Saturday, November 08, 2008

Later Saturday Stuff

Oh yeah, I can dig it one more time (h/t The Daily Kos)...



...and K.O. brings us the latest on Bushco's scandals (not possible to capture all of them here, of course - first is the farcical GITMO "judicial proceedings," the Iraqis actually want us out of Iraq PDQ - otherwise, no status of forces agreement - and I hope you like Monument Valley, the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River unspoiled, because Commander Codpiece is sure going to screw them up too if he can, though this is good news).

Saturday Stuff

Typical Saxby Chambliss - demagoguery, evasion, lies (more here), and to respond appropriately, click here...



...James Taylor ("Rainy Day Man"; overcast and drizzling in these parts - kind of fits the mood).

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Stuff

Yep, those so-called "Christians" sure know a thing or two about what President-Elect Obama plans to do, don't they - please (more here)...



...and speaking of farcical characters, "Uh-Oh Silvio" is at it again here (the laughs never stop with this dude, don't they)...



...and leave it to our pal Dave to give us the last word on Senator McCain and "Governor Hottie" (here)...



...The Hold Steady ("Stay Positive"; good advice for us all).

Giving The Gift Of Life

This San Diego Tribune story tells us that Pope Benedict XVI…

…lamented the shortage of organs for transplants but denounced any selling of organs as immoral.

“The problem of availability of organs for transplant, unfortunately, isn't theoretical but dramatically real,” the pontiff said in a speech to participants of a Vatican-sponsored meeting on organ donations.
I know I’ve criticized His Holiness a lot because of his failure to support the so-called “liberation theology” of South America as well as his myriad misstatements on a variety of issues, followed soon afterwards by clarifications from a lower level individual of one type or another. And though I know the selling of organs is definitely a “slippery slope,” I’ll leave that issue up to others – not something I advocate, but who knows if a circumstance would ever present itself where that would be the right thing to do.

Also, the story tells us that Benedict himself is an organ donor, which is commendable, though given his advanced age, I would guess there’s a medical issue concerning how useful his organs would be.

And this story has a weird bit of timing given that next week (Tuesday to be exact) will mark the 23rd anniversary of the death of Pelle Lindbergh of the Philadelphia Flyers in one of the most horrific auto accidents you can imagine (pictured above with the Vezina Trophy he won as the best goalie of the 1984-85 season – I’ll note the connection shortly; I sounded off on this topic previously here).

This Washington Post story tells us that Lindberg was legally drunk (a blood alcohol level of .24, with .10 as the legal limit) when he crashed his red Porsche into a cement wall near Stratford, N.J. (one passenger was listed in stable condition and the other was critical at the time; I believe they both recovered, though I don’t know for certain).

However, the Lindberg family agreed to allow his organs to be donated, which was a wise decision and truly magnanimous considering what they must have felt at the time. And given that Lindbergh was an elite physical specimen due to the conditioning required to perform as an NHL-level goaltender, the organs were likely strong enough to help others in a significant way.

I suppose the point of this post is to ask that you sign yourself up as an organ donor when you have the opportunity to do so, as I have done. Who knows who could benefit form it.

That’s it.

Bad Times Today For Sheldon A.

(By the way, I also posted briefly over here.)

Atrios brought up the news this morning that one Sheldon G. Adelson’s casino company, Las Vegas Sands Corp., “fell the most in New York trading since going public after saying it may default on debt and face bankruptcy.”

It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

One of the embedded Eschaton links takes you to the New York Times story providing details of Adelson’s association with the cretins of Freedom’s Watch, which is good reporting, but I’d like to “pile on” here, if I may, with more details from this profile of Adelson that appeared in The New Yorker last June.

In the article by writer Connie Bruck, we learn, among other things, that…

Adelson opposed both Olmert and the (Annapolis, MD) peace conference (in November 2006 to discuss, among other things, a two-state Israel-Palestine “solution”). The Zionist Organization of America, to which Adelson is a major contributor, ran a full-page ad in the Times, headlined, “SECRETARY RICE: DON’T PROMOTE A STATE FOR PALESTINIANS WHILE THEIR 10 COMMANDMENTS PROMOTE TERRORISM AND ISRAEL’S DESTRUCTION.” The “10 Commandments” referred to the constitution of Fatah, Abbas’s party. “Osama Bin-Laden and Hamas would be proud of Abbas’ Fatah Constitution,” the ad stated. Two weeks before the start of the conference, a Washington, D.C., think tank that shares office space and several board members with the Republican Jewish Coalition—another organization to which Adelson makes significant contributions—circulated an article on its Listserve which asserted, “(Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert is now chasing peace with the Palestinians at all costs, in a desperate attempt to secure his place in world history.”



Adelson has long preferred a low profile in many of his political activities. But one of his maneuvers did appear in the press. He has been a generous donor to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, the dominant lobby of American Jewry regarding U.S. policy toward Israel. Since the nineties, Adelson has helped underwrite many congressional trips to Israel, sponsored by an AIPAC educational affiliate. (Adelson pays only for Republican members.) Last year, he contributed funds for a lavish new office building in Washington, D.C., for the organization. In November, shortly before the summit, he learned that AIPAC was supporting a congressional letter, signed by more than a hundred and thirty members of the House of Representatives, that urged the Bush Administration to increase economic aid to the Palestinians, an initiative that the government of Israel also supported. Adelson was furious.




When Adelson was merely rich, he wrote checks for causes that he favored and for politicians whom he supported. Occasionally, he demanded to be heard. But he did not expect to play a significant role in U.S. foreign policy, or in Israel’s strategic decisions, or in the fate of a sitting Israeli Prime Minister. That was before he acquired many billions of dollars. (He has assets of twenty-six billion dollars, according to a Forbes list published in March.) His political expenditures and his expectations have increased proportionately. Not long after (an encounter between Adelson and Dubya) last October, an Israeli government representative said that Bush, describing it to another Israeli official, had remarked wryly, “I had this crazy Jewish billionaire, yelling at me.” (The Israeli official does not recall the conversation; the White House said that it had no comment.)
The New Yorker story tells us that Adelson hit it big when he founded the Computer Dealer’s Exposition (or Comdex) in Las Vegas in 1979 before he acquired the Sands Hotel and Casino in 1989, demolishing it in 1996 before construction was finished in The Venetian Hotel and Casino the following year.

Continuing…

Like all major Las Vegas hotel casinos, the Sands was a union hotel when Adelson bought it, but the Venetian was non-union. This sparked a singularly bitter war with the Culinary Union, which had for many years maintained good relations with most hotels on the Strip. (Adelson has said that the benefits he gives his employees are superior to union benefits.) After a rally in which a thousand union supporters picketed in front of the Venetian, Adelson tried to have them removed by the police, and when that failed he went to court, arguing that the sidewalks outside the Venetian were private property, and not subject to the First Amendment. The Venetian lost in the district court and the appellate court, and in 2002 the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
And there’s lots more, including…

Testifying before the Nevada state ethics commission in 1998, Shelley Berkley, who is now a Democratic congresswoman for Nevada, and who had worked for Adelson in the nineties as his vice-president of legal and governmental affairs, said that Adelson had told her that “old Democrats were with the union and he wanted to break the back of the union, consequently he had to break the back of the Democrats.” Adelson fired Berkley in 1997, just months before she planned to begin a run for her first term in Congress. In a September, 1998, letter to the Review-Journal, Adelson wrote, “She violated attorney/client privilege and after two warnings, I decided to fire her. . . . Shelley Berkley attacks me in order to draw attention away from her own ethical lapses.” Berkley published a letter in the paper a week later, in response, and she explained her firing differently. “My relationship with him began to sour the moment I urged him to hold jobs open at the Venetian for former Sands workers. The more I encouraged cooperation with the workers, the more I incurred Mr. Adelson’s wrath,” Berkley wrote. “Over time, I observed Mr. Adelson plot vendettas against anyone whom he believed stood in his way. However minuscule the perceived affront, he was certain to go ballistic, using his money and position to bully any ‘opponent’—great or small—into submission. . . . He has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Republican Party to support his handpicked candidate by attacking me on TV.”

She went on, “I have unique personal knowledge of how Mr. Adelson seeks to dominate politics and public policy through the raw power of money. Shortly before I was fired from the Sands by Mr. Adelson in 1997, he made me an offer. It was a bizarre proposition, but it was simple and it was direct. He told me if I would switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party he would provide all the campaign funding I would need to run for Congress.” Berkley won her first race by only three percentage points. In 2006, she won a fifth term with sixty-five per cent of the vote, and today is a popular representative with a seemingly safe district; but Adelson has continued to try to defeat her.
Bruck’s great story tells us of Adelson’s acquaintance with a certain Tom DeLay, Adelson’s lawsuit against writer John L. Smith who wrote a book about Las Vegas casino moguls and (in Adelson’s view) defamed him in the process, and Adelson’s affliction of peripheral neuropathy.

And regarding a certain (former) Repug presidential candidate…

In late March, Senator John McCain held a fund-raiser in Las Vegas. When the event was being planned, McCain called MGM Mirage’s Terry Lanni—who has been a strong supporter of McCain for twenty years, including during his 2000 run for the Presidency—and asked him to co-host the event with Adelson, at the Venetian. Lanni agreed to the favor. A third co-host was the Republican consultant Sig Rogich, another longtime McCain supporter, who has also worked for Adelson. Rogich told me that although Adelson had been an ardent backer of Rudy Giuliani, once McCain became the presumptive nominee Adelson said he would support him. Rogich said that McCain had been “cementing his relationship with Adelson further,” and added, “All I’ve tried to do is make sure the two communicate well, and that he understands the passion John McCain has for the issues that are so important to Sheldon Adelson—first and foremost, Israel.”
And apparently, Adelson likes to claim that “I never climbed up on…anybody’s broken back” on his way to untold wealth and influence.

Given that he has supported Freedom’s Watch so heavily and has a large measure of responsibility for images such as the one above, I don’t know if that claim is partisan stupidity or willful ignorance, or both.

At least losing a good chunk of his wealth would represent perhaps the only penance he will ever understand.

Update 1/2/09: What Atrios sez here...

Vote And Keep Your Mouth Shut, Soldier!

This New York Times editorial tells us today that…

In a stroke of self-satire, Pentagon officials tried to block Stars and Stripes — the military’s respected independent newspaper — from covering the troops’ plain and honest reactions to the election night news about their new commander in chief. The Department of Defense once again made news by smothering news.
To find out more on this startling moment of stupidity, I came across the following column from Mother Jones online, which provides further detail…

As part of its election coverage, (Stars and Stripes) planned to dispatch reporters to the common areas of military bases in order to chronicle the scene as the returns rolled on. A Stripes editor, Tom Skeen, advised the Pentagon of the paper's plans beforehand as a matter of "courtesy," but was "flabbergasted" by the response he received from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs: stand down. “As a matter of long standing policy, DoD personnel are to avoid engaging in activities that could associate the Department with any partisan election,” the paper was told.



Ultimately, Stripes' editorial director, Terry Leonard, decided to ignore the order, instructing the paper's reporters to carry on as planned unless they were told to stop, in which case they were to state their objections and leave without incident. And at bases in Japan and South Korea military public affairs officials did indeed intercede, preventing Stripes reporters from interviewing servicemembers. Explaining the unusual interference in the paper's operations, a Pentagon spokesman later said that nothing good could come from covering the military perspective on presidential politics: "It’s nothing but a gateway to trouble for us."

In the end, Stripes reporters were successful in gauging the ground-level reaction of grunts worldwide—and, at press time, the Pentagon had yet to be subsumed into the void of partisan politics.
This is particularly dumb because, as you can read here, the DoD had no issues at all with obtaining reactions from our men and women in uniform during the 2004 Bush/Kerry presidential election.

So what changed?

Well, the Mother Jones piece tells us that the decision to “stand down” came from the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and the person holding that title is Dorrance J. Smith.

As this Source Watch bio tells us, Smith was the “former ABC News producer and the former media adviser to Coalition Provisional Authority Ambassador L. Paul Bremer…confirmed ‘months after’ President George W. Bush "bypassed the Senate to install him in the job after objections were raised about a column he wrote for the Wall Street Journal," Editor & Publisher reported (the article “blast(ed) all major US television networks and the government of Qatar for cooperating with Al-Jazeera in showing gruesome battlefield footage obtained by the Arab television channel in Iraq," Agence France Presse reported January 5, 2006).

Continuing…

"(Smith) decried what he called 'the ongoing relationship between terrorists, Al-Jazeera and the networks' and asked if the US government should maintain normal relations with Qatar as long as its government continued to subsidize Al-Jazeera.”
As a result of what Smith said, Carl Levin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee at the time (now chairman), put a “hold” on Smith’s nomination, leading to his recess appointment by Dubya (Source Watch also tells us that the post in which Smith serves had been unfilled for three years since Pentagon spokesperson Victoria Clarke left the job in June 2003).

And Oliver Willis tells us here that…

Smith had been (the first) President Bush’s communications director, and his secretary in the White House had been Linda Tripp. “The Washington bureau was like an outpost of the American Spectator,” an ABC News correspondent told me. “Dorrance was in constant touch with Tripp. He was calling the shots. He kept opposing views off the air and put views supportive of (Clinton inquisitor Ken) Starr on the air.”
Leave to a loyal Bushie to deprive our men and women in the military of a freedom they should enjoy while they fight so that very freedom, among others, can be imparted to those benefitting from their sacrifice.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thursday Stuff

Jim Martin is still a Dem Senate candidate in Georgia; looks like he's headed to a runoff with the despicable Saxby Chambliss (trying hard not to say what I think of southerners who made a mockery of their franchise by returning Sen. Mr. Elaine Chao, Roger Wicker, John Cornyn AND Jim Inhofe - here's a chance to get it right for a change) ...



...they say pets are a reflection of their owner; this is Dubya's dog Barney in action (here - h/t HuffPo)...



...and FINALLY, we have the story of how McCain chose Palin over Holy Joe...



...Nickleback ("Gotta Be Somebody"; a nice little fan vid from YouTuber Nufkobo).

How Do You Spell Trouble?

Hat tip to Rachel Maddow tonight for this: take this word...

R-E-P-U-B-L-I-C-A-N

...jumble it around every so slightly, and you come up with this...

C-U-R-E B P-A-L-I-N

Something to consider as these cretins meet to salvage the wreckage of what was once their "movement" (re: "Eric The Stupid").

Stranger things have happened, I might add.

Little Ricky Rains On The Obama-Rama Parade

Yep, it’s Thursday, and that means it’s time again for another steaming, stinking helping of right-wing blather from former Senator Man-On-Dog in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer (here).

See, to hear PA’s former senator from northern Virginia tell it, the soon-to-be 44th President of the United States will either lead or be led by that bad “li-bu-ruul Democrat Congress”…

(If Obama is led, he) would reduce productivity, slow economic growth and increase unemployment.
By the way (as noted here), productivity “grew” in this country by 1.1 percent in the July-September quarter (and as the story also tells us, “the number of out-of-work Americans continuing to draw unemployment benefits has surged to a 25-year high”).

He would sign bills to eliminate the secret ballot in union elections, raise the minimum wage, require businesses to provide paid family medical leave, and legalize millions of illegal immigrants.
I’ll tell you what; take a look at this and tell me where it states that Obama will “require businesses to provide paid family medical leave,” OK?

What you will find, however, are proposals for the following: a new Small Business Health Tax Credit to help small businesses provide affordable health insurance to their employees, covering a portion of the catastrophic health costs they pay in return for lower premiums for employees, and a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage, among other good stuff.

Also, this tells you that “Obama and Biden support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens.“

And unlike well-to-do Repugs living in McMansions, I would venture to guess that most Americans are interested in raising the minimum wage (and it is a continual source of hilarity to me to read about Repugs who supposedly care about the integrity of workers’ “secret ballot” in votes regarding union membership, when in reality they oppose card check and the Employee Free Choice Act because it would greatly hinder the ability of employers to secretly intimidate their workers into opposing unions in their workplace).

Little Ricky also conjures up all kinds of scary liberal “Oooga Booga!” nonsense, such as a likely increase in abortions under Obama and “a boost to same-sex marriage” (interesting because, based on this odious development, the state of California obviously didn’t “get the memo”). Also, “Senator Sanitarium” asks us…

Will (Obama) govern as a screen on which Congress' liberal Democratic majority will project its views, like President Bill Clinton in 1993 and 1994? Or will the views of center-left America fill the screen, as happened with Clinton from 1995 to 2000?
Gee, former Senator “Eye Of Mordor,” it looks like you have to brush up on your right-wing talking points; don’t you know we’re supposedly a “center-right” country now?

Finally…

If (Obama) is led, our economy will struggle under greater taxes on investors and higher-income workers. Government would take ownership of automakers.
I’ve been meaning to speak to this matter for some time now, and finally I have a good opportunity.

If Obama can provide funding for the automakers by signing off on legislation or enhancing an existing loan program through the Energy Department (as noted in this story), I’m fine with that.

However, I will never support a bailout of the automakers. I only went along with it for the financial institutions because it was vitally important that we started freeing up credit to make this country work again. And I know there are enormous political considerations here for the Dems and Obama in particular.

But as far as I’m concerned, the automakers had years to retool themselves to produce lower-mileage vehicles using alternative sources of energy, and they didn’t do it. They should be punished for their sloth and ignorance (and I’m not unsympathetic to the auto workers, but speaking as someone who works in IT, I have to live with the everyday reality of what you might call “disposable employment” – besides, I’m sure creative partnerships can be forged between labor and management to ensure their mutual survival here).

And speaking of “disposable employment,” one can only hope that, if Philadelphia Newspapers, Inc. is forced to cut payroll again (as noted here), a certain right-wing ideologue hack pundit would be one of the first to go.

Ensuring The Handoff

This story tells us that His Fraudulency has put the word out to his staff to help with the transition from Bushco to the incoming Obama Administration…

“This peaceful transfer of power is one of the hallmarks of a true democracy,” Bush told hundreds of Executive Mansion and White House employees who gathered on the South Lawn of the White House on a gray morning less than 48 hours after Obama claimed the presidency.

Said Bush: “Ensuring this transition is as smooth as possible is a priority for the rest of my presidency.”
Commendable, I must say, even if that’s the least he can do (and this Think Progress post tells us that Mike Allen of The Politico – ugh! – is reporting that Robert Gibbs will be the incoming press secretary; how cool is it that Gibbs has already faced off with Sean Inanity of Fox Noise?).

And as I researched the topic of the transition from one administration to another, I came across this post with some neat embedded links, including one to an article detailing presidential transitions going back to that of James Buchanan to Abraham Lincoln in 1861. Also, information appears about the Presidential Transition Act of 2000, signed by Bill Clinton in October of that year, to ease the process for presidential aides and appointees, and also to help alleviate concerns related to information technology.

Also, this lengthy post details some of the difficulties with Dubya’s transition from 2000 to 2001; yes, the contested election held up matters somewhat, but there was also a lot of ideological push-pull between the neocons and more moderate appointees such as Christine Todd Whitman who, for example, wanted the incoming administration to honor the Kyoto Protocols on global warming (and we know what happened there, of course).

Finally, this New York Times article tells us that the claims from Bushco that outgoing Clinton staffers had vandalized keyboards and committed other acts of mischief were true (Clinton himself offered to pay for the damages); the article also tells us that Poppy Bush’s people engaged in similar hijinks in 1992-93, though the GAO report couldn’t determine if the 2000-01 antics were worse than those that occurred during other transitions.

So for all of its myriad failures, the administration of George W. Bush can actually set a positive precedent here and exit in an orderly fashion if it chooses to do so, and it would be up to future administrations to honor that positive example (and for more “fun” with our preznit, click here).

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wednesday Stuff

Now the corporate media pivot begins in earnest, people; witness Joe Scar "baring his fangs" here as he makes the patently ridiculous charge that this country is "more conservative now than it was in 1994," while he and the Beltway chattering class proclaim that this is a "center-right country" - Think Progress debunks that as the utter nonsense that it truly is here.

But you know what? I hope Barnes, Matalin, Bennett, Ingraham et al keep saying that stuff, because it will turn more and more people away from the "traditional" media ultimately and towards more filthy, unkempt liberal blogger types such as your humble narrator.



...Rachel Maddow slams "the new poll tax" here; definitely not something we should wait to fix until the next election cycle...



...K.O. brings us a report of the world reacting to Obama's win yesterday (inspiring stuff, for the most part)...



...and lastly, blues/jazz legend Mose Allison is coming to Roller's Flying Fish in Philadelphia this weekend (here's some of "Who's Lovin' You Tonight?" and "If You Go To The City" at the Artists' Quarter in St. Paul, MN 9/22/07).

As The Dust Settles On The '08 Campaign (updates)

As we all wish President-Elect Barack Obama well (well, most of us anyway – if you’re reading this, why wouldn’t you? – and doesn’t that have a nice ring, by the way?), I think now is the time for some random musings from your humble narrator on what we have just endured for all of these months (and by the way, if you’re a Democrat living in the Philadelphia area, how cool is it that Obama was elected and the Phillies won the World Series within a week of each other?).

To begin, congratulations to Patrick Murphy for winning another term as our PA-08 U.S. congressman. From what I could determine about the race, it looked like Tom Manion tried to run as a more traditional Repug (fiscally conservative, socially moderate), and to his credit, I really didn’t pick up on any attempts to throw “red meat” to “the base” (such as calling into question whether or not Patrick actually served in Iraq or not; preposterous I know, but other Repugs have tried and failed). For the most part, I believe Manion kept the campaign focused on the issues, though that could also be due to the fact that the Repugs didn’t have enough money to generate a torrent of snail-mail slime aimed at Patrick; there was something from the RNC that came and went last week, but it was little more than background noise, to be honest.

I saw no polling numbers anywhere on this contest, which led me to believe that Patrick was pretty much in command throughout. And though I was obviously unhappy with his votes on FISA and the D.C. gun bill, that probably helped to shut down two ways that he could have been attacked by Manion; lousy policy, but good politics. Here’s hoping that there will be many more good votes as opposed to the bad ones (as in the 110th Congress) for at least the next two years to come.

Also, congratulations to Steve Santarsiero, who will now go to Harrisburg to fill the PA State House seat formerly held by the retiring Dave Steil. The loss of what would have been a fine Bucks County Commissioner will now be the gain of the state’s 31st district.

I should also note that I haven’t had much to say about Joe Sestak in the PA-07 congressional district for some time because, to be honest, I haven’t thought much of his votes. Congressional Dems didn’t stand up on impeaching Bush, and I grudgingly forgave them. Many of them caved on FISA (including Patrick and Sestak), and I swallowed hard and moved on. However, Patrick has a much better record of at least voting in favor of Iraq war funding with troop withdrawal deadlines, and Sestak didn’t even bother to do that. However, Sestak should be congratulated for handily defeating Repug challenger Craig Williams, who won an Inquirer endorsement because, as a Repug, he would add “balance” to the U.S. House (let me know when they give a token endorsement like that to a Dem, OK?). Also, I don’t know where Williams got all the dough to run those full-page ads in the Philadelphia Daily News, but they went on nonstop for over a week – fortunately, they’ll disappear now also.

Now for the bad news…

I knew Harris Martin would have a tough road to hoe against Gene DiGirolamo for the PA State House District 18 seat, as he usually does, and it didn’t pan out this time either. It’s a no-brainer to me and others who watch this stuff closely; Harris would be an improvement over DiGirolamo in a big way. However, I have to grudgingly point out that we know people in the district who are genuinely happy with DiGirolamo’s constituent service (following up on issues, returning phone calls), and these are people who are middle-of-the-road politically. Some of the issues Harris noted in this post are of vital importance, but I have to say that I don’t know of one issue in particular which could serve as a “wedge” between DiGirolamo and people other than what you might call the “good government” crowd such as yours truly (maybe it’s out there and I just don’t know about it yet – I hope so). I greatly wish that such an issue does present itself sometime soon. It could lead to the justly-earned reward Harris has fought for so hard for so long.

Also, over in PA-06, another Dem (Bob Roggio this time) gave Jim Gerlach a run for his money, but Gerlach managed to eke out another victory (I don’t have county-by-county breakdowns on the congressional races yet, but my guess is that Chester and Lehigh sealed it for Gerlach again). And as far as PA-16 goes – sigh! – my sympathies go out to the voters of Berks County, who continue to support Democrats (Lois Herr two years ago and Bruce Slater this year), but in spite of that, the utterly odious Joe Pitts was returned (probably with a big help from some truly clueless individuals in Lancaster County – again, I don’t know the breakdown yet, but if all holds true to form, that will be the case).

We also fell short of the 60 votes needed to obtain control of the U.S. Senate, but 56 is a lot closer to that total than 51 (pending Minnesota, where – last I checked – Al Franken was losing to Norm Coleman by less than 600 votes and had not yet conceded; like the Bucks County Commissioners election last year, a third-party candidate screwed up that contest but good). I don’t know what our prospects are for getting to 60 in 2010; I’m sure The Daily Kos, among others, will be looking at that over the weeks and months ahead.

And now for some words about our corporate media; Mrs. Doomsy and I watched a good bit of CNN yesterday, and Anderson Cooper wins the commemorative “Beam Me Up, Scotty” award for conducting a holographic interview with will.i.am of The Black-Eyed Peas. And though it was tedious to listen to Bill Bennett drone on and on for no good reason, it was also worth it to watch the pungent duo of Alex Castellanos and Ed Rollins sitting silently and penitently in the background as the events unfolded (David Gergen was spot-on as he often is at these times).

Also, though Tom Brokaw put his foot in it big time here (h/t Atrios), he made what I thought was a nice observation on MSNBC after Obama spoke, saying that, maybe now, the “best and brightest” will consider coming to Washington, D.C. to work in government as a response to try and help Obama (won’t it be nice to not have to listen to Repugs trying to cram the “government is the problem” mantra down our throats for a change?). And last (and certainly least), I was in a waiting room yesterday where Fox “News” was tuned in on the teevee, and it was way too damn funny to listen to their humanoid correspondents claiming that, after tonight, the Repugs could “lose power” (uh, I hate to break the news to you, but the minority party lost Congress TWO YEARS AGO!).

So now comes the withdrawal from all of the hoopla, and we can get back to the business of trying to put our country right again after six years of ruinous Repug rule, to say nothing of what will be eight years of Bushco before all is said and done. And we will now no longer have to endure the seemingly endless interviews with “hard-working, American white voters,” or words to that effect, with the interviewers wondering if they’ll actually support Barack Obama (and maybe “Joe The Plumber” can go learn his trade and earn an actual license so he can be called that FOR REAL??!!).

Update 1: brownsox at The Daily Kos gives us the full U.S. congressional rundown here; I noted the senate race in Minnesota above, but Oregon, Georgia and Alaska (where "Tubes" Stevens could actually be returned as he appeals his conviction - unbelievable!) are still in question also.

Update 2: Sounds like "denial" is a river that runs through South Carolina also (ba-dump!).

Update 3: I really was unable to pay any attention to the PA State Congresssional race between Dem Chris King and Repug Frank Farry in the 142nd district; I always thought King was a good legislator - surprised that he lost to Farry (if I find out more on this, I'll pass it along).

Update 4: Oh, and one more thing; in case "Tubes" Stevens ends up going to the gray bar hotel when all is said and done, three guesses who'll appoint herself to serve out his term...

You Betcha!

Update 5 11/6/08: In fairness to the commenter defending Palin, I should note that CNN's Campbell Brown is absolutely right here.

A Song For Today

I've had this on my mind all morning - "Heavenly Day" by Patty Griffin.

Wednesday Post-Election AM Stuff

Here is what I thought was the very gracious concession speech by John McCain last night (and wise move not to let Palin open her mouth)...



...and here is the victory speech from President-Elect Barack Obama.



Update: I know this is the time to "take the high road," and I personally don't approve of the bad words, but I had to link here to this Tom Tomorrow cartoon, which is another "keeper," if for no other reason than to check out his joke about the infamous McCain "lime green background" (which, it should be noted for all time, was Steve Schmidt's idea).

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The "Revolutionaries" Who Weren't

(Referring to the two presidential candidates, just to make that clear - and I also posted over here today.)

I thought this was a very interesting Op-Ed in the New York Times over the weekend; it tells the story of Robert Jordan, the hero in Ernest Hemingway’s novel “For Whom The Bell Tolls” about the involvement of the “Abraham Lincoln Brigade” in the Spanish Civil War, and how the portrayal of Jordan in Hemingway’s legendary work stood at odds with the beliefs of those in this country who actually fought against Francisco Franco in World War II (long before Franco became a punch line in “Saturday Night Live”).

And by the way, Jordan has also emerged as a hero to both Senators Barack Obama and John W. McBush; Obama claimed that “For Whom The Bell Tolls” is “one of the three books that most inspired him.”

As for the other guy…

Mr. McCain begins his 2002 book, “Worth the Fighting For” (a phrase lifted from Jordan’s dying soliloquy), with an extraordinary paean to the character, whom he first encountered at age 12. Having found two four-leaf clovers, young John pulled “For Whom the Bell Tolls” off his father’s bookcase so he could press them. He and Robert have been together ever since, even in Hanoi. “I knew that if he were in the next cell to mine, he would be stoic, he would be strong, he would be tough, he wouldn’t give up,” Mr. McCain said in a radio interview in 2002. “And Robert would expect me to do the same thing.”
And as far as the character of Jordan himself is concerned…

Hemingway never revealed on whom he based Jordan, who taught Spanish at the University of Montana before heading to Spain. Cecil Eby of the University of Michigan proposed Robert Merriman, who, like Jordan, was a Westerner and a teacher (he had studied economics in Moscow). But Merriman, who was killed in 1938, was never a guerrilla behind enemy lines, as Jordan was.
And in the 1943 movie, Jordan is portrayed by the decidedly anti-Communist Gary Cooper (though Jordan, had he been truly emblematic of many of the anti-Franco fighters, could have passed for one – Op-Ed writer David Margolick tells us that most of those who actually fought in the brigade hated Hemingway’s book), with the still-quite-fetching-at-that-point Ingrid Bergman as Jordan’s love interest, Maria.

But it’s a funny thing; when I read about Jordan’s exploits and some of those who fought fascism, I think of neither Obama nor McBush (and Margolick writes that our country never really came to accept those 3,000 or so who fought in the brigade, in particular Ronnie Reagan, who said that they “fought on the wrong side”: that’s actually funny coming from a guy who “served” in WWII stateside because he was nearsighted).

The person I think of is William Ayres (pictured – at least, the guy in the Weather Underground, as opposed to the Distinguished Professor of Education and scholar of the present day)…

As Margolick also tells us…

(Jordan) palled around with terrorists, or at least people whom many Americans, of his era and beyond, so thought. His specialty is blowing things up for a cause. He is at minimum a socialist, someone so eager to spread wealth around that he’d lose his life to do it.
And as for Ayres, Wikipedia tells us…

“The one thing I don't regret is opposing the war in Vietnam with every ounce of my being.... When I say, 'We didn't do enough,' a lot of people rush to think, 'That must mean, "We didn't bomb enough shit."' But that's not the point at all. It's not a tactical statement, it's an obvious political and ethical statement. In this context, 'we' means 'everyone'.”
And before we chuckle self-righteously at what could be viewed as Ayres’ liberal naïveté, I would only submit that we may find ourselves saying the same thing one day about the Iraq war (notwithstanding the bombing, of course).

A Final Palin-McBush Media Whine

Thank God this stuff will be ending soon (I hope so anyway)…

John McCain supporters who believe they haven’t gotten a fair shake from the media during the Republican’s candidacy against Barack Obama have a new study to point to. Comments made by sources, voters, reporters and anchors that aired on ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts over the past two months reflected positively on Obama in 65 percent of cases, compared to 31 percent of cases with regards to McCain, according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs.
This tells us that the Center for Media and Public Affairs “was founded in the mid 1980s by S. Robert Lichter and Linda Lichter.[2] According to Salon.com, "the seed money for [the] center was solicited by the likes of Pat Buchanan and Pat Robertson.”

Also, other culprits who have contributed funding to this group would be the Scaife Foundations, as well as the John M. Olin foundation affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for the New American Century, among other right-wing suspects. And if you’ve guessed that they’ve been screaming about “liberal bias” for years, then you win a free DVD of “An American Carol” (giving them away gratis is probably the only way that wretched attempt at comedy will generate any favorable publicity).

Biden His Time Vs. A Media-Friendly Repug

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the following last Friday…

DOVER, Del. - The campaign signs indicate that the candidate is from Delaware, but they don't give a clue what office he is seeking.

The candidate himself has refused to debate his opponent or appear before the voters he hopes will re-elect him, instead sending surrogates to read canned statements on his behalf at candidate forums.

Despite his stealth tactics, "Delaware's Joe Biden" is expected to easily win re-election Tuesday to a seventh term in the Senate, which he would have to resign in short order if he and Barack Obama win the presidential sweepstakes.



As a Senate candidate, he has failed to attend any of the forums held by civic groups across Delaware for candidates for statewide office.

"He's blowing off the people of Delaware," said Biden's Republican opponent, Christine O'Donnell.



At a forum last weekend, O'Donnell asked Biden's sister and Senate campaign chair, Valerie Biden Owens, when Biden was going to debate her. "She flat out said he doesn't need to debate," said O'Donnell. She describes Biden's refusal to appear before Delaware voters as "outrageous."

"He really feels he's too big now," said O'Donnell, 39, a conservative activist and evangelical Christian who finished last in a three-way GOP Senate primary in 2006 before claiming the GOP nomination this year. "It really just seems that he thinks people are going to vote for him because of his name."
I have to admit I’m kind of torn here; on the one hand, blowing off your opponent is a pretty odious thing to do when you think you’re going to skate to a victory.

But on the other hand, a look at Christine O’Donnell’s resume (from her web site here) tells you the following…

Christine O'Donnell is a nationally recognized political commentator and marketing consultant. Christine appears weekly, often daily, on national news outlets such as the Fox News Channel, CNN, C-SPAN, FNC's O'Reilly Factor, Hannity & Colmes, MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Entertainment Tonight, ABC's Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher and countless others. Some of her most recent projects include providing daily political commentary on the 2008 Presidential primaries for shows such as CNN's Glenn Beck, FNC's Fox and Friends, The O'Reilly Factor, and many others. Christine is also a frequent radio talk show guest-host on WGMD in Rehoboth Beach and WDEL in Wilmington, DE.
Her site also tells us that she’s worked on Republican strategy sessions with Haley Barbour, lobbied the White House for “pro-family global policies” (bet THAT was tough with this bunch), “successfully debated Cabinet members, Congressman (sic) and international leaders,” and also worked as the aforementioned marketing and media consultant to a “charity that provides scholarships to children in poor communities throughout Latin America.”

It’s impressive, I’ll admit, but I have a question; does she have any experience whatsoever in serving in government at any level at all?

Apparently not.

Yet, Christine O’Donnell aspires to serve in the U.S. Senate anyway (and replacing a six-term incumbent in the process, one of her opposition party’s senior members).

Am I the only one who thinks there’s something wrong with this picture?

Yes, finding a seasoned Delaware Repug to go up against Biden is a tall order given the limited chance of success. However, is someone with a career wholly opposed to the office she seeks (IMHO, anyway) the best the Repugs can do?

There are plenty of Dems running campaigns against incumbent Repugs who probably aren’t going anywhere, though there are fewer of Repugs like that in this election than any time I can ever recall.

And by the way, in the event that the Obama-Biden ticket wins, this story tells us that Biden’s son Beau, Delaware’s attorney general currently serving in Iraq, has a shot at his dad’s seat (with the notable difference being that both Bidens were actually elected and served their constituents, as opposed to the Repug challenger, who was busy yakking it up with her ideologically simpatico pals in the meantime).

Monday, November 03, 2008

Monday Stuff

It's very nearly that time again, my fellow prisoners (h/t The Daily Kos)...



...hopefully, after tomorrow, we won't have to listen to any more weirdass noises from like these from McBush ("HAAAHH?")...



...and I thought this was a neat tribute from Amy Goodman of Democracy Now on the occasion of the death of Studs Terkel (kind of a long, rambling monologue, but full of insight for those who have ears to hear, as the saying goes)...



...and hey, if we can't have a laugh after a campaign like this one, is there any hope left (Ben Affleck is a jerk, but his "full-on K.O." was funny, as well as Tina Fey as Palin of course, though it's pretty uproarious that the "Alaska Disasta" got punk'd by two Canadians, dontcha know)...



...and for no particular reason, here are The Wombats ("Backfire At The Disco")...



...and here's "Stand Up" by Trapt for probably the last time in this election cycle - we all know what we must do tomorrow, particularly here in PA.

A Word From Harris Martin

The latest...

Neighbors,

Just 3 days to go before this historic election. If you live in the 18th House District, I ask for your vote on Tuesday. To vote for me, push button 6A on the bottom row of the new voting machine. To my friends outside the district, please wish us well.

I apologize for not sending out more campaign emails. I have been holding down 3 jobs trying to keep up with my mortgage and family obligations. I certainly understand where folks are with this economy because I am there too. We are very happy, however, that my first grandchild, Taylor Elizabeth Martin, was born on the 15th of October and is doing well.

My opponent and I have had 3 debates--at the Bensalem Senior Center, Tifereth Israel Synagogue, and St. Mathews Methodist Church. I have gotten some good press coverage and an almost endorsement from the Courier Times.

For those of you who received my opponent's latest deceptive and dishonest direct mail piece, please be advised that Peter Waitze, former BDO chair and traitor, is no longer a Democrat. He has campaigned for the local Republican candidates and against the local Democratic candidates for the last 3 years. Last year he campaigned for Rs Ed Kisselback and John Knowles and against Ds Mary Jeffery and Alex McDowell. Also, Governor Ed Rendell is not supporting my opponent, he is supporting me. DiGirolamo used this same dishonest ploy 2 years ago and the Governor's campaign press spokesman issued a renunciation at that time (the press did not publish it).

Remember where I and my opponent stand and have stood on these issues:

Illegal handling of official election night returns:

* I put a stop to it as soon as I heard about it in 2003.

* DiGirolamo must have known of this illegal and corrupt practice which went on for at least 15 years and he did and said nothing.

Greg Young racial harassment case:

* I worked with the NAACP in 1994 to provide background information to Greg's attorney.

* DiGirolamo did nothing.

Republican attempt to take away the right to vote of former prisoners:

* I initiated a successful effort by the Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and national NAACP, along with ACORN, to get this racist House-passed amendment out of the Senate version of the bill.

* DiGirolamo said and did nothing.

Televising candidate debates on Bensalem channel 22 (BCT):

* I asked the township to do this.

* DiGirolamo could have asked the township to do it but refused.

Enforcement of gambling laws in Bensalem:

* I have spoken out publicly about the mayor's corrupt refusal to enforce this law and have our police prosecute the 4 or more Bensalem businesses found by police to have illegal gambling machines.

* Gene DiGirolamo has said and done nothing about this, even though he claims credit for the slots casino that we now have.

Creekside polling place change:

* I have worked from the beginning as part of the team devoted to reversing this racist and illegal action by the Bensalem and Bucks County Republicans.

* DiGirolamo's party and his uncle the mayor caused the problem while my opponent said and did nothing to help the residents of Creekside put the polling place back where it was.

What we are:

* I am a dyed in the wool Democrat and proud of it. I have been a fierce watchdog for the residents of Bensalem.

* My opponent claims to be a moderate but has an A-rating from the NRA. He uses dishonest means to deceive less informed voters into thinking he is a Democrat who supports Ed Rendell. He is the mayor's lapdog. He is the smiling face on the racist and corrupt Bensalem Republican monster.

Tough talk but it is JUST THE TRUTH.

Please make sure the young voters in your family get to the polls. Vote for Patrick Murphy for Congress and Barak Obama for President. Vote straight Democratic.

It's great to be a Democrat in Bensalem! GO BIG D!!!

Harris Martin
Democrat -- Liberty and justice for all
To help, click here.

The Choice, 2008

Not sure what I'll have time for or not over the next day or so, but I didn't want to omit this - from the editors of The New Yorker...

Never in living memory has an election been more critical than the one fast approaching—that’s the quadrennial cliché, as expected as the balloons and the bombast. And yet when has it ever felt so urgently true? When have so many Americans had so clear a sense that a Presidency has—at the levels of competence, vision, and integrity—undermined the country and its ideals?

The incumbent Administration has distinguished itself for the ages. The Presidency of George W. Bush is the worst since Reconstruction, so there is no mystery about why the Republican Party—which has held dominion over the executive branch of the federal government for the past eight years and the legislative branch for most of that time—has little desire to defend its record, domestic or foreign. The only speaker at the Convention in St. Paul who uttered more than a sentence or two in support of the President was his wife, Laura. Meanwhile, the nominee, John McCain, played the part of a vaudeville illusionist, asking to be regarded as an apostle of change after years of embracing the essentials of the Bush agenda with ever-increasing ardor.

The Republican disaster begins at home. Even before taking into account whatever fantastically expensive plan eventually emerges to help rescue the financial system from Wall Street’s long-running pyramid schemes, the economic and fiscal picture is bleak. During the Bush Administration, the national debt, now approaching ten trillion dollars, has nearly doubled. Next year’s federal budget is projected to run a half-trillion-dollar deficit, a precipitous fall from the seven-hundred-billion-dollar surplus that was projected when Bill Clinton left office. Private-sector job creation has been a sixth of what it was under President Clinton. Five million people have fallen into poverty. The number of Americans without health insurance has grown by seven million, while average premiums have nearly doubled. Meanwhile, the principal domestic achievement of the Bush Administration has been to shift the relative burden of taxation from the rich to the rest. For the top one per cent of us, the Bush tax cuts are worth, on average, about a thousand dollars a week; for the bottom fifth, about a dollar and a half. The unfairness will only increase if the painful, yet necessary, effort to rescue the credit markets ends up preventing the rescue of our health-care system, our environment, and our physical, educational, and industrial infrastructure.

At the same time, a hundred and fifty thousand American troops are in Iraq and thirty-three thousand are in Afghanistan. There is still disagreement about the wisdom of overthrowing Saddam Hussein and his horrific regime, but there is no longer the slightest doubt that the Bush Administration manipulated, bullied, and lied the American public into this war and then mismanaged its prosecution in nearly every aspect. The direct costs, besides an expenditure of more than six hundred billion dollars, have included the loss of more than four thousand Americans, the wounding of thirty thousand, the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and the displacement of four and a half million men, women, and children. Only now, after American forces have been fighting for a year longer than they did in the Second World War, is there a glimmer of hope that the conflict in Iraq has entered a stage of fragile stability.

The indirect costs, both of the war in particular and of the Administration’s unilateralist approach to foreign policy in general, have also been immense. The torture of prisoners, authorized at the highest level, has been an ethical and a public-diplomacy catastrophe. At a moment when the global environment, the global economy, and global stability all demand a transition to new sources of energy, the United States has been a global retrograde, wasteful in its consumption and heedless in its policy. Strategically and morally, the Bush Administration has squandered the American capacity to counter the example and the swagger of its rivals. China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other illiberal states have concluded, each in its own way, that democratic principles and human rights need not be components of a stable, prosperous future. At recent meetings of the United Nations, emboldened despots like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran came to town sneering at our predicament and hailing the “end of the American era.”

The election of 2008 is the first in more than half a century in which no incumbent President or Vice-President is on the ballot. There is, however, an incumbent party, and that party has been lucky enough to find itself, apparently against the wishes of its “base,” with a nominee who evidently disliked George W. Bush before it became fashionable to do so. In South Carolina in 2000, Bush crushed John McCain with a sub-rosa primary campaign of such viciousness that McCain lashed out memorably against Bush’s Christian-right allies. So profound was McCain’s anger that in 2004 he flirted with the possibility of joining the Democratic ticket under John Kerry. Bush, who took office as a “compassionate conservative,” governed immediately as a rightist ideologue. During that first term, McCain bolstered his reputation, sometimes deserved, as a “maverick” willing to work with Democrats on such issues as normalizing relations with Vietnam, campaign-finance reform, and immigration reform. He co-sponsored, with John Edwards and Edward Kennedy, a patients’ bill of rights. In 2001 and 2003, he voted against the Bush tax cuts. With John Kerry, he co-sponsored a bill raising auto-fuel efficiency standards and, with Joseph Lieberman, a cap-and-trade regime on carbon emissions. He was one of a minority of Republicans opposed to unlimited drilling for oil and gas off America’s shores.

Since the 2004 election, however, McCain has moved remorselessly rightward in his quest for the Republican nomination. He paid obeisance to Jerry Falwell and preachers of his ilk. He abandoned immigration reform, eventually coming out against his own bill. Most shocking, McCain, who had repeatedly denounced torture under all circumstances, voted in February against a ban on the very techniques of “enhanced interrogation” that he himself once endured in Vietnam—as long as the torturers were civilians employed by the C.I.A.

On almost every issue, McCain and the Democratic Party’s nominee, Barack Obama, speak the generalized language of “reform,” but only Obama has provided a convincing, rational, and fully developed vision. McCain has abandoned his opposition to the Bush-era tax cuts and has taken up the demagogic call—in the midst of recession and Wall Street calamity, with looming crises in Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—for more tax cuts. Bush’s expire in 2011. If McCain, as he has proposed, cuts taxes for corporations and estates, the benefits once more would go disproportionately to the wealthy.

In Washington, the craze for pure market triumphalism is over. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson arrived in town (via Goldman Sachs) a Republican, but it seems that he will leave a Democrat. In other words, he has come to see that the abuses that led to the current financial crisis––not least, excessive speculation on borrowed capital––can be fixed only with government regulation and oversight. McCain, who has never evinced much interest in, or knowledge of, economic questions, has had little of substance to say about the crisis. His most notable gesture of concern—a melodramatic call last month to suspend his campaign and postpone the first Presidential debate until the government bailout plan was ready—soon revealed itself as an empty diversionary tactic.

By contrast, Obama has made a serious study of the mechanics and the history of this economic disaster and of the possibilities of stimulating a recovery. Last March, in New York, in a speech notable for its depth, balance, and foresight, he said, “A complete disdain for pay-as-you-go budgeting, coupled with a generally scornful attitude towards oversight and enforcement, allowed far too many to put short-term gain ahead of long-term consequences.” Obama is committed to reforms that value not only the restoration of stability but also the protection of the vast majority of the population, which did not partake of the fruits of the binge years. He has called for greater and more programmatic regulation of the financial system; the creation of a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which would help reverse the decay of our roads, bridges, and mass-transit systems, and create millions of jobs; and a major investment in the green-energy sector.

On energy and global warming, Obama offers a set of forceful proposals. He supports a cap-and-trade program to reduce America’s carbon emissions by eighty per cent by 2050—an enormously ambitious goal, but one that many climate scientists say must be met if atmospheric carbon dioxide is to be kept below disastrous levels. Large emitters, like utilities, would acquire carbon allowances, and those which emit less carbon dioxide than their allotment could sell the resulting credits to those which emit more; over time, the available allowances would decline. Significantly, Obama wants to auction off the allowances; this would provide fifteen billion dollars a year for developing alternative-energy sources and creating job-training programs in green technologies. He also wants to raise federal fuel-economy standards and to require that ten per cent of America’s electricity be generated from renewable sources by 2012. Taken together, his proposals represent the most coherent and far-sighted strategy ever offered by a Presidential candidate for reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels.

There was once reason to hope that McCain and Obama would have a sensible debate about energy and climate policy. McCain was one of the first Republicans in the Senate to support federal limits on carbon dioxide, and he has touted his own support for a less ambitious cap-and-trade program as evidence of his independence from the White House. But, as polls showed Americans growing jittery about gasoline prices, McCain apparently found it expedient in this area, too, to shift course. He took a dubious idea—lifting the federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling—and placed it at the very center of his campaign. Opening up America’s coastal waters to drilling would have no impact on gasoline prices in the short term, and, even over the long term, the effect, according to a recent analysis by the Department of Energy, would be “insignificant.” Such inconvenient facts, however, are waved away by a campaign that finally found its voice with the slogan “Drill, baby, drill!”

The contrast between the candidates is even sharper with respect to the third branch of government. A tense equipoise currently prevails among the Justices of the Supreme Court, where four hard-core conservatives face off against four moderate liberals. Anthony M. Kennedy is the swing vote, determining the outcome of case after case.

McCain cites Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, two reliable conservatives, as models for his own prospective appointments. If he means what he says, and if he replaces even one moderate on the current Supreme Court, then Roe v. Wade will be reversed, and states will again be allowed to impose absolute bans on abortion. McCain’s views have hardened on this issue. In 1999, he said he opposed overturning Roe; by 2006, he was saying that its demise “wouldn’t bother me any”; by 2008, he no longer supported adding rape and incest as exceptions to his party’s platform opposing abortion.

But scrapping Roe—which, after all, would leave states as free to permit abortion as to criminalize it—would be just the beginning. Given the ideological agenda that the existing conservative bloc has pursued, it’s safe to predict that affirmative action of all kinds would likely be outlawed by a McCain Court. Efforts to expand executive power, which, in recent years, certain Justices have nobly tried to resist, would likely increase. Barriers between church and state would fall; executions would soar; legal checks on corporate power would wither—all with just one new conservative nominee on the Court. And the next President is likely to make three appointments.

Obama, who taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago, voted against confirming not only Roberts and Alito but also several unqualified lower-court nominees. As an Illinois state senator, he won the support of prosecutors and police organizations for new protections against convicting the innocent in capital cases. While McCain voted to continue to deny habeas-corpus rights to detainees, perpetuating the Bush Administration’s regime of state-sponsored extra-legal detention, Obama took the opposite side, pushing to restore the right of all U.S.-held prisoners to a hearing. The judicial future would be safe in his care.

In the shorthand of political commentary, the Iraq war seems to leave McCain and Obama roughly even. Opposing it before the invasion, Obama had the prescience to warn of a costly and indefinite occupation and rising anti-American radicalism around the world; supporting it, McCain foresaw none of this. More recently, in early 2007 McCain risked his Presidential prospects on the proposition that five additional combat brigades could salvage a war that by then appeared hopeless. Obama, along with most of the country, had decided that it was time to cut American losses. Neither candidate’s calculations on Iraq have been as cheaply political as McCain’s repeated assertion that Obama values his career over his country; both men based their positions, right or wrong, on judgment and principle.

President Bush’s successor will inherit two wars and the realities of limited resources, flagging popular will, and the dwindling possibilities of what can be achieved by American power. McCain’s views on these subjects range from the simplistic to the unknown. In Iraq, he seeks “victory”—a word that General David Petraeus refuses to use, and one that fundamentally misrepresents the messy, open-ended nature of the conflict. As for Afghanistan, on the rare occasions when McCain mentions it he implies that the surge can be transferred directly from Iraq, which suggests that his grasp of counterinsurgency is not as firm as he insisted it was during the first Presidential debate. McCain always displays more faith in force than interest in its strategic consequences. Unlike Obama, McCain has no political strategy for either war, only the dubious hope that greater security will allow things to work out. Obama has long warned of deterioration along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and has a considered grasp of its vital importance. His strategy for both Afghanistan and Iraq shows an understanding of the role that internal politics, economics, corruption, and regional diplomacy play in wars where there is no battlefield victory.

Unimaginably painful personal experience taught McCain that war is above all a test of honor: maintain the will to fight on, be prepared to risk everything, and you will prevail. Asked during the first debate to outline “the lessons of Iraq,” McCain said, “I think the lessons of Iraq are very clear: that you cannot have a failed strategy that will then cause you to nearly lose a conflict.” A soldier’s answer––but a statesman must have a broader view of war and peace. The years ahead will demand not only determination but also diplomacy, flexibility, patience, judiciousness, and intellectual engagement. These are no more McCain’s strong suit than the current President’s. Obama, for his part, seems to know that more will be required than willpower and force to extract some advantage from the wreckage of the Bush years.

Obama is also better suited for the task of renewing the bedrock foundations of American influence. An American restoration in foreign affairs will require a commitment not only to international coöperation but also to international institutions that can address global warming, the dislocations of what will likely be a deepening global economic crisis, disease epidemics, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and other, more traditional security challenges. Many of the Cold War-era vehicles for engagement and negotiation—the United Nations, the World Bank, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty regime, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization—are moribund, tattered, or outdated. Obama has the generational outlook that will be required to revive or reinvent these compacts. He would be the first postwar American President unencumbered by the legacies of either Munich or Vietnam.

The next President must also restore American moral credibility. Closing Guantánamo, banning all torture, and ending the Iraq war as responsibly as possible will provide a start, but only that. The modern Presidency is as much a vehicle for communication as for decision-making, and the relevant audiences are global. Obama has inspired many Americans in part because he holds up a mirror to their own idealism. His election would do no less—and likely more—overseas.

What most distinguishes the candidates, however, is character—and here, contrary to conventional wisdom, Obama is clearly the stronger of the two. Not long ago, Rick Davis, McCain’s campaign manager, said, “This election is not about issues. This election is about a composite view of what people take away from these candidates.” The view that this election is about personalities leaves out policy, complexity, and accountability. Even so, there’s some truth in what Davis said––but it hardly points to the conclusion that he intended.

Echoing Obama, McCain has made “change” one of his campaign mantras. But the change he has actually provided has been in himself, and it is not just a matter of altering his positions. A willingness to pander and even lie has come to define his Presidential campaign and its televised advertisements. A contemptuous duplicity, a meanness, has entered his talk on the stump—so much so that it seems obvious that, in the drive for victory, he is willing to replicate some of the same underhanded methods that defeated him eight years ago in South Carolina.

Perhaps nothing revealed McCain’s cynicism more than his choice of Sarah Palin, the former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, who had been governor of that state for twenty-one months, as the Republican nominee for Vice-President. In the interviews she has given since her nomination, she has had difficulty uttering coherent unscripted responses about the most basic issues of the day. We are watching a candidate for Vice-President cram for her ongoing exam in elementary domestic and foreign policy. This is funny as a Tina Fey routine on “Saturday Night Live,” but as a vision of the political future it’s deeply unsettling. Palin has no business being the backup to a President of any age, much less to one who is seventy-two and in imperfect health. In choosing her, McCain committed an act of breathtaking heedlessness and irresponsibility. Obama’s choice, Joe Biden, is not without imperfections. His tongue sometimes runs in advance of his mind, providing his own fodder for late-night comedians, but there is no comparison with Palin. His deep experience in foreign affairs, the judiciary, and social policy makes him an assuring and complementary partner for Obama.

The longer the campaign goes on, the more the issues of personality and character have reflected badly on McCain. Unless appearances are very deceiving, he is impulsive, impatient, self-dramatizing, erratic, and a compulsive risk-taker. These qualities may have contributed to his usefulness as a “maverick” senator. But in a President they would be a menace.

By contrast, Obama’s transformative message is accompanied by a sense of pragmatic calm. A tropism for unity is an essential part of his character and of his campaign. It is part of what allowed him to overcome a Democratic opponent who entered the race with tremendous advantages. It is what helped him forge a political career relying both on the liberals of Hyde Park and on the political regulars of downtown Chicago. His policy preferences are distinctly liberal, but he is determined to speak to a broad range of Americans who do not necessarily share his every value or opinion. For some who oppose him, his equanimity even under the ugliest attack seems like hauteur; for some who support him, his reluctance to counterattack in the same vein seems like self-defeating detachment. Yet it is Obama’s temperament—and not McCain’s—that seems appropriate for the office both men seek and for the volatile and dangerous era in which we live. Those who dismiss his centeredness as self-centeredness or his composure as indifference are as wrong as those who mistook Eisenhower’s stolidity for denseness or Lincoln’s humor for lack of seriousness.

Nowadays, almost every politician who thinks about running for President arranges to become an author. Obama’s books are different: he wrote them. “The Audacity of Hope” (2006) is a set of policy disquisitions loosely structured around an account of his freshman year in the United States Senate. Though a campaign manifesto of sorts, it is superior to that genre’s usual blowsy pastiche of ghostwritten speeches. But it is Obama’s first book, “Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance” (1995), that offers an unprecedented glimpse into the mind and heart of a potential President. Obama began writing it in his early thirties, before he was a candidate for anything. Not since Theodore Roosevelt has an American politician this close to the pinnacle of power produced such a sustained, highly personal work of literary merit before being definitively swept up by the tides of political ambition.

A Presidential election is not the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize: we elect a politician and, we hope, a statesman, not an author. But Obama’s first book is valuable in the way that it reveals his fundamental attitudes of mind and spirit. “Dreams from My Father” is an illuminating memoir not only in the substance of Obama’s own peculiarly American story but also in the qualities he brings to the telling: a formidable intelligence, emotional empathy, self-reflection, balance, and a remarkable ability to see life and the world through the eyes of people very different from himself. In common with nearly all other senators and governors of his generation, Obama does not count military service as part of his biography. But his life has been full of tests—personal, spiritual, racial, political—that bear on his preparation for great responsibility.

It is perfectly legitimate to call attention, as McCain has done, to Obama’s lack of conventional national and international policymaking experience. We, too, wish he had more of it. But office-holding is not the only kind of experience relevant to the task of leading a wildly variegated nation. Obama’s immersion in diverse human environments (Hawaii’s racial rainbow, Chicago’s racial cauldron, countercultural New York, middle-class Kansas, predominantly Muslim Indonesia), his years of organizing among the poor, his taste of corporate law and his grounding in public-interest and constitutional law—these, too, are experiences. And his books show that he has wrung from them every drop of insight and breadth of perspective they contained.

The exhaustingly, sometimes infuriatingly long campaign of 2008 (and 2007) has had at least one virtue: it has demonstrated that Obama’s intelligence and steady temperament are not just figments of the writer’s craft. He has made mistakes, to be sure. (His failure to accept McCain’s imaginative proposal for a series of unmediated joint appearances was among them.) But, on the whole, his campaign has been marked by patience, planning, discipline, organization, technological proficiency, and strategic astuteness. Obama has often looked two or three moves ahead, relatively impervious to the permanent hysteria of the hourly news cycle and the cable-news shouters. And when crisis has struck, as it did when the divisive antics of his ex-pastor threatened to bring down his campaign, he has proved equal to the moment, rescuing himself with a speech that not only drew the poison but also demonstrated a profound respect for the electorate. Although his opponents have tried to attack him as a man of “mere” words, Obama has returned eloquence to its essential place in American politics. The choice between experience and eloquence is a false one––something that Lincoln, out of office after a single term in Congress, proved in his own campaign of political and national renewal. Obama’s “mere” speeches on everything from the economy and foreign affairs to race have been at the center of his campaign and its success; if he wins, his eloquence will be central to his ability to govern.

We cannot expect one man to heal every wound, to solve every major crisis of policy. So much of the Presidency, as they say, is a matter of waking up in the morning and trying to drink from a fire hydrant. In the quiet of the Oval Office, the noise of immediate demands can be deafening. And yet Obama has precisely the temperament to shut out the noise when necessary and concentrate on the essential. The election of Obama—a man of mixed ethnicity, at once comfortable in the world and utterly representative of twenty-first-century America—would, at a stroke, reverse our country’s image abroad and refresh its spirit at home. His ascendance to the Presidency would be a symbolic culmination of the civil- and voting-rights acts of the nineteen-sixties and the century-long struggles for equality that preceded them. It could not help but say something encouraging, even exhilarating, about the country, about its dedication to tolerance and inclusiveness, about its fidelity, after all, to the values it proclaims in its textbooks. At a moment of economic calamity, international perplexity, political failure, and battered morale, America needs both uplift and realism, both change and steadiness. It needs a leader temperamentally, intellectually, and emotionally attuned to the complexities of our troubled globe. That leader’s name is Barack Obama.
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Update: Our sympathies go out to the Obama family (here, with a rare moment of grace from the McCain-Palin campaign).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sunday Later PM Stuff

Palin-McBush supporter Shirley Nagle (sp?) of Grosse Point Farms, a suburb near Detroit apparently, did something unconscionable here on Halloween (h/t HuffPo)...



...and the New York Times ran a series of Op-Eds here primarily from Dubya supporters and acquaintances telling us "what they'll miss about President Bush" - I'd pay money if the paper asked that question of the friends and family members of the people John Flynn is singing about here; I'm sure the answers would be very interesting, and probably more than a few might be too intense for the sensibilities of "the old gray lady."

Sunday Early PM Stuff

God I loved this, and so true (h/t Jed L. and The Daily Kos)...



...Thievery Corporation ("Richest Man In Babylon").