December 16, 2007

What eriposte said

If you read nothing else about Hillary...

Read this essay at The Left Coaster explaining why, after vowing to withhold support from any single candidate, eriposte has decided to support Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. eriposte has done his/her homework and is a serious student of all the candidates, and did not come to this endorsement lightly or easily.

December 14, 2007

Yesterday's debate

FactCheck.org's take on the claims made during the debate.

I missed the debate since it was on during the day and have not had an opportunity to watch the replays, but I have heard the "buzz" about Barack Obama's quip about him looking forward to Hillary Clinton advising him. It got quite a chuckle out of everyone, and rightly so. It was a joke. But, let's be real here, if Hillary had said that to Obama, don't you think that old "she thinks she's got this sewn up" meme would have been a full-throated roar?

Just saying...sauce for the goose and all.

December 8, 2007

"I'm neither as good nor as bad as my supporters and detractors probably think."

Nice interview. You have to get nearly to the end of the interview for Hillary's comment noted above. I really do like her. For those of you who've known me for years, that has come as a surprise to many, most especially me. Do I think she's perfect? No. But do I think she is the best person for the job at this time in our history? You betcha.

On Edit: Wow! I made it to HillaryHub! Welcome to all of you who are stopping by and wish to leave a comment, but let's keep the comments positive.

I just deleted a comment that contained a smear about a current candidate. I won't have smears, innuendo or false stories spread on my blog.

Where we really need "don't ask, don't tell"

I've been thinking about Mitt Romney's "Mormon" speech for a couple of days and finally got around to reading it yesterday afternoon. Up until then I only knew about bits and pieces of it repeated on the blogs, the radio and television. It was worse than I imagined. Touted as the "new" JFK speech (text of JFK's speech), it was nothing of the kind.

This New York Times OpEd says it very well:

Mr. Romney tried to cloak himself in the memory of John F. Kennedy, who had to defend his Catholicism in the 1960 campaign. But Mr. Kennedy had the moral courage to do so in front of an audience of Southern Baptist leaders and to declare: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

Mr. Romney did not even come close to that in his speech, at the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas, before a carefully selected crowd. And in his speech, he courted the most religiously intolerant sector of American political life by buying into the myths at the heart of the “cultural war,” so eagerly embraced by the extreme right.

Mr. Romney filled his speech with the first myth — that the nation’s founders, rather than seeking to protect all faiths, sought to imbue the United States with Christian orthodoxy. He cited the Declaration of Independence’s reference to “the creator” endowing all men with unalienable rights and the founders’ proclaiming not just their belief in God, but their belief that God’s hand guided the American revolutionaries.

[...]

The other myth permeating the debate over religion is that it is a dispute between those who believe religion has a place in public life and those who advocate, as Mr. Romney put it, “the elimination of religion from the public square.” That same nonsense is trotted out every time a court rules that the Ten Commandments may not be displayed in a government building.

We believe democracy cannot exist without separation of church and state, not that public displays of faith are anathema. We believe, as did the founding fathers, that no specific religion should be elevated above all others by the government.

The authors of the Constitution knew that requiring specific declarations of religious belief (like Mr. Romney saying he believes Jesus was the son of God) is a step toward imposing that belief on all Americans. That is why they wrote in Article VI that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

And yet, religious testing has gained strength in the last few elections.
What part of “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” is unclear? No employer in the country is allowed to ask a prospective employee about their religious faith. Why do we allow this of our candidates? This is the world's most important job interview and we are stuck on whether or not someone is "religious" enough? Why do the media and the candidates go along? Can't a candidate respectfully decline to answer the question by saying, "This is a country founded on religious freedom and our founders were wise enough to enshrine in our Constitution a law that says "no religious test shall ever be required for public office." Therefore, with all due respect, I will not answer any questions about my religious faith, nor will I cite my religious faith as a qualification for office."

As one of about 10% of the US population who has no god belief, where was I in Mitt Romney speech? He kept using the all inclusive "we" to describe a nation that
"...believe[s] that every single human being is a child of God."
No, I don't. And:
Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government.
No, it isn't one or the other. It's an inalienable right! And:
You can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: We do not insist on a single strain of religion — rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.
And if I don't play any "faith" instrument? Where do I fit into Mitt Romney's America?

December 1, 2007

Not a dirty word

Matt Iglesias comes up with one of the best definitions of "politics" that I've ever seen. In the context of solving the global warming crisis he writes:

Meanwhile, both whatever degree of climate change can't be prevented and whatever prevention measures we adopt will all have different kinds of costs and benefits. Different policies will allocate these costs to different people. The mechanism by which we decide what to do is called "politics" and it exists so that individuals and organizations with somewhat divergent interests and ideas can make collective decisions about how to tackle common problems. The rhetoric of anti-politics isn't just an analytic mistake, it's part of the problem. A public that doesn't believe divergent interests can be reconciled and common solutions devised for common problems -- a public that doesn't believe in politics -- is going to be a public that doesn't believe there's anything that can or should be done to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Substitute whatever issue you want for "climate change" and that's really what this is all about. Hat tip to Atrios.

What REAL bipartisanship looks like

Isn't it amazing what negotiation and compromise can do? This bill may not be perfect, (no legislation ever is) but it moves us closer to goals of energy efficiency, works at saving jobs, creates new ones, and at first blush, looks pretty good. We'll see how it all shakes out after it gets to the Senate.

Congressional negotiators reached a deal late Friday on energy legislation that would force American automakers to improve the fuel efficiency of their cars and light trucks by 40 percent by 2020.

[...]

Ms. Pelosi called the compromise on mileage “an historic advancement in our efforts in the Congress to address our energy security and laying strong groundwork for climate legislation next year.” She said that she was confident it would win the backing of environmentalists, auto makers and labor and would clear Congress by the end of this year.

Mr. Dingell, in a statement, called the new mileage standard “aggressive and attainable.”

“After weeks of productive discussion and negotiation, we have achieved consensus on several provisions that provide critical environmental safeguards without jeopardizing American jobs,” he said. Critical to his agreement, he said, were incentives to the American auto industry for producing small cars in the United States and cars that run on a combination of gasoline and ethanol.

[...]

The package nearly fell apart this week when Mr. Dingell insisted on leaving sole authority to regulate automobile mileage standards with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an arm of the Transportation Department. That would have weakened the power of the Environmental Protection Agency and the states, led by California, to regulate auto emissions of carbon dioxide, which are in large measure a function of the amount of fuel burned.

[...]

Mrs. Pelosi and Democratic leaders in the Senate rejected Mr. Dingell’s preemption effort, but softened the blow by agreeing to allow the car companies to retain a credit for vehicles capable of running on a blend of gasoline and ethanol. That credit was set to expire in 2008 but now will begin to decline in 2014 and be eliminated entirely by 2020. (NYT)

Penny wise but pound foolish? You betcha

Mothers Skimp as States Take Child Support (NYT)

The collection of child support from absent fathers is failing to help many of the poorest families, in part because the government uses fathers’ payments largely to recoup welfare costs rather than passing on the money to mothers and children.

Close to half the states pass along none of collected child support to families on welfare, while most others pay only $50 a month to a custodial parent, usually the mother, even though the father may be paying hundreds of dollars each month.

Critics say using child support to repay welfare costs harms children instead of helping them, contradicting the national goal of strengthening families, and is a flaw in the generally lauded national campaign to increase collections.

[...]

Reflecting a growing, bipartisan sense that diverting child support money to government coffers is counterproductive, Congress, in the Deficit Reduction Act passed in early 2006, took a modest step toward change. Beginning in 2009, states will be permitted to pass along up to $100 for one child and $200 for two or more children, with the state and federal governments giving up a share of welfare repayments they have received in the past.

The Bush administration has set a goal of increasing the share of collections distributed to families and reducing the amount retained by the government. But the drive to reduce the budget deficit has gotten in the way. As part of last-minute budget crunching, the Republican-controlled Congress in that same act reduced by 20 percent the child-support enforcement money it gives to the states, starting this fall. Many states say the effort to force them to pay more of the enforcement costs will impede collections and prevent them from passing more money on to needy families.
As we've seen in the past, the Republican Party hates any government program that works, that is: benefits average Americans (as is the case with Social Security, Medicare, Pell Grants, etc). It really messes with their mantra that "government is the problem" and that the "free market" can solve anything.
On Nov. 15, 24 governors from both parties sent a letter to Congress asking it to repeal the cuts, arguing that they would hurt one of the government’s most cost-effective programs, which raises more than $4 in child support for every $1 spent on enforcement.

[...]

When Congress set up the current child support system in the 1970s, recovering welfare costs was an explicit goal, with some experts arguing that it was only fair for fathers to repay the government for sustaining their offspring and that giving families the money was a form of “double dipping.” But experience and research have suggested to most experts and state and federal officials from both parties that the policy is counterproductive — driving fathers into the underground economy and leaving families more dependent on aid.

[...]

Studies of the Wisconsin experiment showed that when support payments were fully passed along to mothers, more fathers came forward and paid more of the support they owed, said Maria Cancian, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As families receive more support money, they are less apt to require public assistance, she and other experts say, making up for any short-term loss of revenues. And fathers are more likely to establish lasting patterns of payment and connection with their children, Ms. Cancian said.
I'd call this a win-win, wouldn't you?

I know of at least one Democratic candidate who is addressing this issue specifically. From the fact sheet on her Youth Opportunity Agenda, Hillary Clinton proposes:
To support both responsible fatherhood and economic opportunity, Hillary will:
  • Reverse the Bush Administration's Deep Cuts to the Child Support Enforcement Budget: The Bush Administration's cuts would reduce child support payments by $11 billion over the next decade. Hillary will reverse these cuts, and make sure that states and counties have the resources they need to collect child support. This is a wise investment: every dollar spent on child support returns $4.58 in child support payments. Hillary will also encourage states to take more realistic, cooperative approaches to managing arrears, so that fathers leaving prison are not immediately saddled with unrealistic payment obligations.

  • Promote Policies to Ensure that Every Dollar of Child Support that Fathers Pay is Passed on Directly to their Children: Research demonstrates that fathers pay more of their child support and develop deeper bonds with their children if they know that those payments are going directly to their children. Hillary will work with states and counties to ensure that they have support and incentives to pass on every dollar of child support to benefit children. This reform will increase child support payments and result in substantial administrative savings.

  • Make Work Pay for Responsible Fathers by Expanding the EITC: While the EITC is widely seen as one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in the US, single workers and non-custodial parents currently receive only a modest maximum credit of $412. As a result, single workers and non-custodial fathers -- many of whom face substantial child support obligations -- have only a weak incentive to work through the EITC. In addition, because the credit is available only to those over age 25, it does not provide a work incentive to many young minority men and fathers who face the steepest barriers to participate in the labor market. Hillary will triple the size of the EITC benefit for single workers, providing more than 4 million people a pro-work tax cut averaging $750.

November 30, 2007

Dueling polls

Earlier today I received an email from the Biden campaign that said this:

Breaking news! A new ARG poll, released this morning, shows our campaign surging past Bill Richardson in Iowa and closing in on the front-runners (Biden 8% - Richardson 4%).
Later in the day the Richardson campaign sent me an email saying this:
We just got a download from our pollster Paul Maslin on how things stand in Iowa. I wanted to pass it on to you before the weekend because things are developing quickly.

First of all, the news is very good. But you're going to have to follow me a little on how to make sense of the data.

What it shows is a statistical tie between Clinton, Obama and Edwards in the low 20s. And Bill Richardson is fourth at 15%.
What? It can't be both. I can't figure out what poll Bill Richardson is quoting from (internal?), but this makes no sense to me whatsoever.

November 29, 2007

Oy

"You've come a long way, baby." *


*Virgina Slims™ slogan from the 70's

Gotta say...

I didn't expect this. Nice to see, however.

I wonder how quickly the liberal blogosphere will turn on RFK, Jr.? You know, like they did with Wes Clark, Joe Wilson, and any of their other former darlings who actually looked at all the candidates and chose to endorse the one they thought best to lead our country?

November 25, 2007

Of horse races and media

Mark Halperin apologizes. Sort of.

For most of my time covering presidential elections, I shared the view that there was a direct correlation between the skills needed to be a great candidate and a great president. The chaotic and demanding requirements of running for president, I felt, were a perfect test for the toughest job in the world.

But now I think I was wrong. The “campaigner equals leader” formula that inspired me and so many others in the news media is flawed.
Ya think?
So if we for too long allowed ourselves to be beguiled by “What It Takes” — certainly not the author’s fault — what do those of us who cover politics do now? After all, Mr. Cramer’s style of campaign coverage is alluring in an election season that features so many candidates with heroic biographies and successful careers in and out of politics. (Not to mention two wide-open races.)

Well, we pause, take a deep breath and resist. At least sometimes.
Sometimes? How about all the time?
In the face of polls and horse-race maneuvering, we can try to keep from getting sucked in by it all.
As Yoda would say, "There is no 'try' there is only 'do.' "
We should examine a candidate’s public record and full life as opposed to his or her campaign performance. But what might appear simple to a voter can, I know, seem hard for a journalist.
WHY? Isn't this your damn job???
If past is prologue, the winners of the major-party nominations will be those who demonstrate they have what it takes to win. But in the short time remaining voters and journalists alike should be focused on a deeper question: Do the candidates have what it takes to fill the most difficult job in the world?
And exactly whose full-time job is it to do this? If I, with my full-time non-journalist job, family, and extra-curricular activities can do this, why the hell can't you? We count on you to give us information gathered from a multitude of sources, and you let us down every time.

Spare me the navel gazing and get to work.

November 24, 2007

The skeptic world view

I stumbled on this post today.

Critical thinking is a complicated subject. You can study structures of arguments, syllogisms, logical fallacies, science, philosophy, epistemology and ontology, all in the name of improving your critical thinking skills. You can learn the difference between an inductive and a deductive argument, contrary and contradictory statements, and a properly constructed argument compared to a simple assertion or conditional statement. However, ultimately critical thinking is the weapon of the sceptic, and scepticism is an attitude. The aforementioned skills help us to evaluate the answers to our questions, but first we must get in the habit of asking questions, the right ones to the right people. It is not just the desire, but the instinct to question everything, that makes a true sceptic.

It is the questions we ask, not the answers we find that dictate our lives. The most important question that any human being can ever ask is, ‘how do you know that?’. It is a question that is often soliloquised, but rarely verbalised. Too many people bite their lips for fear of being thought ignorant or stupid for needing to ask. Worse still, is the dread that their faith may be questioned.

. . .

We can start with the circulation of a meme: ‘how do you know that?’ This should not just be a question, it should symbolise an approach to life, a worldview. It’s ok to question, not just some things, but everything. You don’t have to accept anything because of faith, tradition, revelation or authority. Anyone who wants you to believe anything should be able to tell you why you should. Ask them, ‘how do you know that?’, and demand an answer. Don’t let them fob you off with pseudo-scientific mumbo jumbo. Accept nothing less than an explanation that satisfies your private curiosity.

Your mind has a finite capacity, there are only so many things you can believe. There are many thousands of beliefs you could adopt, and plenty of people who want you to buy them. Alien abductees, psychics, mediums, 9/11 conspiracy theorists, astrologers, transcendental meditators, scientologists and Born Again Christians are all falling over themselves because they want you to share their beliefs, and they’ll do almost anything to get the sale. Be choosy, don’t prostitute your belief quota on any half baked old fairy tale to satisfy your fantasy lust. Evaluate the evidence to the best of your ability, consider each possible explanation carefully, and choose class over convenience, truth over comfort.

Most importantly of all, having rejected the superficial, town whore belief in favour of something better, don’t go to the other extreme. Find an answer that satisfies you, but don’t marry it. Evanescent has a saying that I’m rather fond of, “atheists believe what they know, while theists know what they believe”. No matter how certain you may be about something, there is always a possibility, no matter how small, that you could be wrong. You should always keep the door of your mind ajar, and be open to evidence that contradicts what you hold to be true. If you begin to feel sentimentally attached to a belief per se, you are on a slippery slope. ‘How do you know that?’ is a question we should never shy away from asking anyone. Even, and in fact especially, ourselves.

November 23, 2007

Obama organizer takes dump on Nevada Caucus

Here

Video of Hillary's Fernley visit

Jan France at FernleyNews.com has full video coverage of Hillary's visit to Fernley.

Mason Valley News on Hillary's visit to Fernley

Our local papers come out weekly, so we had to wait a bit to see the local coverage of Hillary's visit to Lyon County last Friday.

Patrick Abanathy of the Mason Valley News pens this article. Nice. It touches on most of what Senator Clinton spoke about. I really liked this:

As for health care and the national deficit, Clinton said the word "can't" should not enter Americans' vocabulary when it comes to improving the two systems.

She said the nation needs to return to fiscal responsibility rather than borrowing from other countries such as China and increasing the national debt.

She also said there is no reason to believe the health care system cannot be fixed.

"We're Americans," she said. "(Fixing such problems) is what we are supposed to do."
She got quite a positive reaction from the crowd when she said, "You can't wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time."

wow ... just ... wow

I cannot even begin to comprehend this. And the silence from GW is deafening. This is the sort of thing that can happen when you let laws be determined by theocratic edict. Are you fundies out there paying attention? Is this really what you want? Legislation based on Leviticus? Would this sort of society be just fine with you?

Saudis back rape victim sentence (BBC)

...The 19-year-old, who has not been named, was travelling in a car with a male friend last year, when the car was attacked by a gang of seven men who raped both of them.

She has become known as the "Qatif girl", a reference to the largely Shia town which she comes from.

Four of the men were convicted of kidnapping - but the court also sentenced the woman and her friend to receive 90 lashes each for the crime of "illegal mingling".

Last week the court increased the woman's sentence to 200 lashes and six months in prison.

It also banned her lawyer from the courtroom and took away his licence.
Here is our State Department's official position:
A state department spokesman on Tuesday called the verdict "astonishing", but said it was not its place to call for the ruling to be changed.
Sickening. Are the Bushies that much in bed with the Saudis that they cannot get on the right side of this?

Trouble waking up?

November 18, 2007

Promised pictures of Hillary in Fernley

First off, The Crowd. RGJ says 500. Uh. No. Capacity in the room is 947. We were over that and the campaign count of about 1,250 feels about right. The place was packed to the very back and the fire marshall made us clear the aisles. From left to right (3 pics).

Left side:

Middle:

Right:

Frankie Sue warms up the crowd:


After running back to D.C. to vote on the farm bill, Hillary flew back to Nevada to keep her commitment to us, and at about 7:15ish arrived at East Valley Elementary. Clauda Fadness, principal of the school (and Hillary supporter), and I got to meet Senator Clinton before going on stage.

Then - curtain up and the Main Event begins. (Claudia and I were nervous!!)

First me. I got positive reviews from folks afterwards about what and how I said it, but at the time, I thought I was stumbling along.

What I prepared:

I am supporting Hillary Clinton for President because she won me over. When I started to look at all the candidates I decided that I was going to keep an open mind and that I wasn't going to listen to what everyone else was saying. I wasn't going to believe everything I heard without finding out for myself. So, I took a good look at all the candidates. Their proposals, experience and record, and after doing all of that I came to realize that Hillary is the one candidate who has the experience, the ability, the brains and the heart to lead this country into the 21st century.

She has run a positive campaign that has focused on the issues that concern all of us in this room. She has solid proposals for health care for all, for energy independence, for rural America (and that really affects us!), strengthening the middle class and on and on.

And while others talk about working together, even with people you may not always agree with, Hillary has actually done it. For years.

For these reasons, and so many others, I have pledge my support to Hillary Clinton and have volunteered to be a Precinct Captain in my precinct in Silver Springs.
Then I made a pitch for support in the caucus and for precinct volunteers and then introduced Claudia.

Claudia eloquently spoke of community and the things that unite us, and introduced Senator Clinton.

And then it was Hillary's turn. She spoke about families and children, education, energy independence, growing jobs, strengthening the middle class, and health care. If I can find the text of her remarks somewhere I will post them (not sure if that's available).

After a short Q & A, Hillary worked the rope line for what seemed like forever. My goodness that woman is working hard for every vote!

As people left and I collected commitment cards at the door, I didn't see a single sour face. It was clear to me that she connected with the crowd.

The next day, my husband said to me that he thought she was at her best when talking about families and kids and how things used to be and can be again. I think he saw something he hadn't really been aware of before. This is Hillary's strength, and why she will win.

More pictures from the event can be found here:

http://www.NormMartin.com/hillary

November 16, 2007

1,250 !

That's how many people crammed into the multi-purpose room tonight at East Valley Elementary School in Fernley to see and hear Hillary Clinton. To say we were blown away by the attendance would be an understatement!

I'll post pictures tomorrow after the Lyon County Dems meeting.

'Nite!

TIME CHANGE: Hillary in Fernley this Friday

Hillary Clinton will be at East Valley Elementary School on Friday EVENING. The time change is due to an emergency vote called in the Senate for which Senator Clinton flew back and is now flying back to Nevada to make this appearance in Lyon County.

Hillary Clinton in Fernley!
Friday, November 16, 2007
6:30 PM
East Valley Elementary School
4180 Farm District Road
Fernley, NV 89408

Click here for map and to RSVP.

On a side note, yours truly will have a small speaking part at this event.

November 10, 2007

I just got polled

Aside from the usual stuff about who I was supporting in the caucus and the general, what I thought of the Nevada caucus itself, there were only two questions that were asked of me regarding national policy:

  1. Do you think the number of illegal immigrants in this county is (a) too high (b) just right (c) too low.
  2. Do you think state governments should be allowed to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants?
I refused to answer either question. But I can guess who is paying for the poll.

Shifting gears

I have been considering for quite some time that I'd like to take this blog from being merely a commentary on politics and the "world out there" and move it into more personal territory. I think I am ready to make the move. The changes will come over time as start to remove links in my side bar and add others.

You'll learn more about me, and I hope I learn more about you.

Let's start with this post which is a close parallel to my journey. Yep, I no longer believe. I no longer desperately cling to the hope that Someone Out There (A) feels my pain (B) will make everything better when I die or (C) even exists. From this letting go comes a sense of freedom unlike anything I've ever known and a deep recognition that any change I wish to see in the world will not come from On High, but from me. From us.

And boy, that can make me awfully depressed sometimes. For instance, sweetie and I love each other deeply and truly. We want only the best for each other and our relationship. Yet, even he and I can struggle, can sometimes not see the forest for the trees, can push each others buttons, can talk past each other, can Not Get what the other is saying and sometimes not even care to. We've started talking to someone who can help us fix this. And it's going to be work. We will do it, because we love each other and are committed to each other. Which brings me to my broader point and something I've been mulling about for the last week: What is to be done for a world in which sides are taken, benefit of the doubt never given, and forgiveness rarely, if ever, practiced?

November 7, 2007

Blueprint for Bush?

"The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." ~ character in William Shakespeare's Henry VI (Part 2), Act IV, Scene II

Things in Pakistan are really bad. And Musharaf is Bush's boy.

Behind the public rage of Pakistan’s lawyers, who protested for a second day on Tuesday, lies a long-smoldering resentment toward the country’s military president, who at first held out promise for educated, politically moderate Pakistanis, but steadily squandered their support.

That disappointment turned to fury after the president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, abolished the Supreme Court and scrapped the Constitution, touching a raw nerve among Pakistan’s lawyers, some with degrees from the best universities abroad and with experience in how other societies had preserved legal rights.
Hundreds of lawyers took to the streets again in the eastern city of Lahore and in Multan, about 200 miles to the southwest of Lahore. The police arrested scores of protesters, and more than 100 lawyers were injured in street battles.

In interviews on Tuesday, a day after hundreds were tear-gassed, beaten and rounded up by the police, the lawyers said they had taken to the streets because they felt that Pakistan’s first taste of judicial independence was being snatched away.

“How do you function as a lawyer when the law is what the general says it is?” said a prominent Islamabad lawyer, Babar Sattar, who has a Harvard law degree.
I swear, you could substitute United States for Pakistan, Bush for Musharaf, etc, in this article and it would sound like us. Seriously, this sounds like our country, doesn't it?.
By then, it was clear, he said, that the general was keeping the opposition political parties headed by two former prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Mr. Sharif, out of the political arena.

“That vacuum was filled by the religious forces,” Mr. Minallah said. “Now Musharraf is targeting the liberal forces of this country. Yet they are the ones who want to fight extremism.”

The lawyers have been the only force in the country to mount protests since Saturday night. The political parties have remained notably subdued.

Ms. Bhutto, leader of the country’s largest opposition party, returned to Pakistan in October after living abroad for eight years to avoid corruption charges. She was hoping to find a way to share power with General Musharraf, her old nemesis.
Sigh.

November 6, 2007

Candidates statements on Mukasey

Biden - No statement on Senate web site. No statement on campaign web site.

Clinton - Statement of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on Her Opposition to the Nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to be Attorney General of the United States Will vote against.

Dodd - No statement at Senate web site. Late breaking banner on campaign web site. Will vote against.

Edwards - No statement on campaign web site.

Kucinich - No statement on House web site. No statement on campaign web site.

Obama - No statement on Senate web site. No statement on campaign web site.

Richardson - No statement on campaign web site.

Also, Harry Reid is voting NO.

November 4, 2007

Of memos, haircuts and the media

I've said it before, and I am sure I will say it again, the Democrats could nominate Jesus Christ and the right-wing and their lapdogs in the media will still go after our nominee tooth and nail. And it won't quit after Inauguration Day.

Digby nails it, first pointing out that previous VPs who were running for President have never been asked about their private conversations and memos with the President they served with, and then moving on to what we are in for in 2009, no matter who our nominee is:

I don't recall in 2000 Gore being asked to asked to reveal all of his conversations and official papers relating to his position as vice president either. Or Mondale in 1984. Or any other VPs, who are always running at least in part on the basis of their experience in a former administration.

Even weirder, what Russert is asking for is papers relating to personal advice she gave to the president, which I don't recall anyone ever asking from any candidate who had once worked in former administrations or who had a personal relationship with a former president. Cheney wasn't asked to release all of his correspondence with Bush Sr from when he was Sec Def. Bush Jr was never asked, as far as I know, to reveal records of his personal conversations with his father, (although I'm fairly sure if he had been he would have told the questioner to go Cheney himself.)

The fact is that relationships with former presidents, whether as members of the administration, or as close associates, are taken at face value. If the former president thought you were someone worth listening to, the press didn't demand that you reveal exactly what was said. The voter is expected to evaluate that endorsement on the basis of how they felt about the one who gave it --- the former president -- rather than demanding to judge each piece of advice for itself. If you liked Reagan, then you assumed that James Baker and George Bush Sr were your kind of guys too.

Not so for Clinton. Apparently, the thrill of examining every single aspect of that marriage, from sleeping arrangements to pillow talk, is of unending interest to the Village biddies. Why else would they demand that President Clinton release the records for Hillary but not for Al?

Finally, one can only gasp at the extreme irony of Russert pressing Clinton like she was a criminal for allegedly trying to keep some mid-90's advice about welfare reform a secret. Right before his eyes is an administration that has made a fetish of secrecy to the point where we are now waging wars and torturing people which, short of revolution, we can't seem to do a damned thing about. But for some reason Tim doesn't see a problem with that, at least as far as I can discern. He doesn't have problem with the president commuting the sentence of one of his felonious henchmen, and he doesn't have problem with an administration that pretty much says the laws don't apply to him. He doesn't even ask the Republican candidates if they agree with these policies or press them on whether they would endorse these actions.

But, he's hell on seeing Hillary's memos from 1997.

Has Tim ever said one thing about the fact that this White House has taken the nearly unprecedented step of directing its former employees to openly defy congressional subpoenas, leaving the congress' only option to send the Sergeant at Arms to arrest them in their homes and hold them in a little jail in the capitol that hasn't been used in about a century? Has that been a matter of interest to Russert and the kewl kidz, because I haven't heard them fulminating about it, have you? That's the kind of "executive privilege" we're talking about with this administration --- telling the United States congress to shove it, over and over again.

But seeing those thank you notes from 1995 is something that the public demands.

Grab the Maalox kids because I can feel it in my gut. The bad breath and the sleepy eyes and the bedhead are all around us. Come 2009, if a Democrat wins the presidency, the Village press will finally wake up from its 8 year somnambulent drool and rediscover its "conscience" and its "professionalism." The Republicans will only have to breathe their character assassination lightly into the ether --- the Village gossips will do the rest. And if this new president resists in any way, a primal scream will build until he or she is forced to appoint a special counsel to investigate the "cover up" and grovel repeatedly in forced acts of contrition in response to manufactured GOP hissy fits and media hysteria. We're going forward into the past (and judging from the haircut nonsense we've already seen, it isn't confined to Clinton.)

Reforming politics isn't enough. Reforming the media is just as important. The current administration is so power mad, morally bankrupt and inept that their natural heir is a barking madman. (And some excellent reporting has been done to expose them.) But the Village kewl kidz and the queen bees who set the political agenda and dominate the coverage have never found any of that interesting or worthwhile. They care about their silly little shorthand parlor games that they think reveal politicians' "character." And their judgment of character is about as useful to the average voter as Brittney and K-Fed's.

This is nice

My son-in-law posted this on his MySpace page. I thought I'd share it.



Lyrics here

October 27, 2007

Rural Democrats Engage High School Students

Rural Democrats are stepping up and moving in their communities!

Churchill County:

High school students learn about the election process (Lahontan Valley News)

About 75 Churchill County High School seniors learned about the presidential caucus process on Tuesday in the high school cafeteria.

The Churchill County Democrats were in charge of holding the mock caucus with the high school seniors.

Cynthia Trigg of the Churchill County Democrats told the students that most of them will be 18 or older by November of next year and will be allowed to vote for the next president.

[...]

Shane Groover, a CCHS senior, said he was looking forward to the election because he will be old enough to vote.

"I think it is interesting. I got to help choose the nomination," he said of the mock exercise. "I kind of learned how delegates are chosen with the math."

Maggie Nelson, another high school senior, said she enjoyed learning how the Nevada caucus works.

"I knew there were different precincts, but I did not know there were different stages," she said.

Nelson said the mock caucus has encouraged her to take part in the actual event in January.

Alicia Perazzo, a high school senior who is a Republican, said she now knows how the process works. She said did not know how the process worked before taking part in the mock caucus exercise.

"We were organized into different groups and got to voice opinions and elect delegates," she said.
Lyon County:
Senior students developing "candidates" for mock caucus (Fernley Courier)

Students at Lyon County public schools will be involved choosing their "favorite candidates" for President as part of a mock caucus being conducted next Wednesday, Oct. 24, in Silver Springs.

The mock caucus involving senior U.S. government students is scheduled from 9-11 a.m. at the Silver Stage High School gym for the five high schools in the Lyon County School District.

The mock caucus idea was initiated by the Lyon County Democratic Central Committee although the mock caucus (called mockuses in some instances) will be nonpartisan and involve fictional candidates developed by the high school students and Republican Party officials could also participate.
I'll be on the lookout for Keith Trout's follow-up article, but word is that the event was very successful and helped our future citizens to understand the process and the vital part they play in it.

October 22, 2007

Read this post by Jamison Foser at Media Matters. I’ve provided just a snippet below. The whole article is a case study in how the media works.

Snippet:

In the week since former Vice President Al Gore became Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, The Daily Howler's Bob Somerby has written extensively about news reports and commentary about Gore's win that have failed to note the brutal and often false savaging Gore experienced at the hands of the media during his presidential campaign. Looking at the first news reports about Gore's award, a similar thought occurred to me: so many of those reports focused on whether Gore would again run for president, yet they made no mention of the primary reason he is not president today -- years of news reports (led by The New York Times and The Washington Post, not Fox News) that falsely portrayed Gore as a liar and childishly mocked him for his clothes.

It's a story that has been told many times, by countless people. And yet we keep telling it, and we sometimes criticize others for not telling it. Why? Simple: because it is important, because horrible media coverage of progressives didn't stop with Al Gore, and because not enough people are aware of it.

[ . . . ]

Between the media's treatment of Gore and their handling of the run-up to the Iraq war, how can Democrats have so much faith in the media and Republicans so little? There are probably a large number of factors that play a role, but two seem obvious: The American people are rarely told about the media's peddling of conservative misinformation, and they are frequently told that the media are "liberal."

The October 16 edition of MSNBC's Tucker provides an excellent, if infuriating, case study. Host Tucker Carlson and his two journalist guests peddled a steady stream of conservative misinformation -- and at the same time suggested that the very cable channel on which they were doing so is biased against conservatives.

[ . . . ]

But what makes the Tucker segment noteworthy is not that it featured false, misleading, and oversimplified claims about a prominent progressive -- that happens all the time on cable news. What really makes it noteworthy is that at the end of the segment -- a segment in which three journalists had discussed at length an allegation against Hillary Clinton that appeared, based on a single anonymous source describing a 14-year-old event, in a factually flawed book that at least two of the three had not read -- Carlson and his guests agreed that the media is giving Clinton a pass on the allegation.

[ . . . ]

Later in the same show, Carlson made another comment that, while not directly accusing the media of bias, likely led some viewers to conclude that the media inaccurately portray Republicans as the party of the wealthy. Carlson claimed to speak a simple truth that "nobody ever, ever mentions":

CARLSON: OK, but here's the fact that nobody ever, ever mentions -- Democrats win rich people. Over 100,000 in income, you are likely more than not to vote for Democrats. People never point that out. Rich people vote liberal. I don't know what that's all about.

The reason that "people never point that out" probably has something to do with not wanting to be thought of as a fool or a liar. Carlson's claim that people making more than $100,000 a year tend to vote for Democrats is simply false.

Much, much more at the link.

October 21, 2007

Leadership 101

What Brian says (hat tip to Desert Beacon at Blue Sage Views)

Troubled Minds

A friend of the family has killed himself. Drove his motorcycle to the top of H-3 in Hawaii and jumped off. My mother-in-law and her husband are beside themselves. Sweetie and I met him while vacationing there in November 2004. Nice guy with an incredible talent for carpentry. He was the chief force behind Mom and George's remodel. But, more than that, he was family. He lived with them, ate with them. Mom and George took care of him in too many ways to number. He was a 40+ year old adult, but he struck us all as an impulsive child.

From what I know of Nick he was a very likable and caring person, though in his own life he never really could get it together in the usual 'welcome to the adult world' we think of. He was a talented carpenter, but his life seemed chaotic and he just sort of drifted. Mom and George probably provided him with as much stability as he had ever known. George's doctor says he may have been undiagnosed bi-polar.

Anyway... my heart is breaking for Mom and George. And as always, when I hear of something like this, the icy finger of dread pokes at my own heart, because like many, mental illness is a fact of life for me. My only child battles her own mental wars and can depart reason at a moment's notice. Like Nick, she's good at putting up a cheerful and competent front while all the while awash in despair and grayness. Is it just a matter of time? I hope not.

October 20, 2007

How is she doing it?

How is it that Hillary Clinton, long demonized on the right (and the left) is doing so well? How did she win over even ME? This Judith Warner Op-Ed in the NYT helps explain...

Snippet:

The “we” world of Tucker Carlson knew what they knew about Hillary Clinton — right up until about this week, I think — because they spend an awful lot of time talking to, socializing with and interviewing one another.

What they don’t do all that much is venture outside of a certain set of zip codes to get a feel for the way most people are actually living. They don’t sign up for adjustable rate mortgages, visit emergency rooms to get their primary health care, leave their children in unlicensed day care or lose their jobs because they have to drive their mothers home from the hospital after hip replacement surgery.

Hillary Clinton’s supporters, it turns out, do.

[...]

More and more people are being priced out of a middle class existence. Because of housing prices, because of health care costs, because of tax policy, because of the cost of child care, The Good Life – a life of relative comfort and financial security – is now, in many parts of the country, an upper-middle-class luxury.

Given all this, you would think that Clinton’s big policy announcement this week on improving life for working families would have been big news.

[...]

The American middle class, it seems to me, is looking to politicians now to satisfy a pretty basic – and urgent – level of need. Yet people in the upper middle class — with their excellent health benefits, schools, salaries, retirement plans, nannies and private afterschool programs — have journeyed so far from that level of need that, it often seems to me, they literally cannot hear what resonates with the middle class. That creates a problematic blind spot for those who write, edit or produce what comes to be known about our politicians and their policies.

Last night Sheila Jackson Lee was on Real Time with Bill Maher. Sheila Jackson Lee. She of the lone vote against going into Afghanistan. She who has opposed the Iraq War/Occupation from the start. Sheila Jackson Lee is supporting Hillary. As Lee put it last night, as my sweetie sighed and squirmed in his seat and I nodded in recognition and agreement, is that Hillary connects with people, and especially with women. And while part of it is that she is a woman, they get that Hillary gets it. She gets our lives. She sees what we and our families need, and she is coming out with solid proposals for every leg of the middle-class stool. Jobs, health care, retirement, education, energy, etc. And they believe she has the experience and ability to get the job done.

On a related note, John Edwards was a guest on Bill Maher last night as well, and for a presidential candidate, he spent an awful lot of time talking about Hillary instead of himself , but I digress. My biggest bone of contention was how he mischaracterized her health care plan and implied that the only people she had brought to the table when formulating her plan were the private health insurers and corporate lobbyists. And that's just not true. She brought ALL parties to the table to help craft her health care plan, because, like it or not, this country is not going to convert to single-payer overnight. Even John Edwards' plan acknowledges that and includes (gasp!) private insurers. So for him to imply that Hillary is solely in the pocket of the private health insurers is disingenuous at best.

October 14, 2007

Is Hillary really a Corporatist?

In Michael Moore's movie, SiCKO, he makes a claim that Hillary is the number two recipient of campaign cash from the health care "industry." On Air America, liberal blogs, and elsewhere, it's an article of faith that Hillary is the "corporate candidate" and that she has their backs, not ours.

I got into a rather passionate discussion this past weekend with someone regarding just this assertion and challenged him to give me proof (links to voting records, etc) that she votes with the corporations over regular Americans. He came back the next day and let me know that he had gone out to try and find evidence for his assertion. Funny thing, what he found instead was a voting record completely at odds with the "conventional wisdom." I suspect he may have stumbled on this post by eriposte at The Left Coaster which begins:

This post examines the allegation that Sen. Hillary Clinton is a "Corporate Democrat" - namely, a person who is beholden to "Corporate America" and who is more likely to support "corporate interests" as President than the interests of average or middle-class Americans.

I find that the existing evidence, based on her Senatorial voting records compiled by Progressive Punch, Americans for Democratic Action, AFL-CIO and SEIU, does not really support this allegation. Indeed, the evidence suggests that Sen. Clinton's voting patterns are substantially and surprisingly progressive (ranging typically from 90-100%), including on corporate or labor issues. There are certainly serious issues where Sen. Clinton has unfortunately taken anti-progressive positions (e.g., her vote for a version of the Bankruptcy Bill in 2001), but the data reviewed here suggests that overall, she is far more progressive than corporatist. In the absence of additional or new data, I have to conclude that the label "Corporate Democrat", as applied to her, is inappropriate and extraordinarily misleading. In other words, while it is true that she has strong links to corporate America and corporatist interests, there is little or no evidence that she systematically votes in lock-step with those interests or even significantly in line with their positions. I provide a few plausible explanations for this dichotomy in the conclusions of this post.
Remember that claim that Michael Moore makes in SiCKO? Not so much:
3. Eli Lilly and the Pharmaceutical/Healthcare Industry

Penn's client list included Eli Lilly. Berman also adds:

Since the healthcare reform disaster of 1993-94, [Sen. Clinton] has rarely stuck her neck out on contentious issues. "She votes the issues that come up, rather than take the leadership role," says Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. "We tried to do too much, too fast twelve years ago," Clinton told the Federation of American Hospitals last year, "and I still have the scars to show for it." She's now the number-one Congressional recipient of donations from the healthcare industry.

Let's first make one correction, via Media Matters:

A Newsday article on Sen. Hillary Clinton's health care reform proposal repeated an assertion made in a 2006 New York Times article that the health care "industry contributed more than $850,000 to her re-election campaign, the second highest level of contributions to any senator." But Newsday did not note that the number includes donations from individual health care professionals, such as nurses and doctors, and neither newspaper reported that if only health care PAC donations were considered -- that is, donations from the actual health care "industry" -- Clinton drops off the list of top 25 congressional recipients of health care industry money entirely.

That said, how is Sen. Clinton's voting record when it comes to pharmaceutical companies and healthcare?

Category Progressive Punch -
Progressive Score
Corporate Subsidies
(Overall)
100%
Corporate Subsidies
(Pharmaceutical Industry)
Not Available
Corporate Tax Breaks
(General)
96%
Corporate Tax Breaks
(Pharmaceutical Industry)
Not Available
Government Checks on Corporate Power
(Overall)
95%
Government Checks on Corporate Power
(Pharmaceutical Industry)
100%
Government Checks on Corporate Power
(Doctors)
100%
Government Checks on Corporate Power
(Hospitals)
100%
Healthcare 98%
Access to Health Insurance 100%
Aid to the Chronically Ill 97%
Aid to the Disabled 100%
Aid to Veterans 100%
Aid to Seniors 98%
See, the thing is, when you give a donation to a political candidate, they ask who your employer is. If you work for a hospital, you work for the health care industry. So, when it comes time to lump all the money together under an industry label, and if care is not take to distinguish between campaign contributions received from health care industry PACs and campaign contributions received from, say, a union nurse, we run right up against that old adage: "There are three types of lies - lies, damn lies, and statistics."

October 3, 2007

Raising campaign cash in Europe?

I had a nice chat with an older woman and her son (who appeared to be about my age) today at Borders in Reno. I kept overhearing him mentioning that Hillary had been in England raising money and he indicated that she was raising foreign money. It piqued my interest and I asked him about it. He said he had heard it on the BBC that Hillary had been in England with, as he put it, "her tin cup out" raising campaign cash. I asked him how that was possible since FEC rules require that cash donated to federal campaigns be from US citizens or resident aliens (green card holders). He insisted that she was working some angle and that the Brits were fully expecting all the other American candidates to do the same.

Well...not so fast. It turns out that the Clinton campaign is planning a fundraising trip to Ireland. But it is to raise money amongst expats there. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, "expat" is short for expatriot, in this case meaning an American living abroad (outside the borders of the United States). See Democrats Abroad and Republicans Abroad.

From the BBC article:

He first came to help bring peace to Northern Ireland, but the next time Bill Clinton visits Ireland will be to help raise the estimated £249m his wife needs for her presidential campaign.

. . .

The Clinton campaign aims to hold a fundraiser targeting Democrat supporters living in Ireland.

Irish-born publisher Niall O'Dowd, who is on the finance committee of the Clinton campaign team, believes Hillary has a lot of support among ex-pats in Ireland.

"I know there is a plan by the Clinton campaign to hold a fundraiser in Ireland for American citizens and green card holders," he said.
So there you go. No, Hillary hasn't been to England. They DO plan a fundraiser in Ireland. But it will be Bill going. And it will be perfectly legal money they will be raising.

Man, people have just got to stop, think and examine before they go and believe the worst.

Gotta say though, once we got past this part of the conversation we had quite a nice time discussing the US political scene, campaign finance reform, the lack of civic knowledge amongst the general population, the decline of civil liberties, the trials and tribulations of trying to get a green card for a spouse, etc. Me the Dem, he the Libertarian, and she the Republican. And you know what? We tended to see eye to eye on many of the topics we touched upon. Pretty grand what can happen when we all treat each other with respect.

September 26, 2007

You want to be left alone?

Hate those #$%@ immigrants? Want to pass all kinds of laws to get rid of them?

Well, okay. Just be prepared for the law of unintended consequences.

September 15, 2007

Wes Clark Endorses Hillary

On a blogger conference call this morning that I had the pleasure of being invited to, General Wesley Clark formally endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.

Taking questions from Armando at Talk Left, Taylor Marsh, Jerome Armstrong at MyDD, and others, General Clark cited her breadth of knowledge and experience, calling her the "total package" and that Hillary Clinton is the right person to be in the White House.

This is huge.

On Edit: Taylor Marsh's post on the endorsement

More posts: masslib at DailyKos

September 8, 2007

Bertrand Russell

From my Google Quote of the Day

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way. - Bertrand Russell
Frankly, I see this on BOTH sides of the political spectrum, much to my dismay.

RIP Madeline L'Engle

From her obit in the New York Times:

What turned out to be her masterpiece was rejected by 26 publishers. Editors at Farrar, Straus and Giroux loved it enough to publish it, but told her that she should not be disappointed if it failed.
That book? A Wrinkle in Time

September 7, 2007

CEO President

In addition to the Enron accounting going on right now to cook the books when it comes to 'sectarian violence' much ink has been focused on Robert Draper's book Dead Certain and Bush's alleged approval of Bremer's decision to okay the disbanding of the Iraqi military. Martin Schram (it's not Wayne Madsen, so I feel okay quoting something from CHB) touches on something that heretofore has been glossed over in this particular story: the absolute ass-kissiness of George W. Bush's subordinates.

It gets still worse. Bremer's predecessor, retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, had argued vigorously to Rumsfeld that Bremer's decisions to disband Iraq's army, dissolve the Baath Party and dump Iraq's most capable leaders were "tragic decisions," as Bob Woodward revealed in his book, "State of Denial." But Garner joined the list of those who failed their country when he failed to tell Bush of his vehement objections to Bremer's actions. Not in his May 27, 2003, farewell memo to the president. And not in his Oval Office goodbye, when what he told Bush about Bremer (as quoted in Woodward's book) was a 180-degree wimp-out from what he had argued to Rumsfeld. "I think all the things he's doing are absolutely the right things," Garner gushed, deep-sixing the words Bush most needed to hear.
This reminds me so much of the corporate mentality that is so pervasive in our culture. No one will tell the boss when his desk is on fire. And the ones that do are marginalized and are declared not to be "team players."

(Definition of team player: Go along with the boss and/or engage in group think.)

This is what happens when you get a "CEO President" instead of one with, say, a law degree, a political science degree, or a deep and abiding respect for the law, the Constitution and small "d" democracy.

September 6, 2007

Two weekends, two races

On October 7th, I will once again be participating in the Northern Nevada Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure for Breast Cancer.

And on October 14th, I will be participating in the JDRF Walk to Cure Juvenile Diabetes.

I have no shame ... Any amount you can spare for either of these very worthy organizations would be gratefully received.

My page for the Race for the Cure. (warning...the site is having difficulty with VISA check cards, so if you have a regular credit card, you may need to use it)

My page for the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes.

Thanking you in advance...

September 2, 2007

On a lighter note...

Thanks to my pal Chad for pointing me towards this video. I hope it makes you smile as much as it does me.

September 1, 2007

Non-violence workshop to be held in Reno

I attended an afternoon workshop given by Pace e Bene and I was quite impressed. I'll be attending this ten-week workshop and thought I'd pass along the details to you all.

Please join Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace for a ten part workshop on Engage.

Engage can help you tap into that power and equip adults or high school students make the positive changes you need to improve your life and your community.

Full of stories, exercises and resources, Engage is workshop to learn, study and practice the nonviolent options available to us. It offers a guide for groups on how to take action for justice and peace in the midst of war, injustice and environmental destruction.

Engage is ideal for advocacy organizations, religious communities, citizen action leagues, campus networks and any group seeking to work together to create a society committed to justice, democracy, peace, sustainability and equality.

Pace e Bene, the organization that created Engage and From Violence to Wholeness, is dedicated to exploring the spirituality and practice of creative nonviolence as a way of living and being and as a process for cultural transformation. It is a growing community representing a diversity of spiritual traditions and cultural backgrounds that networks with nonviolence practitioners in many parts of the world.

Here are the program details:

WHO: Sierra Interfaith Action For Peace
What: Ten part Engage non-violent living workshop
When: Beginning on September 19th from 6:00p to 8:00p
Where: Reno Friends Meeting House (497 Highland Avenue, Reno, NV 89512)

To register for the course, contact Shane Piccinini at (775) 857-1231 or you can e-mail:
engage@sierrainterfaith.org

Registration fee is a suggested donation of twenty-five dollars.

August 30, 2007

Is Harry Shearer right?

I was watching Olbermann last night and he interviewed Harry Shearer who said that none of the Democratic candidates were talking about Katrina recovery. Really? A quick perusal of the candidates' web sites shows he wasn't quite accurate.

August 28, 2007

Naomi Wolf: What we don't talk about

In today's Huffington Post, Naomi Wolf takes on the danger of leaving some topics of discussion of limits.

Even as I write those words, I understand I am breaching a major social taboo of our particular time and place. There is a general polite consensus right now that maintains two no-debate areas: 1) you are not, if you are a serious person, allowed to note in public that it is possible that this White House -- or any U.S. leader ever -- might conceivably distort or hype the terror threat for political purposes (though plenty of serious people discuss this possibility in private); and 2) if you are a serious person, you are not allowed to suggest in public that it is remotely possible that in America elections could possibly be deliberately thrown off course any more directly than, say, the vote recount of 2000.
Wolf then goes on to demonstrate that corrupt leaders often either make up a threat or hype one that does exist, and that U.S. history, even before this administration took over, is full of this sort of activity.
Finally, I am sorry to say, there is the fact that, historically, when leaders are seeking to close down an open society, the months leading up to an election are traditionally the most unstable time -- the period most likely to see reports of a frightening purported threat "just-foiled," an apparent awful breach "just-averted," or even a dramatic actual provocation -- which requires, then, a strong hand to restore "public order." Mrs. Clinton pointed out that even though it is a "horrible prospect," sometime you have to ask "What if?"
And you know, this is a question I heard so many of my fellow Democrats ask in the months leading up to both the 2004 and 2006 election. I was the naive one who said, "Oh, we can't worry about that. Let's just focus on Get Out The Vote." Right now I am glad to see at least one candidate admitting, in public, what we've ALL discussed amongst ourselves.

Wolf goes on to contrast our generalized nation-wide fear with how it's done in nations that have lived with terrorism for decades.
Anyone who has ever lived in Israel -- a country where, since its very birth, sophisticated terrorists have been targeting the civilian population day and night -- knows that you NEVER get the equivalent of broad-anxiety-inducing alerts in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem like the "red alert" or "orange alert" system here at home. At the most, in Israel, you get practical, low-key, usable information from the state -- for example, "avoid the Machaneh Yehudah marketplace this Friday afternoon" -- no matter who is in power. Israelis, consequently, experience, on the day-to-day level, the possibility of terror attacks as a specific, real danger -- but not as a state-produced existential condition, a matrix of helpless fear. (Indeed, avoiding national fear from terror attacks is a point of pride in Israel that transcends party lines).

Nor do Israelis get our regular-as-rain triumphalist narratives in the press about this or that terrorist's creepy bio, his sinister face, or this or that thwarted, grandiose attack on this or that cherished national monument. There is not a constant struggle between the Knesset and the party in power over the declassification of intelligence, comparable to our struggle here at home. Rather, when there is something the people need to know, Mossad lets the people's leaders -- whatever party is in power -- know it. Everyone in Israel understands that terror is too serious to mess with politically -- that intelligence about attacks is too important to disclose or to conceal for political purposes -- and that Mossad is always, very quietly, at work.

Anyone who has lived in the UK during the years of regular, bloody IRA bombings has experienced similar restraint. Nations that have long been primarily intent on tracking and thwarting terrorists -- rather than, perhaps, driving policy with fear -- just don't talk about terrorism in the same way (or nearly so much). Even now -- fighting the very same "bad guys" that we are fighting -- Gordon Brown has reminded his nation and ours that "terrorism is not a cause, it is a crime."
And finally...
Is it irrational to consider the possibility of a hyped threat or even a provocation before the election? It is, at this point, irrational to refuse to do so. If this White House had no actual major record of hyping a threat -- if the U.S. had no record of inflating various fears for political ends -- and if weakening democracies worldwide had no record of manipulating terror narratives to drive certain outcomes, it would indeed be illogical -- even paranoid -- to worry about a possible hyped threat or provocation that is politically driven.

But given the current administration's record of lying to Congress, the American people and the UN about such threats; given that it used fake documents to do so; given that it has often splashed out widely-reported terror charges that then vanish or subside during actual trials (the course corrections of which are seldom as widely reported); given our own nation's history of not being immune to the temptations on the part of leaders of using fear to drive a political outcome -- is it not, rather, almost criminally naive to REFUSE even to consider the possibility of a hyped threat or provocation close to the election?

[...]

Let's dare to release our immature fantasies of a magically faultless American system and a magically protected election process. We have been lucky, as a nation; but sometimes continued luck depends on action.

Hillary Clinton's rivals should back down; she was the first to dare to imply what we must all directly consider.

Sometimes collective blind spots -- agreements not to look -- are not a problem; and sometimes -- as in a dramatically weakening democracy -- such blind spots can become big enough to prove self-destructive indeed.

August 27, 2007

Alberto calls it quits

Breaking.

Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been made public.


Recess appointment????

Monday Morning tidbits

If you are awake tomorrow morning at 2 a.m., there's going to be a full lunar eclipse.

As someone who often negotiates this intersection, thank goodness.

Yep, the packed vehicles are making their way down I-80. We'll see you in a week, covered in playa-white.

Kirk Caraway talks about picking ones friends wisely in this August 26th op-ed.

If you missed this article in the Sunday NYT about the Countrywide mess, I highly recommend it, but take your blood pressure medicine first.

Another solution for the primary debacle

A letter writer in this morning's New York Times offers another solution to the front-loading problem.

Re “Michigan Joins the Race for a ‘Me First’ Primary” (news article, Aug. 20):

I have an idea for a primary schedule that would put an end to the bickering.

Primary elections would be held by states in alphabetical order, with five states holding elections every Tuesday for 10 weeks, beginning the first week in March and ending in mid-May. Every four years, the bloc of states that voted first in the previous election would rotate to the end of the order.

Over the course of 40 years, each state would get to vote first and last.

Joyce McCusker-Schaal
Herndon, Va., Aug. 22, 2007
What really gripes me about all of this is that what these state legislatures are doing is not what their citizens want. My goodness, they are all acting like kindergarteners in line on a playground when the teacher's back is turned.

The fact of the matter is that this front loading of the primaries and caucuses short changes all the states. None of them will get a good look at any candidate and our democracy suffers.