Friday, February 29, 2008

Statement From NARAL Pro Choice Virginia on Cuccinelli Budget Amendment

The following is a statement from NARAL regarding Senator Ken Cuccinelli's last minute amendment to the budget cutting funds to Planned Parenthood. Lt. Governor Bill Bolling cast the tie breaking vote that passed this amendment.

I have always supported NARAL, Planned Parenthood and a woman's right to choice. Even more important, however, Planned Parenthood does far more for women than simply provide birth control and abortion services. Planned Parenthood also provides screening for cervical cancer and sexually transmitted diseases.

Defunding Planned Parenthood takes away one more health care option from low income women who can least afford to see their options narrowed. Here is NARAL's statement:


Bolling’s tie-breaking vote to de-fund Planned Parenthood contradicts his cervical-cancer awareness campaign (Alexandria, VA)- NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia called on Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling to explain how he could vote to cut health-care services for low-income women in the state, even though he did public-service announcements urging women to seek out cervical-cancer screenings.

On Wednesday, Bolling cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of prohibiting state expenditures to Planned Parenthood, whose facilities provide a wide range of health-care services, including cervical-cancer screening. Last year, Lt. Gov. Bolling appeared in a series of public service announcements across Virginia to raise public awareness about cervical cancer. His web site advises women to seek these services and outlines the importance of early detection of cervical cancer. “Just last year Lt. Governor Bolling publicly encouraged women to seek out screenings for cervical cancer and health services, and now he has voted to cut this funding,“ said Tarina Keene, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia. “Virginians are tired of these divisive attacks on reproductive healthcare. Mr. Bolling needs to explain his hypocrisy to the thousands of women in Virginia who could lose access to these essential health services due to his actions.”

The budget amendment, offered by Senator Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax), seeks to remove hundred of thousands of dollars in funding for women’s health programs, including the provision of cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing, and contraception.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Watch JudyTV and Sign Up To Help Judy Feder for Congress

If you go to Judy Feder's website - and you should - you'll see this neat feature. She's done some YouTube videos of her interviewing voters.

This first one is from September 11, 2007 at the Bull Run Unitarian Church in Manassas. It's entitled "Where's Frank."

And this next one is from February 20, 2008, this past Primary Day.

So, enjoy the videos, check out the rest of Judy's website, and while you're there, sign up to volunteer or contribute some money to her campaign to bring change to the 10th District.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It's Only Rock and Roll

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation just announced the list of artists who will induct this year's honorees into the Hall of Fame during a special ceremony on March 10, 2008 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland, Ohio.

Here's the list of inductees:
· Leonard Cohen will be inducted by Lou Reed
· The Dave Clark Five (Dave Clark, Lenny Davidson, Rick Huxley, Denis Payton and Mike Smith) will be inducted by Tom Hanks
· Madonna will be inducted by Justin Timberlake
· John Mellencamp will be inducted by Billy Joel
· Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff will be inducted by Jerry Butler
· The Ventures (Bob Bogle, Nokie Edwards, Gerry McGee, Mel Taylor, Don Wilson) will be inducted by John Fogerty
· Little Walter will be inducted by Ben Harper
Those being honored were chosen by 600 voters. Artists are eligible for inclusion 25 years after their first recording .

John Mellencamp and The Ventures will perform at the ceremony and it will air on VH1 Classic and streamed live by

Congratulations to all those being honored!

Obama In Africa: Hillary In Trouble At Home?

Writer, Philip Kennicott observed, in today's Washington Post Style section, that a silly picture of Barack Obama swaddled in what appears to be an African costume has made its way across the Net, thanks to the Drudge Report, evoking outraged reaction among some liberal bloggers who are accusing Hillary Clinton's campaign of releasing it to Matt Drudge to discredit Obama. Their fear is that the picture could be damaging to Obama because it plays into prejudices about his race and surreptitiously feeds the untrue rumors that Obama is a Muslim. He is actually a Christian.

Not so fast, though. As Kennicott argues, this image is hardly damaging and is an incredibly ineffective attempt to smear Obama. It's already failed and Kennicott gives some insight into why.
Even if it was meant as a smear image, the Obama in Africa picture was only slightly more sophisticated in its insinuations than an old Polaroid with horns and fangs drawn on it. By the end of the day, the only clear message from the strange episode is that whoever was spreading the image was not particularly sophisticated about the way images work in our new media world.

The fact that Obama appears to be wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt underneath the costume limits its power to suggest secret or devious meanings. The African fabric was an overlay on his very Western, very conventional outfit. Even the fabric looked light and diaphanous (as one might expect in a hot climate), suggesting it is a superficial, temporary addition to Obama's usual image.
Kennicott further explains what else made it fail and helpfully explains what was lacking
An image such as this one also needs to circulate first among people inclined to believe the worst about its target. For a smear photograph to function properly, it must begin its journey into the body politic with what one might call a "Have you seen this?" phase. As it circulates under the radar, it gains a kind of credibility momentum, as people inclined to believe begin to think it is actual, documentary evidence of something that is being suppressed. The idea that it is being suppressed -- that it hasn't broken out to a larger audience -- actually helps it build credibility momentum.
So, are you done laughing at the obvious ineptitude of whoever thought this would be damaging?

As most modern users of technology realize, anybody can be caught looking silly by a cell phone camera. And anybody can be photoshopped to look silly too. So, the power of image has been eroded. And in this case, where Obama's real clothing is poking out of the window dressing that he put on, probably to be polite to his guests, there's nothing really damaging.

But to put it into perspective:

If this looks slightly silly

Then also consider this:

Ah, the things you do to suck up to those foreign hosts on diplomatic junkets!

McCain's Ethical Disconnects Are Much Ado About Something

Poor Michael Kinsley may have been feeling the heat over his ridiculous "liberal's love affair" with John McCain. And no, this has nothing to do with Vicki Iseman or with anything even vaguely sexual.

It has to do with Kinsley's silly fawning over the Arizona senator who won the love and admiration of the press corps with his "Straight Talk Express" persona.

Kinsley wrote this silly article, basically to make fun of the New York Times story that did, in fact, imply, that McCain might have had an an inappropiate relationship with a lobbyist. Kinsley's point was to make fun of the whole thing by portraying it as much ado about nothing. He opens with this:
I have come under some criticism for my criticism of the New York Times for its criticism of Sen. John McCain. Many readers of last week's New York Times article about McCain, including me, read that article as suggesting that Sen. McCain may have had an affair with a lobbyist eight years ago. The Times, however, has made clear that its story was not about an affair with a lobbyist. Its story was about the possibility that eight years ago, aides to McCain had held meetings with McCain to warn him about the appearance that he might be having an affair with the lobbyist.
And then goes on to mock the whole thing this way:
What I wrote was that some people had expressed concern that the Times article might have created the appearance of charging that McCain had had an affair. My critics have charged that I was charging the Times with charging McCain with having had an affair. Such a charge would be unfair to the New York Times, since the Times article, if you read it carefully (very carefully), does not make any charge against McCain except that people in a meeting eight years ago had suggested that other people eight years ago might reach a conclusion -- about which the Times expressed no view whatsoever -- that McCain was having an affair....

...More troubling, however, is the issue of whether McCain's letter may have led some people to worry that other people might conclude that McCain's letter created the appearance of a conflict of interest, as well as the issue of whether the New York Times, in digging up this eight-year-old letter, was creating the possibility that some people might think there was a possibility of an appearance that the Times was suggesting the possibility of an appearance of a potential conflict of interest in McCain's behavior, along with the most distressing possibility of all: that in this very article I may be creating the possibility that some people might worry that other people might think that I have created the appearance of suggesting that the New York Times has created the possibility that some people might worry that other people might think that McCain has created the appearance that some people might worry that other people might think that there could be an appearance that McCain was having an affair with a lobbyist....

These are the real questions that we, as a nation, face. Nobody cares whether McCain was having an affair with a lobbyist.
He's absolutely right, nobody cares whether McCain was having an affair. And Kinsley is also right that this was a poorly sourced story with lots of inuendo that used sex to divert from the real issue.

But there is, in fact, a lot ado about this. And Kinsley's Washington Post colleague, E.J. Dionne nails it brilliantly here. As Dionne's piece is aptly titled, it's not about sex at all. It's about the appearance of hypocrisy and, unlike Kinsley, most people - liberal or not - recognize that that is a very important issue for somebody running for the highest office in the land. As Dionne writes:
But McCain's denials didn't stop at sex, and the story didn't, either. The same day the Times ran its account, The Post ran a story that stayed away from the "romantic" angle but reported (as the Times also had) that McCain had written two letters to the Federal Communications Commission, urging that it vote on the sale of a Pittsburgh television station to Paxson Communications, one of Iseman's clients.

The Post wrote: "At the time he sent the first letter, McCain had flown on Paxson's corporate jet four times to appear at campaign events and had received $20,000 in campaign donations from Paxson and its law firm. The second letter came on Dec. 10, a day after the company's jet ferried him to a Florida fundraiser that was held aboard a yacht in West Palm Beach."
And Dionne ends with
Why does this matter? Many of us have praised McCain over the years for his reform work and his criticism of special-interest politics. His reformer image is one reason he's so close to securing the Republican presidential nomination. It's thus perfectly reasonable for journalists to explore how McCain's strong words about lobbyists square with how he's actually dealt with them.

The Times has been rightly chastised for improperly opening the door on McCain's private life. But the window it opened on the candidate's relationship with Washington's special-interest world will not close anytime soon, especially if McCain's explanations keep raising new questions.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Accomplices to John McCain's Hypocrisy

I wonder if poor Michael Kinsley ever feels a twinge of shame. He's exactly the kind of faux liberal, bought off by his corporate masters, that exasperates Bob Somerby to the point of fury. Kinsley, indeed, merits Somerby's sneering epithet, "clown." As the Daily Howler would put it, Kinsley has been clowning around for years, at the expense of real liberals, by touting John McCain as a lovable straight talker who charms the Democratic base, which is so turned off by its own candidates that it is desparately seeking this honest to a fault conservative.

Here's a sampling of Kinsley's blathering on about McCain, like a school girl with a crush on her high school team's starring quarterback:

All successful politicians must have at least some talent for telling lies about what's in their hearts and convincing people that it is the truth. But Sen. John McCain has a unique genius for telling the truth from his heart and making people believe that he is lying. And these people are his supporters! They admire him as a straight-talking truth-teller, and they forgive him for taking positions on big issues that they find repellent, on the grounds that he doesn't really mean what he says.

"Oh, he has to say that to get the Republican nomination," explain many Democrats with a girlish crush on the charming, funny, intelligent and heroic Republican senator from Arizona, and/or a special loathing of their party's own star, the junior senator from New York. "That" might refer to McCain's strong right-to-life stand on abortion, or his strong support for the war in Iraq, or his recent rapprochement with Jerry Falwell. They admire McCain as a straight shooter among sneaks, a truth-teller amid bull artists. They long, understandably, for some fresh air in the fetid atmosphere of politics. And McCain delivers that.
That, at least could be forgiven since it was written in the Washington Post on May 16, 2006. But this latest Valentine to Kinsley's favorite conservative candidate has to be embarrassing even to him. It's titled "Why Liberals Love McCain."

That's actually two years too late.

Liberals do not love McCain and never did. Independents used to love him when they perceived that he really was a straight talker who stood up to special interests, especially those in the Republican Party, and spoke truth to power. They loved him because they thought he was truly an independent, like them.

As Kinsley correctly observes, where McCain's positions diverged from those centrist independents, on issues like abortion, they managed to convince themselves that he actually wasn't really that pro-life, but he just had to say he was to keep the Republican vote. It was a curious view: that McCain was honest, except when he wasn't.

But a lot has changed since even that dynamic was accurate. Yet, in just this week's Time magazine Kinsley writes this:
Republicans have pulled some dirty tricks before: Swift Boats, Watergate, you name it. But this time they have gone too far. In its desperate hunger for victory at any cost, the Republican Party is on the verge of choosing a presidential candidate, John McCain, who is widely regarded (everywhere except inside the Republican Party itself) as honest, courageous, likable and intelligent.
Then he gushes on to conclude with this nonsense:
I cannot believe that a man as fine and decent as McCain would want to become President by the underhanded tactic of accepting the nomination of a party that loves him only for his appeal to the opposition. If McCain were half the principled gentleman he pretends to be, he would drop out now in favor of Rush Limbaugh. Now there's a Republican you can sink your teeth into.
Now, I actually do get it that this was written somewhat tongue in cheek and was meant to be a spoof. But Kinsley is still furthering the impression that there is a dilemma for independent and fair-minded liberals, even though they will vote for the Democrat in the end. What he's spoofing is the supposed situation where liberals really prefer McCain and so are torn between having to support a decent and fair minded Republican with whom they might disagree on a few minor issues or a Democrat whom they hate - notably Hillary.

It's a false dilemma to start with since Barack Obama could well be the nominee and liberals will easily and enthusiastically rally around him. And so will Kinsley's much touted independents. And Obama has the benefit of being the actual straight talker with less or none of McCain's actual history of hypocrisy.

In fact, as revelations in this week's news show, John McCain isn't exactly the straight talker he pretends to be. The truth is that he talks more with a forked tongue.

The New York Times broke the story that John McCain may have had an inappropriate relationship with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, a partner in Alcade and Fay, a firm that lobbies extensively for telecomm interests.

As a current member and former chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, which the New York Times called "pivotal" for Iseman's clients, this revelation could and should be damaging.

Let me say one important thing. The New York Times tried to play up the romantic angle in McCain's friendship with Iseman. But I'm in agreement with those who would say that that part is irrelevant. Ask yourself, would you be any more comfortable with McCain's coziness with Iseman if she had been a 60 year old, beer bellied golf buddy of McCain's instead of a pretty young woman?

Not me.

What's salient and makes the relationship troubling isn't whether the two had an affair. It's the fact that she was a high level lobbyist whose clientele had so much crucial business before his committee.

What else that's troubling is that McCain denied that his top aides had met with him to warn him that his friendship with Iseman was inappropriate and could appear damaging to the public. Somebody is lying. But here's what the New York Times said (emphasis is mine):

In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.
In addition, a former high level and trusted top aide, John Weaver, went on record for the New York Times to basically corroborate all this. Again, somebody is lying and the question is, who has more to gain or lose, the former aides or the accused, in distorting the truth?

Here's what else the New York Times said:
A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.
Besides all of this damaging information, as the video from yesterday comically illustrates, McCain has a long history of surrounding himself with lobbyists as his closest advisers, friends, and campaign aids and sometimes even top members of his Senate staff.

His campaign manager, Rick Davis, is founder and managing partner in Davis, Manafort and Freedman. For information on some of their clients and activities, go here.

In addition, according to Firedoglake, who calls Davis an "uber lobbyist," the campaign manager introduced McCain to notorious Russian businessman Oleg Deripaska, who had his U.S. visa revoked, at a business conference in Switzerland. Another strong supporter and close adviser to McCain is Charles Black, who has lobbied extensively on behalf of the aviation, broadcasting and tobacco industries.

I could go on, but I think you get the point.

The problem isn't that McCain, a pro-business, anti-regulatory Republican has political allies who happen to lobby for industries that oppose regulation. Where McCain's difficulties lie is that he has presented himself for too long as the champion of integrity and the foe of special interest lobbyists.

While embarrassing many of his Republican colleagues, who are more honest about their ties, he has garnered the unwarranted veneration of genuine good government reformers, independents and journalists.

It's the journalists and columnists, however, who should be most ashamed. It's not like they haven't known this information. It's that they've ignored it while they've partied on the Straight Talk Express bus and been John McCain's accomplices in hypocrisy.

And none has been more complicit than the hapless faux liberal Michael Kinsley, even this week, even with the most recent revelations about the real John McCain staring him in the face.

So, is Kinsley embarrassed yet? And better yet, is McCain?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

It's The Hypocrisy!

H/t to the Grey Havens at Raising Kaine

I'll be back with more on John McCain's hypocrisy and lobbyist friends later.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Guess What? It's Still the Economy, Stupid.

Stagflation seems to be on everybody's mind today with the release of some new and dismal economic figures. I don't usually toot my own horn but I'm going to have to beg a moment's indulgence (promise I'll return to my normal humble self shortly) while I remind readers that I said it first here.

Back on January 6, 2008, here's what I wrote.
The economic news for the 4th quarter of 2007 is in and it is not good. That’s an understatement of massive proportions, by the way. It's actually dire and in ways that we haven't seen since the intractable combination of recession and inflation, known as stagflation in the 1970s...

...Sorry to be repetitive, but the point needs to be made that across the board economists and business writers fear a resurgent threat of inflation. Which means that we could be headed for something not seen since the late 1970s. Stagflation could be rearing its ugly head again.
Since writing that more and more economists, pundits and now journalists are seeing similar parallels and wondering the same thing.

In today's Washington Post, the editorial writer makes the same connection when he says this.
REMEMBER the "misery index"? During the frustrating 1970s, economists used it as a shorthand measure of the pain imposed by simultaneously rising consumer prices and joblessness. Simply adding up the inflation and unemployment rates roughly quantified "stagflation," a phenomenon that defied the economic theory under which inflation and recession were supposed to be mutually exclusive. The misery index averaged 16.27 during President Jimmy Carter's term, peaking at a post-1948 high of 21.98 in the middle of his unsuccessful 1980 reelection campaign. The best index since then was 5.74 in April 1998, under President Bill Clinton. It's been creeping up since, hitting 9.2 in January. The word "stagflation" is once again on the lips of serious economists.
Yup, that ugly word which defines an intractable economic situation where there is a slowdown at the same time as inflation rears its evil head. It's a situation that classical economists once thought to be impossible. Indeed, the cure for recession was to pump money into the economy to stimulate spending and growth. Conversely, the cure for inflation was to tighten monetary policy and credit to slow down the economy.

And that's what makes stagflation so impossibly stubborn to treat. What do you do when you can use neither of these options?

Fortunately, the Washington Post goes on to say the following.
Comparisons with the 1970s should not be overdone. Among the differences between now and then is that labor unions are much weaker today and are thus less able to bargain for higher wages, which companies pass on to consumers. The slowing economy should reduce inflation, in part because falling demand for oil will help moderate its price. Still, the talk of stagflation illustrates what was obvious even before the Fed began using rate cuts to stave off recession: U.S. monetary authorities have relatively little room to maneuver. The worry is that the economy will be sluggish in 2008 -- even though the Fed has pumped in all the cheaper money it could provide consistent with its anti-inflation mission, and maybe a little bit more.
Of course, the Washington Post, being congenitally myopic about free trade and economic matters, always gets something wrong. Interpreting weakened unions and stagnant wages as positive signs for the economy misses the boat entirely. You wonder whom the Misery Index was for? Certainly not for workers who have suffered flat wages for years, which was fine with the Post's business writers.

But if, as the Post claims, the bigger worry is sluggishness, then higher real wages will do more to stimulate growth and get the economy moving than would all the cheap money and tampering that the Fed is trying to do. Ultimately, the way to fight sluggish growth is to put higher wages in the pockets of workers so they can afford to buy things. That's because ours is a consumer based economy. So with a slowdown of consuming, the economy is dead in the water.

Moving on, another columnist, this time Paul Krugman from the New York Times, also weighed in today with a column on stagflation. Here's what he said.
Will the next president be the second coming of Jimmy Carter? Given Thursday’s economic headlines, full of dire warnings about the return of 1970s-style stagflation, you might think so.
But like the Washington Post, he thinks the case for a return to 1970s style stagflation might be overstated. There certainly are some similarities, including the economic slowdown coupled with rising unemployment at the same time as the rise of the inflation rate to 4.3 percent, the highest it's been in 20 years, fueled in large part by rising oil prices, now just over $100 a barrel - also an all time high. But Krugman thinks a more apt comparison might be with the first Bush slowdown in the 1990s.
Realistically, though, the parallels between the problems facing the U.S. economy now and those of the late-1970s aren’t that strong. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that the economy probably will look similar to, but worse than, the economy that undid the first President Bush. And it’s all too easy to see how the next president could suffer a political fate resembling that of both the elder Mr. Bush and Mr. Carter.
According to Krugman, the same conditions that we are seeing today were in play back in the late 80s and early 90s and caused the first Bush economic recession. Those conditions include financial problems at banks, the collapse of the real estate bubble and sluggish consumer spending due to high household debt. Only Krugman thinks it's going to be even worse this time because this real estate bubble is bigger, we have higher debt and much higher oil prices. In fact Krugman predicts that this rough patch will extend into the year 2010, a far less optimistic picture than the Washington Post's prediction that it will go into late 2008.

I'm not sure if anybody has a crystal ball here. But, as Krugman points out, unlike stagflation, for which there are no good solutions, weak spending is definitely treatable. He recommends a serious fiscal stimulus package consisting of public investment and aid to Americans in distress.

I'd add that public investment in the aging infrastructure, exploration of renewable energy alternatives, education, and health care would create jobs, stimulate the economy and also solve several other serious problems we have, not the least of which is global warming.

I agree, though, with Krugman that it will take political courage to withstand the entrenched philosophy of the Republican hard right that shrinking the government, doing nothing and cutting taxes are the only solutions regardless of the problem.

Democrats, to effectively fix the economy, solve our energy problems, strengthen our schools, fix our health care system and stop global warming while stimulating the economy and creating new jobs (in fact, whole new industries) will have to challenge the notion that the government is the problem. There is a role for an effectively run government. If the Republicans can't see that, it's time to tell the public it's because they don't run government effectively to start with.

Then, it's time to challenge the notion that you can't use tax money to further the common good or that it's somehow socialist to do so. There is nothing socialist about public-private partnerships to solve the problems that impact us all.

Indeed, involving private industry in market based solutions to our public problems is something most business people would welcome as much as ordinary wage earners. When the economy is sound and the quality of life is good, everybody benefits.

By the way, it also sounds like a plan to end the class warfare Republicans are fond of deploring while they themselves wage it.

Maureen Dowd, the Ann Coulter of the Left?

So, is Maureen Dowd the ultimate hack and a culturally out of touch old bag to boot?

She starts this hit piece on Hillary Clinton by a reference to Lenny and Squiggy and then goes on to further develop the Laverne and Shirley metaphor, even quoting the old opening song from that TV series. Then she talks about Barack Obama as the candidate who has sparked a "generational boom."

She knows about generational booms?

She doesn't even realize that nobody born after 1980 actually remembers who Lenny and Squiggy were or has ever seen Laverne and Shirley, which is actually a good thing. It was a dreadful show.

So anyway, you start out thinking, Oh good, at least she's going to say something nice about Obama. Well, you'd be wrong and foolish for getting up your hopes about that. Here's how Dowd actually ends her piece:
Obama is basing his campaign on his freshness and integrity and honesty, so he shouldn’t cut corners, as he seems to have done with crediting Patrick and explaining the extent of his relationship with his sleazy former fund-raiser, Tony Rezko.

The attribution problem might be small beer compared with Michelle Obama’s comment in Milwaukee on Monday: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”

It’s a discordant note for the stylish, brainy 44-year-old Princeton and Harvard Law School grad. Cindy McCain showed that Republicans would jump right on a line like that, and twist it into something that sounded extremist and unpatriotic.

Michelle made another of these aggrieved pronouncements at a rally in Los Angeles before the California primary: “Things have gotten progressively worse, throughout my lifetime, through Democratic and Republican administrations, it hasn’t gotten better for regular folks.”

Given the way the Clintons unfairly turn the tables, we’re only moments away from Hillary asking Obama: “Can’t you control your spouse?”
And believe it or not, that was supposed to be an anti-Hillary and pro-Obama piece. With friends like that on our side, believe me, we don't need Republicans to run against. She'll do us more harm.

Maureen Dowd is the kind of whiny faux liberal that the New York Times loves to employ. Give her any chance and she'll take it - to trash any Democrat. The problem is that no living candidate would actually be pure enough or good enough to meet with Dowd's finicky approval. She's the type of pseudo liberal columnist who actually gives more aid and comfort to the Republicans.

After all, as the the logic would go, she's liberal but even she doesn't like Hillary or Obama. Maybe there really is something wrong with both of them.

Let's face it, if Ann Coulter lashes out and says John Edwards looks like a fag, progressives and Democrats would jump all over it and defend him. So would most normal people who understand that Coulter is a hard rightwing hack. But if Maureen Dowd craps all over a Democrat, it's Democrats who will sit up, notice and get discouraged about their candidates while Republicans laugh their butts off at our self-destructiveness. Why wouldn't they love that we are doing their job for them and destroying our own candidates?

In theory, Dowd is a journalist, not a partisan. Nobody expects her to tote the Democratic Party line or carry its water. If she has a fair and reasoned criticism of any candidate, Democratic or Republican, it's her job to write about it. If there is something serious to expose about somebody running for office, exposing it is also her job. Shining light on politicians is the responsibility of the press. And when its done right, it makes for better candidates and better government.

But that's not what Dowd does. Bob Somerby, who runs the Daily Howler, started that site precisely because of writers like Dowd. He has researched and exposed relentlessly the fact that she invents quotes that were never said, as she did to John Kerry in 2004 and Gore in 2000; she exaggerates and outright lies.

In fact, he once observed "It always starts with Dowd." And if you go to his site and type in Maureen Dowd's name, you'd come up with an entire list of posts Somerby has done detailing the vaccuous and harmful hit jobs she's done on Democrats over the years.

She's the left's Ann Coulter. Only unlike Coulter, she targets fellow liberals. She's that strange sort of animal that fouls its own nest. Even Coulter usually knows not to do that.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

No Posting Until Next Week

I will be visiting my dad in Florida to celebrate his 95th birthday. That's right, he's 95 years old!

I'll be back on Tuesday and will probably resume spouting my opinions Wednesday or Thursday.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Visions of the Democratic Future

First of all, my congratulations to Barack Obama, who won such a convincing victory by inspiring so many people. And congratulations also to Hillary Clinton for a hard fought battle. Victory is always sweeter when you have a worthy opponent whom you respect and one who challenges you to give it your best. Hillary did that.

Right now the chattering classes are writing cautionary notes to this victory. As pundits do, they are trying to rain on our parade by offering sober warnings.

Ruth Marcus, in today's Washington Post offers this assessment of, what she calls, the "train wreck" of the Democratic nominating process, including both the proportionality of the delegate selection and the role of the super delegates:
The wonder, really, is that the nomination train wreck confronting the Democratic Party didn't happen years earlier.

The stage was set for the current stalemate over five marathon days of negotiations in June 1988. In the fifth-floor conference room of a Washington law firm, representatives of Michael Dukakis, the party's nominee, and Jesse Jackson, his unsuccessful challenger, hashed out a new set of delegate selection rules.

Jackson felt aggrieved that he had not amassed as many delegates as his popular vote total would have suggested. In the 1984 primary campaign, for instance, Jackson won 19 percent of the popular vote but received just 10 percent of the delegates. So Jackson's rules guru, Harold M. Ickes, insisted on adopting proportional representation rules that would award insurgent candidates a bigger share of delegates in future contests.
She then goes on to describe the function of the super delegates, the proportionality of the delegate spread and how all this, hashed out back in 1980s, to bring more democracy to the process, can actually do the opposite.

One irony in the article is that Jackson's representative, who fought for the proportionality, was then young liberal insurgent Harold Ickes, who is now one of the Clinton's consumate insiders. How things change!

Meanwhile, the role of the super delegates was created as a counterweight to ensure that, while the party was fair to the underdog candidate, it didn't sacrifice the interests of the insiders or the mainstream voters.

Both the rules for granting proportionality and the role of the super delegates could, according to Marcus, tear the Democratic Party apart this year if there is no clear cut winner coming out of the primaries.

Harold Myerson seconds the opinion that the Democrats could face a wrenchingly divided convention with this piece, where he says the following:
In popular memory, Chicago '68 evokes images of police and demonstrators clashing -- and cops swinging nightsticks at anyone who chanced by -- in Grant Park and the old Conrad Hilton Hotel, while the Democratic National Convention proceeded apace. But take it from someone who was there (I was an 18-year-old working for Eugene McCarthy's campaign): The rage inside the convention hall was every bit as great as the anger without.

It wasn't just the divisions over the Vietnam War and the sense among the antiwar delegates that Robert Kennedy's assassination had stolen their chance to end the war and transform their party. The clash was more elemental. Just as the yippies and the police fighting on the streets seemed to come from two different Americas, so the party regulars (some representing superannuated machines that had been around since the 1920s) and the earnest young reformers (some representing raggedy, born-yesterday bands of college activists and inner-city agitators) plainly came to loathe each other. I remember standing in the lobby of the Hilton the morning after the convention ended, a bedraggled kid who several hours earlier had been rousted out of the McCarthy junior-staff floor (the 15th, I think), along with the entirety of the McCarthy junior staff, by stick-swinging cops who'd run out of people to club on the street, and telling this sad tale to a delegate, a crew-cut chamber of commerce type who heard me out, looked me over, uttered one word -- "Good!" -- and stalked away.

Did I mention that the Democrats lost that year?
What's striking is that both Marcus and Myerson are assuming a badly divided Democratic Party heading into the convention without a clear cut winner.

There is no evidence that this will happen, of course. It's sheer speculation, which they would admit themselves if really pressed. Granted, it's based on certain educated, historic assumptions, but it is a guess nonetheless.

Here's my best guess, as somebody who was witness to much the same history that they watched.

I think that Hillary will still win a few states, such as Texas, and will gather some more delegates. But the momentum - what was called during the eighties, "the Big Mo" - is with Barack Obama. While Clinton will pick up Texas, Obama is expected to win Wisconsin and should sail on that momentum to a victory in Ohio.

The momentum is indeed with him and it's gathering speed, much like a snowball rolling down a mountain, which turns the mere snowball into an avalanche.

By the time he gets to the convention in Denver, Obama will have the delegates he needs to win. And the super delegates will not vote counter to the popular vote or the consensus in their own states because they've got to go back and face those people.

I am pragmatic enough to never entirely dismiss the possibility that the Democrats could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But I don't see that happening this time.

Meanwhile, I don't think we'll sail to victory in November without hard work.

The conservative base of the Republican party is currently dispirited. But they will unite around McCain. Republicans always do. We've been waiting for years for the so-called "conservative crackup." If it hasn't happened yet, it ain't going to. They've got far more discipline than that, and we take them for granted at our peril.

Having said that, their base is definitely not enthusiastic. What that means is that while they will support McCain and will get out and vote for him, the fire won't be there in their bellies. It takes a tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm to go out day after day to knock on doors, staff phone banks, stuff envelopes and talk up your candidate to your neighbors.

The Republicans will get out and do all those things, as they always have (as we all always do). But there will be a little less sparkle in their eyes. A bit less of a glow to their cheeks. There will be a few phone calls too little. A door or two unknocked when their feet start to hurt. In other words, they will make the perfunctory effort but not give it their all.

That's what will make the difference for our candidate. In the end, the Democrats will heal their differences and our enthusiasm will be palpable. They will go through the motions and wait and hope for next time and for a better candidate. We will feel we have our best candidate. And that's the difference that will show come November.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Vote Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 12!

Here's a thought. When you go to the polls, why don't you check and see if there's somebody in your neighborhood who needs a ride. If the weather is bad and there is an elderly person or somebody who just doesn't have access to a car, ask if they want to ride with you.

Meanwhile, I'm going to give Barack Obama the last word as he gives four reasons to vote for him. This occurred during a question and answer session at yesterday's rally in Alexandria and is Obama'a answer to an unsolicited question from a woman in the audience.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

What's Wrong With This Picture?

If you are googling The Richomond Democrat, you will find some interesting results. The first link is this and the second site is this.

Two very different sites. And they are supporting two different candidates. The first link is the real Richmond Democrat. He's JC Wilmore and he was blogging even before I started up AIAW. I think he was among the first blogs to link to me (others were Raisking Kaine and Not Larry Sabato).

Lately, JC and I have had our very spirited differences. But the truth is that despite those disagreements, I can tell you nobody has done more for the blogosphere and has been more helpful to fellow progessive bloggers than JC. He doesn't deserve to have his on-line identity stolen. No blogger does.

The bogus Richmond Democrat is very clever. He has put in his logo banner "The Real Richmond Democrat" which he hopes would be sufficient to shield him from legal prosecution. The thinking is probably that that one word in the title makes it just different enough that he would be able to claim in a court case that it's not the same title and so is not an infringement on another blogger's brand name.

But it's theft and it's dishonest nonetheless. And it may also be a deliberate dirty political trick.

The fake Richmond Democrat (despite the claim that he is ther real one) also has in his logo "Virginia Blogs for Hillary." Unfortunately, he also seems to be the only blogger in that group. He has no blogroll and no name listed. Each post is labeled Peter's blog. And the Virginia Blogs for Hillary links to a different website, Virginians for Hillary. Beyond this, there is no indication on the site as to whose it is or who Peter might be.

I certainly hope that nobody in the Clinton campaign has authorized this. However, I suspect that JC will get to the bottom of it and we'll be hearing more about it including who is behind it.

Meanwhile, the authentic Richmond Democrat is hosted by Blogger and has Blogspot in his address and the screen on his site is blue. The bogus Richmond Democrat has an orange logo and a white screen.

And the biggest difference is the real Richmond Democrat is supporting Barack Obama and always has.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

With Romney Out Everything Has Changed for the Democrats

With Mitt Romney's departure from the Republican primary race, the whole dynamic of this election season has changed.

Before I go further, let me make the following disclaimer. I already endorsed Barack Obama because I think he is the most inspiring candidate the Democrats have. So, any accusation that the following remarks are cold, calculating and Machiavellian, while it might be true, is also besides the point. I already gave my support to Obama for all the right reasons.

So, here goes.

If you are still an undecided, one of the best reasons to cast your vote for Obama this coming Tuesday - Potomac Tuesday - is because he is the least polarizing candidate and the one the conservatives, sorely disenchanted with John McCain, will not come out to defeat. If you need further proof, see here and here. Admittedly it's an extreme view getting much push back on Bearing Drift. But it is representative of other comments I've been reading and hearing from disgruntled conservatives.

As much as I personally admire Hillary Clinton and believe the whole cottage industry dedicated to hating the Clintons is pathological, it can't be ignored. Hillary is, if possible, even more polarizing than Bill and with far less reason. It is unfair.

And spare me the crap about how the Clintons brought it on themselves. He got a blow job, ok. He didn't lead this country into an illegal, immoral and strategically totally unnecessary war. He didn't wreck the economy. He didn't turn his back on residents of the lower Ninth Ward. In fact, under Bill Clinton, FEMA was one of the best run agencies in a largely efficient and effective government.

Nevertheless, Hillary even manages to divide Democrats. And she's the one person who will bring out the Republicans in droves no matter how much they dislike McCain.

It's not that those Republicans will vote for Obama as a protest vote. They won't. Nor will they necessarily reach across the aisle for bipartisan solutions to problems like health care reform or the subprime lending crisis. They won't do that either.

But if Obama is the Democratic nominee, many of them will sit out the election. Indeed, some are even looking forward to the Republican Party losing. They see this as much needed discipline for the GOP. From their point of view, the Republican Party has betrayed its conservative values and deserves to lose so that it can turn inward, reassess its ideals, purge the moderates who have taken it down this disastrous path, and then emerge as a smaller, purer and better party that recaptures the public's trust. Once it emerges from defeat, in four years, the GOP will once again deserve to be the party that wins. Right now, to many conservatives, it no longer deserves victory.

And tactically, conservatives want to illustrate graphically to the GOP insiders that without their support, the party cannot win. If they can't actually control their party, then at least they can be the spoilers who keep it from winning elections. Or, at least, that's their hope.

Unless Hillary is the nominee. Then all bets are off and they will rally to whoever the candidate is.

But equally important, regardless of whether the Democratic nominee is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, I think the Democrats would do well to put up a vice presidential candidate with strong military credentials and credibility to serve as a counterweight to McCain. Especially if the presidential nominee is Obama, it would serve him well to eliminate any fear about his relative inexperience in foreign policy to have somebody of the stature of Jim Webb as his running mate.

Now in the past, whenever the topic of Webb as a vice presidential contender has come up, I've been a staunch naysayer.

Webb is too independent, too much of a maverick. Those have been my arguments. I don't think he'd be happy as the subordinate member of a team. But I hope that for the good of the party he'd be willing to put some of those tendencies aside.

The role of vice president has changed exponentially since the days when it was largely ceremonial. For example, Al Gore played a substantive policy role in the Clinton Administration. Gore did not simply attend funerals for heads of state or chair inconsequential committees in the basement of the Old Executive Office Building (as it was called back then). I don't, of course, want a vice president in Dick Cheney's mold. Nobody needs a co-presidency with a vice president who has overstepped his boundaries as the current VP has done.

But Webb could play an important role as a foreign policy and military advisor. In addition, Webb has an excellent grasp of domestic issues, especially on the economy and vetarans affairs.

Selecting Webb would send a signal to voters that Obama is serious about issues and policy.

The only downside would be replacing Webb and keeping his seat in the Democratic column. Mark Warner will probably win his senate race this year. Tim Kaine has only another year as governor and can't succeed himself. He's got high approval ratings so he could step up to another statewide race.

We've got a good bench with players ready to be put into the game at the state level and Webb would give needed heft to the Democratic presidential ticket in a match up with John McCain. And Obama is the one candidate that inspires enthusiasm and hope and who will keep the disgruntled conservatives from coming out to support of McCain.

I'd say it's a plan!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Gone In a Flash


Dan and I were settling down to watch a long evening of primary returns – Super Tuesday, a political junkie’s dream come true.

We had the pizza. I poured a glass of Cabernet and Dan had his beer. I was talking on the phone with an elderly family friend from Central Florida, the Republican part of the state. She’s a Yellow Dog Democrat and was bemoaning her neighbors’ perfidy. She was explaining that Virginia was still her legal residence and because she didn’t trust Florida voting machines, she was going to come back to Centreville earlier this year to vote in the presidential elections rather than change her residence or file for an absentee ballot. “I just don’t trust them down here,” she declared. I was commiserating with her when Dan's cell phone rang.

With a grim look on his face, he interrupted me. “Jim just called. Lara’s dorm was demolished in a tornado but she’s safe.”

I quickly wrapped up my call. Horror struck, Dan and I both turned from election returns to the weather channel. We spent all night flipping back and forth between the primary contests and the the news out of the mid South. We tracked the path of the storm, which appeared to be headed to where Dan's mom lived. We called his sister, Dixie, in Huntsville, not in the path of the deadly tornados. And we checked to make sure our niece and nephew, both at the University of Alabama, were not in harm's way. And we worried about Jim's daughter Lara, whom I had held in my arms when she was a baby and I was a newlywed just meeting her for the first time during one Christmas in Tennessee.

Jim is Dan’s best friend. In fact, he was the best man at our wedding.

They met in junior high school and became buddies. During high school, Jim was president of their class in his senior year and dated the prettiest sophomore. He later married her.

Jim worked as a cop in Tennessee then studied for the ministry. Today, he works as a hospital chaplain on the oncology ward in Louisville, Kentucky and is pursuing a doctorate in theology. His son is following in his foot steps and studying to be a preacher. And his youngest daughter, Lara, is a psychology major at Jackson University, in Jackson, Tennessee.

Yes, that Jackson. The one devastated by the tornados last night.

Lara’s dorm was the one that collapsed. She was not there at the time and promptly called her parents before the news reports hit the wire to reassure them that she was safe. But she spent a long, harrowing time waiting for her roommates and friends to be accounted for. Miraculously, they all survived. They all lost their belongings.

Jim and his wife are driving from Louisville to Jackson tomorrow to pick Lara up. Her car was totaled by the storm. But she’s alive.

She and her fellow students lost their possessions, their cars, their clothes, their sentimental knick knacks, and all the memorabilia of their young lives. It, like their dorm, was gone in a flash. But they are safe, intact, and alive, though some sustained injuries.

Below are some pictures, taken by Andrew McMurtrie, of the devastation. Here’s a link to the Tennessean for more pictures of the aftermath of last night's storm.

Below: All that's left of Watters Common, the Student Union and dorm where Lara lived.

A student being loaded into an ambulance. Six students were trapped in the Student Union for hours before being rescued.

Local churches opened their doors and provided shelter for the students. Families put them up for the night and will also put up the parents who are coming to take their sons and daughters home.

Please hold Lara and her classmates in your prayers!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Yes, I Am For Obama!

Correction: I originally said that FDR made his famous quote "You have nothing to fear but fear itself" during one of his fireside chats. A reader, aznew, corrected me. FDR said it as part of an inauguration speech; so, I've changed it. Thank you alert reader, aznew
I have spent very little time on my own blog, writing about the candidate I support because I have been elsewhere defending the candidate who is not my first choice for the nomination, Hillary Clinton.

I've done this because I have very little patience for the Clinton bashers and even less for those who proclaim loudly that should she win the nomination, they will sit out the general election.

And I have less patience still for those on the Democratic side who want to refight the culture wars of the 1990s, using the rightwing attack machine's talking points to do so.

That needs to be said because far too many Democrats, especially on the blogosphere, have been too eager to tear down Hillary Clinton when they should instead be lifting up Barack Obama. You can't say you are for change or that you want to end the old politics of personal destruction while you are engaging in exactly the tactics you say you dislike. There's a cognitive dissonance there that leaves a sour, off key note on the ears of listeners.

At the same time, the Clinton fatigue which the country has experienced is all too real. It is time to move past it and to at least try to go beyond the partisan rancor of those days.

Barack Obama is the one Democrat who can do that.

The truth is he has the charisma that has been lacking in America's leadership for far too long. Now, when I speak of charisma, I am not talking about mere likability.

Unlike the frivolous media coverage of past election cycles, this is not a discussion about who is a more amiable good ole boy or who you'd like to have a beer with while discussing the Nationals' lineup for next season.

Real charisma has nothing to do with that sort of likability or even with charm.

Charisma is the rare gift of being able to articulate a vision for the future, to put into eloquent language the hopes and aspirations of a people. Charisma is what buoys us up when the tide of fear and despair threatens to sweep us overboard and drown us.

Think of FDR during the Great Depression when, at his inauguration, he told us, "You have nothing to fear but fear itself." Or Winston Churchill, who, in his inaugural speech in 1940, told the British public facing war with Nazi Germany that he had nothing to offer them but "blood, toil, tears and sweat."

Or John F. Kennedy who told us "The torch has passed to a new generation" And challenged us to "Ask not what your country can do for you , but what you can do for your country." And finally, Robert F. Kennedy who said, "Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not."

Obama has the same ability to inspire us to meet the challenges of a troubled future with courage and determination.

With an endless war miring us in Iraq, and the economy the worst it's been in years, we need somebody who can inspire hope, challenge us to fight for change, and give our dreams eloquent voice. We need a language of poetry and optimism. And Barack Obama can give wing to our aspirations.

As Proverbs tells us: "Without vision, the people perish."

With vision and hope, we will solve our problems and thrive. It's time for a leader with vision. So, I endorse Barack Obama!