Saturday, October 25, 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Sharp Contrast

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UPDATE

In a sense, it’s good that McCain went negative so early, and that his campaign has been as scattershot as it has been. Otherwise, I’m not sure how much coverage the Ashley Todd story would’ve received beyond the initial breaking of the story.

Upon reading the story initially, I was overwhelmed by a sense of being revisited by Susan Smith. Recognizing that as a rather cynical reaction, and because I’m not a fellow Republican, it seemed prudent to wait and see what happened with this story.

A good thing, too. Had the incident been proven true, there would be some massive crow eating going on, instead of the righteous gloating about to take place; because it’s false. Oh good lord, it is as false as anything else in the McCain campaign.

Thank you, Ms. Todd, for going to a place not even Karl Rove would consider. Thank you for using the old “Fake Black Male Suspect” fallacy as a means of exploiting political fears; why I’m sure those other ignorant forces who spread the fear that Blacks would get even should Obama be elected would not use this event as a means to buttress their arguments. Thanks for proving that there is no tactic too low for the Right’s minions to exploit.

Ms. Todd is going to face charges for this, and I, for one, am hoping they are not lenient with her.

UPDATE - As B.E. Earl pointed out in the comment field, Ms. Todd has exhibited behavior that suggests some concerns over her psychological well-being. Those should be addressed by the system before any kind of judgment is placed on her. Needless to say, that same consideration should not be applied by those who sought to exploit the more dangerous aspects of her story.
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Thank you, Ben Smith, for providing the proper tonic to wash that previous story out of my mouth.

(tip of the hat to PNWFilmGeek, who also deserves a nod for the Pity Pander tip)
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Which brings us to Cordula Meyers’ interview with Michael Eric Dyson for Der Spiegel (translated and hosted on Salon), for a much needed reality check. Dyson touches on what we could realistically expect from an Obama presidency, the very fine line he must toe within the African American community, and the forces that have created the schism to be found therein. Fascinating reading.
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Seeing as we’re dealing with contrasts in this entry, here’s a refreshing fantasy break. (tip of the hat to lyamhound, who found it via The Slog)

The Right's Treasonous Ways #834: HAVA

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"Say what you will about Nixon," the argument goes, "you could talk about Watergate and Kissinger and any number of other things; but you can't deny he did some positive things while in office. Vietnam ended during his run; he created the EPA, which is pretty progressive when you think about it; and he was the president that opened the diplomatic doors to China."

You could argue any number of things about that claim, but the essence of it is true. Of all the corrupt, paranoid and conservative presidents the US has elected since JFK was assassinated, Tricky Dick Nixon was probably the least harmful. He did enact a number of policies that could be called beneficial. With the exception of sending financial aid to Africa, the same cannot be said of W, by any means of the imagination. It may take generations before we're able to figure out the full deleterious depths of his administration.

It is fitting, then, that another Kennedy has taken to shining the spotlight on the darker corners of the Bush White House. This time it is RFK, Jr. who, during this election cycle, is taking on some of the crusader mantle his family is fabled for.

"Block the Vote," a piece written by RFK, Jr. and Greg Palast for Rolling Stone.com's Politics page, exposes the various details of yet another Bush administration policy with a misnomer: HAVA, or The Help America Vote Act.

Initially drafted as a means to avoid the chaos and confusion of the 2000 election, Republicans are finding ways to exploit its rules and regulations in order to scare defraud, and disenfranchise the voting public.

...[F]rom the start, HAVA was corrupted by the involvement of Republican superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, who worked to cram the bill with favors for his clients. (Both Abramoff and a primary author of HAVA, former Rep. Bob Ney, were imprisoned for their role in the conspiracy.) In practice, many of the "reforms" created by HAVA have actually made it harder for citizens to cast a ballot and have their vote counted. In case after case, Republican election officials at the local and state level have used the rules to give GOP candidates an edge on Election Day by creating new barriers to registration, purging legitimate names from voter rolls, challenging voters at the polls and discarding valid ballots.


From here, the piece connect the dots between HAVA to the DOJ scandal that led to AG Alberto Gonzales' resignation, and then lists some of the more successful tactics enacted by the right.

Considering that there are rising reports of faulty voting machines already, and that signs are pointing to another election night fracas in Florida this year; the more people are aware of these maneuvers the better.

Spread the word.

(tip of the hat to Stef)

The Bottom Of The Political Barrel

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- "Who cares about how much she spent at Bloomingdale's? What Americans are really concerned with is the fact that Barack Obama is using the campaign 767 to visit his ailing, deathly grandmother, who raised him since he was a wee sprat. Am I right? Hello?"

- I have seen a lot of things in my time, but this one is new. For now, I will call it The Pity Pander.

Not sure how it's supposed to work, but I'm wondering if the desired effect is to get the Obama camp to let down its guard and start feeling cocky. Get them to start feeling as if everything is going along fi--BOOM! In your face, Obama!

Or is the idea to get voters to get all mushy at the puppy dog eyed grandpa and pull the lever for him?

Yeah, either way, good luck with that.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

My Not-So-Secret Love Of Michelle Obama

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I am not the kind of person who normally looks at who a candidate is married to when deciding who to vote for. In fact, I never have. And it won't be a factor this time.

BUT....

I gotta tell ya, I think a great extra benefit of an Obama presidency would be having his wife as First Lady. I admire this woman immensely.

Someone born into a modest, working-class family who grew up in a one-bedroom apartment who worked hard in school and got admitted to the best and most competitive public school in Chicago. More hard work and a dedication to education led to a degree from Princeton, graduating cum laude, and another one from Harvard Law School.

Successful stint at a high-profile law firm before steering into a career of public service in city government, non-profits and community outreach for a prominent university.

All of this while being a black woman in America, where your abilities and credentials are questioned every step of the way if you are anything but a white male.

Then watch as she balances being a mother and the wife of the man who is trying to be the leader of the free world. Not just any candidate, the first minority to ever have a chance to win and the most viciously attacked candidate in the history of this country. Lots of those smears get aimed straight at her.

And she handles it all with a grace and dignity that is unmatched by anyone I've ever seen in the public eye.

It is rumored that I'm going to be the father of a little girl any day now (six days overdue and counting, I'm still not convinced). When I think about the idea that the most high-profile woman in America over the next four to eight years could be Michelle Obama...well, that's just a fantastic thought.

We certainly won't be hurting for smart, hard-working, successful female role models around our house with my wife being an accomplished physician, so we don't necessarily need a famous female role model.

But it'll be nice to add another to the list.

Holiday wishes from Republicans that failed Logic

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This cartoon, forwarded by one of my neocon in-laws (they are at least pro-choice, but our political agreements end there), is a great example of the one of the pernicious untruths upon which conservative philosophy rests.



This is just one of many examples of this logical fallacy memed-up into jokes and cartoons. It wasn't too long ago I was sent the joke about a girl who returns from school a Socialist, at least until her father suggests she donate one GPA point to her hard-partying friend; when she balks, he says "Welcome to the Republican Party."

Let me try to break this down for the simpletons.

If someone is lazy, they will be poor. Fair enough. But from that, it does not logically follow that if someone is poor, it is because they are lazy.

If someone works hard enough, they will succeed. Again, fair enough. But from that, it does not logically follow that if someone has succeeded, they work hard. (ahem, cough, *BUSH*, cough-cough)

Need a simple proof? If a shape is square, it is also a rectangle. Absolutely true. If a shape is a rectangle, it is also a square. Not so much.

This is important, because it is the base of McCain's "that one wants to spread your wealth around" attacks. The idea that a person's success or failure in a free market system is a direct indication of their desire and ability to work hard and nothing else, that every asshole standing on third hit a triple and every strikeout caught 'em lookin', is a foundational belief of Republicans. And it willfully ignores the realities of our economic system.

Our system has for years skewed wealth upwards - the poor aren't poorer now, the middle class hasn't shrunk, because everyone but the top 5% has gotten lazier. We still fund schools locally, which is a fucking travesty, because it follows that the poorer you are born, the poorer your education and future prospects tend to be. Hard-working people lose their homes because of unforeseeable catastrophic illness, ferchrissakes. Far more than lazy people end up poor, and far more than self-made mean and women end up rich.

It's an insidious myth because it serves so many purposes. It allows the Republican masses to look down upon those "others" who are not living the American Dream as lazy. It allows the wealthy many self-congratulatory pats of their own back. And it keeps the Republican hoi palloi in line, as they think of themselves as hard workers, and so destined to get their just rewards.

And that last part is such a lie.

Can hard work pull someone from poverty to wealth? Sure. But it reminds me of the 10-1 ratio in sports. Roughly 10% of high school athletes believe they will play Division I with a scholarship, when less than 1% actually do, and roughly 10% of college athletes think they will go pro, when less that 1% do.

The Right, because they are shamelessly shallow, has become quite good at perpetuating narrative strands like this. And they are effective in that they manage to demonize and piss off Democrats in one fell swoop.

$150k On Clothes

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One hundred and fifty thousand dollars on clothes.

$150,000.

In addition, [an anonymous McCain campaign donor] suggested, the bad press only means the GOP base will unite even further behind the McCain-Palin ticket.


You know, the donor is right. One wonders just how strong that base is feeling these days.

Q: What happens when you take a one-dollar bill and multiply it by 150,000*?

That's how much donated money their campaign spent on getting Governor Sarah Palin a new wardrobe.

* - A: $150,000. - tbo

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Osama Fears Obama

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A few weeks ago a left-leaning compadre from high school, in his paranoia-induced state regarding the (then) close race, decreed how incredibly damaging it would be to the Obama/Biden campaign if Osama bin Laden put out a new video (as he did close to the '04 election), endorsing the Democratic ticket.
"Impossible," I said.
"Think about it. Al Qaeda throws its support behind Obama calling him something like 'one of our Muslim brothers,' and the voters go crazy with fear, flocking to McCain/Palin."
"That would be..."
"Diabolical?"

And so we left it there, me trying not to think of the un-thinkable; my friend, after all, had a good point. Fast forward to October 22nd, to-day. I scour the Internets for various information and diversion from my daily duties, and come upon this doozy of a story via Associated Press. Turns out my friend was sort of on the right track. Sort of.

If this isn't an endorsement worthy of effectively killing an already flawed and severely wounded campaign, then I am Marshall Applewhite and I'm taking off for the high heavens with my Nike-clad brothers and sistahs (don't ask why Heaven's Gate came to mind while trying to construct this lousy metaphor, it's just what comes out when I open that little iron trapdoor in my cerebellum).

Note how Mark Salter, a senior McCain adviser, acknowledged he had heard about the Web site chatter but had no immediate comment. I imagine that right about now McCain/Palin staffers are dumping all their possessions into cardboard boxes and booking their flights home.

And so we cross another weird hurdle in this savage race. Obama gets endorsed by Colin Powell on Sunday, while McCain grabs the blessing of Al-Qaeda.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Clue Me In: Obama Charges For Election Night Coverage

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I really don't know what to make of this report from the Chicago Sun-Time's Lynn Sweet, stating that Obama is planning on charging news outlets just under $1000 for the ability to cover their campaign on election night.

It's a bit of a non-starter of an issue for me...One would hope a news organization would have that kind of money for just these purposes, and really the only people affected by this is the media. The Obama camp claims that they will not be turning a profit on this...

I suppose an argument could be made that this sets a "dangerous precedent," that this could reflect a future unwillingness to cooperate with the media on future stories, but I'm not buying that. Especially from a reporter.

So, clue me in here. Is this a big deal?

Palin's Corruption - A Gift That Keeps On Giving

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The woman just has no scruples at all. This article just popped up:

AP INVESTIGATION: Alaska funded Palin kids' travel

Seems that Palin liked to take her kids with her when she was traveling on business for the state. Hey, any working mom or dad can understand wanting to do that. But I would guess that most of them don't send a bill to their employer for their kids' airfare and hotels.

She later ammended expense reports to say that the kids were there on official business.

Awesome to know you can do that. After my daughter is born I'll call her my secretary and charge my boss for a full-time salary

This is a woman who claims she's going to "clean up Washington?"

Riiiight....

FAIR's Top Ten (this one goes to eleven)

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FAIR released a Media Advisory yesterday titled "Top Troubling Tropes of Campaign '08." Were they not such elite liberal media snobs, they could easily have opted for the more crass, less alliterative, equally accurate "Bullshit Narratives '08." It's an excellent rundown, in FAIR's typically thorough style, of the dominant and disingenuous strands of spin the corporate-owned media is weaving.

I have some favorites. Skip right past #1, John McCain as Maverick, and you arrive at Obama as Elitist. This has been one of the most puzzling to me. Apparently, because McCain, born into Naval royalty and currently living in seven houses purchased with the money Joe SixPack dumps into his wife's purse, is kind of an asshole, and Obama, who was raised by a single (mostly) mother and worked as a community organizer, is both eloquent and humble, McCain "gets us" and Obama is "out of touch."

Hey, America, just because McCain reminds you of your skirt-chasin', gamblin', angry buddies doesn't mean he gives a shit about or understands you. Did you learn nothing from wanting to have a beer with W?

I'm also quite fond of #5, Shifting to the Right is "Good Politics." I actually, unfairly, blame the Green Party for the continuing existence of this trope. Because they insist on trying to be relevant in the national elections, something they were given premature access to with Nadar's two reasonable showings in how many tries, they essentially chop off the most progressive end of the Democratic Party. Tactically, if Obama isn't going to get McKinney supporters votes, it could be justified to say the smart move is a slight Right shift, hoping to capture more at the Center to compensate for what is lost on the Left. Still bullshit, but reasonable or at least arguable given the tenor of the discourse.

(And, listen before I get a bunch of flak from angry Greenies, my personal political views align more closely with the Green Party than the Democrats. Yes, I believe we need multi-party national elections, absolutely. I just don't think the Greens are there yet. The last 16 years have polarized the political landscape, and there is too much at stake in any given national election - I don't have time for the preciousness of your ideals, not in this climate. Stop going on AirAmerica and taking shots at Obama - you'll be gladly welcomed back after the election and encouraged to push him hard for the Progressive agenda. For now, push for run-off voting, get more state and local officials elected, demand media access for your candidates. When the Green Party is strong enough to take a seat at the national table, instead of shrill squeaks resplendent with "should" that amount to a request, please, for perhaps a seat, then and only then will it be time.)

Ooh, and #9, False Balance, is one to keep an especial eye out for these last two weeks. As McCain/Palin continues to flail and blunder, mounting ever more desperate and dubious attacks, the corporate media will continue to try and level the field. They, remember, have the most to gain from a down-to-the-wire horse race.

And, besides, should the seventh seal be broken and McCain actually wins, they don't want to get thrown off the plane.

Stuff!

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I miss George Carlin. No, this isn't a brain short-circuit moment---I do have plenty of those---but I'm going somewhere with this. You'll see.

Yesterday on Capitol Hill, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, told lawmakers that the “risk of a protracted slowdown” merited the introduction of new measures to help individual Americans gain access to credit. In Joe-the-Plumberspeak, basically Bernanke is thinking heavily of sending out another round of "stimulus checks." ("Cheques" for our Canadian readers). Mr. Bernanke, however, did not specify the size or scope of any plan.

From the effects of last spring's actions, I can safely say that, while I greatly appreciate "free money" from the soon-to-be Marxist/Communist/European Socialist government, I am extremely leery and pessimistic that this second round of band-aids will jump start the frozen credit market. Never mind Wall Street yesterday; the Fatcats-That-Be who control that whole racket are such knee-jerk reactionaries, they make Appollo's Chariot at Busch Gardens feel like a smoove, groovy ride in an El Dorado (does anyone drive Caddys anymore?).

A non-scientific, personal survey of (Joe Sixpack) friends and family who reveled in their newly-received cash infusion last May, indicated that none of the recipients actually paid down their debts or mortgage principal, but instead...bought more stuff. This went against widely-reported, disappointing results. The Treasury Department indicated that no positive movement had been seen in the economy as a result of the stimulus package because most people used the money (unwisely!) to pay for gas and food. But not the people I know. They did their patriotic bit. They got their flat screens, Wii or Playstation game systems, clothes, Ipods, Iphones. Stuff! This is exactly what the current administration banked on in its attempt to prevent the total economic collapse of the last couple of weeks: send the constituency money so it can trickle down the booty, thus resuscitating the retail sector. Some did that. But not enough. You see the Carlin tie-in now? Fine, here it is.

Yes, yes y'all; The Great American Way: when in trouble, spend more on Chinese-made shit and fuggetabout it. Everything is beautiful. And so, round 2: ding, ding.

The outgoing, lame-duck administration is under the gun to do more to help the economy. The Treasury Department, meanwhile, hopes to spur a new round of mergers among banks by steering some of the money in its $250 billion rescue package to banks that are willing to buy weaker rivals, according to government officials.

From the New York Times: While these efforts may provide some relief, the concern is that it may take time before they have a major impact on the economy. Loans are likely to remain scarce for many small businesses and consumers.

Credit is unlikely to flow freely soon, said Max Bublitz, chief strategist at SCM Advisors, an investment firm in San Francisco. “It’s going to be doled out in small pieces over the next few months,” he said.

Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in mid-September, the credit markets entered a state of near paralysis, keeping many businesses and municipalities from obtaining financing.

For now, market watchers can celebrate that credit is being given out at all. Interest rates on common types of commercial paper — basically short-term I.O.U.s issued by businesses — fell to a four-month low. Joy!

But until we all get back on track, hell, I'll take another few hundred if they're doling it out. I am one hundred percent committed to do my bit for this country. There's a killer Macbook Pro I've had my eyes on for a year now. The hell with my fiscal responsibilities. Bring it, Ben!

Death Spiral

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After McCain's appearance on David Letterman last Thursday, it seemed inevitable that his campaign would let up with the nonsense, and while still raising some sort of ruckus, build up the goodwill and consistency to make it a close race by the turn of November.

The inevitable didn't happen. Since Thursday, the McCain campaign and their contemporaries in the Conservative movement revealed that they were willing to wallow in the gutter in its attempt to win at any cost.

Starting with the increasingly appalling robo-calls on Thursday, detouring through Palin's and Rep. Michelle Bachman's commie-baiting assertion that there were "anti-American" forces in the US - spearheaded by Obama, McCain's ranting that Obama is a closet socialist, ending with the stunned Conservative reaction to Ret. Gen. Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama, the Right continued to exhibit its necrotic approach to politics.

If there were two videos from the weekend that should be seen by all, it'd be Powell's endorsement, and Pat Buchanan's reaction to that endorsement (sorry, Palin on SNL, though entertaining and sharp, was nowhere near the chart).

Powell's endorsement is compelling in its considered honesty. Here's a maverick for you. If and when the Conservatives ever stop complaining about it, they may do well by themselves to sit and wonder why someone they once held in high esteem would turn on their movement. The man let himself be used by the extreme factions of their cause, and it cost him his dignity and stature as a military leader. It may be that he was trying to buy back some of that by being truthful and speaking his mind.

As Keith Olbermann points out in the clip embedded below (last night's special comment on the Divisive Tactics of the Right), it was Buchanan, ABC's George Will and Rush Limbaugh who most prominently suggested that Powell's endorsement had less to do with political reasoning and more to do the color of his skin.

What does the same party that jumped at the chance to accuse Obama of playing the race card when he mentions that they were going to prey on fears the he didn't look like someone on a dollar bill do when faced with an honest and heartfelt critique of its status? They play the race card, and kill the messenger by calling him shallow, disloyal and opportunistic. (It is karmically fitting to have Pat "Culture War Instigator" Buchanan be the recipient of Joan Walsh's Catholic sympathy and Chris Matthews' softened parrying.)

The hit parade doesn't end there. After spending weeks making insinuations about Obama, ACORN and voter registration fraud, today it was revealed that the McCain campaign knowingly hired a man proven guilty of same in the past to the tune of $175k. This could only be topped off with a threat from a McCain party spokesperson going on record as reconsidering their Rev. Wright approach.

It is hard to resist making assessments that we're witnessing the last desperate, ugly gasps of a political movement; though you have to admit that there's a certain Pompeii flavor to these proceedings. The Grand Old Party has proven nothing if not resilient, however, and there's still fourteen days until the election.

Watch: Olbermann's Special Comment On Republican's Divisive Tactics

Monday, October 20, 2008

Republicans As Keystone Kops

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In the middle of writing an entry on the hypocrisy on display this weekend, when a friend sent this Washington Monthly blogpost to me, pointing out the ludicrous nature of the Republican campaign at the moment. The post then points you to this item on Media Matters, in which conservative radio host Bob Grant is quoted as follows:

But really folks, did you notice Obama is not content with just having several American flags, plain old American flags with the 50 states represented by 50 stars? He has the "O" flag. And that's what that "O" is. That's what that "O" is. Just like he did with the plane he was using. He had the flag painted over, and the "O" for Obama. Now, these are symptom -- these things are symptomatic of a person who would like to be a potentate -- a dictator. And I really see this in this man.


You're not gonna guess which flag Grant is talking about. Tip of the hat to Smoooochie.