Biden Should Not Back Off

>> Sunday, August 31, 2008

When Joe Biden was selected to be Obama;s running mate it was with the idea that he would act as an attack man. He would hit McCain on matters of national security and foriegn policy. It was also assumed that he would go after whoever was picked as McCain's running mate in the Vp debates. With the choice of Sarah Palin though there are some voices wondering whether he should back off or be extra careful about dealing with Palin in the debates. I think this is the wrong strategy.

If Biden pulls his punches it does a couple things. The first is that it looks sexist like he thinks Palin is not tough enough to handle things because she is a woman. The few Hillary supporters out there who are going to vote for Palin because she is a woman would see this sexism immediately. It would just add fuel to the idea that the Dems think women are not up to the job. Treat her like you would have treated any other VP pick.

The second risk with backing off Palin is that it might make some think she is actually qualified. She is not. Biden cannot risk sitting back and letting people get the impression she deserves to be on the same stage as him. He needs to make it abundantly clear that she was an affirmative action pick. Revealing her lack of readiness is imperative.

Some people might worry about a back lash for "picking" on a woman. This is absurd as this particular woman wants to be first in line for the Presidency should something happen to McCain. Ignoring her or patronizing her is not the way to go. She needs to be revealed as a nice enough lady but totally wrong on the issues and totally unready to take over the Presidency.


Political Realities

If there was ever a more cynical phrase used in politics i am not sure what it was. The idea of Political Realities is constructed entirely on "Conventional Wisdom". A political reality is something that the pundits and commentators just cannot imagine is untrue. Gather together their basic assumptions about the way politics works and how candidates act and you get "Political Reality". The biggest problem is that there really are not any "political realities" in the sense that the traditional media use them. Take this article for example, Political Realities May Pose a Test to Obama’s Appeal to Young Voters . It deals with one of the most basic premise of elections. Candidates start closer to the base and move to the center.

The thing about political realities is that they are all theories. They are based on human observation, human experiences. One of these theories is called the "spacial model of elections". The spacial model deals with rational choice theory. Voters have two policy options on a spectrum. The one closest to their own position is who they vote for. This is a very simple model designed to help people get a handle on where the parties stand. Here is a visual.


The problem is that this is way too simple. Imagine the thousands of different issues that people can have an opinion on. What defines where the middle is on these issues? What is a liberal position versus a conservative position on nuclear proliferation? The way the distribution of voters is always talked about people must assume that there is this fat lump of people in the middle to target. This is just not the case. Most people have picked a side. The middle is full of people who are not really sure what to think. They dont have a developed ideology, that's why they are in the center. So why would candidates move to these non informed voters? This though is the perceived "political reality".

Remember that article i linked to at the beginning? It is all about how the young people will be dissatisfied and give up hope when Obama does the inevitable and moves to the "center".

Mr. Meek, a co-chairman of a Democratic group working with young voters, said this subset of the electorate would be especially attuned to shifts in policy, even subtle ones, made by Mr. Obama.

“He’s going to have to master the art of being able to keep individuals motivated,” Mr. Meek said, “so that they don’t feel heartbroken because something they were told during the primary phase is something that he’s going to have to take a different position on in the general election.”

Is Obama really going to do this? When this "political reality" is talked about i always wonder why the candidate has to give up on his position that is well reasoned and based in reality to pander to people uninterested in the facts. When the pundits say center what they mean is "position polls well". It is one of the things that drags down our country, the idea that we need to move to the center. Stake out the correct policies in the primaries and go with them. Convince people your ideas and policies are the correct ones.

In many ways Obama sees things as i do. His acceptance speech was a renewed restatement of liberal values. in it he talked not about moving off his positions but finding common ground where the opposing sides could work together. This means he is not abandoning his primary positions for more popular ones in the general election. It is my opinion that we should not reward candidates who sell out and pander to those without an opinion. The challenges we face are serious and we need serious people to solve them. Those who are willing to jettison their beliefs for a few more votes are not the people we need.

Obama is going to take his ideas and his policies to the people. He will go door to door if he has to but he is going to convince the people he is right and that he is in earnest. People are tired of the cynical "political realities" where candidates do things not out of conviction but based on a poll. If Obama is able to do this then it shatters the idea of the "political reality". It would not be the first time he has done this. Think back to the primary when the reality was that Obama would be unable to compete with the Clinton Machine or that Obama could not get the votes of low income whites or Hispanics. These things were all disproved. Not much of a reality is it? Political reality is just another word for cant and i think Obama has shown he has little respect for that word.


Do Not Forget Iraq

With the incredible buzz and dismay over the selection of Sarah Palin as the McCain VP there is little else to be found out on the net. It is as if the entire media, traditional and otherwise, are 6 year olds chasing a soccer ball as a massive horde. Take a deep breath and realize that the world does not stop moving and events do not stop happening just because McCain picked his VP. There are some other stories out there that need oxygen. Some of these are taking place in Iraq.

I think once Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki came out for the withdrawal of US forces by 2011 the Dems declared Victory and went home. It is somewhat usrprising to me that it happened this way. Iraq was the central theme of the McCain candidacy and now it appears that we might have start leaving as early as 2009. The reason for this is that the agreement that would keep us there, The Status of Forces Agreement, is still hung up on several points including whether US soldiers will be subject to Iraqi jurisdiction and thus triable in Iraqi courts. It might behoove Obama to start hitting on this point. What would McCain do without a status of forces agreement?

Petraeus seems to be preparing in case we leave -are kicked out- of Iraq. He submitted an initial draft plan to set the pace of withdrawing troops from Iraq. This may simply be one of those pre election routines that the Republicans go through to make it seem like we might start leaving, but the context is a little different this year because of the uncertainty of the SOFA and the possibility that Obama takes over as the next CiC.

McCain meanwhile is still living in a fantasy land when it comes to the situation in Iraq. He claims, "Iraq is a peaceful, stable country now". Someone should be hammering him on this type of stuff. Especially when in the last month there have been several high profile and deadly attacks

Wednesday, August 27, 2008: "45 Dead, 79 Wounded in Wave of Violence; Bombing in Jalawla' Raises Tensions with Baghdad"

Monday, August 25, 2008: "54 Killed in Bombings, attacks;
Water Crisis;Fixing the Intelligence Around the Policy"

"Monday, August 18, 2008: "Bombing Kills 15, Including AC Leader in Baghdad; Al-Sadr Calls for Blood Pledge of Holy Struggle Against Occupation"

We also need to remember that we still have shady contractors in Iraq doing things like human trafficking. This is an instance where KBR went to the third world, recruited men under false pretenses, then shipped them to a war zone to work without consent. Maybe we could ask the reformer Sarah Palin how she feels about the legal status and actions of contractors and sub-contractors in Iraq?

The men were recruited in Nepal to work in a hotel in Jordan, but were later told they would have to work at a US air base in Iraq, their lawyers said.

Twelve of the men were kidnapped and killed by Islamic militants while being transported inside Iraq.

The 13th man was made to work against his will at the air base, lawyers said.

Kidnapped, brought to Iraq as forced laborers and ultimately captured and killed by our enemies. I am not even sure what the damages for that would be.

On top of the fact that KBR and other companies continue to turn our image into that closer to Dracula's castle on the hill rather than a shining city, the Bush Admin has failed in its goal of securing oil contracts for US companies. Instead the first contract to develop oil fields in Iraq went to China.

It was the first time in more than 35 years that Iraq has allowed foreign oil companies to do business inside its borders.

The contract with the China National Petroleum Corporation could be worth up to $3 billion. It would allow the CNPC to develop an oil field in southern Iraq's Wasit province for about 20 years, Oil Ministry spokesman Assim Jihad said.

It might be too cynical but i have a hard time swallowing the idea that 4150 US soldiers gave their lives so that the Chinese could have Iraqi Oil Contracts. I understand the whole global market idea but this just rubs the wrong way. Bush cannot even set up an empire properly.

As a simple political matter we cannot let Iraq fade away. The one thing that many kossacks cited as a reason not to support Clinton was her AUMF vote. Iraq, more than anything else, is the reminder of how poor McCain's judgment is and how strong Obama's is. Iraq also seems to be something that McCain's new VP is not that well versed in. Despite the poor economic news and all of the domestic Issues Iraq remains the hammer. Can this country really elect a man who, in the face of the last seven years, who do it all over again? So just because Iraq is no longer the biggest news story of the day does not mean we should stop talking about it.

Bloggers especially need to continue talking about it as the TM will not highlight it. Talk about it everyday with your friends and your acquaintances. When they talk about McCain and his leadership skills bring up Iraq. When they talk about Palin tell them she had was not interested in what was going on in Iraq last year. Unless we provide it with more oxygen Iraq will not be a major issue to most voters. A vote for McCain is a vote for more War.


Bush Seeks to Affirm Permanent Influence

>> Saturday, August 30, 2008

As his time in office winds down Bush wishes to put his stamp on the government, permanently. Pending that he wants to make it as hard as he can for a possible Obama administration to undue the policies and practices of his administration. He wants to ensure that even has failed conservative policies fail at the ballot box they continue in government through his appointments and changes in the law. One of the more controversial changes Bush has made is his expansion of Presidential power. A key to this expansion was his use of war time powers. It is this war time power that is the subject of his latest attempt to scar our country for generations in his name.

One of the important techniques Bush has used in securing his power and changes in government is making congress complicit in his acts. He is up to his old tricks again as outlined by the NYT piece Bush Seeks to Affirm a Continuing War on Terror . The focus of the piece is Bush's attempt to have congress issue a statement renewing a declaration of war with the Taliban and Al-Queda,

“acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us and who are dedicated to the slaughter of Americans.”

The language is included in a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay and is just one in a number of recent attempts to codify Bush policies in law. The goal is to make sure that the next president has the same expanded powers of detention, interrogation and surveillance. It is a power grab at the expense of the legislative branch. If Congress capitulates on this it will mark simply another instance of their complicity in the Bush abuse of power.

Recently the Bush administration rewrote the rules governing spying by U.S. intelligence agencies, both in the United States and abroad. None can forget the recent FISA rewrite. In addition, Bush has been placing judges on US federal benches that comply with his ideology. The same goes for the different US bureaucracies including the epa where Bush has made sure that nothing is done to protect the environment and the FBI where he signed off on torture.

The implications of his actions are many. Already i have briefly discussed the fact that his changes will leave a lasting impact on the US policy and law. The attempt to get a renewed war powers statement is also a way to bring back some sense of fear in the populace.

Mr. Bush “is trying to stir up again the politics of fear by reminding people of something they haven’t really forgotten: that we are engaged in serious armed conflict with Al Qaeda,” said Laurence H. Tribe, a constitutional scholar at Harvard and legal adviser to Mr. Obama. “But the question is, Where is that conflict to be waged, and by what means.”

The war on terror is a war like the war on drugs. It is not a real war. It is essentially a police action and should have been fought as one. When the Rand Corp study on the subject came out at the end of July it only confirmed what others have been saying for years our actions are not working and only strengthening the criminals.

The authors call for a strategy that includes a greater reliance on law enforcement and intelligence agencies in disrupting the group's networks and in arresting its leaders. They say that when military forces are needed, the emphasis should be on local troops, which understand the terrain and culture and tend to have greater legitimacy.

In Muslim countries in particular, there should be a "light U.S. military footprint or none at all," the report contends.

"The U.S. military can play a critical role in building indigenous capacity," it said, "but should generally resist being drawn into combat operations in Muslim societies, since its presence is likely to increase terrorist recruitment."

Instead of heading the calls of experts the Bush administration is seeking to make sure its crimes and practices become the law of the land. They want to ensure that we continue to use the phrase "enemy combatants". They want to hold the future people America to their odious ideas about how to protect this country, throwing people into a prison camp without legal recourse.

The administration wants Congress to set out a narrow framework for those prisoner appeals. But the administration’s six-point proposal goes further. It includes not only the broad proclamation of a continued “armed conflict with Al Qaeda,” but also the desire for Congress to “reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported Al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations.”

It is truly galling to think that our country has a policy that allows us to hold someone forever under this title of enemy combatant as the jurors in the trial of Osama bin Ladens driver found out. They tried to put in in prison until Bush was out of office as a demonstration that they felt this policy was wrong. They were shocked to discover that he could be held forever,

"After all the effort that we put in to get somebody a fair trial . . . and then to say no matter what we did it didn’t matter — I don’t see that as a positive step," the juror said.

The administration contends that it can hold enemy combatants for as long as the war on terror lasts. If congress goes back and affirms in the way bush wants it will ensure that anyone acquitted or sentenced in Guantanamo will be staying in Guantanamo.

The decision is up to congress. Do they want to be seen as the patsies of the Bush administration again? I have little confidence that they will grow a spine and stand up to the Bush admin. Even as we celebrate the coming of the end for Bush we will be stuck with his flawed policies and ideology entrenched in our laws and government.


Howard Wolfson Stop Calling Yourself a Dem

One of the things about former Clinton campaign people is that they have really made their former boss look bad. Howard Wolfson is one of those people who many Obama Dems had little respect for during the primary. He and Penn were clearly cynical DLC men. Take the position that gets votes without the consideration of whether that is morally or factually right. After the primary he jumped over to the Republican Propaganda arm, Fox News. As of now he needs to stop calling himself a Dem.

Here is Wolfson talking about the Palin Pick,

But Howard Wolfson, the former Clinton communications director, said she could peel away some votes.

"Both campaigns seemed to have decided that Hillary Clinton's 18 millions voters represent a key swing bloc in this election -- both Barack Obama's speech and John McCain's pick were at least partially aimed at them," Wolfson said in an e-mail.

"The fact that Palin is pro-life and pro-gun will be a block for many of Senator Clinton's supporters -- but not all. And it will raise the question for many why Senator Obama didn't pick Senator Clinton as his running mate."

Howard is sounding an awful lot like one of those PUMA people. He did not pick Hillary because she was not the best choice. She refused to be vetted unless she was going to be picked, an ultimatum that left her out of consideration.

I have not met a real woman yet who is not insulted by this cynical pick. I do not anticipate hordes of women flocking to this virulently anti-choice, anti-science ticket. That Howard refused to point this out and instead pretended like this was a credible idea is sad. Howard deserves to be thrown out of any Dem circles.


McCain Taps Palin for VP

>> Friday, August 29, 2008

So the political world was shocked today by the announcement that Sarah Palin, the first term governor of Alaska, was John McCain's pick for VP. The net has been in a serious upheaval trying to determine exactly what McCain was thinking with this pick. Why her what does she bring to the table that no one else did? In my own opinion it is a completely cynical pick.

Kevin drum laid out what he believes to be the McCain camp thinking.

Their thinking is that she's a hard-right conservative who appeals to the base (David Brody was just on CNN telling us that Christian conservative leaders were high-fiving each other over the Palin pick), but not a famous hard-right conservative who's going to scare off independents. Soccer moms will like her. She's inexperienced, but no one can hold that against her this year — and anyway, her lack of a track record also means she doesn't bring a lot of baggage to the campaign. She's got great anti-corruption cred. She's young and vibrant and has an attractive family. Joe Biden will have a hard time going on the attack against a woman. She's unknown, but frankly, to most low-information voters (i.e., to most voters), all VP picks are unknown.

I think that is pretty solid over all. What i would say though is that there is a lot more to this pick. The first thing to note, this is not McCain's pick. This is a pick done by his staff and advisers. This was a pick designed to mollify the right. I think the McCain campaign has made a fundamental decision about the candidacy. They are not winning. I would be very interested to see the internals of the campaign polling. They must be losing the independents badly.

I say this because the Palin pick is an effort to reinvigorate the far right who have been rather unenthusiastic up to this point. The far right, the true believers, are the ones who hit the pavement to run GOTV drives and voter registration. They are the foot soldiers of the party. McCain is looking at voter registration defficits in many key states. He is way behind in campaign infrastructure. He needs these people to turn out the base. With Obama consolidating Dem support and winning a big chunk of the remaining indys McCain needs every drop of his base.

We know for a fact that McCain has met Gov Palin only three times. He does not know her. He has a group of people he goes back decades with like Joe Lieberman. He has high profile tested national politicians like Romney. Instead he chooses someone virtually unknown not only to the country but to him. That tells you who made the pick.

Palin is already being defined in the media as someone not ready for prime time. She is a former beauty pageant runner up, a first term governor. She has several quotes that portray her as less than sharp. She is being painted as a lightweight someone picked for interest groups and not to be president if McCain is incapacitated. It is that possibility that draws a great deal of fire. It reinforces the idea that McCain is not running a campaign serious about fixing American problems.

The only way this works for McCain is if she comes out and just blows people away. If she is like Obama at his 04 convention speech the pick has a chance at being genius but other than that i think it hurts mccain in the long run.


Obama Strategy for Destruction of Conservatism

The general dynamics of the campaign narrative have been a feature of the campaign. There has been a fight going on over the type of strategy that Obama should run. Most Dems are so petrified of losing that they want to pursue what they feel is the least risky strategy, tie everything to Bush and let him sink McCain like an anchor. The greater part of the blogosphere has been insistent that the Dems could win only if the election is a referendum on Bush. Anything else and McCain wins. I have argued something different.

I have argued that Obama has been more than willing to allow the campaign to be about him. In this way it is more than a simple rejection of bush in a retrospective manner, it is an embarrassing of Obama. This is what i wrote back on Aug 2,

The real debate here is about how Obama should be placed in the meta-narrative of the election. One school of thought is that after the last eight years everything should be about how awful Bush has been and how McCain is just like Bush. It is a theory based around retrospective voting. This school wants the electorate to punish the ruling party by rejecting its policies and choosing the other guy. I think it is a strategy formed on desperation. It is a strategy from a party out of power that is so scared of losing that any way back into power is ok. Do not get me wrong winning is the goal but to govern with a progressive majority and to gain a mandate Obama needs to do more.

There is a very good reason Obama would want the election to be about him. If it is a referendum on him and his Ideas, the win becomes more powerful. It is not merely a rejection of the other but an embracing of Obama. An Obama win when the election is about him shows that the American people want his ideas and policies and that Congress should get in line and pass them. If there is any hope for a transformative election I think that the election needs to be more about the prospective. Prospective voting would be an acknowledgment that Obama is the right direction.

When it comes down to it I think that people vote on the future not the past making the current Obama strategy more sound. It will not leave questions about what Obama plans to do. No lingering, "Yeah Bush Sucks, but what do you plan to do?" Building a strategy around the future is better than building one around the past. It may be a little more risky if only because there is so much to punish the GOP over but the reward is greater. Obama also seems like the type of person who wants to win on his own merits and gain the confirmation that he is being chosen because of who he is and his policies.

Kevin Drum now at Mother Jones echoed my thoughts today.

Tonight Obama made a start on a campaign that's based not just on talking points (though there will be plenty of those), but on a sustained assault on modern conservatism and a sustained defense of modern liberalism.

But it was only a start. He needs to keep pressing both halves of that game plan, even if it means occasionally saying some hard things. If he takes a few chances and does that, though, he'll not only win, he'll win with a public behind him that's actively sold on a genuinely liberal agenda. This is why conservatives have so far been apoplectic about his speech tonight: if he continues down this road, and wins, they know that he'll leave movement conservatism in tatters. He is, at least potentially, the most dangerous politician they've ever faced.

It is a more risky strategy than the one that most dems would prefer, the simple, "Bush sucks. Therefore, Republicans suck. McCain is a Republican. McCain sucks" election strategy. Obama's definitely has a higher reward and that reward is the destruction of movement conservatism.

The reason that i bring all of this back up is that Barack Obama is making sure this happens with his focus on the policies of John McCain. He is working to take out all the personal aspects of the campaign. That is why he went out of his way to deny something most dems hold true, namely that John McCain takes his positions for political reasons. It is not even that controversial as he has reversed on 75 plus issues during his campaign. Obama though wants to have the public support to enact his health care and other domestic plans. This can only come with the referendum on ideas he is trying to force.

Kevin believes that this tact will make it harder for McCain to justify his campaign of dishonor. I disagree and think it only gets worse. When faced with obstacles McCain is not likely to change course he is likely to escalate. The GOP has one mode and that is "any thing to win". That means that any slander they can think of will be thrown out there. Republicans dont adapt they escalate. The question then becomes not only what the voters decide to do but what does the media want to do?

They have a long standing love affair with the Mythic Maverick. This has started to fray around the edges as he cut down access and ran a sleazy campaign. However, it still exists, McCain is still graded on a curve and some still wonder why McCain lets his advisers dictate his actions. Obama's speech and strategy might even get us some media reform. Who knows what could happen if they start covering issues?

Over all i think Obama is going for the Big Win the transformative win. If he gets it he will change America and the results should be something to behold.


Best Convention Speech

That Obama guy gives a good speech. It runs just over 53 minutes long and is as close to perfection as you can possibly get. The entire thing is available throught the Democratic Party website here.

You really must watch it. Barack Obama is the best orator since MLK. He writes his own material and delivers it perfectly. There just aren't enough superlatives for it so i wont even try. There are so many highlights but i think that this stands out as a good step forward.

It's not because John McCain doesn't care. It's because John McCain doesn't get it.

For over two decades, he's subscribed to that old, discredited Republican philosophy — give more and more to those with the most and hope that prosperity trickles down to everyone else. In Washington, they call this the Ownership Society, but what it really means is — you're on your own. Out of work? Tough luck. No health care? The market will fix it. Born into poverty? Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps — even if you don't have boots. You're on your own.

Well it's time for them to own their failure. It's time for us to change America.

It is key because it links McCain to the Republican party as a whole reducing his independent persona. People are still giving McCain way more credit than he deserves for his apparent splits with his party. His 95% Bush compatible voting record tells the story of a man essentially assimilated like a Borg Drone into the collective. Pinning the failures of the past eight years not only on McCain and Bush but on the GOP as a whole, on their whole world view is a devastating maneuver.

The biggest thing to watch is not only whether Obama gets a bump out of this, he will, but what happens to the deeper cross tabs on McCain. Do his unfavorable go up after being exposed to this. That would be a great sign that the voters eyes have been opened some by the speech.

One thing to note is that although this may have been the best political speech in a generation i still consider the speech on race better. The pressure for that speech was greater and the margin narrower than for this speech. Obama was trying to set the bar low last night by saying this speech would be "workman like" but it retrospect he need not have done that. It was just impossible for the expectations to have exceeded what he did in Denver. He hit for the cycle, twice, with this speech.


Candidate McCain vs Senator McCain

>> Thursday, August 28, 2008

It is the one thing i dislike about the dems. They are unwilling to tell it like it is. They tip toe around issues and worry that it will make them look mean or reflect negatively on them. They have the stench of fear wafting from them. It is not hard to understand why after watching first Gore then Kerry lose in situations where they had no business losing. They had to watch as the GOP tore apart Max Cleland a true American Hero. They deal with a media who have long since abandoned the idea of personal integrity and promoting the truth and have instead prided themselves on fake balance and their own opinions.

It is for those reasons that i think we here the Dems afraid to go after McCain in a real way. The prominent Dems always lead with their feelings of friendship with McCain as Amy Sullivan explains:

A number of speakers have made reference to their personal friendship with John McCain, carefully noting how much they admire him, before going on to criticize him. And that's effective to a point — "more in sorrow than in anger" plays differently than straight-on attacks.

But Democrats might find it would be more effective if they explained why they're so disappointed with their friend John McCain. How did this great guy they admire so much became a candidate whose positions appall them? It wasn't a fluke, it wasn't like he had a personality transplant. And the answer would seem to fit perfectly into a powerful Democratic narrative. John McCain changed because that's what he had to do to win the Republican nomination. That's what the reigning conservative ideology and interests demanded of him.

It is very simple, John McCain sold out. He sold out for power and he sold out for ambition. He is doing what he thinks it takes to win. Maybe he is doing it out of an ends justify the means rationale, get into power to save America, i dont know. I do know he wrote this in his memoir

"I didn't decide to run for president to start a national crusade for the political reforms I believed in or to run a campaign as if it were some grand act of patriotism. In truth, I wanted to be president because it had become my ambition to be president. . . . In truth, I'd had the ambition for a long time."

Even if you disregard his internal thoughts the evidence is overwhelming that McCain will do anything to get elected. There are at least 75 confirmed swings in major positions since he began his Capt. Ahabesque pursuit of the presidency.

You can feel the dems edging around the main point but just staying outside. The main point is the synthesis of the Kerry and Clinton and Biden speeches. McCain is a candidate who has sold out everything he ever believed in to win the nomination of a party whose world view has brought us the last eight abysmal years. It was his choice to abandon truth in pursuit of power. He embraced a demonstrably disastrous and discredited world view for power. Its not only cynical and pathetic its dangerous. What would a man willing to sell his soul for power do in office?


More on the Dark Side of the Convention

The Convention in Denver has largely been a peaceful affair. The speeches given by both Clintons, John Kerry, Joe Biden and others really rocked the house. There were no instances of Clinton loyalists stabbing the Obama in the back and the unity was evident for all to see. That was all in front of the cameras. Behind the scenes there was some business being done. It is almost fitting that some of this stuff is coming up right at the time the Jack Abramoff the king of corruption is going to e sentenced. I wrote yesterday on the ATT party thrown for the Blue Dogs efforts on their behalf in congress. Wednesday there arose another story from the dark side of the convention, that of Asa Eslocker an ABC News producer arrested attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.

A police official later told lawyers for ABC News that Eslocker is being charged with trespass, interference, and failure to follow a lawful order. He also said the arrest followed a signed complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel.


Video taken at the scene shows a man, wearing the uniform of a Boulder County sheriff, ordering Eslocker off the sidewalk in front of the hotel, to the side of the entrance.

The sheriff's officer is seen telling Eslocker the sidewalk is owned by the hotel. Later, he is seen pushing Eslocker off the sidewalk into oncoming traffic, forcing him to the other side of the street.

It was two hours later when Denver police arrived to place Eslocker under arrest, apparently based on a complaint from the Brown Palace Hotel, a central location for Democratic officials.

During the arrest, one of the officers can be heard saying to Eslocker, "You're lucky I didn't knock the f..k out of you."

Video Here

Eslocker and crew were there investigating the role of corporate lobbyists and wealthy donors at the convention. That is some important work and we hope that there efforts to expose the seedy ties between corporations and our nations lawmakers. As of interest is what happens in the courts with this case. The facts at issue are unclear as it would have to be checked whether the hotel did in fact own that sidewalk.

In any event it is obvious why the hotel and these particular guests would be opposed to seeing themselves portrayed as corrupt. A story to keep an eye on...


DOJ Seeks Reduced Sentence For Abramoff In D.C. Corruption Case

You may or may not be familiar with the way the US justice system works. 95% of cases are plead out or settled. Meaning that less than 5% go to court. The art of the deal is one of the most important skills for defense attorneys to posses. The system cannot handle it if everyone went to trial. The other feature that comes with this dealing is that the little fish turn over on the bigger fish. This means that these fish who inform are given a lesser sentence, even when the fish is particularly rotten. In this case the rotten fish is Jack Abramoff,

Federal prosecutors are seeking a reduced sentence for imprisoned GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff in a Washington, D.C., corruption case, citing his his "significant and useful" cooperation against other individuals involved in the scandal that brought down the one-time K Street superstar.

Prosecutors are seeking only a 64-month sentence for Abramoff in the D.C. corruption case, far less than the minimum 108 months behind bars he could have received under federal sentencing guidelines. Abramoff, who is already serving a 70-month prison term in a Florida fraud case, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 4 in the D.C. case.

The Washington Post is reporting that Abramoff "would serve no more than another three years and three months in prison, not accounting for credit for good behavior awarded by the Bureau of Prisons," meaning he could be out by late 2011, and possibly a year earlier if Abramoff's attorneys are successful in winning furhter reductions.

This is particularly grating. This is one of those cases where the person needs to spend a decade plus in prison. Corrupting the American government should be considered treason. It was a crime against the American people are certainly cost the lives of some Americans. So excuse me if i dont find this enought to let him out.

The reduced sentence for Abramoff "is appropriate given Abramoff’s extraordinary cooperation to date, cooperation which can be wholly or partially credited for the convictions of a member of Congress, five high-level legislative branch officials, one high-level executive branch official, and two other mid- to low-level public officials, as well as ongoing matters," prosecutors wrote. This list includes: former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio); Tony Rudy, a one-time top aide to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas); Neil Volz, Ney's former chief of staff and former lobbyist at Abramoff's firm; Will Heaton, another former Ney aide; and J. Steven Griles, former deputy secretary of the Interior Dept.

The government also recommended that Abramoff's tax penalties be reduced by more than $1 million, citing errors in the original calculation of what Abramoff owed in 2001 and 2002.

Given that the DOJ was recently investigated for its political hiring practices and the people Abramoff informed on where from the same party it makes it a little suspect that they are letting him out early. Jack should stay in prison. I dont care how much he helped put other sleaze bags away. He does not deserve to be let out early. No easing of sentence restrictions please.


McCain's real health plan

>> Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sometimes i have to wonder what the GOP is thinking. Can they really be that callous and unfeeling? They have to have some human compassion for their brothers and sisters less fortunate, some desire to help those struggling to stay a float. Then you read stuff like this...

But the numbers are misleading, said John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis, a right-leaning Dallas-based think tank. Mr. Goodman, who helped craft Sen. John McCain's health care policy, said anyone with access to an emergency room effectively has insurance, albeit the government acts as the payer of last resort. (Hospital emergency rooms by law cannot turn away a patient in need of immediate care.)

"So I have a solution. And it will cost not one thin dime," Mr. Goodman said. "The next president of the United States should sign an executive order requiring the Census Bureau to cease and desist from describing any American – even illegal aliens – as uninsured. Instead, the bureau should categorize people according to the likely source of payment should they need care.

"So, there you have it. Voila! Problem solved."

This is unbelievably stupid for a number of reasons. The first is that people running to the emergency room for gun shots are not insured. To say otherwise is patently ridiculous. Second, even if we accepted that premise McCain would want to end the practice as being socialized medicine, because that is exactly what he is describing.

McCain should be hit with this over and over. The millions of Americans who are uninsured, who cannot get dental, cannot get preventative care are need health care reform. It is clear that with McCain your not going to get it.


The Dark Side of the Convention

The Democratic Convention is the place to be right now. Denver is the center of the political world and so everyone from delegates to politicians to journalists has flocked. One thing to remember though is that where the powerful go so do the special interests and the lobbyists. These people are not there to party and have a vacation, these people are there to work.

They way they work is to set up parties and receptions. They invite lawmakers and power brokers to these events. They invite some to pitch their money and there interests and they invite others for a job well done. If you doubt that you can read this piece by Glenn Greenwald at

Last night in Denver, at the Mile High Station -- next to Invesco Stadium, where Barack Obama will address a crowd of 30,000 people on Thursday night -- AT&T threw a lavish, private party for Blue Dog House Democrats, virtually all of whom blindly support whatever legislation the telecom industry demands and who also, specifically, led the way this July in immunizing AT&T and other telecoms from the consequences for their illegal participation in the Bush administration's warrantless spying program. Matt Stoller has one of the listings for the party here.

The blue dogs are a blight on the Democratic Party. The one thing i cant stand about them is not that they are more conservative than i would like, they are, but its that they refused to stand up as a classic conservative or a liberal. they threw the 4th amendment under the bus for campaign contributions. You cant balme everything on the BD though. They just happened to be the ones serving corporate interests on this particular bill. They are not at all alone in their attitudes, as Greenwald illustrates

It was really the perfect symbol for how the Beltway political system functions -- those who dictate the nation's laws (the largest corporations and their lobbyists) cavorting in total secrecy with those who are elected to write those laws (members of Congress), while completely prohibiting the public from having any access to and knowledge of -- let alone involvement in -- what they are doing. And all of this was arranged by the corporation -- AT&T -- that is paying for a substantial part of the Democratic National Convention with millions upon millions of dollars, which just received an extraordinary gift of retroactive amnesty from the Congress controlled by that party, whose logo is splattered throughout the city wherever the DNC logo appears -- virtually attached to it -- all taking place next to the stadium where the Democratic presidential nominee, claiming he will cleanse the Beltway of corporate and lobbying influences, will accept the nomination on Thursday night.

While you watch the powerful speeches by public officials keep this ATT event in mind. The glitz and the glam are one side of the convention, the corporate money and lobbying is the other.


Clinton's Speech

>> Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My first reaction to the Clinton speech was that it kicked ass. I will not pretend that i was a big fan of the way Clinton ran her campaign or the people she employed to do it. I thought her campaign was cynical and against the ideals the Democratic Party stands for. That being said her speech did enough to wash away much of the personal dislike i felt for her. Here is the speech:

There were many highlight lines.

I want you to ask yourselves: Were you in this campaign just for me? Or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him? Were you in it for that mom struggling with cancer while raising her kids? Were you in it for that boy and his mom surviving on the minimum wage? Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?

...I haven't spent the past 35 years in the trenches advocating for children, campaigning for universal health care, helping parents balance work and family, and fighting for women's rights at home and around the world . . . to see another Republican in the White House squander the promise of our country and the hopes of our people.

And you haven't worked so hard over the last 18 months, or endured the last eight years, to suffer through more failed leadership.

No way. No how. No McCain.

...It makes a lot of sense that next week John McCain and George Bush will be together in the Twin Cities, because these days they're awfully hard to tell apart.

All of those along with her retelling of the Harriet Tubman anecdote made for a memorable speech.

Clinton did enough and her speech will be hailed as a success, and it was. There were several drawbacks that people will be more than happy to point out. Clinton did not go down the list of her primary attacks on Obama and repudiate them. Some people may have liked to here her telling of Obama's personal abilities vis a vis the presidency. Clinton saying unequivocally that Obama can handle the duties of Commander in Chief would have been a big plus.

Clinton will now go out and hit the trail for Obama in Penn and Ohio and other states where she performed really well. If she continues to support Obama and work tirelessly for his election then there is no reason she cant be the next liberal lioness of the Senate.


What has McCain ever done?

I recently posted on the idea that Obama should make accountability and responsibility a more visible part of his campaign. Part of this idea entails hitting McCain on something that he likes to claim as his strength, the idea he is a strong leader. People think because McCain is visible on the TV and is well known that he must have done something in terms of legislation to justify this fame. McCain claims he can lead America but what has he ever accomplished?

If you want to know the real celebrity in the race, the empty suit that man is John McCain. McCain wants to make the race about the ability to get things done but he has done very little. His only piece of land mark legislation is McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation. He has been in the halls of power for almost three decades and this is all he has to show for it? Not to mention that he has actually flipped on his own bill because the base hates it.

What has McCain been doing while in congress? Here is what Obama has to say about himself and his accomplishments

In the Illinois State Senate, this meant working with both Democrats and Republicans to help working families get ahead by creating programs like the state Earned Income Tax Credit, which in three years provided over $100 million in tax cuts to families across the state. He also pushed through an expansion of early childhood education, and after a number of inmates on death row were found innocent, Senator Obama worked with law enforcement officials to require the videotaping of interrogations and confessions in all capital cases.

In the U.S. Senate, he has focused on tackling the challenges of a globalized, 21st century world with fresh thinking and a politics that no longer settles for the lowest common denominator. His first law was passed with Republican Tom Coburn, a measure to rebuild trust in government by allowing every American to go online and see how and where every dime of their tax dollars is spent. He has also been the lead voice in championing ethics reform that would root out Jack Abramoff-style corruption in Congress.

As a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Senator Obama has fought to help Illinois veterans get the disability pay they were promised, while working to prepare the VA for the return of the thousands of veterans who will need care after Iraq and Afghanistan. Recognizing the terrorist threat posed by weapons of mass destruction, he traveled to Russia with Republican Dick Lugar to begin a new generation of non-proliferation efforts designed to find and secure deadly weapons around the world.

If people are after someone who can get things done than John McCain is not the guy. People should be reminded of this. McCain, he cant remember the number of houses he has, has done nothing for three decades in congress and was wrong on the war.


Making it easier to vote not always the best option.

When talking about American elections one of the most common lamentations is that we have poor turnout. The commonly held belief is that we need to make voting as easy as possible to increase turnout. To this end, a number of options have been considered including internet voting and entirely mail in elections. Is this really the right approach? Are the elections in which these options have been used actually showing higher rates of turn out, and if so is across the board or only among certain demographics? Several studies have been conducted to examine these questions and the answers are not as straight forward as might be expected.

There are two main obstacles to overcome when one wants to vote. The first obstacle is registration. Obama is currently working as hard as he can to register voters to increase his potential voting pool. The second is the act of voting itself. This entails acquiring, filling out, and submitting the ballot. Most people believe that if we make it as easy as possible we can increase voter turnout. This makes sense, as people generally believe that this act is a simple cost benefit analysis. If the cost is made low enough surely no citizen will have an excuse or reason to abstain from voting.

There are many different tracts being taken to reduce this cost of voting. They include same day registration, permanent absentee voting, mail in elections, mobile voting booths. No one has yet instituted internet voting at the federal level though that is another option being considered in the age of technology. It seems fair though that before we spend millions, possibly billions, of dollars to wonder whether these reforms, designed to increase turnout, will actually do that.

The first thing that should be addressed is the mail in voting. This is the method that was employed in Oregon since 1996. It is particularly relevant because it is a system that has very high support among the public at large polling consistently above the 75% level of support even after more than a decade in use. The data on the results of the law is decidedly mixed.

The initial research into whether voting by mail would increase turnout was positive. A number of studies found that the more lenient the absentee voting laws, the higher the turn out. The first instances to observe whether voting by mail would have a dramatic effect were in local elections and they did prove to boost turnout. However, the elections have notoriously low turnout and the increase there should not be generalized to larger more high profile elections like the current presidential race. In a paper published in 2000 on the VBM elections in Oregon, Karp and Banducci found that

Turnout in the presidential election, the special Senate election, and the two presidential primaries conducted was roughly equivalent to the average turnout in comparable elections held at the polling place.

… that the composition of the electorate changes in important ways that are consistent with our expectations that VOBM elections will not mobilize groups that traditionally participate at lower rates.

These two conclusions taken together would prove very troubling for the Dems. The groups that from the backbone of the Dem constituency are those whose participation is actually reduced at the same time as participation in traditionally strong Rep demographics increases.

A 2005 paper, published by James Madison’s Mary Fitzgerald, supports this finding. This paper examined multiple different voting reforms to see what effects they had on the turnout both in gross numbers and across socio-economic lines. Her conclusions were similarly disappointing for proponents of voter reform.

…this study sheds new light on the relationships between early voting procedures and electoral participation, demonstrating their inability to boost turnout in elections despite providing greater accessibility to the ballot. As a result, convenient voting procedures such as early voting do not effectively accomplish the goal of contributing to more widespread participation in U.S. elections and thereby do not enhance the representativeness of the American electorate.

These are two of the more recent studies conducted but they are by no means the only ones. There is conflicting data from earlier studies that do find increases in turn out. I chose to take the most recent ones as I felt the closer in time to the present the less likely is it that there have been major structural or social changes to influence the data. There is a recent survey conducted by Priscilla L. Southwell, University of Oregon that found an increase among self-reporting voters of 25%. This data seems specious to me as it is a well established fact that people lie about voting in numbers up to 25% of those who say they voted. Self reporting an increase in voting just is not sound enough.

Electoral reforms that do seem to have a positive impact on the number of people who vote seem to focus not on the last step of the chain but on the first. Specifically, making it easier to register to vote has a small but significant impact on the turnout. This is a boost of around 3% and does usually tend to favor Dem demographics like the young and the minority voter. This is enough to make a big difference in close races and is one of the reasons it is so opposed by GOP pols.

The other source of information on VOBM that I found very interesting is the research coming out of Switzerland on the issue. Now it is true that the Swiss are a very different civic culture than us and their voting behavior may tell us nothing about our own voting behavior or the effects of voting reform. Despite this I think the data and conclusions of Simon Luechinger, Myra Rosinger and Alois Stutzer from the University of Zurich and University of Basel is worth relating.

One of the most important facts in this case is that voting by mail was introduced into different Swiss cantons at different times. This allows the identification of the impact of postal voting separate from time, issue and canton-specific effects on turnout. The study covers postal voting participation in national ballots for Swiss elections that were held between 1970 and 2005. They concluded the following,

According to our econometric analysis, the average effect the change over had on turnout (in national ballots) was roughly 4.1% points with an average turnout of 43% during the last three and a half decades. According to our most refined estimation, with canton-specific time trends, unrestricted postal voting led to a one time constant shift. We neither find a gradual increase in the effect of postal voting, nor robust evidence that the initial effect is gradually getting weaker. Additional specifications study differential effects by canton and referendum characteristics.

They too found that the main benefit of VOBM was found in the less high profile local elections.

You can take those results how you like. It is possible that the difference in American civic culture and that of the Swiss is enough to make that data irrelevant, or not.

Even assuming it to be true though 4% is hardly the massive boost that people seem to envision when they picture voting reform. They seem to long for the civic utopia where every one votes and everyone pays attention. How realistic this is, is left to you. I personally believe that we can achieve much higher turnout rates in this country thought the methods employed may be politically unfeasible.

The fist is shame voting. Remember those people who falsely report voting? Well evidence suggests that we can shame them into voting by threatening to send a letter to their neighbors or publish in a newspaper the names of those people who voted and who did not vote. The controversial Gerber and Green study, Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-Scale Field Experiment, published earlier this year, found incredible returns when social pressure is applied,

The control group in our study voted at a rate of 29.7%. By comparison, the “Civic Duty” treatment group voted at a rate of 31.5%, suggesting that appeals to civic duty alone raise turnout by 1.8 percentage points. Adding social pressure in the form of Hawthorne effects raises turnout to 32.2%, which implies a 2.5 percentage point gain over the control group. The effect of showing households their own voting records is dramatic. Turnout climbs to 34.5%, a 4.9 percentage-point increase over the control group. Even more dramatic is the effect of showing households both their own voting records and the voting records of their neighbors. Turnout in this experimental group is 37.8%, which implies a remarkable 8.1 percentage-point treatment effect.

This of course brings with it a whole host of new dilemmas. For instance, do we really want people to vote so bad that we condemn them publicly for failing to do so? Would these people take the vote seriously, conduct research; make an informed vote if threatened in this manner? While incredibly effective, this may be one tactic that is not feasible in our country.

Another possibility for increasing voter turnout is mandatory. The most commonly cited model for this is the Australian model. By law, all Australian citizens over the age of 18 must register to vote and show up at a polling place on Election Day. A citizen who misses the election is subject to a $15 fine. The Australian mandatory voting law is successful in increasing voter turnout above 90%.

Again as with the social pressure model, the Australian one has some drawbacks when applied to the United States. First question is whether we want to force people to vote. Is there a detriment to having voters who feel that it is a chore to vote, a punishment in effect? Is fining someone for failing to perform the duties of citizenship ok? We have severe consequences for those who do not perform jury duty so I do not see why voting should be very different. Moreover, with our deficit the way it is we could use the extra capital.

The final thing to consider is whether making voting harder might actually increase participation. Would denying people their right get them indignant enough so that they actually perform the act when they had no intention of doing so before? I do not have empirical evidence to support the idea that if people were faced with losing their ability to vote they would be more eager to exercise it. I can only offer the anecdotal evidence that is presented when felons lose their right to vote. Many of them struggle for years to have that returned to them. Maybe voting is a case of you don’t know what you got till its gone.

When people consider ways to increase voter turn out it is surprising to them when they find that making it easier to vote does not appear to have a drastic impact. It is counter intuitive to those who hold the practice of voting sacred that some choose to disdain it so. I believe that until we change the culture surrounding the perceptions of politics and public service we will not see high voluntary turnout in this country. The attitudes attached to it in many corners of our society just make it unlikely that those groups will be willing to put off their lives for the time it takes to do the research and to cast the ballot.


People think Obama is an Empty Suit.

>> Monday, August 25, 2008

According to Ezra Klein they do:

Matt Yglesias's point on the self-deception evident in focus groups cuts in a lot of different directions. It's definitely not the case that voters want to hear more policy details from Barack Obama. If it were, then the Obama campaign would be in good shape, as they'd just have the candidate read out some policy details. When the focus groupers complain that there's too much oratory and not enough substance, they're actually getting at something much harder for the Obama campaign to combat: The perception that he's all glitz. The Obama campaign's struggle is that, over the course of the summer, they basically let their candidate get defined as a dilettante, and cleverly, the McCain camp used as its supporting evidence much that's intrinsic to Obama: That he gives soaring speeches and is attractive and generates extreme levels of enthusiasm. They defined Obama, in other words, as a fad, and people don't trust fads. It's not clear how Obama campaign combats that perception given that it's anchored to the fundamentals of his political style, but they're either going to have to blunt the concern or open up a much greater vulnerability in McCain.

It is a very interesting notion. It puts the McCain celebrity ad into a completely new context. The majority of Pop Stars are very transient and last only a brief time before fading out. Like pogs they are picked up and dropped in a short time. They are shiny and new and then suddenly they are old and forgotten. I his point is accurate than Obama has a big problem because these people are lo info voters and they wont really exert themselves in correcting their false opinions. They wont be exposed enough to change. I think though that reading the entire piece that Ezra links to, through Matt and ultimately to Joe Klein, gives a little different picture.

What do they want? Given a list of 31 personal attributes the next President might have and asked to pick the eight most important, "Accountability" finished highest with 13 votes, next was "Someone I can trust" with 12, "honest and ethical" was third with 11. "Agrees with me on the issues" got one vote. They didn't care if the candidate was a Washington insider or outsider. "A dynamic and charismatic leader" got two votes...(Add: When Luntz asked them which was more important, "accountability" or "change," the vote was 17 to 4 in favor of accountability.)

That should be the focus of any piece on this group. Clearly what people want is change. What “change” was supposed to stand for was a new way of doing things where competent people were put in place and the incompetent were fired. Change away from the Bush years where cronies and sycophants were put in places designed to subvert government. They think the government is broken and they don’t trust either candidate to really do anything about it. Obama is playing into this because the more he offers the less people believe he is going to deliver.

For this group in particular it is not about fixing the economy or any thing other than returning government to a body that works for the people. Screw-ups get people fired. Money is not “lost”. It is the idea of personal responsibility making a comeback.

The good news is that these people are not “government is the problem” people. They are pissed because they think government can work but has just been screwed up. Obama the outside reformer come to clean up Washington should be a big hit as long as people believe he is going to do it. Obama is being seen as a regular politician,

Promises don't work. Whenever Obama promised a $1000 tax break in one of the ads, the reaction was negative--the dial ratings went south. When he said that we'd spend less money on health if people took better care of themselves, the independents--many of whom were, shall we say, Big Gulp Americans--responded well.

The tax credit is seen as a false promise but people recognize the exercise stuff as true. An Obama message tailored to holding people responsible for screwing up the past eight years would be a big hit. Think about it, no one likes Bush. Every one thinks we are headed down the wrong track. Promising to bring forth the heads of those responsible sounds like a winning argument.

I am not going to say Obama should make his arguments about accountability and responsibility but I think it makes sense.


A Good Question

If we are going to care about the faiths of our candidates, not saying we should, shouldn't we ask that they live up to their faith? Plenty of people in this country vote on the basis of religious conviction. When they do this it typically only done on a small subset of issues like abortion or homosexual marriage. It should go without saying though that the faiths the candidates subscribe to encompass significantly more than that. This is why the recent Rick Warren led Saddleback Forum drew such interest. It was the first time in a long time that issues other than strictly abortion or gay marriage were discussed in relation to faith. One question though went unanswered and unasked, "How do you reconcile your Christian faith with your wealth?".

The WaPo online has an Under God Section where matters of faith are blogged. They recently blogged on just this topic. The writer, David Waters, has two questions he wants to put to the candidates respectively,

I'd like to hear McCain's response to this question: "You are a rich man. You and your wife Cindy own seven homes, which you apparently use just for yourselves and your children. A number of years ago, you adopted a child from an orphanage in Bangladesh. How many more children could you save if you sold five or six of your homes and just used one or two for yourself. As a Christian, do you feel a responsibility to do that?"

I'd like to hear Obama's response to this question: "You are a rich man. A few years ago, you signed two book deals worth nearly $2.3 million. You and your wife Michelle made more than $4 million last year and you own a home worth more than $1 million. What have you done with that money to help "the least of these." I don't mean how many checks have you written to charity. Can you give us specific names of people you have helped?"

It gets at the heart of several important issues in this country. Why do we excuse those who profess their faith in the public square yet fail to follow through in private? Is it enough that the wealthy dedicate their lives to public service in compensation for their wealth? Is it right for our leaders to all be wealthy?

I am sure that McCain would be more than happy to cite his service to the country in both the military and in government as his compensation for his wealth. I do not see this as enough, judging by what his Christian faith requires. McCain like many who use the cover of faith to earn votes is not so concerned with the actual tenants of that foaith or living that faith in his everyday life. If he was maybe he would have been able to answer Pastor Warren with stories not from 40 years ago but from the morning of the forum or the previous week.

As for Obama, i think there really is a difference between 4 million and 40 million. Obama is rich and could afford to help many people but i would not require him to give until he is not rich. He has earned the money and deserves to be the primary beneficiary of that effort. He has helped many people working as an organizer on the streets of Chicago and i think he might very well be able to name people he has helped, even after he became "rich".

I think that what a person does with their money does reveal things about who they are and what type of character they have. It is a question that should be asked, not only because we seem to care about candidates faiths, but because such insight would help us pick not only the person with the best policies but the best person in general.


Convention Time

It is finally here. The conventions mark the beginning of the "real" general election. The campaign finance rules change and the feel of the campaign shifts. For those interested in Team Obama the time during and right after the convention should be an indicator of where they plan to take the general. The convention serves as a symbolic turning point allowing the campaign to shift gears are make a transition to something new without it looking like desperation. McCain too has several questions surrounding him that the immediate post convention tone will answer. Here is what i think we should look for:

1. Obama on Offense.

John McCain has made a lot of mistakes during the course of the campaign. Most of these stem from the fact that he is willing to do whatever it takes to win, including deception. These deceptions make it tough for McCain to maintain a consistent and plausible identity. It has cost him his brand and has begun to sour the press on him, if only a little. Obama has so far been pretty light on the attack refusing to get into a real fight with McCain. The McCain Moment where he forgot how many houses he owns gave a glimpse of how they can attack. Now they just need to keep on the attack.

I suspect that Biden will play a big part in this. He is known as someone willing to bring the lumber when needed and Obama may have been waiting till he had his VP to lay into McCain. Biden's wit should prove a welcome addition.

Look also for other prominent Dems to start laying into McCain. The Obma camp has been very concerned about control over everything and this appears to have lessened the role for other Dems to go out an hammer McCain. All the messages seem to come from Obama himself. I think he could use the help and a coordinated offensive needs to come from multiple angles, surrogates help with that.

2. What will the Clintons do?

McCain has made a point of appealing to the possibly disaffected Clinton voters. He hopes to undercut both the enthusiasm and support of Dems behind Obama. These types of attacks may seem stupid or transparent to most voters but to those they are aimed at they might resonate. Bitter people looking for reinforcement of their views may not realize the game McCain is playing. This is why both Bill and Hillary Clinton's roles will be crucial.

They both need to get out there and tell everyone at every opportunity how great Obama is. They need to make it clear that not only should voters choose Obama because he is better than a Republican but because they personally admire him, support him. They cannot leave room for doubt. I would advocate cutting a couple of commercials imploring the former Clinton voters to back Obama and not to vote for McCain out of spite. they could go a long way towards clearing up the idea of lingering resentment.

3. McCain out of the gutter and into the sewage.

I fully expect McCain to throw every nasty idea he can think of at Obama. I would not be at all surprised to hear the McCain cut an ad with a southern white woman accusing Obama of being soft on rapists. McCain has already made attacks on Obama's patriotism and distorted his position on a number of issues. I doubt any topic is going to be off limits to McCain. The question is now, "how far will he fall?"

4. Where is the soul of the GOP

The McCain VP pick will tell us a great deal about the internal struggles and politics of the GOP. If McCain picks Romney it will signal that the well has pretty much run dry. Romney is not a particularly strong candidate for either the VP position or the presidency. His selection reveals that there is no one else available who can sieze the initiative for the next run at the presidency. Romney proved how lackluster he was during the primary. The Romney pick is also bad because he does not match up well at all with Biden.

Romney has no foreign policy experience. Biden has a lot. Romney is not a good debater, Biden is. Romney is not consistent on hardly any issues and cannot give credible explanations why he witched positions. Biden's most obvious change is on the war and he has already apologized and explained that vote.

5. Media Coverage

The other thing to watch is how the media covers the general election. Will they start to actually cover McCain based on the reality and not the constructed myth? It is not very likely given the cognitive dissonance that they are performing right now. They jump through hoop after hoop to explain away McCain's behavior. They give him every benefit of the doubt. Hopefully though his over use of the POW status will cause a backlash or eye role among the press turning his biggest asset against him. Without the press McCain is nothing.

It is probably too much to hope for that they treat the election like it is supposed to be about issues so i would not even bother wasting your time searching for that.


Biden's Role in Governence

>> Sunday, August 24, 2008

When i clicked on the NYT op ed written by Mark Penn it was with the full intention of finding something to mock. O have very little admiration for Penn and am mystified as to why he continues to receive column inches in major newspapers. Imagine my surprise when i read something i agree with.

From Al Gore on, the role of the vice president seems to have fundamentally changed. It used to be where the winner parked the loser or some other figure that he wanted to neutralize. Now, with the centralization of government power in the White House, the vice president has become essentially a Cabinet head. Indeed, the last two vice presidents have had real portfolios and responsibilities, second only to the president.

Penn is absolutely right (yuck). The power of the VP has come a long way since FDR’s First Vice President John Nance Garner called it a "warm bucket of piss". As the example of the VP's power is the one and only Dick Cheney.

Once in office, Mr. Cheney wound up playing major roles in national security if not running it. He leaves office as one of the first vice presidents in recent history to have no presidential ambitions but also as the least liked No. 2 since Spiro Agnew was forced to resign for accepting bribes. We are again heading for a vice president who, if elected, will be a major and important player in an Obama administration.

Thanks to Cheney and Gore the office now has meaning. The question now becomes what does Joe Biden want to do with it? He is commonly viewed as a foriegn policy guy but i have a hard time imagining that Obama will be willing to abdicate that role to someone. Obama has a pretty firm view of what we need to do in the world and how we need to do it. That means that Biden's area of policy control will be something domestically. My speculation is that that area will be primarily in the field of Justice and Law.

On his Web Page Biden touts several important domestic bills pertaining to the area of Law and Justice. These bills are:

The Second Chance Act, signed into law on April 9, 2008, will assist federal, state and local governments in providing inmates with the tools they need to successfully reintegrate into the community upon their release.

COPS Bill: building upon the revolutionary approach of the successful 1994 Biden Crime Bill while promoting new, innovative programs to focus on today's problems.

: "I consider the Violence Against Women Act the single most significant legislation that I’ve crafted during my 35-year tenure in the Senate. Indeed, the enactment of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994 was the beginning of a historic commitment to women and children victimized by domestic violence and sexual assault. Our nation has been rewarded for this commitment. Since the Act’s passage in 1994, domestic violence has dropped by almost 50%, incidents of rape are down by 60%, and the number of women killed by an abusive husband or boyfriend is down by 22%. Today, more than half of all rape victims are stepping forward to report the crime. And since we passed the Act in 1994 over a million women have found justice in our courtrooms and obtained domestic violence protective orders."

People forget that Biden is not only on the Foreign Relations committee but also the Judiciary Committee and the Drug Caucus. He has spent a great deal of his time in the Senate working on these issues and if he cannot have the foriegn relations perhaps he will continue to work in these areas.

Another reason that i feel Biden will try to exert himself in this area is that Obama has not made this a center piece of his campaign. It is one of the areas that i think least has his stamp on it. He has talked some about his "urban policies" but has not made a major push for groundbreaking reform in that area. It means he can leave that to Biden without worrying that Biden will take it in a direction he would not like. Not that that is likely to happen as one of the few policy prescriptions Obama does mention is support for Biden's COPS Bill.

Support Local Law Enforcement: Barack Obama is committed to fully funding the COPS program to combat crime and help address police brutality and accountability issues in local communities. Obama also supports efforts to encourage young people to enter the law enforcement profession, so that our local police departments are not understaffed because of a dearth of qualified applicants.

Biden has to have something to do as VP. Playing the world diplomat is for the Sec of State and attending the worlds funerals is not a particularly appealing job. Biden has to get something out of this so why not policy leadership in the other area he spent his career working in?


Every One Loves a Critic

Occasionally i read something and just love it. Not that often. This is a little old but i thought it nailed the TM to the wall. The piece is a written by LAT TV Critic Mary McNamara and it really deserves a read.

FOR DECADES, political pundits and voters alike have complained about the banality of the national conventions. Gone are the days when the party platforms really meant anything to anyone, when loyalties were bartered and policy deals hammered out in those iconic smoke-filled back rooms by men in wilting white shirts. Now it's just an office party of sorts, a series of scripted speeches and sound bytes signifying nothing. We are, after all, a nation that increasingly chooses its president based on that most ephemeral of factors -- personality.

So basically what we're looking for as we approach the conventions is some wonderful off-mike moment -- a backstage meltdown involving a Clinton perhaps, a racist comment from a McCain supporter, a wonderful/terrible political gaffe from either candidate. Something that would tell us all we really need to know without making us think too hard about the wars or the economy or our rapidly eroding education and healthcare infrastructures.

It is true and worth a look.


Fear Keeps Iraqis Out of Their Baghdad Homes

Imagine coming home to your apartment or house and finding everything gone. What would your reaction be? Anger, shock, fear? Imagine further that you exit your house to discover a man standing their with an automatic weapon. A man with cold eyes and a chilling stare. The man delivers a message, a warning, to you that needs no words. You don't live here anymore.

Such is the story related yesterday in the NYT. It is the story of Jabar, an elderly Shiite man. It is the story of Jabar but it might as well be the story of hundreds, thousands of Iraqi's caught in the sectarian struggle over control of Iraq. Those positioned in the nexus of the conflict are choosing to leave Baghdad out of fear and the overwhelming majority have stayed away. Jabar is trying to sell the house while staying in a rented one, less than a mile away in an area that is mostly Shiite. Like many of the more than 151,000 people forced from their homes he is unwilling to risk that the sectarian killings that seemed to have ceased are truly gone.

The fear felt by those who have resisted the return to their homes is one bridges cultures and language. They cite the zealous youth, the men who might decide to ignore the directives of their superiors. When Jabar tried to get information about his house to determine if he might move back he discovered that the area was still unsafe for th Shiites.

“The street was empty except for them,” Jabbar said. A short time later, two Shiites were killed a few blocks away. Then, a Sunni renting a relative’s house received a threatening letter. When he told the neighborhood guards about it, they asked him to prove his Sunni identity and then told him to disregard the letter.

“From that moment, I felt I could not go back to my house again,” he said.

The times story gives insight into how three of the US policies in Iraq are working. The first is that the "Surge" clearly did not work. Political reconciliation has not happened. If it had their would be a great deal less fear on both sides. The Sunni who are seizing the houses and preventing Shia from returning would be barred from this in any political agreement. instead, we see this as a common occurrence.

Two, the US funding of the awaking council is facilitating a convergence of Sunni who wish to be paid as members. The US is acting as the source of welfare for this Group of Iraqis and it is fomenting some violence against Shia as Sunni wish to keep the houses and neighborhoods the claimed as housing for those moving into the city.

That the sectarian killings really did drive people out of their homes. The reduction in violence appears to have been that they ran out of people to kill. The story highlights several instances where sectarian killings occurred because the two groups simply came into contact.

Keep all this in mind next time you here McCain tell you the surge worked.


McCain Camp, Obama has No Tough Critics

>> Saturday, August 23, 2008

Well that is not exactly their attack but it is a logical extension of it. In a fund raising E-Mail McCain campaign manager Rick Davis had this to say about the Biden pick.

"Senator Obama's choice in a running-mate once again brings up his questionable judgment when faced with making major decisions," Davis wrote.

"Senator Biden has long been a leading critic of Senator Obama's lack of foreign policy experience. He's criticized Senator Obama for his lack of leadership and judgment on Iraq, Afghanistan and his commitment to meet unconditionally with the leaders of rogue states," he also wrote.

Think about this though, the Obama's toughest critic is on the ticket. This has several implications. One it proves Obama is willing to surround himself with people who disagree with him as he said,

I want somebody who is independent. Somebody who is able to say to me, 'you know what, Mr. President, I think you're wrong on this and here's why' and will give me (applause) who will help me think through major issues and consult with me, would be a key advisor.

The second implication is that Obama's toughest critic is willing to accept a position on the ticket. Biden clearly thinks Obama is up to the task so harsh a critic can he be? If Obama has no harsher critic than someone who thinks he is not very bad then he has no tough critics. He has no tough critics he must be a pretty good choice right? I am sure thats what the McCain camp wanted to say.


Joementum II orJust Biden Time.

Barack Obama announced his choice for Vice President today. His choice is the Senior Senator from Delaware Joe Biden. Everyone on the web has given their thoughts on the Biden choice and i am going to be no different on this occasion. I like Biden.

There are a number of potential negatives to the pick.

1. Biden is a "balance pick" designed to sure up perceived weaknesses.

The problem with balance picks is that they admit to the weakness in the principle. Obama has spent a great deal of time fighting on foriegn policy grounds and his chosen running mate is someone perceived as a foriegn policy specialist. It is a potential admission that Obama needed help in this area. While the conventional wisdom is that Biden will solve this weakness in the minds of voters i am rather dubious of this claim. People vote the top of the ticket and that is still Obama v McCain. Obama will always be making the final decision and while Biden can advise if you think Obama cannot handle the job the fact his VP can would not be as helpful as CW providers think.

2. Biden is a long time Washington guy and as such does not reinforce central theme of Obama campaign.

Biden has been in the senate for some time now. Obama has predicated his candidacy on his outsider status and his "change" theme. Biden is not that guy. He has a great deal of experience and also some responsibility for the problems Obama rails against. It comes with the territory after such a long tenure. This is not the to say Biden is not liberal or a DINO. Biden is a more liberal Democrat despite his atrocious Bankruptcy Bill.

3. Biden is going to be a story.

The star of this show is Barack Obama. People will go to the polls and decide if Obama has the gravitas to lead our country. When voters make their choice they should not be thinking about what the potential vice president has said or done. Biden is someone who is not afraid of the camera or the spotlight. He will be center stage at some point in the campaign for what he has said and detract from the Obama campaigns message. Biden loves to talk and can be unfailingly blunt when doing so. It is a risk to have someone like Biden as the number two because of his outspoken personality and nature.

Those are the negatives. The positives of the Biden pick though are numerous. Biden brings something to the ticket no other Dem would, otherwise he would not have been the guy.

1. Biden will kick ass.

Joe Biden is not afraid to mix it up with his opponents and call them out for lies and pandering. His great line about Rudi Giuliani, "There's only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun, and a verb and 9/11," is one of the best in recent political history setting Giuliani up as a figure to ridicule. That is Joe Biden he has wit and he has timing and he has no fear. In his introduction today he had a great line,

You sit at your kitchen table and worry about how to pay the bills. That's not something John McCain has to worry about. He worries about which of the seven kitchen tables to sit at.

The reason that this is such a good attribute is that McCain lies constantly. He hides behind his POW status in order to avoid tough questions about his policies and his actions. Biden will be the lead Armored Division for the Dems hitting McCain on his gaffes and never letting him up.

2. Debate Skills

Part of what makes Biden such a good attacker makes him a good debater. He will confront whoever McCain places opposite him and not let him lie like Edwards and Lieberman did. Biden will tear his opponent apart and his performance should prevent the VP Debate from being a negative for the Dems.

3. His Image

Biden's image is that of a working class guy made good. Someone who has not forgotten where he came from. He rides Amtrack to work. The media should love to portray Biden as "the guy from the neighborhood". If they like to portray Obama as an intellectual or too upper class, Biden will be the opposite. It makes a good team photo. For the people who care about our candidates being seen as working class guys Biden fits that image. For what the VP is worth he should help Obama with some more reticent voters in the Rust Belt states.

4. Foreign Policy Gravitas

Obama's vice president was requested by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in the recent crisis. Biden is a widely acknowledged foreign policy guy. This means that when McCain makes his ridiculous statements about his policies for the world Biden will be able to highlight just how dangerous and reactionary they are. As long as he is seen as acting in his own words he will have a great amount of credibility and should receive press coverage to match. The biggest issue with the Dems has been their inability to hit McCain and make people understand how dangerous they are Biden solves this.

Over all i like Biden as the VP pick. There was no perfect choice but Biden seems fairly good to me. He has some risks but also a great deal of upside. As long as Biden can handle the pressure of the contest and act much in the same way he did during the primaries he should be a welcome addition to the ticket. Obama/Biden '08!


More Evidence McCain is out of Touch Elitist.

>> Friday, August 22, 2008

I am not a technology guru but I consider myself proficient in dealing with my computer. Technology more than almost anything demonstrates how current people are. Young people are typically the first adopters of new tech, though not always. For many people having the newest technology is a status statement. In this race Barack Obama has been the candidate who takes the most advantage of technology and the candidate who appears most comfortable. The GOP does not look ready to cede the tech field to Obama entirely and they are trying to appear more tech shrewdness by taking email suggestions for their party platform. Their sad attempt just goes to highlight how out of touch and far back they are on matters of technology. The most out of touch among them might be their second highest profile member and Presidential nominee, John McCain.

NYT has published an article on the GOP efforts to portray themselves as the leaders in the use of technology and the internet to create interactivity. I feel sometimes now like I read the portrayals of the GOP in articles in a more favorable light than they might have been intended. For instance, I read the opening paragraph-

The conventional wisdom prevailing since the start of the 2008 campaign has always maintained that technological astuteness is the specialty of Senator Barack Obama and his followers. Rightly or wrongly, Senator John McCain has been burdened with the image of someone whose campaign is hopelessly behind the times, who can’t navigate the Internet unless his wife or aides are there to guide him.

I think that it is definitely a correct portrayal of McCain. McCain has made repeated statements that belay his lack of tech knowledge and skill. McCain used the nonsensical phrase "a Google" to describe the most famous internet search engine in the world. McCain had the lack of awareness to say during an interview with the New York Times that even though his aides "go on for [him]" right now, "[he's] learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon. McCain has also said that he is "an illiterate [who] has to rely on my wife for all of the assistance I can get." Of course this may all be wrong, because McCain may not speak for McCain. Now here comes the GOP claiming they are now the party of the people and the web.

Just don’t try telling that to the Republican Platform Committee and its leaders. In a novel experiment, they have been online for several weeks now, seeking suggestions about what their platform should say. More than 12,000 people have responded, offering proposals, either as written text or in video form, that anyone interested can access.

“This is the first attempt by either party to solicit people’s input into the platform so broadly and transparently,” said Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, co-chairman of the platform committee. His co-chairman, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California added: “People might think that if you look at this, the Democrats are much further along” on the technological side, “but if they look at our platform, we’re so much further along, and more open too, in using today’s technology to get greater input.”

The first thing to note is that the platform is essentially worthless. The parties celebrate the platform every four years, but it has no impact on any legislation or anything of consequence. So the GOP can claim it is inclusive and reaching out to the people all it wants but until they make the platform their litmus test for everything, three monkeys in a shed could write it and it would never matter. Shockingly the input of the public might not mean all that much.

What the 112 members of the platform committee will do with those ideas once they begin meeting in St. Paul next week is another matter. In separate interviews, both of the chairmen said not to expect significant changes from the positions Republicans have taken in the past on issues such as abortion and gay marriage.

“I don’t think the delegates will change significantly, or at all, the language on social issues that has been worked out over years,” Mr. Burr said. “But we do want a platform that looks forward and not backwards, and that means an opportunity to state more clearly than ever what we stand for, what are our principles.”

It is clear that nothing will really change and that the input of these people was all for show. Can we really expect the authoritarian GOP to take direction for the little people? Not likely. The GOP platform will be consistent by nature as conservatives are against change. I think is disingenuous thought to ask for input on something that is not going to be changed or matter.

Why is all this important? With the advent of the McCain is rich and out of touch meme the tech issues should make a big return. Not because McCain is old and so cant use the internet but as Andrew Ramano points out-

For one thing, McCain's computer illiteracy doesn't reflect a lack of curiosity--it reflects a lack of necessity. Over the past 10 years, most adult Americans have encountered and explored computers primarily in the workplace, where the ability to communicate and find information on the Internet has gradually become a required skill. But McCain's job in the U.S. Senate--where all communication and information has to be filtered through staffers--has actually made fluency more difficult to achieve (or at least less necessary).

McCain is so elite he does not need the internet or computers or email. That sounds pretty out of touch to me. How many Americans can go through life now without the constant us of the computer? Not many. You have man who cannot remember the number of houses he has and a man who does not need or care about the most important communications revolution since the television.

To say that because McCain has staffers though does not excuse his lack of interest in the internet. He has never been interested in a topic and looked it up online or wanted to find the score of a baseball game somewhere? Does he ask someone else to do it? I think that McCain’s lack of knowledge about the internet show how out of touch he is and it needs to be revived.


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

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