed true leadership, steadiness, and respect for everyone around him.

On the other hand, McCain, who for years had cultivated a persona of a maverick willing to take on the system, showed in his later years to be a crotchety old man with an adolescent pathology: he was singularly determined to step out of the shadows of his father and grandfather, and the ONLY way for him to do that was to become president. Back in 2000, when he was 64 years old and he got served by George W. Bush, one would have thought he'd call it quits, come to terms with his life as a Senator (like Ted Kennedy did), and retire with grace at the opportune time. But no. With all the grace of someone with his personal history of failure, McCain fought tooth and nail to overcome huge political and financial deficits to defeat some pretty strong machines (which were ultimately undone by the weak candidates supporting them) and become the Republican nominee. He then cynically sold out his "devotion" to his country by selecting a political lightweight as his running mate, who shockingly embarrassed even her own fan base at how painfully ignorant and pedestrian she was.

In the end, Americans appear to have decided that Governor Palin is not ready to assume the job of president, and faulted McCain for choosing her. Americans have risen above the idea that the holders of the country's highest offices should not be beer-drinking buddies, or just like them. It's nice to fantasize that an ordinary person can ascend to the White House, but when you go back and look at history, you will see that very few men who ran for or won the presidency were ordinary. They were nearly all remarkable in one way or another; even the least effective of them had inspired millions with their leadership skills and had served with some level of distinction. I will give McCain credit for being a remarkable man, but he looks poised to fail to conquer his own inner demons in order to become a man of the people, instead of a man for himself.

With just 36 hours to go until the polls close in Hawaii, and with Obama leading in nearly every critical state, it is clear that Americans, collectively, are not stupid. Their focus on important issues has given me hope. Hope feels good!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Meet the Idiot, cont.

A reader writes:
Of course, when Obama blackballs a media station or newspapers because reporters ask questions he did not want to answer, it is not suppressing free speech media outlets! What was the reason for booting the Dallas Morning News and other papers? Nobody is ever supposed to ask Obama pointed questions?
Ryan J. Rusak writes in the Dallas Morning News today:

[W]e don't have evidence that the paper's recommendation had any bearing on the campaign's decision. No one from the campaign ever mentioned it to Todd. (And neither he, nor I, nor any other political reporter or editor had any input or knowledge of the editorial board's recommendation.) The campaign says it had tough decisions to make and insists no weight was given to the endorsement.

We think the decision is to some degree more a function of limited seats, and while we're a large regional newspaper, we're not national and we're not in a swing state.

We've had similar trouble with the McCain campaign. One of our reporters left the campaign plane this week after being told there would be no room for him, and we're only getting back on this weekend because that campaign is adding a second plane for journalists. (We pay our own way, but the campaign makes arrangements and bills us.)

If one reads things other than WorldNet Daily or other stuff that simply confirms your opinion rather than challenges it (my blog excepted, of course), a whole new world would open up.

The reality is that the press -- from the most lib to the most conserv -- have trashed Sarah Palin, not because they're against women, or against Christians, or against Republicans in this election. They have trashed her because she's not up to the job. She's just a regular gal from a hick town in Alaska who happens to have a streak of ambition a mile wide and has no qualms about eviscerating her opponents. Yet she's also an ignoramus for not having the good sense to realize her own current limitations. Her decision to jump in, aided by equally ambitious political handlers and John McCain -- was impulsive, and may have ruined her political career. Had she waited eight years after serving a full term as governor and spending some time on the national scene -- either as a VISIBLE presence as a governor (as opposed to her INvisible presence until the day she was picked) or as a member of the House or Senate (she actually would have made a great opponent for Ted Stevens in the primary this year) -- she would have a solid Republican Party behind her. She doesn't embody the real conservatism that marks her as anything other than a strict populist. You, who are such a hard-core adherent to the word of the Constitution, were taken in by this sassy-talkin' hockey mom who couldn't identify a single article or amendment to the Constitution other than First or Second off the top of her head. I'm no expert either, but I'm not running to be next in line for leader of the free world! She should be brilliant, scholarly, possessive of solid judgment, AND be a woman of deep faith for good measure. She's got one out of four, and she doesn't get the job.

Latest national polls:
Gallup -- Obama 52, McCan't 41
Reuters/Zogby -- Obama 49, McCan't 44
Rasmussen -- Obama 51, McCan't 46
ABC/WaPo -- Obama 53, McCan't 44

Of these polls only Reuters/Zogby shows a tightening. The rest indicate widening due to a drop for McCan't or a bump for Obama.

Former Republican and Bush aide Matthew Dowd said on Bill Maher last week that the spread of the polls in the weekend leading up to Election Day was materially similar to the spread that decided the last two elections. Bush led Kerry by 2-3 points and won by 2.5. Bush and Gore were dead even, and we know how that turned out. Obama leads by 5-6 points, and very likely that's how it's going to end up.