Saturday, June 07, 2008
...and I don't know about you, but it was a ritual growing up to watch ABC's Wide World of Sports on Saturday afternoons around the dinner table (R.I.P. Jim McKay; sorry the video quality isn't better).
She will be reading from her book at the University of Pennsylvania bookstore on Thursday June 19th at 7 P.M.
Friday, June 06, 2008
In case any of you have been wondering what former Repug presidential aspirant Rudy 9iullani has been up to lately…well, the New York Post (I have contacts everywhere!) tells us here that…
Anthony Carbonetti, who was senior strategist for Giuliani's failed presidential bid, has been suggested as a possible replacement (for NY state GOP chairman Joe Mondello), a move seen by some as a sign that Giuliani is making a play for the future - including a possible run for governor.Never too early to lay the groundwork for 2010, is it?
A GOP source suggested Giuliani pushed for Carbonetti, but several others disputed that.
Another top Giuliani adviser, Matt Mahoney, recently took the helm of the state GOP Senate committee.
And in other Rudy! news, Bernie Kerik surfaced recently to wax indignant over Little Scotty McClellan’s “kiss and tell” tome about how wonderful it was to hide Bushco’s dirty little secrets (with Scotty having “found religion” just a wee bit too late…Gail Collins of the New York Times opined on Kerik here). Bernie referred to McClellan personally (or perhaps only his book; not sure) as “DISLOYAL, SICKENING AND DESPICABLE DISLOYAL, SICKENING AND DESPICABLE” (gee Bernie, I hope you get that caps lock key fixed, caps lock key fixed).
Yep, you would know from whence you speak on that, wouldn’t you, Bernie (here).
And concerning the latter development, the blog Seeing The Forest noted here that despite the new losses, tech companies including Google continue to call for more H-1B visas to hire foreign workers primarily from Asia (House Republicans called for increasing the number of H-1B hires here).
So just remember, all you long-time I.T. workers trying to feed, clothe and house your families and pay your bills (assuming you still have health insurance also), all those H-1B workers are entitled to your jobs because, well, you’ve just worked too darn hard and acquired too much experience to be of much value to anyone making less than you (viciously snarky mode off).
Here is a story about an age discrimination lawsuit proceeding against the 3M Company in Ramsey County, MN, and here is the definition of age discrimination from quizlaw.com; also, here is a WaPo story about a 2005 Supreme Court ruling (prior to J.R. and Alito) that made it easier to individuals to sue for age discrimination on the job, ruling that employers could be liable even if the discrimination wasn’t intentional.
(And by the way, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont gets it.)
Update: Every time I think this bunch can't possibly sink any lower...
Next, it turns out that a fake ad managed to find its way into the print editions of both the Inquirer and the Daily News (here).
(Oh, my bad…spokesman Jay Devine said that the fake ad was intended to “put a smile on people’s faces and have some fun.”
Yep, I guess fake ads are the perfect accompaniment for fake opinion commentary; so many examples to choose from, but I’ll select this and this).
And I don’t oppose the Repugs for doing that also, by the way; my concern would be over the percent of the PAC donations versus those of private individuals among total campaign funds. And as Bucks County Courier Times reporter Brian Scheid tells us here, Patrick’s PAC contributions make up about 33 percent of his funds, as opposed to about 20 percent when he ran in 2006 (with about half of former congressman Mikey Fitzpatrick’s dough coming from PACs during the ’06 campaign).
Incidentally, just to give you an idea of how “the worm has turned” for the Repugs, Tom Manion has raised about $67K from PACs among his total contributions of about $422, 500. Even in a district still holding a Republican registration edge, that’s not cutting it (no wonder his spokesman Mike Walsh declined comment).
Yes, it shouldn’t be about the money. But again referencing the post title, I’m tired of unilateral disarmament that ends up shortchanging our side; I had a similar reaction when John Edwards did this, though I realized the importance of the principle (and as Scheid’s story tells us, PAC contributions in presidential elections aren’t nearly as significant as they are for congressional elections).
Until the swamp is drained to the disadvantage of both sides, so to speak, then I’ll continue to support Patrick on this. I would only get concerned if his PAC contributions ever outweighed his individual contributions by a significant margin, but if he keeps doing what he’s done as our congressman to date, I don’t ever expect that that will happen.
And by the way, to make a contribution, click here (so subtle, I know).
Thus George W. Milhous Bush sayeth the following, in response to this story about our country providing aid to the earthquake victims in China…
"My message to the Chinese government is: thank you for welcoming our aid, thank you for taking a firm response to this disaster and just know the American people care about the people of China."“Thank you for welcoming our aid”? What were they going to do, turn it away?
And while you’re at it, President 25 Percent Mandate, do you think you could say something to our “friends” about this…
DUJIANGYAN, China — Police officers here on Tuesday surrounded more than 100 parents protesting shoddy school construction and mourning the deaths of thousands of children during the recent earthquake.Seems like our largest debt financier didn’t learn much from this tragedy, which took place just about 19 years ago, by the way.
The police dragged away several crying mothers and removed some journalists trying to report on the event, according to witnesses and photographs of the protest.
The news that a certain Mr. Zimmerman has endorsed Barack Obama for president (h/t HuffPo) made me realize (I think) that the spotlight has shifted from the vital question of whether or not Obama and Hillary Clinton are going to find a way to get along through the campaign (they will) to whether or not their supporters will get along.
Will Gov. Ed Rendell (HRC) and Bob Casey (Obama) duel each other at 10 paces? Who will emerge victorious from the grudge steel cage match between Jack “The Hammer” Nicholson (HRC) and Michael “The Blob” Moore (Obama)? Any interest in a mud wrestling bout between Taylor Marsh (HRC) and Jane Fonda (Obama...actually, I don't know if I'd mind seeing that)?
Hey, if nothing else, think of the fundraising possibilities, especially in light of this (and all of this is making me recall this post from about two years ago).
And just remember one more thing: as Bob always says, "It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes McCain To Cry" (well, if he didn't say it, he should have!).
MY father sat upstairs in his study, working in the one room of our sprawling house that we children could not storm into unless it was a matter of utmost urgency. I now know that the big brown desk was where he wrote his books and often drafted important speeches or new legislation. On the day etched in my memory, all I knew was that I needed his immediate attention.And here are two fitting videos once more: the first is Bobby's eulogy from brother Ted...
My brother Michael and I had been re-enacting World War II in the ancient magnolia tree that dominated the sloping back yard of Hickory Hill, our 19th-century white brick farmhouse in McLean, Va. As usual, 7-year-old Michael had demanded to be the victorious American, whereas I, two years younger, weaker and not nearly as good a shot, was again assigned the lesser role of the doomed German. The branches of this tree were so perfectly spaced as to accommodate two tree houses, and the Americans held the more elaborate fort that dominated the top branches.
I vainly scaled upward as my brother lobbed down volley upon volley of magnolia pods — which eerily resembled hand grenades but felt more like boulders as they bounced off my head. After taking one direct hit too many, I scrambled out of the tree and ran for the house, bounding up the red-carpeted stairs and bursting into my father’s study without pausing to knock, tears streaming and the white satin bow atop in my hair hopelessly askew.
My father turned from the desk and as I tumbled into his arms, he hugged me and kissed me and told me he loved me. As I recounted my woes he wiped away my tears and told me to go get Michael. I knew right then that justice would prevail. After all, my father was always fair, not to mention being the attorney general of the United States of America!
When we returned, Daddy told me that I could not interrupt, that I had to listen while Michael told his side of the story. Then Michael had to listen while I told mine. I don’t recall the details of what our father then said, but I know his judgment was in some way difficult to accept. Even at my young age, I was forced to see that I wasn’t all right, and my brother was not all wrong. Ultimately, Daddy made us kiss and make up and go to our rooms to read for an hour.
As an adult, I recognize that the lessons my father taught us children mirrored the beliefs he wanted the nation to embrace — that we must build a system of justice which enjoys the confidence of all sides; that peace is not something to pray for, but something everyone has the responsibility to create every day; and that we must muster the courage to face the truth about ourselves as well as those we consider our enemies.
There was no quality my father admired more than courage, save perhaps love. I remember when one night after dinner he picked up the battered poetry book that was always somewhere at his side and read aloud Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade.” We listened aghast to the story of the soldiers whose commander orders them to ride into an ambush. They know they will be slaughtered, but they obey the command anyway. My father then explained that he and my mother were going on a trip and challenged us to memorize the poem while they were away. I did not win that contest, but one famous stanza has remained with me:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of death
Rode the six hundred.
You may wonder why a father would ask his expanding brood of what would become 11 children to memorize a poem about slaughter and war. I think there were three reasons. He wanted us to share his love of literature and he wanted us to embrace challenges that appear daunting. But most of all, he believed it imperative to question authority, and those who failed that lesson did so at their peril.
Forty years after Robert Kennedy’s last campaign, I think those are also the lessons he would have liked to impart to all Americans. Facing daunting challenges both nationally and globally, we must rise to meet them armed with courage, love and an abiding commitment to justice, yet girded with a healthy sense of skepticism.
...and the second is "Abraham, Martin and John" performed by Dion DiMucci and written by Dick Holler in 1968.
Update: More good stuff...
Thursday, June 05, 2008
...and I'll bet you're dying to find out what Jackie and Dunlap think of Scotty's book, don't you...
..."The Pap Attack" covers the GOP "blame game"; I didn't know Poppy once fired Turd Blossom (and by the way, Pap, it's now 25, not 28 - h/t Atrios)...
...and here's more "Pop Up Double Talk" with John W. McBush (now I see why everyone was criticizing his appearance against that puke green background).
Recently, we observed the 25th anniversary of the Sixers' win over the L.A. Lakers to secure an NBA championship, which was terrific in these parts. However, since we're talking about Philadelphia, after all, this was used as an excuse to lament the fact that, supposedly, no professional sports team in this area has won a championship since then (another excuse for the griping was provided by the Detroit Red Wings' win of the Stanley Cup last night in Pittsburgh, as noted here).
This Wikipedia article pertains to the Philadelphia Phantoms, the minor-league (but professional) hockey team the first level beneath the Flyers. As you can see, they won the Calder Cup (the AHL championship) in 1998 and 2005 (three players from the '05 team play with the Flyers now: Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, and R.J. Umberger).
Can we all stop feeling sorry for ourselves now and maybe actually concentrate on something important instead?
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
...Lewis Black gives the best argument against "trickle-down economics" that I've ever heard...
...Dr. Frank Newport of The Gallup Poll presents yet another dubious milestone for our economy (what fun)...
...and yeah, we'll convict one of those people we're holding at Gitmo one of these days; dummy up enough evidence and find the right
(By the way, I’ve been saying for days that I’m going to hit a period of light-to-no posting, and it will probably be tomorrow.)
I came across this item completely by accident, but the Wall Street Journal reported here that some hospitals in this country have come up with a new scheme to make patients pay up who owe money on their care, and that is to auction their debt online.
Yes, I’m serious…
Hospitals have long relied on outside collection agencies to go after debtors. Under traditional arrangements, these agencies receive a percentage of any money they get from a debtor; the more they collect, the more they earn.I can just hear it now – “Hello, Mrs. Wiggins? This is the Acme Benevolent Collection Service calling. It seems that you have an outstanding balance of approximately $750 still to be paid on your deductible before Holy Mother Of God Health Care Partners can be reimbursed for charges associated with your hip replacement. Please consider this call to be your first and only notice that payment is due. If the amount in question is not tendered to us within 30 days, your little cat Tiddles will have an unfortunate accident with a meat cleaver, so please respond promptly. Thanks ever so much.”
Now, some of the same collection agencies, as well as other firms that purchase debt outright, have begun participating as bidders in online auctions, in which they buy the debt or provide guaranteed payments to hospitals for access to the unpaid accounts. Some experts say this gives them more reason to aggressively pursue patients in arrears. Auctions can drive up the amount paid for debt, meaning a collector must recoup more money from patients to cover its initial investment and turn a profit. And the winning bidders often get to keep all the money they collect on the auctioned debt.
Winning bidders may "have to work harder" to make a profit from auctioned debt, says Michael Klozotsky, an analyst at Kaulkin Ginsberg Co., a collections-industry strategic-advice company. "Working harder means sometimes using strategies that are more aggressive."
Hospitals "don't want a black eye from a PR standpoint," says Joseph LaManna, TriCap's chief executive. Both TriCap and Medipent receive fees from the hospitals and collectors, based on the size of the winning bid.Of course they don’t Joe (and I should note that TriCap owns ARxChange.com, one of the online collection services, and Medipent.com is another, owned by Medipent L.L.C.).
Participating hospitals say they are still testing the process, often putting up for bid some of their older debt with a low likelihood of being repaid. Bidders typically offer just pennies or fractions of pennies on each dollar owed, reflecting the small amount they expect to collect from patients while still pulling in a profit.Gee, Chuck, do you have an approximate dollar figure on that “additional value,” by any chance?
Woman's Christian Association Hospital of Jamestown, N.Y., last fall auctioned about $7 million of debt on ARxChange.com that had already gone through collection efforts by the hospital's staff and by CBJ Credit Recovery, an outside collection agency. CBJ decided to take another shot at the accounts and submitted the winning bid, an agreement to pay the hospital $80,000 over the course of a year in exchange for keeping what it collects from the debtors. "Even though [the unpaid bills] were very old, it was additional value we were able to extract from them," says Chuck Iverson, chief financial officer at the hospital.
The federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and some state laws govern how debt collectors can treat consumers. For instance, debt collectors aren't allowed to harass consumers or make false statements, including implying they will sue if they don't intend to do so.Sure, they’re not supposed to do that, but there’s a problem, and I’ll get to it in a minute.
Consumer groups say calling the medical provider or your insurer could help clarify any confusion about what you owe. The hospital also could provide information about financial assistance or charity-care.The problem is that, according to this, the FTC received over 69,000 complaints about harassment from debt collectors in 2006, the most recent year that statistics are available (up from about 66,000 in 2005), and guess how many lawsuits the FTC filed in response?
And a practice such as selling off the hospital debt of patients online is only going to add to that total (the 69,000, I mean).
Want to bitch about that? Good. Find out who your elected official is from this link and give him or her an earful, and tell them to find out how to hold hearings about this (more work for Henry Waxman, no doubt).
It will be good for your health.
While we’re all wrapped up in presidential politics, I thought now would be a good time to remind us of the fact that, as noted here by Think Progress and McClatchy, May was the most violent month in Afghanistan since our 2001 invasion…
April featured 199 violent incidents in 86 districts, making it the most lethal April in the six year conflict. May featured 214 incidents of violence in over 100 districts, also a new six-year total for May and the highest single monthly total. Despite official efforts to spotlight improvement, the spring offensive thus far is worse than last year’s spring offensive. The security situation has deteriorated again.And this tells us that Our Gal Condi Rice flew over as a gesture of support to Afghan President Harmid Karzai to meet with him and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband over the matter of rejecting Britain’s Paddy Ashdown as international special envoy to Afghanistan.
The article tells us…
The skirmishing highlights the multiple fronts on which the Bush administration is battling as it tries to correct what many critics say is a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. With 42,000 NATO troops stationed here, tension has been growing between Karzai's government and the West, particularly Britain, amid concerns about a loss of Afghan sovereignty. The issue of the special envoy, in particular, has been widely covered in the Afghan media, touching Afghan sensitivities about foreign interference and fears of colonial intentions by Britain and other powers.That seems to be a familiar pattern with Karzai, by the way; he “rattles his sabre” a bit before he gets slapped down by this country or our pals “across the pond” and ends up towing the line.
Karzai has had other disagreements with Britain recently, in particular over its handling of the Taliban insurgency and the booming opium trade in Helmand Province, where British troops are deployed. At the World Economic Forum in Davos last month, Karzai criticized the British forces in Helmand, complaining that they had forced him to remove the provincial government and police force in 2006, leaving a vacuum that the British had failed to fill and allowing the Taliban to surge in.
Asked about that criticism, Karzai said he had been misquoted, adding that he had held a meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain the next day because he had been embarrassed at what he had been quoted as saying. He went out of his way during the news conference Thursday to express gratitude to NATO.
Also, Karzai tells us the following in an interview he gave to Der Spiegel recently…
SPIEGEL: Some Afghan people say that the president himself, who is appointing high-ranking officials in Kabul and in the provinces, is fueling the insurgency with these personnel decisions. Is that there any truth in that?According to this report, though, I’m not sure “interference from abroad” and “the international mafia” can be used as excuses for the once-more flourishing drug trade, especially when involvement by both Karzai and his brothers is alleged…
Karzai: Governance has improved immensely in Afghanistan. For the first time in six years, the Afghan budget has become transparent, there are no longer any secret funds. Before, the governors did whatever they wanted. Now there is a reporting requirement and there are former governors who were criminal or corrupt who are now in prison, like the former governor of Baghdis province. Of course the country needs more time, but the problems we have in the south and east are not because of bad governance.
SPIEGEL: Then what are the reasons for the difficult situation there?
Karzai: There is a lot of interference from abroad. The south part of the country has always been the center of the Taliban activity; they came from there. And there are also traces of the mujahedeen's decades-long battle. These are all factors.
SPIEGEL: The south is the hub of drug smuggling. Is it possible that Ahmed Wali Karzai, one of the most influential politicians in Kandahar, who leads the provincial council, doesn't have the slightest idea what is going on or has nothing to do with it?
Karzai: Yes, it is very much possible. Our family has been influential in this part of the country for 300 years. I am the president of Afghanistan today, but I do not have the slightest idea who is involved in the drug business there. Nor is the drug dealing solely a problem for Afghanistan. The lion's share of the money goes to the international mafia and not to Afghans.
Russian journalist Arkady Dubnov quotes Afghan sources as saying that, "85 per cent of all drugs produced in southern and southeastern provinces are shipped abroad by US aviation." A source in Afghanistan's security services told Dubnov that the American military buy drugs from local Afghan officials who deal with field commanders overseeing eradication of drug production. Dubnov claimed in Vremya Novostei that the administration of President Hamid Karzai, including his two brothers, Kajum Karzai and Ahmed Vali Karzai, are deeply involved in the narcotics trade.(Actually, upon further consideration, I think Karzai should thank the "interference from abroad" since it apparently is contributing to the wealth he and his brothers currently enjoy.)
A US expert on Afghanistan, Barnett Rubin, told an anti-narcotics conference in Kabul last October that, "drug dealers had infiltrated Afghani state structures to such an extent that they could easily paralyse the work of the government if the decision to arrest one of them was ever made." Former UN ambassador Richard Holbrooke said in January that, "government officials, including some with close ties to the presidency, are protecting the drug trade and profiting from it. He described the $1-billion-a- year US counter-narcotics effort in Afghanistan in The Washington Post in January as "the single most ineffective programme in the history of American foreign policy. It's not just a waste of money. It actually strengthens the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, as well as criminal elements within Afghanistan."
And as far as freedom of the press is concerned in Afghanistan, I bring you the tale of journalist Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh here, sentenced to death for insulting Islam, notably this excerpt…
Late last year Afghan intelligence service agents began investigating his activities. The intelligence service called his brother, who is also a journalist, and told him to bring Kambakhsh to their office.“Concern”? How about “outrage”? Oh, sorry – I forgot we’re talking our Bushco here, and life for the “have nots” is cheap as far as they’re concerned.
Kambakhsh waited five hours on the afternoon of Oct. 27 to meet the head of the local intelligence service. He never showed up.
When Kambakhsh asked if he could go home, he says he was told, "As of today, you are under arrest. You cannot leave."
Three months later, he was taken for trial. The only people with him in the courtroom in Mazar-i-Sharif were three judges, a court scribe and the prosecutor. Kambakhsh said he had no defense lawyer, and only three or four minutes to defend himself.
"It was not enough time for this complicated matter. I demanded more time, but they said it's very late," he said, recalling that the hearing started at about 4 p.m. - well after most government offices close for the day.
The judges found him guilty of handing out to fellow journalism students a report he printed off the Internet. The article asked why under Islam men can have four wives but women cannot have multiple husbands.
Kambakhsh said the article accused Islam of violating women's rights, but he was hesitant to discuss details. He insisted he had no knowledge of it until government officials accused him.
The verdict sparked an international outcry, with a number of organizations demanding that the case be annulled and Kambakhsh set free.
A U.S. State Department spokesman expressed concern that Kambakhsh was sentenced to death for "basically practicing his profession."
And if I’m going to say something about Afghanistan, I should link once more to this tour de force of a post by profmarcus that speaks volumes about what is transpiring in that country.
I probably should give Karzai a measure of credit that he has managed to last as president despite at least four assassination attempts. However, it is clear that our policy of what seems to be propping up him and his sycophants (Taliban or no) through the drug trade to buy us a peace that is tenuous at best is something that is bound to eventually fall apart.
And hopefully, Karzai will be able to remain out of the spotlight just enough (meaning that the status quo will be in place) to buy time for a President Obama to get a team together to try to undermine the Taliban through the use of the “soft power” (food, medicine, cooperation with international agencies, diplomacy – remember that one?) so thoroughly despised by our current ruling cabal.
I know I rightly beat up on Tom Friedman the other day because he ignored his own culpability yet again concerning the runup to the Iraq mess in a recent column. However, in that column he talked about how you acquire “leverage” prior to negotiating.
Building it up in Afghanistan will be a long, tedious process over time, but adult political leadership realizes that you do it through the means I just described instead of trying to shove it down someone’s throat through a sustained military presence (yes, I know we have a military objective for real, but what of after that?), with or without Karzai at the helm.
"Obama will NOT get my vote, and one step more," Ellen Thorp, a 59-year-old flight attendant from Houston told me. "I have been a Democrat for 38 years. As of today, I am registering as an independent. Yee Haw!"Oh, so the Obama response to Clinton’s comparison of Hillary’s opponent to Jesse Jackson and his ’84 and ’88 campaigns in South Carolina was “ludicrous,” Ms. Harrop? What about all of Hillary’s outrageous “hard-working white people” rhetoric, then? And “supposedly respectable media”? Gee, just a bit of editorial license there, wouldn’t you say?
A new Pew Research Center poll points to a surging tide of fury, especially among white women. As recently as April, this group preferred Obama over the presumptive Republican John McCain by three percentage points. By May, McCain enjoyed an eight-point lead among white women.
What's dangerous for the Democratic Party is that, for many women, the eye of the storm has moved beyond Hillary or anything she does at this point. The offense has turned personal.
Remember Peggy Agar? The women do. They can't stop talking about the Detroit TV reporter who asked Obama a serious question at a Chrysler factory — "How are you going to help American autoworkers?" — to which he answered, "Hold on a second, sweetie."
The women are angry at the ludicrous charges of racism leveled against Clinton by the Obama camp — amplified in the supposedly respectable media — and projected onto themselves.
Yes, I will grant you that Obama’s “sweetie” reference was dumb (as well as a remark I read somewhere that one of Obama's people referred to Clinton as "the senator from Punjab" or something like that because of her Indian donor support; the Obama campaign quickly repudiated that). But because of the "sweetie" thing you’re going to side with John W. McBush?
Fortunately, Arianna Huffington wrote this post recently in which she tells us, among other things, that…
Over half of all women in (the 16 “battleground” states in this country) have no idea what McCain's positions are on reproductive health. Forty-nine percent of women in battleground states who currently favor McCain are pro-choice. Twenty-three percent of them believe McCain agrees with them on choice.Yes, supporters of Hillary Clinton should be allowed to vent and express outrage at this moment; I can appreciate that (I once supported John Edwards, remember). But the fact is that Obama ran a more disciplined campaign that was attuned to the message the voters of this country have been sending for years telling anyone who will listen that this country is on the wrong track. And never, ever underestimate the fact that Obama opposed the Iraq war, which really “sealed the deal,” and Hillary could not counter the fact that she voted for the AUMF in 2002 and ended up supporting it.
The good news is, 36 percent of pro-choice McCain supporters are less likely to vote for him after learning that McCain opposes Roe v. Wade and favors making most abortions illegal. That number hits 38 percent when those voters learn that McCain has also consistently voted against expanding access to programs that reduce pregnancy and the need for abortion, consistently voted in favor of abstinence-only programs, and against legislation requiring insurance companies to cover birth control.
The poll's encouraging conclusion:
The simple arithmetic of these findings suggests that just filling in McCain's actual voting record and his publicly stated positions on a handful of key issues has the potential to diminish his total vote share among battleground women voters by about 17 to 20 percentage points.
But any Democrat who opposes Obama for personality reasons simply must understand that there are too many important issues we face (the ones Arianna noted and many more) to trust this country to someone who will offer nothing but a continuation of our present misery (whether he calls you “sweetie” or not).
As a student of campaign rhetoric and the author of an upcoming book on the subject tonight presented a true cornucopia of campaign oratory - and the contrast between the three speakers was fascinating.And it says something to me, by the way, that the first day after Barack Obama wraps up the nomination, who does he speak to? Why, AIPAC of course (not to slight him by pointing that out, just noting the omnipresence and influence of the group).
First John McCain: There really is no nice way to describe this speech. Forget the content for a second; McCain is quite simply an awful public speaker. I've never seen a politician in my life who is so clearly "reading" a speech than McCain. When he smiles; I cringe. There is no passion and little inspiration behind his words - when he speaks one gets the impression that he is seeing his speech for the first time. And from a presentation standpoint, whose idea was it to have a green backdrop with about 200 supporters in the room? I know that public rallies in of themselves do not portend political success, but the contrast between McCain's almost desultory affair and the hysteria of Obama's speaking venue was palpable. If you are undecided voter looking at these two events from simply an aesthetic standpoint, who would you rather be associated with? It's also another sign that McCain has surrounded himself with a lousy campaign staff who don't really seem to understand optics and stagecraft. Hell, was that it hard to get a presidential teleprompter for the presumptive GOP nominee? And it's not like this was an unimportant speech. The speech looked like one you might expect to be delivered in Iowa . . . in December.
As for the content, McCain sounded defensive (actually voicing the words "third Bush term" seemed ill-advised) and ornery. The line "that's not change we can believe in" makes him sound like a cranky old man. In an election where change is the watchword and 81% of the electorate thinks the country is off the rails I simply don't understand this idea of denigrating change as a political theme. Voters are afraid of change when things are going well . . . when things are going badly, not so much. McCain has a very tough road ahead of him, but his campaign really needs to figure out an affirmative message and a compelling narrative that differs from the "other guy is too scary." Otherwise it's going to be a very long summer for McCain.
Hillary Clinton: I'm not sure what to say here. Hillary has done so much in this campaign to inspire millions of Americans, particularly women. And throughout her career she has been a passionate advocate for the issues that she clearly cares about deeply. I have enormous respect for both her accomplishments and her tenacity. But, tonight has to have been one of the lowest moments of her political and professional career. Her speech was, for lack of better words, graceless and petty. Her supporters -- and the party which she sought to lead -- deserved better than this.
Barack Obama: There is so much to say here, I don't even know where to start. How about the historic: the party of the bloody shirt, Jim Crow, Woodrow Wilson, Theodore Bilbo and George Wallace just nominated an African-American to be their standard bearer for President of the United States. Whatever you think of Barack Obama that has to make you smile. (And for what it's worth on a night like this, when history was made and America took a giant step forward in its 230-year tarnished legacy on race relations, it's rather unfortunate that neither McCain nor Clinton felt the need to reference this point). The diversity of the crowd in Minnesota really spoke volumes and I don't want to get too emotional here, but seeing those crowd shots and the black and white faces standing side by side, united in passion and excitement for this candidate, well damn . . . I had to reach for the Kleenex.
As for the speech, it was as usual profound, moving and inspirational. But of course that has been Obama's bread and butter since Iowa. No real surprise there. And I thought his conciliatory words about Hillary Clinton were pitch perfect and rather classy, particularly after her performance earlier in the evening. But one of the striking contrasts with McCain and Hillary's oratory is the extent to which Obama's speeches are structured so effectively; there is such a strong narrative thread of "change" in his speeches, but it was especially true tonight; there is good change he is advocating, there is the bad change McCain wants and then he hits the high notes when he lays out how his vision of change can transform the nation and ensure that America lives up to its basic values. It's just very smart and effective speechwriting.
But something else jumped out to me this evening - Obama was damn feisty. That line about McCain denying his accomplishments was striking (and maybe a bit whiny). Obama is still playing the hope card, but I was struck by how aggressively and almost personally he went after McCain in occasionally populist terms.
Beyond that, the most important element of his speech came on foreign policy - instead of trying to play "tough," Obama really lit into McCain on his support for the war and refused to back away from his anti-war position. Now some of you might say "Duh" of course he didn't back away, but this in itself is quite historic. During the Democratic primaries it makes sense to play to the anti-war crowd, but one would expect that in a general election (and this was the first speech of the general election) an untested Democrat -- who didn't serve in the military -- might try to nuance his way around the issue to neutralize sure to come GOP attacks of softness on national security. But Obama is signaling clearly and unambiguously that he is going to make the war and his opposition to it the centerpiece of his campaign. In short, he is refusing to cede ground on foreign policy and national security.
Most of us weren't alive for the last time a Democrat did that. This is going to present real problems for McCain. His only hope is to dominate Obama on foreign policy, but if he faces an opponent that is willing to fight back on the issue . . . well it's hard to see McCain's path to the White House.
Something else was striking about Obama's Iraq rhetoric - he twice referenced Iraqi leaders and demanded that they solve Iraq's problems. Now some people on this site might accuse Obama of scapegoating the Iraqis, but when voters start to realize that Iraq is going to have an approximate surplus of $70 billion in oil revenue those types of attacks are really going to resonate. Frankly, I usually would be gun shy about such language, but Obama has a point, both politically and substantively. You're going to hear a lot more of this in the next five months.
Finally, as usual he finished very strong and this really speaks to Obama's delivery and his feel for the crowd. He is not just a good orator, he's a good speaker - his ability to rise to a crescendo and sense the rhythm of the audience . . . well that's not something you're taught. He really knows how to leave his audience on a high note.
It should all make for a hell of a race!
And to help Obama, click here.
Tuesday, June 03, 2008
...and by the way, do you want to know what kind of judges that "straight-talking maverick" wants to see on the Supreme Court (Jeffrey Toobin had more on that here)...
...and yeah, McBush is pretty awful on LGBT issues also...
...and as a tribute to actor Mel Ferrer, here is his duel with Stewart Granger in the 1952 swashbuckler "Scaramouche"; I believe that, at about 6:50, this is the longest sword fight ever filmed.
This happened to be one of the first items I read a couple of days ago after filling up the Doomsy-mobile, and I thought it was too ludicrous to ignore.
It is a Sunday New York Times Op-Ed (staying with them because they’re giving me so much material lately) in which economist N. Gregory Mankiw came up with some ideas on taxation that I would charitably describe as “interesting” about which I will take note shortly.
You remember Mankiw, don’t you? That champion of outsourcing who came up with the idea of redefining a job flipping burgers as “manufacturing” in an effort to hide the fact that the Bushco cabal is responsible for the worst job growth this country has seen since the days of the Herbert Hoover presidency (Mankiw was appointed Chairman of Dubya’s Council of Economic Advisers in 2003 – a prior post is here). That former adviser to the happily-now-defunct presidential campaign of Willard Mitt Romney (a recent stellar Mittster moment appears here – repeat after me, Willard Mitt; McCain won’t name you as veep regardless of what you do).
Well, Mankiw tells us the following about the dreaded corporate tax rate (it will take a minute to get to the part about gasoline)…
A cut in the corporate tax as (John) McCain proposes would initially give a boost to after-tax profits and stock prices, but the results would not end there. A stronger stock market would lead to more capital investment. More investment would lead to greater productivity. Greater productivity would lead to higher wages for workers and lower prices for customers.Uh…yep, and one of the first practitioners of this con later called it out for what it was (more info appears here, including the following)…
Populist critics deride this train of logic as “trickle-down economics.”
The truth is that "Trickle-Down" was never intended to help middle income and poor Americans; it was intended to help the wealthy and Corporate America.“Department of the obvious” stuff by now I know, but a reminder always helps. And as far as the “success” of Dubya’s tax cuts (as noted here)…
The economic policies of the Reagan era increased the trade deficit and provided easier ways for companies to "hide" money.
According to proponents of the tax cuts, cutting corporate income taxes and personal income tax rates was supposed to “improve the investment incentives of America’s businesses.” Small business owners, especially, were supposed to respond to lower individual tax rates by investing more and hiring new workers. In addition, more than $200 billion of cuts were specifically tied to business investment, reducing the cost as a way to encourage purchases of equipment, software, structures and machinery.I guess the fact that Mankiw is proposing yet another tax cut to “stimulate growth” in spite of the vast body of evidence that it doesn’t work is not really new (he’s talking about $50 billion). And it’s particularly unappealing now given that the recession appears to have taken hold (call it what you want; it certainly doesn’t reflect anything approximating growth, OK?). Fortunately, that “straight-talking maverick” has informed us that he can make up the difference by “restraining spending” (where have we heard that before?).
The cuts were an utter failure. Business investment has always recovered after a recession, but this was the most sluggish recovery in memory. As a result, business investment has grown 65% more slowly since the peak of the business cycle five years ago than the average for similar periods after nine cycle peaks in the last 60 years. (A business cycle includes a recession and the expansion until the next recession. The peak of a business cycle occurs just before a recession.)
In the recession and recovery of 1990-1994, instead of cutting taxes, Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton signed tax increases into law. Yet businesses’ investment grew much faster during that recovery than it has during the last four years.
Not to be outdone, though, Mankiw has another idea about how to make up the difference lost by yet another pointless, stupid tax cut, and that is to increase the gasoline tax…
With Americans consuming about 140 billion gallons of gasoline a year, a gas-tax increase of about 40 cents a gallon could fund a corporate rate cut, fostering economic growth and reducing a variety of driving-related problems.And this from a genius who wrote in the same column “when capital leaves a country, the workers left behind suffer” (duuuuhhhh!), yet continues to offer no apology whatsoever for dictating and implementing economy policy (featuring outsourcing/offshoring) which has been ruinous for the middle class that built the standard of prosperity upon which we thrived for many years until this ruinous cabal seized power in 2000.
Indeed, if we increased the tax on gasoline to the level that many experts consider optimal, we could raise enough revenue to eliminate the corporate income tax.
So, to sum up, Mankiw continues to advocate the good life for this country’s ruling corpocracy (the "pay no price, bear no burden" crowd, let's not forget) while the rest of us continue to deal with ever-escalating gas prices, along with paying a tax on top of that probably in the area of at least $15-20 for filling up a mid-sized sedan (and if someone tells me, “well, it’s still cheaper than Europe,” they may discover an interesting, obtrusive and probably painful new way to insert a gas pump nozzle).
And the Times actually published this (they’re beginning to resemble the Inky more and more, I’m afraid).
Don’t laugh. I’m serious.
Update 11/28/08: If Mankiw had a conscience, he would admit he was wrong, but he doesn't, so he won't (here - h/t Atrios).
It sounds like Bobo has been effectively called out for the latest neocon pundit blather today (h/t Atrios), but if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that the NYT’s other columnist today was Richard Cohen in blackface (easy...).
For you see, Bob Herbert (once again, a much better writer than this) concocted the latest screaming “OMG the Dems are sooo divided and have fractured the party so much that McCain is going to win!!” drivel, as follows…
Only now is the party starting to rally around Senator Barack Obama, who has been the likely nominee for the longest time. No one knows how long it will take to move beyond the fratricidal conflict that was made unnecessarily bitter by Bill and Hillary Clinton.Yes, I have hardly been a fan of the Clintons and their campaign, but this tells us that not only are the superdelegates coming home to Obama for good, but that governors who supported Hillary (including PA’s own Ed Rendell) are in the process of doing likewise. So I think the “fratricidal conflict” is on its way to a resolution that should definitely occur in time for the convention.
And oh yes, Herbert’s column is a recycling of The Rev. Jeremiah Wright stuff (and now this Rev. Michael Pfleger person – as I asked earlier, can actual or self-proclaimed “people of faith” in some position of authority please just STFU until this election is over?) and “chicken little” naysaying over everything the Democrats didn’t do, including “hammer(ing) the Republicans over the economy, the war, energy policy, health care, appointments to the Supreme Court, the failure to rebuild New Orleans, and so on” (kind of hard to do that in a hard-fought primary, wouldn’t you say, Bob; don’t worry – that will begin in earnest as soon as Senator Clinton’s candidacy ends, which will come shortly at long last).
And what of Obama, by the way? Well…
As for Senator Obama, he’s been mired in a series of problems of his own — problems that have done serious damage to the very idea that brought him to national prominence in the first place: that he was a new breed of political leader, a unifying candidate who could begin to narrow the partisan divides of race, class and even, to some extent, political persuasion.Any specifics on this “series of problems,” Bob (OK, here we go again, boys and girls: "flag lapel, madrassa, ‘guns,’ ‘bitter,’ ‘cling,’ bowling, orange juice instead of coffee, middle name, pledge of allegiance, Muslim"; does that about cover it?).
And while I don’t know if Obama is a new breed of leader or whatever the current catchphrase is or not, I do know that he’s been a good sport towards the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, calling to congratulate her on her recent Puerto Rico primary win (here) and he has said personally that the party will be united, and I believe him (here - I know there are "hard-working white people" who will never support him, but the overwhelming majority of the rest of the Democratic Party and enough of everyone else will).
Finally, on the issue of where the “deeply divided” Democrats currently stand at this point, I think this analysis from kos is pretty spot-on (and as he says at the end, looks for this to improve as the Dems focus all attention and effort on defeating John W. McBush).
You could argue that Bob Herbert pulled this entire column out of a bodily orifice, and I’m not so sure you’d be wrong. It’s pretty shocking to see that he either doesn’t recognize the particular dynamics of this campaign so far on both sides, or perhaps he’s so preoccupied with perpetuating the horserace that he has chosen not to do any research in support of his argument (which, given Kristol Mess, BoBo and MoDo – and the obligatory dishonorable mention to Tom Friedman – puts him in some truly odious company under the same masthead).
This New York Times “story” from Sheryl Gay Stolberg tells us that Vice-President “Big Time” was the keynote speaker at a journalism awards luncheon hosted by the Gerald R. Ford foundation yesterday.
I guess we can now look forward to Vladimir Putin chairing a commission to study Democratic reforms in totalitarian regimes and Omar al-Bashir hosting a symposium on human rights in third-world countries any day now…
While the words “light” and “Dick Cheney” do not ordinarily exist in the same sentence, the vice president did use the question-and-answer session to reveal a lighter side of himself, all the while throwing in a few characteristic zingers.Is there anyone out there who can explain to me why this is “news” (and by the way, I cannot understand why any life form with a pulse would devote any attention at all to a public official with an almost microscopic approval rating of 15 percent, as noted here). And it’s not as if Deadeye Dick is even much of a GOP “rainmaker” any more either, as noted here.
And this tells us something that Stolberg apparently thought would have been impolite to mention, namely, that the self-satisfied and utterly “kept” Beltway press corps rewarded the keynote speaker with applause and laughter when he spoke dismissively of Scott McClellan’s book (truly no honor among these people, who apparently have forgotten that this execrable cretin once concurred with the assessment of Cheney’s flunky Incurious George that Adam Clymer of the Times, one of their peers, was “a major league asshole” - yep, Dubya would know about such things).
And I’m sure this moment has been completely forgotten as well.
So the press actually had an opportunity to grill the man who conceived of a secret energy policy that has plundered this country of untold sums of money, to say nothing of encouraging war without end in Iraq while he cashed in as no one else ever has at the expense of that country’s almost ceaseless suffering and the destruction of our military, and all the journos thought to do instead was to “ask to pass the sweet and sour shrimp.”
I just wanted to make sure I got that “on the record.”
Update 1: And somehow I don't think Henry Waxman cares whether Deadeye Dick will write a memoir or not (here).
Update 2: Somehow I missed this little item earlier.
I linked here and here last Friday to Little Tommy Friedman of the New York Times in the post about James Poniewozik of Time without really acknowledging the fact that it was the fifth anniversary of “Suck. On. This.” day in which the “serious” New York Times columnist postulated that indiscriminately killing dark-skinned people half a world away is fitting recompense for the horror we suffered on September 11th; no matter how many times I watch that clip, it still makes my blood run cold.
Well, in my naiveté, I somehow held out hope that Friedman would feel a sense of remorse for all that has transpired partly as a result of his incessant cheerleading for the slaughter in Iraq, and I wondered if he felt any culpability at all when I read most of his column two days ago.
But then I read this (re: Friedman’s claim that we don’t have “leverage” in that area of the world)…
…the Bush team has so squandered U.S. power and credibility in the Middle East, and has failed to put in place any effective energy policy, that negotiating with Iran could only end up with us on the short end.And after doing so, I realized beyond any doubt that Friedman will never acknowledge the role he played in this fiasco (apparently, the "Bush team" makes mistakes in a vacuum as far as he's concerned; indeed, Friedman may yet give us a repeat performance concerning Iran, and some have already accused him of that), never understand that he encouraged this slaughter by misunderstanding both the true nature of the threat and the sorely deficient “leadership” so tirelessly calling for a response against an “enemy” that never attacked us.
And at long last, I also realized that the words “culpability” and “blame” will apparently never exist in Friedman’s vocabulary concerning himself.
Monday, June 02, 2008
Yes, McClellan certainly deserves it and more. However, I want to take note of a particular individual “piling on” at this moment and what he had to say about the former Bushco flak…
“There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don’t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues,” (Bob) Dole wrote in a message sent yesterday morning. “No, your type soaks up the benefits of power, revels in the limelight for years, then quits, and spurred on by greed, cashes in with a scathing critique.”(Obligatory acknowledgment of Dole’s service to our country and expression of respect and gratitude, particularly in light of his disabling injury; does that suffice?)
Now that that’s out of the way, let me point out some of the ways that Dole has contributed to our present difficulties (and in so doing, forfeited the right to criticize anybody else, IMHO)…
Also, as Wikipedia notes, Dole is the only person in the history of the two major U.S. political parties to have been his party's nominee for both President and Vice President, but who was never elected to either office (hint: maybe it creeps people out when you refer to yourself in the third person, Bob).
Dole pushed the Repug party talking point here that there was “no crisis in health care” in 1994 during the attempted reforms by the Clinton administration, particularly Hillary of course (I certainly don’t support her for president, as you know – and based on this, the end will come soon, apparently; thank God – but I would ask that you remember Dole’s intransigence along with that of Newton Leroy Gingrich the next time our corporate media tells you how the Clintons failed on their own in this regard…by the way, the “No Crisis” theme was concocted by that genius Kristol Mess; to read today’s errata on his most recent column, click here – h/t Atrios). Dole opposed Medicare and housing subsidies as part of LBJ’s “Great Society” here (Wikipedia referenced that and other items in this post, but I couldn’t locate that anywhere else). Dole uttered the following bogus line in a 1976 debate with fellow Vice Presidential candidate Walter Mondale (here):
I figured out the other day, if we added up the killed and wounded in democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans, enough to fill the city of Detroit.
Yep, that was one reason why he and Gerry Ford lost, along with Ford’s line about the people of Poland not considering themselves to be under Soviet domination.
My point is that the guy who may have been one of the final links in Congress between what I would call a traditional, fiscally conservative and socially moderate Repug and the blundering neocon ideologues should show some backbone and, in addition to beating up on little Scotty, acknowledge that the drip-drip-drip of revelations from McClellan and many others is actually starting to paint a picture even to those of his own party of a hopelessly corrupt and utterly power mad horde of jackals who have done nothing but break our military, crush the middle class, twiddle their thumbs while our planet melts, and rend our Constitution into shreds.
George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, for starters, need that “scathing critique” from you a hell of a lot more than one of their mouthpieces ever will, regardless of whether you’re investigating the Walter Reed mess for them or not.
Why don't YOU "have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues?"
This Letter To The Editor appeared yesterday in the New York Times Book Review (very special hat tip to Mrs. Doomsy for this one).
To the Editor:To learn more about R.I.F. (including how to contact Congress to restore funding), click here.
In his review of “Read All About It!,” the children’s book by Laura and Jenna Bush aimed at convincing reluctant readers that books are fun (May 11), Roger Sutton says that Laura Bush “has brought both professional expertise and personal investment to a favorite first-lady cause: literacy.”
Reading Is Fundamental, or R.I.F., is, according to its Web site, “the oldest and largest children’s and family nonprofit literacy organization in the United States.” As a librarian in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, I know firsthand how excited children are to receive free books from the R.I.F. program. Many of them might not otherwise be able to own their own books, and most of the program’s participants become more interested in reading as a result. Although Laura Bush has served on R.I.F.’s national advisory council, President Bush has eliminated all federal funding for R.I.F.’s book distribution program in his proposed 2009 budget.
If Laura Bush truly wants to show her dedication to literacy, she should come out in favor of reinstating R.I.F.’s federal funding to the 2009 budget. This wonderful program has helped many more children discover the joys of reading than “Read All About It!” ever will.
"It was really fun to meet Kiss and Gene Simmons," she told reporters, noting they seemed well informed about current events. The band had asked if she could stop by after she finished dinner with the Swedish foreign minister and Rice readily agreed, she said.I’m sure it wasn’t hard for Condi to spot a middle-aged, paunchy white guy with a poofy ‘70s ‘fro, was it?
Simmons and his crew, who are on a European tour, weren't wearing their trademark stage makeup, but were recognizable as rock stars to even non-fans by their hair, according to State Department officials who were with Rice.
Putting aside the fact that the music of Kiss is utterly mundane as far as your humble narrator is concerned (I’ll give them credit for about 4-5 songs that were actually good, but that’s it), it should be noted that Gene Simmons is someone who I consider to be utterly simpatico with the Bushco cabal.
This Wikipedia article on Simmons states that he is a “liberal on social policy” but still supports the foreign policy disaster perpetrated by our ruling regime in Iraq, so much so that, in typical 101st Keyboard Kommando fashion, he wrote the following on his web site in 2003…
“I’m ashamed to be surrounded by people calling themselves Liberal who are, in my opinion, spitting on the graves of brave American soldiers who gave their life to fight a war that wasn't theirs...in a country they've never been to...simply to liberate the people therein".And while Simmons has an appreciation and respect of this country for the liberation of his mother from a concentration camp in World War II by our forces (Simmons was born Chaim Witz in Haifa, Israel), he chose not to serve even though he readily cheerleads the sacrifices of our military leading to, in too many cases, their injury and death in Mesopotamia.
The article on Simmons also mentions that little dustup with Terry Gross of NPR’s “Fresh Air” where he told the host “If you’re going to welcome me with open arms, then you’ll have to welcome me with open legs,” to which Gross rightly took offense – Simmons was using the line from that Who song, “You Better You Bet,” but somehow I think Pete Townshend et al would have more sense than to use it the way Simmons did. The Wikipedia information also tells us that Al Franken kicked Simmons’ butt in a game of racquetball, and Simmons’ behavior as this took place earned him the dubious recognition from Franken as “the most awful person I’ve met.”
So it doesn’t completely surprise me that our Secretary of State, with her musical and political inclinations, has found herself gravitating towards “the leader of the band.” However, given Simmons’ misogyny, I give Madame Secretary enough sense to depart his company before he tries to get her to “rock n’ roll over.”
Update 6/4/08: She responds to "her master's voice" so well, doesn't she?
The following letter appeared in the Bucks County Courier Times today (Blogger seems to be hosed in a particularly nasty way today, by the way – last Thursday I said I was about to hit a “dry spell” with posting, but that may really be true today; we’ll see).
As a Vietnam War era veteran, I want to acknowledge the efforts of Congressman Patrick Murphy.
He has met and exceeded his campaign promises; the most important to me is his handling of the Iraq war. While plenty of politicians on both sides of the aisle make vague statements about supporting the troops, Murphy is actually getting the job done. He has been one of the House's most vocal advocates for setting up timelines to redeploy our troops.
I agree with Murphy, an Iraq war veteran, that our troops shouldn't be responsible for policing a religious fight between Shiites and Sunnis while the Iraqi parliament takes month-long vacations.
What's more, Murphy has taken steps to make sure we take care of our troops when they get home. He introduced a new GI Bill of Rights that will expand housing, professional and educational opportunities for vets and he's passed important homeless veterans legislation.
Actions speak louder than words, and when it comes to supporting the troops, Murphy gets the job done.
Alfred M. Dorsey
To help Patrick, click here.