Saturday, May 31, 2008

More on Scott McClellan

I always find it remarkable how these guys can stand up and shamelessly lie (or "stay on message") throughout their press conferences. (I guess they earn their pay.) Dana Perino is good, too. I'm glad to see that McClellan's sense of right and wrong finally overcame his sense of loyalty to George Bush and his disastrous policies.

If I may quote the Lord in Goethe's Faust, "Ein guter Mensch, in seinem dunklen Drange / Ist sich des rechten Weges wohl bewußt." ("A good man, in his dark yearning / has still an instinct of the one true way." Crappy translation but I hope you get the drift. Here's another, from Walter Kaufmann: "A good man in his darkling aspiration / Remembers the right road throughout his quest.") (You can tell I'm up too late when I start quoting German literature, which was my major language in my comparative literature major.)

The point is, I consider Scott McClellan a good "mensch" for finally coming out with his revelations (as if we didn't know the truth already). People go through life and sometimes compromise their morals for ideology and/or pelf or whatever reason, but in the end, in accordance with their sense of morality, they do the right thing, which is what I think Scott McClellan is trying to do--to wash his hands of the dirtiness and immorality of the Bush administration according to the dictates of his own conscience, and perhaps save his soul.

Movie reviews (including 'Sex in the City')

This is were McCain has his vacation house

'Plenty new at Florida theme parks'

Story here.

If you're heading to the theme park capital of the world, there's plenty new to see and do.

Last year, despite a year-to-year decrease in Florida tourism for the first time since 2001, the state's giant theme parks still saw more tourists. And for the first time in recent memory, each of them has a new major attraction to keep the turnstiles churning as tourism rebounds this year.

So take a water slide ride with dolphins at the new Aquatica park adjacent to SeaWorld. Come face-to-face with orangutans and Bengal tigers at Busch Gardens' new Jungala. Zap Toy Story targets in 3-D at Disney, or spin though Springfield on Universal's new Simpsons ride. It's all here waiting in sunny central Florida.

A look at what you'll find . . . .

'Indiana boy spells "guerdon" to win national bee'

Story here. (It's pronounced: \ˈgər-dən\. Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French guerdun, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German widarlōn reward. Date: 14th century.)

After watching his sister try three times to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, Sameer Mishra put himself on a mission.

"I told my mom I was going to do the bee," Sameer said. "And if I was going to do it, I was going to win it one day. And I guess it happened."

Did it ever. With the sister coaching him, Sameer augmented his spelling talent with a sense of humor that often kept the Grand Hyatt Ballroom audience laughing. The 13-year-old from West Lafayette, Ind., was finally all business when he aced "guerdon" — an appropriate word, given that it means "something that one has earned or gained" — to win the 81st bee Friday night. . . .

Angry Hillary supporter rails at today's Dem Rules Meeting

From Firedoglake here.

Miami Herald reveals 'Republican dirty tricks'

See Mary's post here.

Meanwhile Rove and the other psychopathic GOP tricksters are driving to have a special 9/11 anniversary. The Miami Herald reports that the administration is set to start the "terrorist" show trials on September 11th in order to make terrorism the center of John McCain's election. As the Miami Herald noted, included in making sure the show trial of the century gets off the ground in time, was the dismissal of one of the Gitmo judges who had been seen too favorable in his rulings for the defense and who had ruled that the government had to provide more access to the "evidence" they were using to prosecute the defendant.

Along with the institutionalization of torture and the illegal invasion of a country that was no threat, these show trials will be the culmination of the destruction of the values upon which this country was founded. It will take decades before our country can live down the reputation of being a rogue nation, and with this plan to once more exploit the terror and fear of 9/11 by bogus and illegitimate show trials, the warmongering GOP are once more attempting to condemn us to further scorn. How low with they go?

'Elite': 'Best Is the New Worst'

"The word 'elite,' once an accolade, has turned poisonous in American public life, as both the left and the right have twisted it into a code word meaning 'not one of us.'" See here.

PITY the poor word “elite,” which simply means “the best” as an adjective and “the best of a group” as a noun. What was once an accolade has turned poisonous in American public life over the past 40 years, as both the left and the right have twisted it into a code word meaning “not one of us.” But the newest and most ominous wrinkle in the denigration of all things elite is that the slur is being applied to knowledge itself.

Senator Hillary Clinton’s use of the phrase “elite opinion” to dismiss the near unanimous opposition of economists to her proposal for a gas tax holiday was a landmark in the use of elite to attack expertise supposedly beyond the comprehension of average Americans. One might as well say that there is no point in consulting musicians about music or ichthyologists about fish.

The assault on “elite” did not begin with politicians, although it does have political antecedents in sneers directed at “eggheads” during the anti-Communist crusades of the 1950s. The broader cultural perversion of its meaning dates from the late 1960s, when the academic left pinned the label on faculty members who resisted the establishment of separate departments for what were then called “minority studies.” In this case, two distinct faculty groups were tarred with elitism — those who wanted to incorporate black and women’s studies into the core curriculum, and those who thought that blacks and women had produced nothing worthy of study. Instead of elitist, the former group should have been described as “inclusionary” and the latter as “bigoted.” . . .

It is past time to retire the sliming of elite knowledge and education from public discourse. Do we want mediocre schools or the best education for our children? If we need an operation, do we want an ordinary surgeon or the best, most elite surgeon available?

America was never imagined as a democracy of dumbness. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were written by an elite group of leaders, and although their dream was limited to white men, it held the seeds of a future in which anyone might aspire to the highest — let us say it out loud, elite — level of achievement.

Gail Collins on McClellan's book

Column is here.

My favorite moment in “What Happened” was from 1999 when George W. Bush was deeply irritated about questions from the press on his past drug use. “The media won’t let go of these ridiculous cocaine rumors,” the future president said. “You know, the truth is I honestly don’t remember whether I tried it or not.”

“I remember thinking to myself, How can that be? It didn’t make a lot of sense,” McClellan wrote.

While the bracing effects of being pushed out of his job have helped McClellan face reality, clarity might have come earlier if he’d just been more canny about personal relationships. His White House career could have been so different if, when Bush started babbling about W.M.D.’s in Iraq, McClellan reminded himself that this was coming from a guy who couldn’t remember what drugs he had ingested.

Even now, McClellan still appears to have trouble with the critical concept that deeds matter more than words.

“Waging an unnecessary war is a grave mistake,” he writes. “But in reflecting on all that happened during the Bush administration, I’ve come to believe that an even more fundamental mistake was made — a decision to turn away from candor and honesty when those qualities were most needed.”

Personally, I’m a huge fan of candor and honesty. But when it comes to fundamental mistakes, I’ll start with the unnecessary war.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

On Scott McClellan

I'm glad he came clean, but it's a little late now. The damage has been done, and he helped do it. I don't think he'll ever be able to clear his conscience, which seems what he's trying to do. (I heard him on the news tonight in an interview with Katie Couric.)

At least he's made a record of the Bush Administration's behavior. Maybe that will redeem him in the long run. (I haven't read his book.) See Digby's take on it at Hullabaloo.

'A new low in Clinton bashing'

I recommend Joan Walsh's column here.

Sorry about the lack of posting

I've been working on another project and can spread myself only so thin. There's only me here doing this. Project is done, however.

Monday, May 26, 2008

'Divided They Stand'

Paul Krugman's column is here.

It is, in a way, almost appropriate that the final days of the struggle for the Democratic nomination have been marked by yet another fake Clinton scandal — the latest in a long line that goes all the way back to Whitewater.

This one, in case you missed it, involved an interview Hillary Clinton gave the editorial board of South Dakota’s Argus Leader, in which she tried to make a case for her continuing campaign by pointing out that nomination fights have often gone on into the summer. As one of her illustrations, she mentioned that Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June.

It wasn’t the best example to use, but it’s absurd to suggest, as some Obama supporters immediately did, that Mrs. Clinton was making some kind of dark hint about Barack Obama’s future.

But then, it was equally absurd to portray Mrs. Clinton’s assertion that it took L.B.J.’s political skills to turn Martin Luther King’s vision into legislation as an example of politicizing race. Yet the claim that Mrs. Clinton was playing the race card, which was promoted by some Obama supporters as well as in a memo by a member of Mr. Obama’s staff, achieved wide currency.

Why does all this matter? Not for the nomination: Mr. Obama will be the Democratic nominee. But he has a problem: many grass-roots Clinton supporters feel that she has received unfair, even grotesque treatment. And the lingering bitterness from the primary campaign could cost Mr. Obama the White House.

To the extent that the general election is about the issues, Mr. Obama should have no trouble winning over former Clinton supporters, especially the white working-class voters he lost in the primaries. His health care plan is seriously deficient, but he will nonetheless be running on a far more worker-friendly platform than his opponent.

Indeed, John McCain has shed whatever maverick tendencies he may once have had, and become almost a caricature conservative — an advocate of lower taxes for the rich and corporations, a privatizer and shredder of the safety net.

But elections always involve emotions as well as issues, and there are some ominous signs in the polling data.

In Florida, in particular, the rolling estimate produced by the professionals at Pollster.com shows Mr. McCain running substantially ahead of Mr. Obama, even as he runs significantly behind Mrs. Clinton. Ohio also looks problematic, and Pennsylvania looks closer than it should. It’s true that head-to-head polls five months before the general election have a poor track record. But they certainly give reason to worry.

The point is that Mr. Obama may need those disgruntled Clinton supporters, lest he manage to lose in what ought to be a banner Democratic year.

So what should Mr. Obama and his supporters do?

Most immediately, they should realize that the continuing demonization of Mrs. Clinton serves nobody except Mr. McCain. One more trumped-up scandal won’t persuade the millions of voters who stuck with Mrs. Clinton despite incessant attacks on her character that she really was evil all along. But it might incline a few more of them to stay home in November.

Nor should Obama supporters dismiss Mrs. Clinton’s strength as a purely Appalachian phenomenon, with the implication that Clinton voters are just a bunch of hicks.

So what comes next?

Mrs. Clinton needs to do her part: she needs to be careful not to act as a spoiler during what’s left of the primary, she needs to bow out gracefully if, as seems almost certain, Mr. Obama receives the nod, and she needs to campaign strongly for the nominee once the convention is over. She has said she’ll do that, and there’s no reason to believe that she doesn’t mean it.

But mainly it’s up to Mr. Obama to deliver the unity he has always promised — starting with his own party.

One thing to do would be to make a gesture of respect for Democrats who voted in good faith by recognizing Florida’s primary votes — which at this point wouldn’t change the outcome of the nomination fight.

The only reason I can see for Obama supporters to oppose seating Florida is that it might let Mrs. Clinton claim that she received a majority of the popular vote. But which is more important — denying Mrs. Clinton bragging rights, or possibly forfeiting the general election?

What about offering Mrs. Clinton the vice presidency? If I were Mr. Obama, I’d do it. Adding Mrs. Clinton to the ticket — or at least making the offer — might help heal the wounds of an ugly primary fight.

Here’s the point: the nightmare Mr. Obama and his supporters should fear is that in an election year in which everything favors the Democrats, he will nonetheless manage to lose. He needs to do everything he can to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Obama Responds

Turkana post here.

CBS NEWS reports:

"I have learned that when you are campaigning for as many months as Senator Clinton☼ and I have been campaigning, sometimes you get careless in terms of the statements that you make and I think that is what happened here," Obama said in a radio interview today.

"Senator Clinton says that she did not intend any offense by it and I will take her at her word on that."

Two important points, both of which I'm sure will be roundly ignored:

1) The Obama supporters who have used this incident to once again demonize Clinton should learn from his own understanding and class.

2) The Clinton supporters who are using the hysteria about this incident to further rationalize thier intent to not vote for Obama, in November, should once again be reminded that he is a smarter, better, and more honest person than are many of his supporters; and even though this race has been hard-fought, and occasionally dirty, by both sides, Obama is not personally responsible for the endless streams of sewage flung at Clinton by the corporate media and the shrillosphere.

Turkana has this too (emphasis added).

I'd been without electricity for a day, and without internet for a couple days, so I'm late to the game, on the latest Clinton Crime Against Humanity.

Hillary Clinton made a clumsy comment about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, and the reaction was typical. People who have spent months dishonestly post-parsing and demonizing her for every evil conceivable once again writhed and caterwauled in convulsions of self-righteous shrill, attributing to her the most heinous motives, and demanding that she leave the presidential race, and perhaps public life, altogether. Shocking that these people would once again find an excuse to behave like rabid rodents.

I've said it many times: the most disheartening and disgusting aspect of this presidential race has not been the discovery that prominent politicians like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama behave like prominent politicians, it's been the complete meltdown of the supposedly liberal blogs, as they've collectively abandoned any pretense of honesty and rationality, transmogrifying into but a weak shadow of the corporate media they once were supposed to replace as the source of credible information. These people no longer have any credibility as political commentators or analysts, and less and less as people capable of even a modicum of human decency. What they are saying about the latest incident reveals less about Hillary Clinton than about themselves.

You know who does have credibility to talk about Clinton's comments? Robert F. Kennedy's son, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. This is what he said:

"It is clear from the context that Hillary was invoking a familiar political circumstance in order to support her decision to stay in the race through June. I have heard her make this reference before, also citing her husband’s 1992 race, both of which were hard fought through June. I understand how highly charged the atmosphere is, but I think it is a mistake for people to take offense."

. . . I'll be blunt: the people using this incident to further promote their own despicable agenda by their own despicable means are every bit as despicable as their lies and distortions would make Clinton out to be. They are shameful. Their behavior is inexcusable. They like to accuse Clinton of being Rovian- and worse- but it is they who have most closely come to emulate the worst behavior of the worst Republicans. To whatever degree they have any political impact at all, they are a blight on political discourse, and they are systematically destroying everything the blogs were supposed to be. That some of them are now participating in the corporate media could not be more appropriate. They have become that which they were supposed to have been trying to change. I congratulate them on their success. . . .

I'm reminded of the ending of George Orwell's Animal Farm:

Cannes Film Festival 2008

Complete coverage here.

'Some Republican leaders criticize McCain campaign'

Article here.

John McCain's presidential campaign is in a troubled stretch even before his formal nomination, hindered by resignations of staff members, a lagging effort to build a national campaign organization and questions over whether he has taken full advantage of Democratic turmoil to present a case for his candidacy, some of his fellow Republican leaders say.

In interviews, some party leaders said they were worried about signs of disorder in his campaign, and whether the focus in the last several weeks on the prominent role of lobbyists in McCain's inner circle might undercut the heart of his general election message: presenting himself as a reformer taking on special interests in Washington.

"The core image of John McCain is as a reformer in Washington, and the more dominant the story is about the lobbying teams around him, the more you put that into question," said Terry Nelson, who was McCain's campaign manager until he was forced out last year. "If the Obama campaign can truly change him from being seen as a reformer to just being another Washington politician, it could be very damaging over the course of the campaign." . . .

'Hillary Leads McCain and Obama in Big Swing States'

Post is here.

A Quinnipiac Poll shows Hillary leading and Obama trailing McCain in two of the three critical swing states, and Hillary leading Obama as to McCain in all three:

May 22, 2008 - McCain Leads Obama In Two Of Three Key Swing States, Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll Finds; Clinton Has Big Leads In Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania --- FLORIDA: Clinton 48 - McCain 41; McCain 45 - Obama 41; OHIO: Clinton 48 - McCain 41; McCain 44 - Obama 40: PENNSYLVANIA: Clinton 50 - McCain 37; Obama 46 - McCain 40.

..."The numbers for Florida and Ohio are good news for Sen. John McCain and should be worrisome for Sen. Barack Obama. That is especially true about Ohio, which decided the 2004 election. Ohio's economy is worse than the rest of the country and the Republican brand there is in disrepute. McCain's Buckeye lead may be a sign that nationally this may not be the easy Democratic walk to the White House that many expected," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

. . .

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Donnerwetter!

That's German for thunderstorm, but it can also mean gosh, golly, blimey, and holy shit!

But we need the rain. [Later I got caught in it on a walk to the store but was carrying an umbrella.]

Enjoying my long weekend so far. Today I walked down to Flanigan's (with my magazine and an umbrella) and ate Steakhouse Soup and fried fresh dolphin fingers with lemons. Then I walked up to Starbucks for a coffee, and now I just returned from Jamba Juice, where I had a Peach Perfection smoothie with a blast of protein powder. A charming shopping center across the street houses these shops (among others), and there's ample outdoor seating at bistro and umbrella tables. It's kind of cruisy. But the panhandlers have staked it out, too. Such an idyllic setting in which to sit and read and sip your coffee or smoothie, and then up walks a bum asking for money or a cigarette and spoils the mood. It's kind of like San Francisco, but the bums are cuter there (and more aggressive as well).

I think I'll try to get some writing done. My cousin sent me some Caribou coffee--supposed to be the best--though I haven't opened it yet. I'll open it now and brew a little pot.

[Coffee was great and got some writing done. I still recommend Yuban for excellent store-bought coffee.]

'The Fake Outrage Machine'

From Eriposte at The Left Coaster.

Sen. Clinton's☼ comments on RFK were unfortunate because they could be misinterpreted by those unwilling to take the trouble of checking out the facts independently - but it is clear reviewing her statement (video) and the context (also see the Argus Leader's Executive Editor's comment) that her observation (one that she has made before) was not offensive and that the outrage spewing forth against her is beyond ridiculous. Borrowing a phrase from Digby from another topic altogether - my reaction to the fake outrage is probably best described as "projectile vomiting".

Here are some comments from other bloggers on this episode. . . .

Riverdaughter at The Confluence: RFK and the 1968 primary - she ends with:

The reaction of the Obamasphere and the media is totally indefensible. The HuffingtonPost is taking a very matter-of-fact discussion of primary history and twisting it into a vile insinuation that Hillary can’t wait until someone takes Obama out. It is time they stopped behaving like the Orwellians during a two minutes hate.

The Confluence would like to encourage Clinton to hang in there. Make it clear that you aren’t going before the primaries end, Florida and Michigan are seated with restored influence for the convention and every voter has spoken. We are losing patience with the media’s and oppositions efforts to force Clinton out of the race by creating scandalous and false accusations. The shame barrier has been crossed in a major way today and it is hardening our resolve.

I agree entirely.

'Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain'

Article here.

When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong.

Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit. . . .

“A broad attention span may enable older adults to ultimately know more about a situation and the indirect message of what’s going on than their younger peers,” Dr. Hasher said. “We believe that this characteristic may play a significant role in why we think of older people as wiser.” . . .

Jacqui Smith, a professor of psychology and research professor at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, who was not involved in the current research, said there was a word for what results when the mind is able to assimilate data and put it in its proper place — wisdom.

“These findings are all very consistent with the context we’re building for what wisdom is,” she said. “If older people are taking in more information from a situation, and they’re then able to combine it with their comparatively greater store of general knowledge, they’re going to have a nice advantage.”

'Everglades Park Counts the Good and the Bad After a Blaze'

Article here.

REDLAND, Fla. — Rick Anderson, the fire management officer for Everglades National Park, stood in the burnt grass where the largest fire in 19 years began here last week and assessed the costs and benefits.

The fire, which was 70 percent under control on Thursday, has scorched about 40,000 acres, sent smoke over Miami and forced schools to close temporarily. And yet, it has also poured nutrients into the soil, killed nonnative plants and made it harder for hawks to prey on the endangered Cape Sable seaside sparrow.

Park officials said someone sparked the fire accidentally or by arson, but is the impact good or bad? . . .

'Newsweek Poll: Clinton Beats McCain, Obama Tied'

From Talk Left. I so don't want McCain to be president. Read this brief (and scary) New Yorker commentary by Jeffrey Toobin ("In McCain's Court").

Newsweek poll sez:

Obama 46
McCain 46

Clinton 48
McCain 44 . . .

Photo gallery of Obama's visit to South Florida

See it here. Below he's in Miami, next door to where I work. He then traveled north to Broward County.

Obama in Miami today

In fact, he was in the building next door to the one I work in, having lunch with Cuban exile leaders and making a speech. Herald article here. Talk Left post here. Obama wants to talk with the Cuban government (which I agree with), but many exiles consider the government illegitimate and oppose any dialogue.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Take Action

Email from Jane Hamsher at Firedoglake:

Dear [moi],

For the first time in our history, the American military has turned its operational apparatus upon the American public. And it's high time that it stop.

On April 21, the New York Times ran a shocking expose on a Pentagon program to generate favorable news coverage of the Iraq war. Starting with the run up to the war, the program fed talking points and information to a set of retired military officials who appeared on TV thousands of times parading as objective pundits.

On April 21, the New York Times ran a shocking expose on a Pentagon program to generate favorable news coverage of the Iraq war. Starting with the run up to the war, the program fed talking points and information to a set of retired military officials who appeared on TV thousands of times parading as objective pundits.

Add your name to the letter: http://action.firedoglake.com/page/s/propagandapundit

Psychological operations like this may not leave shell craters, but they are strategic military operations with a specific military purpose - in this case altering American public opinion. That's why it's against the law to use programs like this against Americans.

It's up to Congress to step in and do something to end this program and hold those responsible for it accountable. Please take a moment to send a powerful message to our Congressional leaders that we will not stand idly by to be manipulated by our own government.

http://action.firedoglake.com/page/s/propagandapundit

Thank you for taking action,

Jane Hamsher and the Firedoglake Action Team

'More On the Malign Acceptance of Sexism'

From Big Tent Democrat here. I, for one, have lost a tremendous amount of respect for certain blogs. I've found their behavior shocking and outrageous (and not all that coherent, much less honest). I used to be a real journalist myself.

While the Obama blogs are having a conniption because Hillary Clinton is talking about counting the votes in Florida and Michigan, it remains striking to me that these same blogs have never expressed much concern about the Media's disgraceful behavior in this campaign. Indeed, any mention of the sexism and misogyny in the Media and elsewhere makes them look down at their shoes, or worse, even defend the perpetrators. I think it is no coincidence that it has been almost exclusively women bloggers who have discussed these issues. Take Digby for instance:

It's been quite amusing reading and watching the media absolve itself of sexism over the past few days but I think it's getting a little bit out of hand when Republican "analysts" blithely assert during election coverage on national television that Senator Clinton can accurately be described as a "white bitch" --- and everyone calmly sits around discussing whether it's true or not. In fact, it's mind boggling . . .

Earlier in the day I saw Tim Russert complaining on MSNBC about how wrong it is for Clinton to suggest that the media has been sexist, when the problem is "the math." You don't get much more lunk-headed than that. . . . The juvenile, demeaning behavior [David] Shuster [a Josh Marshall favorite] and his cohorts have displayed during this campaign has taken their credibility further into the sewer. . . . We all know about Chris Matthews' ongoing insanity, the endless stuff about the psycho female "Fatal Attraction" archetype and all the rest. This isn't just a few offhand comments. It has been a campaign narrative.

A-List bloggers, this is Digby talking. Not a crazy hothead like me. Are you listening? Because she means you when she writes:

[Obama and] Clinton are fighting hard campaigns for the most important job in the world and they are not obligated to defend their rivals while the battle rages. (It might have behooved the progressive movement to have done so, however.)

. . . I would have thought that all decent people would be appalled that the media in this country thinks it's ok for their commentators to identify a female candidate for president as a bitch on national TV or sell sickening "jokes" like Hillary Nutcrackers [the one John Aravosis was hawking at his site] in the CNBC stores in airports all over the country. . . . Is it really too much to ask that the media show more respect than that?

(Emphasis supplied.) Digby is too polite to ask what is really on her mind. I am not -- is it too much to ask that so called PROGRESSIVE BLOGS show more respect than that? That they decry sexism and misogyny in the Media?

For all the talk of disgraceful behavior in this campaign, no group has disgraced itself more than the so called progressive blogosphere. I for one, will never forget what they have revealed about themselves. . . .

Thursday, May 22, 2008

'Obama Not Favored In The General Election'

See Chris Bowers here.

Looking over the Presidential election numbers this morning, I have reached the inescapable conclusion that the general election should be considered a toss-up at this point, rather than Obama being the favorite. Consider the following: . . .

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

'Gay Iranian Teen Wins Right to Asylum in Britain'

I've been following this story for a while (if not on the blog, but maybe). Hip, hip, hip for the House of Lords. From The Advocate.

Britain said Tuesday that it is granting asylum to a gay Iranian teenager who fears that he could face execution if forced to return to his homeland.

Britain's Border Agency said it would allow asylum for Mehdi Kazemi, who traveled in 2005 to London to study English and, while there, learned that his lover in Iran had been charged with sodomy and hanged.

Kazemi, 19, then sought asylum in Britain, but it was rejected. He then went to the Netherlands, where its highest court rejected his claim in March, ruling that Britain was responsible for the case under European Union law because it was there that Kazemi first applied for asylum.

Britain's home secretary, Jacqui Smith, then decided to reconsider the case, and there were appeals in the House of Lords that he be allowed to remain due to fears that his life could be at risk in Iran.

Some human rights groups claim gay people are executed in Iran because of their sexuality.

The case has drawn attention in both countries to the plight of homosexuals in Iran, and the differences in the way various EU countries deal with asylum seekers. (AP)

Kentucky and Oregon

From The Left Coaster. (??)

In Kentucky, Clinton won by a whopping 35% and over 240,000 votes. Which is, of course, according to Those That Matter, irrelevant.

CNN and others are now declaring that Obama has won a majority of pledged delegates. As others are pointing out, to make that declaration, they are excluding Florida and Michigan. Which I'm sure will play well with the Democratic voters of Florida and Michigan, come November. It also promotes the metric that winning a majority of pledged delegates means victory, or something. Which it doesn't. Because, as many of us have been trying to explain, the superdelegates will decide this race. Which would be a horrible crime against humanity if they chose Clinton, but is a good thing if they choose Obama. Or something.

What's most interesting, tonight, is the size of Clinton's victory. Despite Obama's big win in North Carolina, Clinton's overwhelming wins in West Virginia and Kentucky have much more than negated that popular vote advantage. In fact, pending Obama's expected victory margin in Oregon, Clinton's possible claim to an overall popular vote win is now very much back on track. But no one who matters will care. That more people very possibly will have voted for Hillary Clinton than for Barack Obama will not matter. That's worth much more thought than most people will give it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sick

From the accompanying story seen at Salon.

Boy, 12, Beheads Man In Al Qaeda Video

Amid cries of ‘Allah o Akbar’ (god is great), a young boy, barely 12 years old, lifts his machete and strikes at his victim who is lying on the ground, all tied up for the kill. . . .

Silly W

Support the troops

'Clinton sees many reasons to stay in'

I suggest reading the entire article, here. My own experience of this whole Democratic primary process leads me to think that Democrats aren't yet ready to support a woman candidate for president, which I find anomalous. And the way some of the "liberal" blogs have vilified Hillary I find morally repugnant. (I was going to say "gang-raped.") (Oops, I said it.) Clearly, Hillary is the stronger candidate in this race.

Rebuffing associates who have suggested that she end her candidacy, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has made it clear to her camp in recent days that she will stay in the race until June because she believes she can still be the nominee — and, barring that, so she can depart with some final goals accomplished.

Clinton has disagreed with suggestions, made directly to her by a few friends recently, that her continued candidacy was deepening splits within the Democratic Party and damaging Senator Barack Obama's chances of emerging as a formidable nominee. She has also disputed the notion that she was unintentionally fostering a racial divide with white voters in some states overwhelmingly supporting her.

Rather, in private conversations and in interviews, Clinton has begun asserting that she believes sexism, rather than racism, has cast a shadow over the primary fight, a point some of her supporters have made for months. Advisers say that continuing her candidacy is partly a means to show her supporters — especially young women — that she is not a quitter and will not be pushed around. . . .

And in her victory speech in Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton made a pointed appeal, telling her supporters she would keep campaigning until there was a Democratic nominee — "whoever she may be."

Clinton is also focused on some tangible goals by staying in the race: she believes that racking up more victories, delegates and votes will give her and her supporters more leverage this month at a Democratic National Committee rules meeting to advocate for seating the delegates from the unofficial primaries in Florida and Michigan. . . .

Clinton's advisers also say that her popularity could lead Obama to fold some of her policy positions — like universal health insurance — into his platform, though they discounted the notion that her staying in the race was part of a larger bargaining strategy.

While Clinton believes that winning the nomination is a long shot at this point, she is also staying in the race because, in her experience, electoral politics can be a chaotic and unpredictable enterprise, scandals can emerge from nowhere, and Obama's candidacy could still suffer a self-inflicted or unexpected wound. Picking up more primary votes and superdelegates could only strengthen her position if the party wants or needs to find an alternative to Obama. . . .

"Superdelegates who are committed to her are telling her to stay the course," said Harold Ickes, a senior adviser to Clinton. "And there are some uncommitted superdelegates who are for her but not ready to come out — and they want her to stay the course and see this through."

Ickes added, "And there are other uncommitted superdelegates who want to wait until June to judge the strongest candidate." . . .

[A]massing a strong popular vote, and going out on some high notes, would help Clinton emerge from the long nomination battle on better footing, aides say. And making herself an appealing vice-presidential prospect — or setting herself up to run again in 2012, if Obama should lose, or perhaps 2016 — is not altogether out of the question.

See Toronto on the cheap

'Cuban Government Backs Calls to Combat Homophobia'

From The Advocate here. Castro was vehemently anti-gay and quarantined people with AIDS, and now they're rewriting history to make gay rights part of his "revolution." Whatever it takes...

I met and talked with a lot of gay Cubans here in Miami who had been expelled during the Mariel Boatlift (1980) as "scum" (escoria) and got the take on that years ago. These guys were highly educated and articulate (in English). (I don't pretend to speak Spanish.) I have to credit Fidel Castro for educating them well. But they went against the grain in Castro's Cuba. How times have changed:

Cuba's gay community celebrated unprecedented openness -- and high-ranking political alliances -- with a government-backed campaign against homophobia on Saturday.

The meeting at a convention center in Havana's Vedado district may have been the largest gathering of openly gay activists ever on the communist-run island. President Raul Castro's daughter Mariela, who has promoted the rights of sexual minorities, presided.

''This is a very important moment for us, the men and women of Cuba, because for the first time we can gather in this way and speak profoundly and with scientific basis about these topics,'' said Castro, director of Cuba's Center for Sexual Education.

Mariela Castro joined government leaders and hundreds of activists at the one-day conference for the International Day Against Homophobia that featured shows, lectures, panel discussions, and book presentations. A station also offered blood testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Cuban state television gave prime-time play Friday to the U.S. film Brokeback Mountain, which tells the story of two cowboys who conceal their homosexual affair.

Prejudice against homosexuals remains deeply rooted in Cuban society, but the government has steadily moved away from the puritanism of the 1960s and 1970s, when gays hid their sexuality for fear of being ridiculed, fired from work, or even imprisoned.

Now Cuba's parliament is studying proposals to legalize same-sex unions and give gay couples the benefits that people in traditional marriages enjoy.

Parliament head Ricardo Alarcon said the government needs to do more to promote gay rights but said many Cubans still need to be convinced.

Things ''are advancing but must continue advancing, and I think we should do that in a coherent, appropriate, and precise way because these are topics that have been taboo and continue to be for many,'' Alarcon told reporters.

Some at the conference spoke of streaming out into the streets for a spontaneous gay pride parade, but others urged caution.

The gay rights movement should be careful not to ''flood'' Cuban society with a message that many are not ready to hear, physician and gay activist Alberto Roque cautioned.

And Mariela Castro said gay activists should opt for more subtle ways to chip away at deep-seated homophobic attitudes.

Defending equal rights for Cubans, of all sexual orientations, is a key principle of the Cuban revolution led by her uncle Fidel Castro, who overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, she said.

''The freedom of sexual choice and gender identity [are] exercises in equality and social justice,'' she said. (Andrea Rodriguez, AP)

Monday, May 19, 2008

'Obama Not Declaring Victory Tomorrow After All'

Todd Beeton writes at MyDD here.

As I wrote a couple weeks ago, the Obama campaign had intended to declare victory tomorrow night after the Oregon and Kentucky contests put him over the majority of pledged delegates threshold. Wisely, it appears that they have thought better about that decision. . . .

Of course, it's clear from Obama's language on the stump -- the way he's shifted to an anti-Bush/McCain stance and the way he refers to Clinton's campaign in the past tense -- that the campaign has moved on to general election mode, but I'm glad to see their walking back from declaring outright "victory" tomorrow. Not only would it have been arrogant, but quite frankly, it would have been stupid since their declaration of a majority of pledged delegates depends on the exclusion of Michigan and Florida, which, while the formulation is consistent with the official pledged delegate count as it currently stands, it's likely to shift once the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee meets on May 31st to resolve the seating of Michigan's and Florida's delegations. In other words, it's a fluid measure.

Not to mention the incongruence of a campaign that's been so adamant about "math" and "the rules" to pretend the majority of pledged delegates means anything approximating victory in and of itself at all. It's a made up metric although not an irrelevant one. The fact is, like the popular vote that Hillary Clinton touts, a pledged delegate majority should certainly play into the calculus of superdelegates when deciding whom to support. In a contest this tight where the winner will be put over the top by the independent judgment of the supers, moral arguments such as these are as important as any other.

OK, just one more and that's it

Article here.

Last month, I saw John McCain speak in a tiny town, nestled among the Appalachian coal hills of eastern Kentucky, called Inez. He was in the middle of his Time for Action Tour of America’s “forgotten places” (including Selma, Alabama; Youngstown, Ohio; and the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans). It was a transparent effort to stay in the media eye and also to say, as his speechwriter Mark Salter later told me, “I’m not going to run an election like the last couple have been run, trying to grind out a narrow win by increasing the turnout of the base. I don’t want to run a campaign like that because I don’t want to be a President like that. I want to be your President even if you don’t vote for me.” As every new conservative book points out, the Bush-Rove realignment strategy would fail miserably this year, anyway. . . .

John Preston, who is the county’s circuit-court judge and also its amateur historian, Harvard-educated, with a flag pin on his lapel, said, “Obama is considered an élitist.” He added, “There’s a racial component, obviously, to it. Thousands of people won’t publicly say it, but they won’t vote for a black man—on both sides, Democrat and Republican. It won’t show up in the polls, because they won’t admit it. The elephant’s in the room, but nobody will say it. Sad to say it, but it’s true.” Later, I spoke with half a dozen men eating lunch at the Pigeon Roost Dairy Bar outside town, and none of them had any trouble saying it. They announced their refusal to vote for a black man, without hesitation or apology. “He’s a Muslim, isn’t he?” an aging mine electrician asked. “I won’t vote for a colored man. He’ll put too many coloreds in jobs. Colored are O.K.—they’ve done well, good for them, look where they came from. But radical coloreds, no—like that Farrakhan, or that senator from New York, Rangel. There’d be riots in the streets, like the sixties.” No speech, on race or élitism or anything else, would move them. Here was one part of the white working class—maybe not representative, but at least significant—and in an Obama-McCain race they would never be the swing vote. It is a brutal fact, and Obama probably shouldn’t even mention it.

McCain appeared to a warm reception. I had seen him in New Hampshire, where he gave off-the-cuff remarks with vigor; when he is stuck with a script, however, he is a terrible campaigner. Looking pallid, he sounded flat, and stumbled over his lines—and yet they were effective lines, ones that Obama would do well to study. “I can’t claim we come from the same background,” McCain began. “I’m not the son of a coal miner. I wasn’t raised by a family that made its living from the land or toiled in a mill or worked in the local schools or health clinic. I was raised in the United States Navy, and, after my own naval career, I became a politician. My work isn’t as hard as yours—it isn’t nearly as hard as yours. I had an easier start.” He paused and went on, “But you are my compatriots, my fellow-Americans, and that kinship means more to me than almost any other association.” . . .

One more snippet from 'The Fall of Conservatism'

Article here.

The new politics was an electoral disaster in 1972, but it may finally triumph in 2008.

If not, it will be because Democrats still can’t win the Presidency without the working-class Americans who remain the swing vote and, this year, are up for grabs more than ever. Hillary Clinton has denied Obama a lock on the nomination by securing large majorities of swing voters, beginning in New Hampshire and culminating last week in West Virginia. It took the Obama campaign months to realize that a 2008 version of the McGovern coalition will barely be sufficient to win the nomination, let alone the general election. The question is how Obama can do better with the crucial slice of the electorate that he hasn’t been able to capture. Recently, he has gone from bowling in Pennsylvania and drinking Bud in Indiana to talking about his single mother, his wife’s working-class roots, and his ardent patriotism on the night of his victory in North Carolina. But the problem can’t be solved by symbols or rhetoric: for a forty-six-year-old black man in an expensive suit, with a Harvard law degree and a strange name, to walk into V.F.W. halls and retirement homes and say, “I’m one of you,” seems both improbable and disingenuous.

The other extreme—to muse aloud among wealthy contributors, like a political anthropologist, about the values and behavior of the economically squeezed small-town voter—is even more self-defeating. Perhaps Obama’s best hope is to play to his strength, which is a cool and eloquent candor, and address the question of liberal élitism as frontally as he spoke about race in Philadelphia two months ago. He would need to say, in effect, “I know I’m not exactly one of you,” and then explain why this shouldn’t matter—why he would be just as effective a leader for the working and middle class as his predecessors Presidents Roosevelt and Kennedy, who were élites of a different kind. Above all, Obama should absorb what the most thoughtful conservatives already know: that these voters see the economic condition of the country as inextricable from its moral condition. . . .

More from 'The Fall of Conservatism'

Article here.

The phrase that signalled Bush’s approach was “compassionate conservatism,” but it never amounted to a policy program. Within hours of the Supreme Court decision that ended the disputed Florida recount, Dick Cheney met with a group of moderate Republican senators, including Lincoln Chafee, of Rhode Island. According to Chafee’s new book, “Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President” (Thomas Dunne), the Vice-President-elect gave the new order of battle: “We would seek confrontation on every front. . . . The new Administration would divide Americans into red and blue, and divide nations into those who stand with us or against us.” Cheney’s combative instincts and belief in an unfettered and secretive executive proved far more influential at the White House than Bush’s campaign promise to be “a uniter, not a divider.” Cheney behaved as if, notwithstanding the loss of the popular vote, conservative Republican domination could continue by sheer force of will. On domestic policy, the Administration made tax cuts and privatization its highest priority; and its conduct of the war on terror broke with sixty years of relatively bipartisan and multilateralist foreign policy. . . .

'The Fall of Conservatism'

From an article by George Packer in the latest New Yorker.

But the 2006 and 2008 elections are the hinge on which America is entering a new political era.

This will be true whether or not John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, wins in November. He and his likely Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, “both embody a post-polarized, or anti-polarized, style of politics,” the Times columnist David Brooks told me. “McCain, crucially, missed the sixties, and in some ways he’s a pre-sixties figure. He and Obama don’t resonate with the sixties at all.” The fact that the least conservative, least divisive Republican in the 2008 race is the last one standing—despite being despised by significant voices on the right—shows how little life is left in the movement that Goldwater began, Nixon brought into power, Ronald Reagan gave mass appeal, Newt Gingrich radicalized, Tom DeLay criminalized, and Bush allowed to break into pieces. “The fact that there was no conventional, establishment, old-style conservative candidate was not an accident,” Brooks said. “Mitt Romney pretended to be one for a while, but he wasn’t. Rudy Giuliani sort of pretended, but he wasn’t. McCain is certainly not. It’s not only a lack of political talent—there’s just no driving force, and it will soften up normal Republicans for change.” . . .

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Working on a new writing project

So I probably won't be blogging as much on the weekends till it's finished. (Could be soon.) Got 1200 words written in a couple of hours today, so it's going quickly, so far. But there's a lot more to write. (It's starting out as a short story but could turn into a novella.)

'Desperate Housewives'

Watched the two-hour season finale tonight. If you didn't see it, watch it tomorrow on the ABC website (way fewer ads). It was the first time I'd cried (twice) since B. left, at the beginning of February. I guess I'm slowly getting back to "normal." Felt good.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

'A Blogger Call With Hillary Clinton: It's the Map, Not the Math'

See this blog post.

Update: Taylor Marsh has posted the audio of the call here.

****

We had a great blogger call with a very hoarse Hillary Clinton today. It was just for bloggers so she could thank us for our support.

She is staying in the race. She is ahead in the popular vote by 50,000 votes, counting Florida and Michigan which must be counted. She intends to continue to lead in the popular vote when June 3 comes around and everyone has voted.

The number one message: It's the map, not the math. In addition to the popular vote, the electoral map shows her with a cushion and Obama with a deficit. She has won 311 electoral votes to Obama's 217. While a few of her's like Texas and Oklahoma will be a challenge in November, many of his states will be: Alaska, Idaho, Utah, to name a few.

It's especially important to focus on this because it’s what superdelegates are supposed to be doing, exercising independent judgment to determine who would be the better candidate against John McCain in November.

She's in Oregon today, she'll be doing a televised town hall tonight that Obama was invited to participate in but declined. He won’t debate her or stand side by side with her to debate issues. That's a disservice to the people of Oregon.

She also talked about the blogosphere, saying she deeply regrets the vitriol and mean spiritedness and insults that have been thrown around at bloggers for supporting her and at women in general, but this too shall pass. She said she's imperviious to the insults and almost sees it as a perverse (reverse?) form of flattery.

Further reading:

* On the Electoral College Vote and the Battleground States; My latest calculations: 317 for Hillary, 265 tops for Obama (270 is needed)

* On the Nebraska and Washington primaries vs caucuses (scroll down)

* On electability in November: Electability: Why Hillary Is More Likely to Beat McCain


Obama "misspeaks"

See Left Coaster post here ("Hillary Destroys All That Is Decent and Pure, Yet Again!").

First it was Bosnia and now this (article for background and video [above])!

Now, when the Bosnia story broke I said that candidates sometimes misstate things on the campaign trail - sometimes because they just mis-remembered incidents. In Sen. Clinton's☼ case it was an incident from the 1990s. In Sen. Obama's☼ case (video above) it was a much more recent incident - from last year. But my earlier observation still holds (also see my post: Stories of Love and Hate). I'm not about to go screaming "Sen. Obama a LIARRRR" just because he finds himself in the same kind of spot that Sen. Clinton found herself in earlier this year. I will give him the same benefit of the doubt that I extended to Sen. Clinton.

So, here's a question for those Obama supporters who predictably screamed "LIARRRR" at Sen. Clinton after the Bosnia episode. Are you going to give Sen. Obama the same treatment? (Ha ha ha - who am I kidding!)

On the California Supreme Court decision

See blog post here.

So it's time for another long, bitter discussion about family values. Personally, I think the family values endorsed by the California State Supreme Court this week are much healthier for human beings than the family values of the FLDS clan that pratices polygamy. In one case, the family reinforces the value of the other people in the family. In the other, the "master dad" owns everyone and can figure out which girls must submit to the "patriarch" or other ally because God decided the old guy was pretty darn special and he gets to do what he wants with his property. Her rights? Not much. She doesn't own her own body or her life, much less her children. Even the boys in those communities get the short end of the stick because they are used as disposable labor and if they cause trouble, simply excluded from the clan because they might compete with the lion kings. Lots of family values in that system. So which version of family values will cause the most outrage in the upcoming elections? What do you think? . . .

'Collateral Foreclosure Damage for Condo Owners'

My condo is also feeling the effects of Bush's shoddily regulated capitalism and the resulting "subprime" fiasco. See the NYT article here.

Barbara Sanz has never missed a mortgage payment, but the plunge in real estate is punishing condominium owners like her anyway.

Four years ago, she bought her first condo in a glassy new Miami tower when the building was filling up. Now nearly one in six residents in the 43-story building is battling foreclosure and their contributions to the building association are shrinking. Each of the remaining owners has had to chip in an extra $1,000 assessment and $50 more a month for cable and Internet. That is on top of Ms. Sanz’s $450 monthly maintenance fee.

Even though she pays more, her building has broken washers and dryers and unusable exercise equipment, and her hallway is spotted with mold.

“It’s not fair,” said Ms. Sanz, a 32-year-old event planner. “The first two years, I enjoyed all of the benefits of living in a condo. I’m disappointed now. I hate the way the building looks.”

When people buy condos, they expect their monthly fees will cover many of the responsibilities that they would otherwise have as owners of single-family homes, like cutting the grass and paying the water bills. Now many find themselves nagging each other in the hallways to pay their assessments and adding special fees while haggling over chores. In Miami, Chicago and San Diego, condo owners are adjusting to the economic woes, sometimes by mowing themselves and working shifts for building security — all while lamenting their lost community.

“What motivated people to go into the condo market in a way that led to overbuilding was the expectation that it would be easier than owning a home on a maintenance basis,” said Sam Chandan, chief economist at the real estate research firm Reis. “The downside is that your fate is tied to 50 or 100 other people who may stop making their condo payments.”

Many of the numbers compiled on home sales specifically exclude condos [WHY?], which account for one out of eight homes in the nation, and that missing data may be masking just how weak the housing market really is. Sales of existing condo units were down 26 percent in March from a year earlier, compared with an 18 percent decline for single-family homes, according to the National Association of Realtors.

The pain in the condo market, mostly in urban areas, may not only be deeper than in the rest of the housing market during this downturn but more prolonged. Bargain hunters say they are reluctant to buy into a building even when the upfront cost seems low because they might have to pay unexpected fees as distressed neighbors default on their mortgages or just stop paying the association fees that cover everything from taxes to pool maintenance to air-conditioning repair. . . .

The shabby condition of some condos means potential buyers insist on especially steep discounts on foreclosed units. Alessandro Comoglio, a 34-year-old investor from Italy, recently visited six apartments in Ms. Sanz’s Miami building with a real estate broker. Mr. Comoglio was surprised to find worn-out hallway carpeting and orange foreclosure stickers partly scratched off the doors in such a new building.

His willingness to spend stopped short of $200,000 for the condo units, which once sold as high as $700,000, according to the broker, Peter Zalewski. Mr. Comoglio also wants a written guarantee that he would not have to pay more fees. . . .

Thursday, May 15, 2008

'George W. Bush Reaches New Political Low'

Post is here.

There is a famous truism that politics ends at the waters' edge. George W. Bush trampled that much trumpeted principle to engage in a vile McCarthyistic attack on Barack Obama before the Israeli Knesset.

Not only is George W. Bush the worst President in history, he is the most tasteless and disgusting.

What a shameful episode for our Nation that this travesty of a President was elected to the highest office in our land. He will always remain a stain in our history. . . .

What Joe Biden said about it:

"This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset . . . and make this kind of ridiculous statement."

"He is the guy who has weakened us,” he said. “He has increased the number of terrorists in the world. It is his policies that have produced this vulnerability that the U.S. has. It’s his [own] intelligence community [that] has pointed this out, not me.”

Biden noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have both suggested that the United States ought to find a way to talk more with its enemies.

"If he thinks this is appeasement, is he going to come back and fire his own cabinet?” Biden asked. “Is he going to fire Condi Rice?”

What Hillary said about it:

Bush's comparison of any Democrat to Nazi appeasers is both offensive and outrageous. In light of his failures in foreign policy, this is the kind of statement that has no place in any presidential address and certainly to use an important moment like the 60th anniversary of Israel to make a political point seems terribly misplaced.

More quotes at Todd Beeton's post here. Beeton leads off:

As Bush's disastrous tenure as president winds down, we've seen him devolve into a bizarre, almost court jester-like persona. He's really not even trying anymore, and the more obvious that has become, the further his approval ratings have continued to plummet. But perhaps in a new low for Bush, demonstrating that he truly has no shame and has absolutely no interest in salvaging any ounce of dignity from his final year in office -- and indeed that he intends to play bad cop in the general election -- Mr. 27%, on a trip to Israel to celebrate the nation's 60th anniversary, took the opportunity in his speech to liken Obama to Nazi appeasers.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

'It's Ain't Over Yet'

See post here, from Eriposte. (There's a lot to it.) (Italics and bold in the original were stripped by Blogger, but I've added the bold back.)

Having been rather busy last week, I'm a bit behind on blogging. I thought the best way to catch up and comment on the state of the race is to respond to Steve's question on why Sen. Clinton☼ would stay in the race despite facing significant debt ($). West Virginia aside, I can think of so many reasons. Here are a few, not necessarily in order.

Political: Sen. Clinton appears to be staying in the race because she really believes she has a much better chance of delivering the White House to Democrats in November than Sen. Obama.☼ I have seen a lot of discussion in the blogosphere about who has a better chance of winning against Sen. McCain☼ and obviously supporters of Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton both have strong views about their respective candidates' electability. My view has been unchanged since December. I strongly believe Sen. Clinton has a much better chance of beating her Republican opponent - esp. Sen. McCain - than Sen. Obama, once the GOP and media attacks begin. The events of the last couple of months have only solidified my view. More importantly, neither candidate will have enough pledged delegates to cross the delegate threshold (more on this below), there is just a slight difference between Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama on the popular vote and she's still got a shot at coming out ahead on this metric when all the races are over (see Jay Cost's spreadsheet where Sen. Clinton just beat his popular vote estimate for WV, and Cost's article from last week "Not Quite Yet"). Moreover, according to the rules of the primary, the role of superdelegates is to exercise independent judgment, and given the other not so minor detail that Sen. Obama has not won yet, there is absolutely no reason for her to quit now. The fact that her chances of winning are low doesn't mean her chances of winning are zero. When you are this close on the popular vote and creaming your opponent by over 40% after he has been crowned the nominee (by the media and big chunks of the blogosphere) then you have every reason to stay in the race. [Fun fact: Nebraska - discussed later in this post].

Don't Let The Media Define the Rules of Elections: One of the fundamental values I have sought to see in Democrats is that they not quit before the votes are counted and certainly not quit because the media asks them to quit. I was appalled at what happened in 2000 when Vice President Gore was hounded in the media and declared a "sore loser" even before a Florida recount. I was very disappointed in 2004 when Sen. Kerry☼ gave up quickly without a proper recount in Ohio, ostensibly because he didn't want to be branded a "sore loser". I am sick and tired of Democrats who refuse to stand up for democracy and who are more concerned about what elitist jokers like Tim Russert, David Broder, Frank Rich or (fill in the blanks) think of them than they care about the Democratic party's ideals - one of which is making sure as many people can vote and another being that every vote should be counted. So, if Sen. Clinton can afford to campaign till June 3rd and she and her supporters continue to fund her campaign (I certainly will), I would consider myself indebted to her if she does exactly that and demonstrates that the era of the media ordering candidates around is effectively over. I want a Fighting Democrat as President and as good as Sen. Obama may be as a candidate, there's only one Fighting Democrat left in this race and that's Sen. Hillary Clinton (also see here). As Emily's List President Ellen Malcolm said recently in her op-ed focusing on the calls for Sen. Clinton to quit - "winners never quit and...quitters never win". In fact, there is simply no other American candidate in modern history that I'm aware of who withstood absolutely unprecedented and sustained levels of hostility in the media and blogosphere, was outspent by huge margins in state after state (even WV), was insulted and demeaned in the worst manner possible - sometimes by alleged progressives, and yet, stayed resolute and focused and revealed the true fighter that she is. Her blowout victory in West Virginia where she amassed an impressive popular vote gain under record turnout follows a series of victories in big states despite calls for her to drop out - this is particularly noteworthy coming as it did after the morale-depressing commentary in the media last week about how the race was over. [Big bonus for Democrats if Sen. Clinton becomes the nominee: She is building a massive base of Democratic voters who don't trust the media to tell the truth about Democrats (like her) and who have deep contempt for the gasbags in the media. This is a dream come true for me because building voter skepticism about the media has been one of the principal failings of the Democratic party for a long time and she's almost single-handedly accomplishing what to me should be one of the holy grails of Democratic and progressive politics, i.e., making voters realize that the media is elitist and often dishonest in how it transmits false, often Republican (and increasingly fake "progressive") talking points about Democrats. Another holy grail that she's on the right side of - she has been long been firmly in support of funding alternative progressive institutions and groups outside the Democratic party apparatus that are critical to ensuring the long term success of the progressive movement; contrast that with Sen. Obama's inclinations.]

Universal Healthcare: Yet another reason why she should not drop out has to do with one of the biggest issues facing the country - something that affects the poor and working class of all races and backgrounds - universal healthcare. As I have said before, Sen. Clinton represents the only remaining opportunity to really get universal healthcare passed in the next 4 years. Granted, the chances of her getting it passed are less than 50% but those odds are much better than the odds that truly universal healthcare will get passed by an Obama administration (0%). To me, this alone is an important enough reason for her to stay in the race to be the Democratic nominee, especially given the other considerations above. . . .

Why did Edwards endorse Obama?

See post here.

John Edwards has been on tv for two weeks saying there was no reason for him to endorse either candidate. What changed? In two words: West Virginia. In four words: West Virginina and Kentucky. . . .

I don't think Edwards' endorsement has anything to do with who would make a better candidate. It's about ending the growing perception that Obama can't win against John McCain because he can't get rural, blue collar, less wealthy and less educated voters.

That perception was magnified yesterday with Hillary's win in West Virginia. There's concern it will grow when Hillary wins Kentucky. Since Edwards (and other Democrats) believe Obama will ultimately win the nomination, Edwards is trying to nip that line of thinking in the bud.

But, isn't this short-sighted? Shouldn't the focus of Democrats be on which Democratic candidate is better able to beat John McCain in November so we can take back the White House rather than on something as amorphous as which one stands for "change" and has "a new vision?"

And I'm still struck by the fact that Edwards gave no reason other than enthusiasm for choosing Obama and made no reference to McCain. Party unity is one thing and it could have waited three weeks. Winning is important too.

See also here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

'Chuck Todd Promoting Obama "Pledged Delegate" Victory Line'

Post is here.

Chuck Todd on MSNBC moments ago:

Looking at it from Obama's perspective, we've heard about what he's going to do next Tuesday, he's talking about when he can declare victory in the pledged delegate count. He only now needs after tonight 18 more pledged delegates to get that. All he needs is 23% of the vote in Kentucky and Oregon combined.

First of all, Todd is buying into the Obama campaign's claim that the universe of pledged delegates excludes Michigan and Florida when even Howard Dean conceded a week ago that while 2025 is currently the number of total delegates needed to win, that's likely to change once the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee meets on May 31 and seats some number of their delegations. In other words, it's a tentative threshold, as is the "18 pledged delegates to win a majority" that Todd is touting. It's completely irresponsible for him to even parrot this talking point since he's seen as such an authority on these matters but credit where credit is due, this amounts to yet another talking point victory for Team Obama. Because second of all, winning the pledged delegates is a totally made up metric. That they got Todd to parrot it is truly unbelievable.

Digby in 'cloud cuckoo-land'?

Post here.

I realize that a good many people think I'm living in cloud cuckoo-land, but apparently a large majority of the Democratic party is drooling and delusional right along with me:

Pushing back against political punditry, more than six in 10 Democrats say there's no rush for Hillary Clinton to leave the presidential race even as Barack Obama consolidates his support for the nomination and scores solidly in general-election tests. . . .

'There is No Nominee: On To The Five Remaining Primaries'

See post here.

The media is not going to determine the future of the Democratic party. Voters are.

There are five states left to go. Hillary Clinton will do very well in Kentucky and Puerto Rico. Obama has a lead in Oregon. MT and SD are tiny.

The Democrats cannot expect to win Florida or Michigan in November if the 2.5 million who voted there don't have a say in choosing our nominee. They should be seated full-strength. And regardless of how the DNC decides to apportion their delegates, their popular vote count stands as is. The Democrats will not win in November without Florida and/or Michigan.

The Democrats need PA and Ohio. Hillary can win those states and other big swing and toss-up states. Barack Obama's ability to win them is unknown. He's untested. Hillary may have shown him how to be a stronger candidate, but she can't guide him to the finish line, no matter how hard she campaigns for him if he's the nominee.

Superdelegates can make up their mind any time before the convention. They can switch, as many have done, from one candidate to another.

We need a Democrat back in the White House. Hillary Clinton has shown in all of the big states except Obama's home state of Illinois, that she is the stronger candidate in these states. And if she's the candidate, Democrats will likely win Illinois as well.

We are getting down to the wire. Superdelegates were given the responsibility of voting for the nominee who has the best chance of winning the presidency. It's not just a matter of pledged delegates in the individual races.

The candidate who can win back the presidency in November is Hillary Clinton. The Superdelegates need to slow down, and the voters of the remaining 5 states need to come out in force. And the DNC needs to come to its senses and end this charade of a 48 state vote. This nation was founded on the principle of one person, one vote. Every vote needs to be honored. That's the American way.

'ABC/Wash. Post Poll: 64% of Dems Say Hillary Should Stay in Race'

See here. Be sure to check out Big Tent Democrat's take on the poll.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Good news

I'll be doing some more work in the kitchen (new cabinets and countertops) and have been conditionally approved for a home equity line of credit through my mortgage lender (Citibank). I got my credit score in the mail this weekend (just opened the letter today)--it was 784 (out of a range between 300 and 850, with 850 being the best). I didn't know how good that was so I did some searching and came up with this.

The best credit rates are given to people with scores above 770, but a score of 700 -- out of a possible 850 -- is considered good, according to Fair Isaac. The median score is about 725. Generic interest rate calculations on the myfico.com Web site show that when the score dips below the mid-600s, those consumers generally qualify only for "subprime" lending and the interest rate starts to climb significantly.

I think the credit line will be at the prime rate (+ 0), which is now 5%.

I like my white kitchen so I've decided to go with KraftMaid white thermofoil cabinets with plywood sides, and white Silestone countertops with a bull-nose (rounded) edge. There will be a 4" Silestone backsplash and I'll tile the rest of it myself in something colorful (but not too).

I'm getting this done through Home Depot, right down the street. Presently they're offering 10% off on the cabinets and the Silestone and also throwing in a free stainless steel sink (worth over $250). I'll take it!

I'll also be getting a new microwave oven mounted above the stove, a new faucet, and a new disposal (one of the quiet ones). The disposal I have now is extremely loud and rattles everything in the sink and on the surrounding counter (and beyond). Also, the sink will be mounted beneath the counter (included in the estimate).

One upgraded cabinet I'm definitely getting is a 12" pull-out pantry to replace the deep, useless (shelfless) cabinet that's there now.

I've met several times already with a kitchen specialist at Home Depot. Very nice lady who seems to know her stuff.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

How we transport ourselves

I found this funky chart at Paul Krugman's blog. Gas prices are a lot higher in Europe, and Europe is more densely populated. Also, European cities took their shape before the advent of the automobile, so they're a lot more compact. But as Krugman points out, Canada is comparable to the U.S. vis-a-vis gas prices and population density, yet fewer people (as a percentage) rely on the automobile to get around.

You'll see that in the Netherlands, 28% of the population get around on bicycles. If you've ever been to Amsterdam, you can well appreciate this statistic. In the rain, the bikers hold up an umbrella in one hand and use the other to control the bike. And if you're walking across the street, you better be careful--the bikers don't yield to pedestrians.

Once on a vacation there, I saw a barge going down the canal in front of our (gay) hotel (Orpheo), heaped with trashed bicycles that the barge workers were pulling from the bottom of the canal with a mechanical claw. I guess in Amsterdam it's customary to throw your tired, old bicycle into one of the many canals that form a spider's web around the historic center of the city.

Amsterdam is one of a few places I'd love to live in, if it could be arranged. Meanwhile I'm content to live where I'm living in Miami. (The other places I'd love to live in would be Key West and San Francisco.) (But I also love Paris.) (And I haven't been to Berlin lately--I loved that city.)

Olberman goes after McCain's pastors

As TowleRoad says, "Finally, the MSM is getting on McCain about John Hagee and McCain's pastors. Thank you, Keith Olbermann." (7+ minutes long)

New Hillary ad in Oregon

With Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame Wilson

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Backflipping into jeans

'W.Va: It Counts, Deal With It'

Post is here. Also, do read the LA Times story.

BTD referenced MyDD's post by Jerome on West Virginia earlier. I have more to say about it. I want to highlight his lead-in:

I'd humbly suggest, to all the Obama supporters that join us here on this blog, that if you can't stand the heat of the West Virginia primary, you stay out of the kitchen. While I'm at it, I also suggest that you refrain from accusations against West Virginians as being racist, or you'll join the other 6 previous users here, whose offensive comments were deleted on Friday, and that were themselves banned from the site. ...You don't like that? Fine, its a big wide blogosphere, go find a blog that has its head in the sand. Are the ground rules understood?

CNN just flashed a poll showing Hillary ahead with 66% of the vote. It said a big W. VA win will show that "a lot of Democrats aren't ready to get on Obama's bandwagon."

CNN says W.Va. used to be solidly Democratic until 2000 when George Bush took it. Social issues are big there. Guns are even bigger. The LA Times also says W. Va could spell trouble for Obama in November.

One other note from Jerome:

Barack Obama has planned a party to claim the nomination in Portland, based on his own campaigns measurement. He can say whatever he wants, but it's an insult to intelligence to believe it until it happens by the rules. As Howard Dean has said many times, MI and FL are going to be resolved and seated. Obama has now agreed with that position. Like it or not, the working number of delegates is 2209. There's not a rule that says if you get a plurality of the pledged delegates, you win.

The Obama campaign will declare that there's never been a candidate denied the election who had the most pledged delegates. True. But has there been a candidate denied the nomination whose had the most votes? I don't think so. But neither of those metrics matters. 2209, or whatever the number is after the resolution of MI and FL happens to be, is all that matters. Until then, we don't have a nominee.

I'm with Jerome on this one. . . .

Obama may be the Dem candidate, but...

If Obama can't get elected in November, woe be unto us.

Four more years of the mess we're in now, and it'll probably only get worse. This has been my overriding worry.

And it's iffy that Obama can win, especially as a perceived elitist with ties to a preacher who is on record condemning the U.S. I can see the attack ads already. And these ads have a big effect.

'Hillary's Take on the Electoral Map'

Post is here.

From tomorrow's Christian Science Monitor: Hillary Campaign Advisors Wolfson and Garin say it's not that Obama can't win in November, it's that the data shows Hillary has a better chance:

At the top of the ballot, current state polling data show that Clinton would defeat Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, by 42 electoral votes, while the same polls show Obama losing to Senator McCain by 8 electoral votes, they said.

The Clinton strategists also came armed with charts looking at 20 House districts where freshmen Democrats won but which also voted for George Bush in 2004. Clinton defeated Obama in 16 of those 20 districts. Their argument: Clinton would help vulnerable House members more than Obama. Asked about the breakdown of endorsements from those 16 freshmen, Wolfson said that five had so far backed her and four, Obama.

As for how long she's staying in:

"We do not believe a nominee will be chosen unless or until somebody gets to 2,209 [delegates], which is the number including Florida and Michigan. So if that has happened by June 3, then someone will be the nominee. If that hasn't, then the nomination fight continues," Howard Wolfson, Senator Clinton's communications director, told a Monitor-sponsored breakfast on Friday.

We are not oblivious to the environment in which we are operating. But this is very much like a tennis match," Clinton's chief strategist, Geoff Garin, told reporters at the breakfast. "Sometimes, even when people are down two sets to love and down a couple of games in the third set, they end up winning by the fifth set. So Senator Clinton goes on with the same energy and commitment."

Since the race is ongoing, and superdelegates can change their mind up until they vote at the convention in August, here are the voter registration numbers (pdf)for West Virgina.

Seems to me the critical thing now for Hillary is voter turnout. Obama is brushing off W.Va. and KY and hoping people won't turn out, thinking their vote doesn't matter. Their votes may matter. They matter in the popular vote total and because we don't have a nominee yet, no matter how many pundits, pollsters and journalists think we do.

It's over when one candidate drops out or delegates are counted at the convention in August: pledged, unpledged, add-on and superdelegates.

As for the current state of electoral votes, from my earlier post, with Obama winning N.C. but losing W.Va., I don't think he gets past 265 votes in November. He needs 270. With Hillary winning W.Va. but not N.C., her total is 317.

Remember, as to this latest month of primaries, Indiana, Kentucky, Montana and South Dakota will go Republican in November no matter who the nominee is. Only W. Va. and N. Carolina are battleground states. Oregon will go Democratic whoever wins.

The real question is who has a better chance of taking Ohio, PA and Florida? Together those three states have 68 electoral votes. N.C. has 15, W. Va has 5. Together, Colorado and N.M.have 14.