Monday, September 29, 2008

Palin's Fears: Putin Rearing His Head

Last week, I blogged about Gov. Palin's response to Katie Couric's questions about foreign policy experience and Russia:

We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.

(Emphasis added.) Well, someone over at Daily Kos decided to have some fun with this quote and the result was too good not to post:

Foreign policy in Sarah Palin's Alaska.


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Sarah Silverman and The Great Schlep

In the past, I've mentioned my worries that older voters, in particular older Jewish voters, were expressing (mostly) irrational concerns about Barack Obama. A new organization is calling for Jewish grandchildren to make a concerted effort to talk to their bubbies and zadies about Barack Obama so that Florida won't elect Sen. McCain in November. Take a look at this video from spokesperson Sarah Silverman:

The Great Schlep from The Great Schlep on Vimeo.

My grandparents died in the last decade, but I can hear in my mind how discussions of this election would go (especially with my paternal grandfather who was a bit hard of hearing so any any discussions of substance got very loud, even when we weren't arguing...). I don't have the chance to try to convince them, but I am working to convince other older Jews in my extended family. I hope that others are doing the same.


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Friday, September 26, 2008

And the Lies Keep Coming... (update)

On Wednesday, I posted about the payments by Freddie Mac to Rick Davis, Sen. McCain's campaign chairman ($15,000 a month for "proximity" to Sen McCain) and the McCain campaign's lies about Davis no longer having anything to do with his lobbying firm. Apparently, the McCain campaign took offense to the story in The New York Times that I quoted in my post. According to Newsweek:
Jill Hazelbaker, the campaign's communications director, said in an e-mail Tuesday that Davis "left" Davis Manafort in 2006. In a statement attacking The New York Times, posted on the campaign's Web site on Wednesday, campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb said that Davis "separated from his consulting firm, Davis Manafort, in 2006."
I know, you can see it coming, can't you? It's almost getting too easy. Well, guess what? According to Newsweek:

[T]hose statements appear to have overstated the extent to which Davis had severed his relationship with his lobbying firm. Filings made by "Davis Manafort Partners" with the Virginia Corporation Commission as recently as April 1, 2008, show that Davis was still listed as one of only two corporate officers and directors of the firm, according to records on the commission’s Web site reviewed by NEWSWEEK. That filing records Davis as the "treas/clerk" of the firm; his business partner, Paul Manafort is listed as the president and chief executive officer.Another filing by “Davis Manafort, Inc.” (with the same Alexandria, Va. address, and recorded on Oct. 17, 2007) also lists Davis as an officer and director of the firm, reporting his position as "T/Clerk," a reference to his formal title as corporate treasurer and clerk.

Both filings are annual reports of basic corporate information that are required by Virginia state law. There is no record of any amendments to the filings reporting that Davis's status with the firm has changed. The next annual report by "Davis Manafort Inc.", for the year 2008, isn't due to be filed until next month.

The McCain campaign Wednesday sought to clarify Davis's affiliation with his firm, but insisted that the new information contained in the corporate filings in Virginia didn't alter their basic points. "Rick Davis is functionally not affiliated with the firm," said Hazelbaker, the communications director. "That is to say that, since he left, he in fact has not done any work for Davis Manafort or its clients, and he has not taken a salary or received compensation since 2006. Furthermore, he will not receive any deferred compensation."

I remember learning at a fairly young age that when you get caught in a lie, the best course is ... wait for it ... stop lying. Apparently, that message hasn't quite made it to the "Straight Talk Express" just yet...


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McCain Wins Debate ... Hours Before It Happens

This afternoon, several people have spotted in interesting ad for Sen. McCain that has popped up on the website for The Washington Post:

Um, don't you have to actually debate before you can win? Not when you're the "Straight Talk Express". After all, Dewey did defeat Truman, didn't he?

Update: It was The Wall Street Journal with the ad, not The Washington Post.


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What Does Sarah Palin Really Think About Jews?

On September 25, 2008, at the Clinton Global Initiative, Gov. Palin had the opportunity to meet and greet Israeli President Shimon Peres. According to The New York Sun:
President Peres of Israel yesterday met for the first time with Governor Palin and with Senator McCain, who called the veteran Israeli statesman "my old friend." The warm handshake and exchange of broad smiles occurred during an international gathering known as the Clinton Global Initiative, hosted by President Clinton. "I wanted to meet you for many years," Ms. Palin told Mr. Peres, according to an aide to the president. "The only flag at my office is an Israeli flag," she was quoted as saying, "and I want you to know and I want Israelis to know that I am a friend."

I wonder what President Peres would have said to Gov. Palin if (a) he wasn't a polite elder statesman who is smart enough not to get involved in the internal politics of an ally or (b) he knew a bit more about Gov. Palin and her church.

For example, on September 4, I wrote about Gov. Palin's attendance at a church function where David Brickner, the executive director of "Jews for Jesus", preached about his group's efforts (fraudulent as they may be). During Brickner's presentation to the congregation, Gov. Palin heard him say that terrorist attacks on Israelis are God's "judgment of unbelief" of Jews who haven't embraced Christianity. I'm just guessing here, but I don't think that President Peres would respond very warmly to someone who believed that terrorist attacks on Israelis were God's "judgment of unbelief" or who didn't speak out against Anti-Semitic comments like that.

On September 19, I discussed Palin's involvement with an African witchhunter who offered "bold" prayers for her to become governor of Alaska. Well, it turns out that in another presentation by that same African witchhunter to Gov. Palin's church earlier this month (with Gov. Palin in attendance), he said:
The second area whereby God wants us, wants to penetrate in our society is in the economic area. The Bible says that the wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous. It's high time that we have top Christian businessmen, businesswomen, bankers, you know, who are men and women of integrity running the economics of our nations. That's what we are waiting for. That's part and parcel of transformation. If you look at the -- you know -- if you look at the Israelites, that's how they work. And that's how they are, even today.

Um, what was that? Did the witchhunter really just say that "Israelites" are running the economics of nations and that "we" need Christian businessmen, businesswomen, and bankers because the "Israelites" are the wicked storing the wealth for the righteous? I didn't see or hear Gov. Palin jump up to defend Jews or Israelis from the witchhunter's Anti-Semitic smear.
(Here's a link to the video; the above quotation comes at about 1:20.)

And, at about 7:30 in the video, Gov. Palin comes up to the pulpit to receive the witchhunter's blessing (and endorsement, it sounds like) as he repeatedly talks about the "enemy" and evil. What do you suppose President Peres would say of or to a candidate willing to accept a blessing from a man who, just minutes before, repeated tired, old Anti-Semitic charges about Jews controlling the world ecomony?

So what does Gov. Palin really think about Israel? More importantly, what does Gov. Palin really think about Jews?

Unfortunately, as I listen to sermons from Gov. Palin's church, I'm reminded a bit too much of Rev. John Hagee (a supporter of Sen. McCain until some of Rev. Hagee's Anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic statements became a problem for Sen. McCain). Rev. Hagee supports Israel because of the coming "end of days" and the need for Israel to exist for the messiah to come. Of course, Hagee also blames Jews for the Holocaust and suggests that the Holocaust was a good thing because it led to the creation of Israel. But if you look at what Rev. Hagee says and then look at some of the sermons and blessings coming out of Gov. Palin's church, there are a few too many similarities for my comfort.

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McCain Has a History of Backing Out of Debates

Well, Sen. McCain has decided to attend tonight's debate after all. According to a statement from the McCain campaign, Sen. McCain "is optimistic that there has been significant progress toward a bipartisan agreement now that there is a framework for all parties to be represented in negotiations" (including a designated representative for House Republicans).

Several things about this are worth noting. First, from what I've read so far, Sen. McCain may be the only person who believes that there has been "significant progress". It sounds as if virtually everyone thought that a deal had been worked out yesterday until House Republicans torpedoed it (query whether that was because they really opposed the plan or because they wanted to give Sen. McCain the chance to be the proverbial hero). And given that the proposal that House Republicans floated late Thursday afternoon was apparently a non-starter for President Bush, Secretary Paulson, Senate Republicans, and House and Senate Democrats, I'm not quite sure where Sen. McCain's optimism comes from. Or, perhaps said differently, there may be reason for optimism on the basis of the fact that leaders in Washington recognize the need to reach some sort of resolution, but I don't see how exactly the involvement of House Republicans has helped. (And query further: Weren't House Republicans involved all the way along in the process?)

No, to me Sen. McCain's decision looks more like a reaction to polls that show overwhelming support by the American public for the debate to be held tonight. Polls came out a few days ago that showed that Sen. Obama had taken the lead, in large part due to the economy, so Sen. McCain tried to deflect attention. Now, when polls show that people don't like his decision, he changes his mind.

And one more thing worth noting: This was not the first time that Sen. McCain has tried to back out of a Presidential debate! In the 2000 primaries, Sen. McCain was scheduled to debate then-Gov. Bush in California. Yet when polls came out showing that Sen. McCain was trailing Gov. Bush, what did Sen. McCain do? He canceled and didn't debate. Sounds strangely familiar, doesn't it?

Just for the record, here is Sen. Obama's statement about the negotiations and the debate:
At this point, my strong sense is that the best thing that I can do, rather than
to inject presidential politics into these delicate negotiations, is to go down
to Mississippi and explain to the American people what is going on and my vision
for leading the country over the next four years.
Finally, I couldn't help but be struck by the comments of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, a McCain supporter (and former contender for the Republican nomination), who said that Sen. McCain:
[M]ade a "huge mistake" by even discussing canceling the debate.

"You can't just say, 'World, stop for a moment. I'm going to cancel everything,'" Huckabee told reporters Thursday night in Alabama before attending a benefit for the University of Mobile. He said it's more important for voters to hear from the presidential candidates than for them to huddle with fellow senators in Washington.
When your own supporters tell you that your strategy was a huge mistake? Ouch. You know, I'd kinda like Gov. Huckabee if his views on every issue that is important to me weren't so completely contrary to my own. Other than that, he seems like a pretty good guy.


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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Moose Lips Sink Ships (not my line, but I liked it)

A few more bits and pieces from Gov. Palin's interview with Katie Couric.

First, this gem (transcript courtesy of Think Progress [but I did fix a few typos I saw]):

COURIC: Why isn’t it better, Governor Palin, to spend $700 billion helping middle-class families struggling with health care, housing, gas and groceries? Allow them to spend more and put more money into the economy? Instead of helping these big financial institutions that played a role in creating this mess?

PALIN: That’s why I say, I like every American I’m speaking with were ill about this position that we have been put in where it is the tax payers looking to bailout. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up the economy– Helping the — Oh, it’s got to be about job creation too. Shoring up our economy and putting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions and tax relief for Americas. And trade we’ve got to see trade as opportunity, not as a competitive scary thing. But 1 in 5 jobs being created in the trade sector today. We’ve got to look at that as more opportunity. All those things under the umbrella of job creation. This bailout is a part of that.

I'm sorry. Did I get that right? The bailout is part of job creation which has something to do with trade and health care reform and tax reductions and reining in spending have to accompany tax reductions? Um, what? Tax reductions have to accompany tax reductions? Did she even understand the question?

Oh, and don't forget about this bit when Katie Couric asked her for examples of Sen. McCain's efforts to push for new regulation and, when Gov. Palin couldn't really give an on-point answer, Kouric pushed on her the subject and asked her to give an example three times (transcript again from Daily Kos):

PALIN: I can give you examples of things that John McCain has done, that has shown his foresight, his pragmatism, and his leadership abilities. And that is what America needs today.

COURIC: I'm just going to ask you one more time - not to belabor the point. Specific examples in his 26 years of pushing for more regulation.

PALIN: I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

Yeah, I'm sure that Gov. Palin went right home and looked for some examples so that she could follow up with Katie.

This is what Gov. Palin can come up with a polite, sit-down interview. What will she come up with in an actual debate?

Here's what Salon contributor Glenn Greenwald has to say after noting that he'd been defending her and mocking the notion that the McCain campaign was afraid to let her speak to the public or press:

But Sarah Palin's performance in the tiny vignettes of unscripted dialogue in which we've been allowed to see her has been nothing short of frightening -- really, as I said, pity-inducing. And I say that as someone who has thought from the start that the criticisms of her abilities -- as opposed to her ideology -- were much too extreme. One of two things is absolutely clear at this point: she is either (a) completely ignorant about the most basic political issues -- a vacant, ill-informed, incurious know-nothing, or (b) aggressively concealing her actual beliefs about these matters because she's petrified of deviating from the simple-minded campaign talking points she's been fed and/or because her actual beliefs are so politically unpalatable, even when taking into account the right-wing extremism that is permitted, even rewarded, in our mainstream. I'm not really sure which is worse, but it doesn't really matter, because with 40 days left before the election, both options are heinous.

What seems most likely is that she's perfectly conversant in the exceedingly narrow and parochial range of issues she's concerned herself with as Wasilla Mayor and Alaska Governor -- oil drilling on the North Slope, specific local budget items, corruption issues inside the Alaskan State GOP, and evangelical and religious matters. She really doesn't seem to have any thoughts about anything outside of that -- or if she does, she is suppressing them -- and is thus capable of spouting little more than empty right-wing slogans. That's what makes all the issues raised by the excellent on-scene reporting by Salon's David Talbot more significant than it otherwise might be -- she could be a religious fanatic with an extremist agenda, or a power-crazed, vendetta-fueled, secrecy-obsessed Cheney-ite, or something else altogether. She may not even know what she is, and we're clearly not going to find out.
I wish that I could claim the phrase "Moose Lips Sink Ships" because I think that the more she talks the worse her approval ratings will be. And now we see why the McCain campaign has suggested moving the first Presidential debate to October 2 and "rescheduling" the Vice Presidential debate.


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More on Palin's Foreign Policy Experience With Russia

OK, so I'm very busy today and haven't had a chance to write any posts, but I just came across the following transcript from a portion of Gov. Palin's interview with Katie Couric and I just couldn't help myself (this transcript is taken from Daily Kos; I'm not sure who is responsible for creating the transcript):

COURIC: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land-- boundary that we have with-- Canada. It-- it's funny that a comment like that was-- kind of made to-- cari-- I don't know, you know? Reporters--


PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that's the word, yeah.

COURIC: Explain to me why that enhances your foreign policy credentials.

PALIN: Well, it certainly does because our-- our next door neighbors are foreign countries. They're in the state that I am the executive of. And there in Russia--

COURIC: Have you ever been involved with any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

PALIN: We have trade missions back and forth. We-- we do-- it's very important when you consider even national security issues with Russia as Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where-- where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is-- from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right there. They are right next to-- to our state.

Do people seriously think that this woman could be Vice President, let alone President? I think that my German Shepherd knows more about foreign policy; I mean, he's 1/2 German!

Update: Here's the video of this exchange. Watch Gov. Palin's face at about :58 when she talks about Putin rearing his head.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Does she think this is all funny?


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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Campbell Brown: Sexist Treatment of Palin Must End

I'm reprinting this essay from CNN's Campbell Brown because it is just too good to be missed:
Frankly I have had it, and I know a lot of other women out there who are with me on this. I have had enough of the sexist treatment of Sarah Palin. It has to end.

She was in New York on Tuesday meeting with world leaders at the U.N. And what did the McCain campaign do?

They tried to ban reporters from covering those meetings. And they did ban reporters from asking Gov. Palin any questions.

I call upon the McCain campaign to stop treating Sarah Palin like she is a delicate flower who will wilt at any moment.

This woman is from Alaska for crying out loud. She is strong, she is tough, she is confident. And you claim she is ready to be one heartbeat away from the presidency. If that is the case, then end this chauvinistic treatment of her now. Allow her to show her stuff.

Allow her to face down those pesky reporters just like Barack Obama did today, just like John McCain did today. Just like Joe Biden has done on numerous occasions. Let her have a real news conference with real questions.

By treating Sarah Palin differently from other candidates in this race, you are not showing her the respect she deserves.

Free Sarah Palin.

Free her from the chauvinistic chains you are binding her with.

Sexism in this campaign must come to an end. Sarah Palin has as much a right to be a real candidate in this race as the men do.

So let her act like one.


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McCain to "Suspend" Campaign and Wants to Delay Debate

This afternoon, Sen. McCain said that he is going to "suspend" his campaign and return to Washington (where he has not cast a vote in the Senate since April 8, 2008), to address the financial crisis. In addition, he has asked Sen. Obama to agree to postpone the first presidential debate scheduled for this Friday, September 26, 2008. By contrast, earlier today, Sen. Obama called Sen. McCain to suggest that they issue a joint statement outlining their shared principles and urging Congress and the Bush administration to address the crisis in a bipartisan manner.

Maybe I'm just a cynic, but Sen. McCain's decision to suspend and delay looks to me like a cheap political move. Sen. McCain didn't suspend his campaign when Lehman Brothers went bankrupt or when Merrill Lynch was sold for pennies or when AIG was bailed out or when Treasury Secretary Paulson said that a bailout of Wall Street was an immediate concern. Nope. He kept campaigning and kept right on lying. But when a new ABC/Washington Post poll came out showing Sen. Obama with a 52-43 lead (a change from 47-49 two weeks ago), suddenly Sen. McCain wants to suspend and delay. Maybe that's a coincidence. Maybe not. Suddenly, Sen. Obama has momentum and that momentum may be, at least in part, due to the financial crisis. So, how best to blunt that momentum? Call time out. Hey, it works in sports, why not politics?

Let's not forget that there are 98 other Senators who are working diligently on this issue (not to mention 435 members of the House of Representatives, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve, and President Bush, too). Without stopping to really think through all of the ramifications, my initial reaction is that Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama will be serving the country much better by debating issues -- including, say, the financial crisis? -- this Friday, rather than just returning to Washington to add their voices to the already crowded chorus.


Almost immediately after posting the above, I came across the following:

I couldn't resist.


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Bloggers Make Money? Not This One...

According to a story on this morning's Marketplace Morning Report, a survey by Technorati found that "most blogs earn about $6,000 a year". I've been blogging for just under 9 months now and I've earned a total of ... drum roll, please ... $1.57. Wow.

That isn't even enough to actually have Google send me my money (I have to earn $10...).


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Even George Will Is Worried About McCain

George F. Will, columnist for The Washington Post, is not exactly known as being a raving liberal. In this most recent column, "McCain Loses His Head", Will questions whether Sen. McCain has the temperment to be President:
Conservatives who insist that electing McCain is crucial usually start, and increasingly end, by saying he would make excellent judicial selections. But the more one sees of his impulsive, intensely personal reactions to people and events, the less confidence one has that he would select judges by calm reflection and clear principles, having neither patience nor aptitude for either.

It is arguable that, because of his inexperience, Obama is not ready for the presidency. It is arguable that McCain, because of his boiling moralism and bottomless reservoir of certitudes, is not suited to the presidency. Unreadiness can be corrected, although perhaps at great cost, by experience. Can a dismaying temperament be fixed?

So now, even conservative commentators are realizing the danger of a McCain presidency.


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Sen. Obama Talks to President Bartlet (The West Wing)

Maureen Dowd, columnist for The New York Times called Aaron Sorkin, writer of the TV series The West Wing and asked him about the current election campaign. In response, Mr. Sorkin wrote the dialogue for a meeting between Sen. Obama and The West Wing's President Jeb Bartlet. The dialogue is somewhat long, but it is well worth reading:

BARACK OBAMA knocks on the front door of a 300-year-old New Hampshire farmhouse while his Secret Service detail waits in the driveway. The door opens and OBAMA is standing face to face with former President JED BARTLET.

BARTLET Senator.

OBAMA Mr. President.

BARTLET You seem startled.

OBAMA I didn’t expect you to answer the door yourself.

BARTLET I didn’t expect you to be getting beat by John McCain and a Lancôme rep who thinks “The Flintstones” was based on a true story, so let’s call it even.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET Come on in.

BARTLET leads OBAMA into his study.

BARTLET That was a hell of a convention.

OBAMA Thank you, I was proud of it.

BARTLET I meant the Republicans. The Us versus Them-a-thon. As a Democrat I was surprised to learn that I don’t like small towns, God, people with jobs or America. I’ve been a little out of touch but is there a mandate that the vice president be skilled at field dressing a moose —

OBAMA Look —

BARTLET — and selling Air Force Two on eBay?

OBAMA Joke all you want, Mr. President, but it worked.

BARTLET Imagine my surprise. What can I do for you, kid?

OBAMA I’m interested in your advice.

BARTLET I can’t give it to you.

OBAMA Why not?

BARTLET I’m supporting McCain.


BARTLET He’s promised to eradicate evil and that was always on my “to do” list.


BARTLET And he’s surrounded himself, I think, with the best possible team to get us out of an economic crisis. Why, Sarah Palin just said Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had “gotten too big and too expensive to the taxpayers.” Can you spot the error in that statement?

OBAMA Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac aren’t funded by taxpayers.

BARTLET Well, at least they are now. Kind of reminds you of the time Bush said that Social Security wasn’t a government program. He was only off by a little — Social Security is the largest government program.

OBAMA I appreciate your sense of humor, sir, but I really could use your advice.

BARTLET Well, it seems to me your problem is a lot like the problem I had twice.

OBAMA Which was?

BARTLET A huge number of Americans thought I thought I was superior to them.



OBAMA I mean, how did you overcome that?

BARTLET I won’t lie to you, being fictional was a big advantage.

OBAMA What do you mean?

BARTLET I’m a fictional president. You’re dreaming right now, Senator.

OBAMA I’m asleep?

BARTLET Yes, and you’re losing a ton of white women.

OBAMA Yes, sir.

BARTLET I mean tons.

OBAMA I understand.

BARTLET I didn’t even think there were that many white women.

OBAMA I see the numbers, sir. What do they want from me?

BARTLET I’ve been married to a white woman for 40 years and I still don’t know what she wants from me.

OBAMA How did you do it?

BARTLET Well, I say I’m sorry a lot.

OBAMA I don’t mean your marriage, sir. I mean how did you get America on your side?

BARTLET There again, I didn’t have to be president of America, I just had to be president of the people who watched “The West Wing.”

OBAMA That would make it easier.

BARTLET You’d do very well on NBC. Thursday nights in the old “ER” time slot with “30 Rock” as your lead-in, you’d get seven, seven-five in the demo with a 20, 22 share — you’d be selling $450,000 minutes.

OBAMA What the hell does that mean?

BARTLET TV talk. I thought you’d be interested.

OBAMA I’m not. They pivoted off the argument that I was inexperienced to the criticism that I’m — wait for it — the Messiah, who, by the way, was a community organizer. When I speak I try to lead with inspiration and aptitude. How is that a liability?

BARTLET Because the idea of American exceptionalism doesn’t extend to Americans being exceptional. If you excelled academically and are able to casually use 690 SAT words then you might as well have the press shoot video of you giving the finger to the Statue of Liberty while the Dixie Chicks sing the University of the Taliban fight song. The people who want English to be the official language of the United States are uncomfortable with their leaders being fluent in it.

OBAMA You’re saying race doesn’t have anything to do with it?

BARTLET I wouldn’t go that far. Brains made me look arrogant but they make you look uppity. Plus, if you had a black daughter —

OBAMA I have two.

BARTLET — who was 17 and pregnant and unmarried and the father was a teenager hoping to launch a rap career with “Thug Life” inked across his chest, you’d come in fifth behind Bob Barr, Ralph Nader and a ficus.

OBAMA You’re not cheering me up.

BARTLET Is that what you came here for?

OBAMA No, but it wouldn’t kill you.

BARTLET Have you tried doing a two-hour special or a really good Christmas show?


BARTLET Hang on. Home run. Right here. Is there any chance you could get Michelle pregnant before the fall sweeps?

OBAMA The problem is we can’t appear angry. Bush called us the angry left. Did you see anyone in Denver who was angry?

BARTLET Well ... let me think. ...We went to war against the wrong country, Osama bin Laden just celebrated his seventh anniversary of not being caught either dead or alive, my family’s less safe than it was eight years ago, we’ve lost trillions of dollars, millions of jobs, thousands of lives and we lost an entire city due to bad weather. So, you know ... I’m a little angry.

OBAMA What would you do?

BARTLET GET ANGRIER! Call them liars, because that’s what they are. Sarah Palin didn’t say “thanks but no thanks” to the Bridge to Nowhere. She just said “Thanks.” You were raised by a single mother on food stamps — where does a guy with eight houses who was legacied into Annapolis get off calling you an elitist? And by the way, if you do nothing else, take that word back. Elite is a good word, it means well above average. I’d ask them what their problem is with excellence. While you’re at it, I want the word “patriot” back. McCain can say that the transcendent issue of our time is the spread of Islamic fanaticism or he can choose a running mate who doesn’t know the Bush doctrine from the Monroe Doctrine, but he can’t do both at the same time and call it patriotic. They have to lie — the truth isn’t their friend right now. Get angry. Mock them mercilessly; they’ve earned it. McCain decried agents of intolerance, then chose a running mate who had to ask if she was allowed to ban books from a public library. It’s not bad enough she thinks the planet Earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago complete with a man, a woman and a talking snake, she wants schools to teach the rest of our kids to deny geology, anthropology, archaeology and common sense too? It’s not bad enough she’s forcing her own daughter into a loveless marriage to a teenage hood, she wants the rest of us to guide our daughters in that direction too? It’s not enough that a woman shouldn’t have the right to choose, it should be the law of the land that she has to carry and deliver her rapist’s baby too? I don’t know whether or not Governor Palin has the tenacity of a pit bull, but I know for sure she’s got the qualifications of one. And you’re worried about seeming angry? You could eat their lunch, make them cry and tell their mamas about it and God himself would call it restrained. There are times when you are simply required to be impolite. There are times when condescension is called for!

OBAMA Good to get that off your chest?

BARTLET Am I keeping you from something?

OBAMA Well, it’s not as if I didn’t know all of that and it took you like 20 minutes to say.

BARTLET I know, I have a problem, but admitting it is the first step.

OBAMA What’s the second step?

BARTLET I don’t care.

OBAMA So what about hope? Chuck it for outrage and put-downs?

BARTLET No. You’re elite, you can do both. Four weeks ago you had the best week of your campaign, followed — granted, inexplicably — by the worst week of your campaign. And you’re still in a statistical dead heat. You’re a 47-year-old black man with a foreign-sounding name who went to Harvard and thinks devotion to your country and lapel pins aren’t the same thing and you’re in a statistical tie with a war hero and a Cinemax heroine. To these aged eyes, Senator, that’s what progress looks like. You guys got four debates. Get out of my house and go back to work.

OBAMA Wait, what is it you always used to say? When you hit a bump on the show and your people were down and frustrated? You’d give them a pep talk and then you’d always end it with something. What was it ...?

BARTLET “Break’s over.”


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And the Lies Keep Coming...

On Monday, I wrote about Rick Davis, Sen. McCain's campaign manager, being paid nearly $2 million from 2000 to 2005 for nothing other than his proximity to Sen. McCain. The night before I wrote that entry, Sen. McCain claimed in an interview with CNBC and The New York Times that Mr. Davis "has had nothing to do with it since, and I’ll be glad to have his record examined by anybody who wants to look at it." Can you guess what's coming? Remember, this is the "Straight Talk Express" we're talking about...

Sure enough, Sen. McCain's statement was yet another lie (or, perhaps, Sen. McCain said what he thought to be true, which, as you will soon see, raises serious questions about how well he knows his top advisers). According to The New York Times, Freddie Mac paid $15,000 per month (starting in 2005 and continuing until Freddie Mac was taken over by the government), to Mr. Davis' lobbying firm. Apparently Mr. Davis was kept on the payroll, once again, because of his close ties to Sen. McCain. And, while it is true that Mr. Davis took a leave of absence from his firm for the campaign, he remains a partner and shareholder in the lobbying firm and continues to benefit from income received by the firm. Moreover, nobody else at the firm other than Mr. Davis was involved in lobbying efforts on behalf of Freddie Mac, so it would be hard to argue that the payments to the lobbying firm had nothing to do with Mr. Davis.

In other words, despite repeated claims to the contrary, Sen. McCain's campaign manager has been paid $15,000 per month for the last three years (and lots more for the years before that) for doing nothing other than being close to Sen. McCain.

I can't decide which is worse: That Sen. McCain's campaign manager was being paid exorbitant amounts of money to do nothing other than be close to Sen. McCain or that Sen. McCain either didn't know that or did know it and lied about it. And if Sen. McCain did know, besides the obvious questions of why he lied and why he allowed Mr. Davis to keep his position (the Obama campaign has been asking questions about Mr. Davis' lobbying activities for quite some time), one should also ask why didn't Sen. McCain publicly disclose that Freddie Mac (a quasi-governmental entity) was wasting money paying a lobbyist just to be close to Sen. McCain? And, are we really supposed to believe that, in all the years that Mr. Davis has been "close" to Sen. McCain and been paid huge sums by Freddie Mac, that Freddie Mac received nothing from its "investment"? Please...


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The NRCC Wants to Know What I Think About Sarah Palin

This morning I received an email from the National Republican Congressional Committee (the NRCC). The email asks for my opinion of Gov. Palin. So, on a lark, I clicked on the link. The website asks visitors to "Tell us why Sarah Palin was a great pick for Vice-President". Here's my answer:

Great pick? You must be joking. Gov. Palin is completely unqualified to be Vice President. I cannot possibly think of supporting someone who is interested in banning books, who does not believe in the separation of church and state and who believes that the earth is less than 7,000 years old, who does not believe that global warming is a man made threat, who believes that the "end of days" are nearly upon us and would allow biblical prophecy to influence her judgment, who would not give a woman the right to choose, even in the case of rape or incest, who cannot even acknowledge that she repeats lies even after the fallacy of her statements is demonstrated, who uses her public position to enact private vendettas and then puts roadblocks in the way of the legal process examining her actions. No, you won't hear me saying that Sarah Palin is a great pick for Vice President.

Gov. Palin's selection demonstrates how poor a President Sen. McCain would make; if this is an example of his judgment, then I certainly hope that we never need to rely upon his judgment for any important decisions.

I'll be voting for Sen. Obama in November. If you care about our country, I hope you will, too.

I suspect that isn't want the National Republican Congressional Committee wanted to hear. But they did ask...


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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Alaskan Women Rally Against Palin

I just came across this video of a rally in Anchorage, Alaska, on September 13, 2008, organized by a group called Alaska Women Reject Palin:

Some of the signs are absolutely terrific (too bad the video quality isn't better). A different video of the same rally (with a better song [I won't mention that I play the song for my wife and my kids adore it...]) is also available:

Apparently, the organizers of the event were the target of verbal abuse and threats thanks to a local conservative radio host. Nice.


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Elitism in Politics

One of the criticisms that has been levelled against Sen. Obama in this election cycle is that he is an "elite" (whatever that may mean). The charge (and it is a charge, rather than a compliment) seems to have something to do with the fact that he attended Columbia and Harvard and is thus better educated than much of the electorate. This, apparently, is to be contrasted with the background of Sen. McCain (and Gov. Palin, too, I guess) who is (so the argument seems to go) "more like the rest of us".

Before discussing the notion of elitism, I want to share this:

That graphic seems to sum up much about the comparison between Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain. And now back to the discussion of elitism. (Click here for a full size version of the image.)

For some reason that I don't understand, Americans seem to have a love-hate relationship with education and intellectualism. We want our kids to get the best education possible (except for home-schoolers who I just don't get...) and we admire the best institutions of higher education. Many of us dream that our children will be able to go to one of the top colleges and get a superior education. Yet too many Americans seem to hold academics and intellectuals in disdain. I'm sorry, but what is wrong with someone who thinks deeply about certain subjects?

Almost unbelievably, the fact that Sen. Obama attended Columbia and Harvard (he started at Occidental College, a top liberal arts school) is, to some, a strike against him. Sen. McCain graduated from the US Naval Academy (an excellent college in its own right); however, the fact that he graduated near the bottom of his class and didn't go to graduate school is also seemingly used as evidence that he is not an "elite". It is worth noting that many career soldiers have excellent and distinguished academic credentials. For example, General David Patraeus, architect of the surge that Sen. McCain talks about so fondly, graduated from West Point and later earned a Masters in Public Administration and a doctorate from Princeton! I understand why Sen. McCain did not attend graduate school and I certainly don't hold his time in the military against him. But, by the same token, I do think highly of people who, like Sen. Obama, work hard to get the opportunity for an excellent education. He was named an editor of the Harvard Law Review because of his grades and ability as a writer. Shouldn't that be applauded?

While some people point to Sen. Obama and call him an elite, they seem to take an almost perverse pride in Gov. Palin's education, as if having attended 5 colleges in 6 years is viewed as a good thing. Huh? Gov. Palin attended Hawaii Pacific University for 1 semester, North Idaho College for 2 semesters, University of Idaho for 2 semesters, Matanuska-Susitna College for 1 semester, and then back to University of Idaho for 3 more semesters. Look, I don't mean to demean or belittle Hawaii Pacific, North Idaho, Matanuska-Susitna College , or even the University of Idaho (frankly, I know nothing about those schools), but I don't think that any of them offer the same educational experience or opportunities as either Columbia or Harvard (or the US Naval Academy, Occidental College, or the University of Delaware or Syracuse University [Sen. Biden's Alma maters], for that matter).

And, just for the record, why wasn't George W. Bush's attendance at Yale a strike against him? Is it only Democrats who are not "allowed" to be well-educated?

Writer Sam Harris asks "how has 'elitism' become a bad word in American politics"?

There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn't seem too intelligent or well educated.

Why is that? And doesn't it scare you? It certainly scares me. Maybe it's that I'm smart enough to know what I don't know; I'm smart enough to know that others are smarter than I am (though only a few...); I'm smart enough to know how to ask for help; and I like to think that I'm smart enough to know how to listen to the advice that experts give me. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe too many people feel as if they already know everything anyway or feel that asking for help or listening to advice would be a sign of weakness or simply don't want to learn anything new. I don't know. As Harris notes, "[w]hen it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country". But I do know that I want the best and brightest making decisions that will affect the future of our planet.

It is time to stop denigrating academic success; it is time to start applauding those who work hard, attend good schools, get good educations, and then put those educations to work. And, it is time that we recognized the value of someone who is capable of "deep thought" on complex issues and who exercises that capacity. Someone who revels in their own ignorance or who brags about the ability to make a decision without pondering all of the possible outcomes is not someone who should lead our nation.

(Take a few minutes and read the rest of Harris' essay "When Atheists Attack". He makes a number of other interesting points, especially with regard to Gov. Palin's religious views and how those could impact her decision-making process.)

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The Luke & AT&T

As readers of this blog probably know, I have an iPhone (incidentally, the problems that I complained about back in August were solved by the 2.1 firmware that came out in early September). My service is with AT&T. For the most part, I've been reasonably pleased with my AT&T service. However, there is one major problem and AT&T needs to step up, acknowledge the problem, and fix it. The problem, you ask? AT&T doesn't have coverage inside The Luke.

When I'm at a Colts game, my iPhone is useless (at least for phone calls, emails, text messages, or the Internet; I can still do my sudoku puzzles...). And I'm not alone. I sit with a number of AT&T cell users and we're all in the same boat (I'm curious to know if anyone else with AT&T has cell reception at The Luke). The odd thing, though, is that my phone thinks that it has service. We've all been in areas without cell coverage (or good cell coverage) and seen the number of "bars" on our phones drop to 2 or 1 or 0. That isn't happening at The Luke; in fact, my phone continues to register 5 bars. Similarly, when I'm in an area without 3G coverage, my phone switches to the Edge network and the 3G icon is replaced by an E (for Edge). Again, that's not happening at The Luke; the 3G icon is still being displayed. But I can't make a call, I can't receive a call, I can't send or receive a text message, and I have very, very intermittent connectivity to the Internet (every hour or so, I may be able to connect for a minute or two). My wife has a rare illness (that can send her into anaphylactic shock without much warning), so being somewhere with no phone coverage is not a good situation.

So what gives? I've received two different stories. I spoke the IT people at The Luke. They tell me that they are aware of the problem and that it is due to the fact that AT&T hasn't signed the contract for the cell service tower. AT&T, on the other hand, after "researching" the issue for a few days, told me that it was something that their engineers were "working on" and that it would be fixed by the first quarter of 2009. Maybe I'm wrong, but my hunch is that AT&T hasn't paid The Luke and is looking for a workaround. After all, if there weren't any service, my phone would show 0 bars and would not show the 3G connection. It seems that the phone and the antenna are talking to each other (hence the bars and 3G icon) but the antenna isn't talking to AT&T's network.

For what it's worth, when I look at AT&T's cell coverage map, I don't see a big gaping hole around The Luke; instead, the nice bright orange of "best coverage" covers the entire area (and the entire area is shown with 3G coverage, too). If AT&T is using this map to help sell its cellular services, knowing that it doesn't have coverage in The Luke, then isn't the use of a map that AT&T knows to be incorrect the perpetration of a fraud?

In the meantime, those of us with AT&T service have no telephone service when we're at events in The Luke. That is outrageous and intolerable. And, for people in my situation, dangerous.

I think that the only way to solve this problem is going to be for everyone with AT&T service who attends events at The Luke (or who might attend an event at The Luke) to pick up the phone, call AT&T, and demand that the problem be solved (AT&T's support phone number: 800-331-0500). So long as only a handful of people are complaining to AT&T, it will be easy for AT&T to ignore the complainers and the problem. But if those complaints turn into a loud enough chorus, then AT&T just might be forced to listen. And if anyone in the press were to write about the issue... Maybe, if the problem continues, we can organize a rally outside AT&T's building in downtown Indianapolis before a Colts game (ah, the power of wishful thinking).

If you have AT&T service and have experienced coverage problems at The Luke, please leave me a comment and tell me where in the stadium you sit and whether you're able to get any connections. I'm curious to know how many people this problem affects.

I know that I said that I wouldn't refer to The Luke by its proper name, however, I'm briefly breaking that promise solely so that Google and other search engines can find this entry if someone searches for Lucas Oil Stadium.


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Monday, September 22, 2008

McCain's Campaign Manager Paid $2 Million by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for Access to McCain

According to the story "Loan Titans Paid McCain Adviser Nearly $2 Million" in The New York Times, Rick Davis, the campaign manager for Sen. McCain's campaign, served as a lobbyist for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Over a period of five years (beginning around 2000), Davis was paid $35,000 a month!
“The value that he brought to the relationship was the closeness to Senator McCain and the possibility that Senator McCain was going to run for president again,” said Robert McCarson, a former spokesman for Fannie Mae, who said that while he worked there from 2000 to 2002, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac together paid Mr. Davis’s firm $35,000 a month. Mr. Davis “didn’t really do anything,” Mr. McCarson, a Democrat, said.

This disclosure is particularly interesting given that the McCain campaign has tried to tie Sen. Obama to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac via misleading advertisements and statements, including a claim that Sen. Obama received campaign advice from Fannie Mae's former chief executive Franlin Raines, a claim that both Sen. Obama and Raines have denied. So, I find it quite interesting that while he takes time to attack Sen. Obama's slim attachments to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, Sen. McCain has as his campaign manager a lobbyist who earned $2,000,000 from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae solely due to his "closeness" to Sen. McCain. And remember that Davis is one of 7 former lobbyists at the top of the McCain campaign.

What is the old cliche about people in glass houses? Perhaps the "Straight Talk Express" should just stop talking before the rest of the electorate recognizes that no "straight talk" is forthcoming.


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McCain Wants Healthcare System to Resemble Banking System

I'm sure that most you have noticed that there has been a wee bit of turmoil in financial markets over the last few days, what with Lehman Brothers filing bankruptcy, Merrill Lynch being bought for pennies on the dollar, the government taking over AIG, and now a proposed plan to bail out financial institutions to the tune of $700,000,000,000 (yes, that's billion). Lucky for us, Sen. McCain (he who thinks that the "fundamentals of the economy are sound") thinks that we can solve the healthcare crisis in America much the same way that we've gotten ourselves into this financial crisis in the banking industry:

Opening up the health insurance market to more vigorous nationwide competition,
as we have done over the last decade in banking, would provide more choices of innovative products less burdened by the worst excesses of state-based
(Emphasis added.) Those words come Sen. McCain himself in an article that he wrote for the September/October 2008 edition of Contingencies, the magazine of the American Academy of Actuaries (page 30, end of 1st column). Not sure about you, but I'd sure love for my healthcare to look like Lehman Brothers or Merrill Lynch or AIG or the rest of the industry ready for a $700,000,000,000 government bail out. Watch this video to see Sen. Obama's response to this statement of Sen. McCain's (along with tackling a host of other recent claims from the McCain campaign):

Look, I'm the first to admit that both banking and healthcare are very complicated and that I'm no expert on either subject. And it may be that Sen. McCain's ideas for healthcare reform are sound. From what I've heard, I prefer Sen. Obama's ideas to Sen. McCain's. But the idea that we should model healthcare reform on banking reform? If that is really the direction that Sen. McCain's plan would lead, then I think making a decision on which plan is better just a got a whole lot easier.

As to this whole banking bail out, I don't know if it is a good idea or a bad idea. I've heard plenty of experts say that it is a bad idea, but that there aren't any better ideas. Again, I'm willing to admit that I'm not an expert and I'm willing to allow my representatives make decisions on the best course on the basis of the recommendations of these experts. But I do have a few caveats to that.

First, I think that we have to feel comfortable that our representatives are making those decisions on the basis of what will be best for (a) the country and (b) their constitutuents. Note that I did not include in that list either (a) lobbyists or (b) the companies that they lobby for. Unfortunately, these days, it is often hard to feel comfortable that our legislators are looking out for us rather than for the industries that spend the most lobbying dollars.

Second, I think that it is important to remember what we're really talking about. If I've done my math correctly, the bailout amounts to $2,293.38 for every US citizen (based on the US Census Bureau's POPClock Projection). Let me repeat that: In order to bail out the banks, the US Government is going to fund the banks with $2,293.38 from each and every one of us. Where will that money come from? Taxes. Who will pay those taxes? Now that's the real question, isn't it?

One article that I found (from 2006) claims that the average employee at Goldman Sachs (one of the investment banks at the heart of the bailout plan) makes ... are you ready for this ... $622,000 per year! Now, I'm sure that the people at the bottom aren't making huge salaries and I know that the firm employs a lot of people. What does that mean? It means that those at the top must be making a lot of money. So who should really be paying for the bailout? The execs who skew that salary average upward (and who profited from the risky investment strategies of recent years) or the middle class working families across the country? Do you want to pay to bail out a banking CEO? If you are part of an average American family of 4, that means that your family would be responsible for $9,173.52 of that bailout. If my tax burden needs to increase to stabilize our nation's economy, well I won't like it but I'm willing to consider it; but if those who have profited the most stand to gain from this bailout and won't feel the pain the way middle class families will, then I'm sure that I can find better ways to spend that cash for my family's future.

Another thing that I've heard about the bailout proposal that gives me some concern is that the Secretary of the Treasury would have almost unfettered discretion to do what he wants with the money. Democrats in Congress have apparently suggested that some Congressional oversight would be appropriate. Republicans and the Bush administration want a "clean" bill. Call me paranoid or cynical or whatever, but it seems to me that if we're going to give away $700,000,000,000 it is reasonable for someone to look over the shoulder of the Treasury Secretary to be sure that the money is used wisely. After all, isn't it deregulationand the lack of oversight that got us into this mess in the first place?

And, on a related note, doesn't it seem fair to be sure none of that money could be used to pay ridiculously excessive CEO salaries or golden parachutes? According to an article from Fortune magazine, Secretary Paulson who, before becoming Secretary of the Treasury was CEO of Goldman Sachs, earned $38,800,000! That same article mentions the $113,000,000 paid by Morgan Stanley to that company's ousted CEO. How much will Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley and others pay their current CEOs and other top executives for getting them -- no, strike that -- for getting us into this mess? And how much of those payouts will be from taxpayer funds?

The bailout plan may be the best of a bunch of bad options. I don't know. But if we go forward, I think that it is critical that the bailout be used to fix the problem and not reward the greedy who have already profited from the crisis even as they've led their companies and the world's economy into the Abyss.

And, so long as Congress is talking about saving the banks from financial disaster and bankruptcy, don't you think that it's appropriate to revisist the recent amendments to the bankruptcy bill that the Republican Congress adopted at the behest of the banking industry which made bankruptcy much more difficult for consumers? I don't hear anyone talking about a financial bailout package for taxpaying consumers...


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More Republican Dirty Tricks?

Last week I mentioned the plan by Republicans in Michigan to use home foreclosure information to target voter challenges (thus disenfranchising people who had lost their homes to foreclosure). Today, I learned of a new apparent Republican dirty trick playing out in Wisconsin. According to Racine Post, Democratic voters have been receiving absentee ballot request forms from the McCain campaign. The problem? These absentee ballot requests have the wrong address for the completed requests to be returned to. So? Apparently, this would not jeopardize a voter's registration, but it might prevent the voter from receiving the absentee ballot (as the office receiving the request would be required to forward it to the correct office, but would have to do so in a very limited time frame [1 day] with an already overburdened staff).

Hopefully, this is not a case of singling out Democrats and is not intentional. Hopefully, these requests were sent to all voters and someone made an honest mistake. But, given the history of Republican dirty tricks and efforts to disenfranchise voters and given the McCain campaign's seeming willingness to do anything to win (lie, cheat, and will steal be next?), it is hard to give the campaign the benefit of the doubt and assume that this was an honest mistake. After all, lately the words "honest" and "McCain" don't seem to belong in the same sentence. Even Saturday Night Live has recognized that sad fact:

I think that my favorite ad might be the "Obama supports tax breaks for pedophiles" bit. That really goes right to the heart of the ridiculous exaggerations that have plagued Sen. McCain's ads.

Interesting note on the skit: Apparently it was co-written by former SNL writer Al Franken who is currently running for Senate in Minnesota (seeking to defeat Republican incumbent Norm Coleman).


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Friday, September 19, 2008

Targeting Home Foreclosures for Voter Suppression

It has been reported several times in recent days that Republican officials in Michigan have indicated that they will use lists of homes in foreclosure to challenge voters at the polls (citing, I suppose, incorrect residency information). That's right: The Republicans will use financial hardship as a means of keeping people from the polls; people likely, I guess, to vote against those Republicans.

Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan), chair of the House Judiciary Committee has now raised this issue and, in his capacity of chair of that Committee, has sent a letter to Sen. McCain requesting that McCain denounce these efforts:

I am extremely concerned by recent media reports that the Chairman of the
Republican Party in Macomb County, James Carabelli, is planning to use a list of
foreclosed homes as a basis to challenge voters and block them from
participating in the November 2008 election. I am writing to request that
you denounce any efforts by the Republican Party, most notably in Michigan and
Ohio, to engage in voter suppression, including challenges based on a voter’s
home foreclosure status, and that you direct your supporters to refrain from
engaging in such behavior. At a time when Americans are losing their homes at
record numbers, it is difficult to imagine that anyone would attempt to
capitalize on such misfortune for political gain. Furthermore, a rejection
of this strategy would be consistent with your recent commitment to "a fair and
transparent election."


As Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, I ask that you repudiate any efforts by the Republican Party and any of its state affiliates to engage in voter suppression and intimidation tactics, and that you direct your supporters across the country to refrain from engaging in such behavior. I would appreciate hearing from you directly on whatever actions you take in response to this request.

The full text of Rep. Conyers letter (together with some prefatory material) can be found at Rep. Conyers diary on Daily Kos. It is well worth reading as Rep. Conyers includes an interesting discussion about the recent reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act as well as a consent decree prohibiting the Republican National Committee in New Jersey from engaging in "vote caging" tactics.

It will be interesting to see if Sen. McCain even responds to Rep. Conyers' letter. If Sen. McCain does not come out to forcefully denounce these voter suppression efforts, then it will be yet another sign that Sen. McCain is, as I've previously suggested, so desperate to be President, that he doesn't mind cheating to get there.

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Try VoteGopher's "My Ballot"

During the primary season a new non-partisan site called VoteGopher appeared. The aim of the site was to help voters learn about the issues and the candidate's stated positions on those issues. Now, VoteGopher has introduced a new feature called "My Ballot". This portion of the site is divided into 25 issues. For each issue, you can choose whether you support Sen. Obama, Sen. McCain, a 3rd party candidate, or have no preference. And you can rank the importance of each issue from Not Important (0 points) to Important (1 point) to Very Important (3 points) to Most Important (6 points). The system also allows you a place to write your thoughts on each issue (you don't have to). You can also get video summaries of the issues and visit pages describing the candidate's positions on those issues. As you rank each issue and select your preferred candidate, VoteGopher keeps your score. You can keep your My Ballot page private or you can make it public and share it on social networking sites (or share it here!).

Go ahead, give it a try. But be honest with yourself as you think about each issue. Don't pre-judge on the basis of who you want to win; instead, think about each issue and be honest. After all, that is what democracy is supposed to be about.


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News Roundup (September 19, 2008)

I decided to take a lead from several other blogs that I like and provide the occasional brief news roundup. Most days I come across lots of interesting little bits and pieces but I just don't have the time to write about or comment on all of them at length. So, I will start providing brief notes and links to some of the more interesting articles as I find them.

Let's start with this story from FoxNews:

McCain town hall style meetings are generally open to the public where anyone may wait in line on the day of the event and come in without an advanced invitation.

However, at tonight’s 3,500 person townhall in Grand Rapids, Michigan–the first time Palin is taking questions from the public– only ticketholders are allowed in.

The McCain campaign confirms that tonight’s event was advertised on the McCain/Palin Web site and local newspapers. People had to pick up their tickets at local GOP offices after RSVPing for the event.

The Kent County GOP headquarters gave out about two thousand tickets.

The rest came from GOP offices in Ottowa and Kalamazoo.

UPDATE–McCain campaign officials insist that none of the questions are being pre-screened.

While questions may not have been screened, it seems more than a bit coincidental that the first time that Gov. Palin takes questions from the public (and she's been the nominee for how long now?), that "public" is limited to Republican party faithful. If the Republicans are so worried that Gov. Palin can't handle tough questions posed to her by someone other than a Republican, what does that say about her ability to serve as Vice President or President? It would be hard to pre-screen Vladimir Putin or Hugo Chavez... And don't forget that it has been in open town hall style forums that Sen. McCain has usually excelled with his "straight talk". So, there must be a reason why the campaign is suddenly changing the rules about who gets in and who gets to ask questions. Then again, this isn't really a surprise given how the campaign continues to hide Gov. Palin from the press.

Walter Shapiro has an article for Salon looking at the Rumsfeldian "known knowns," "unknown unknowns," and "known unknowns" of this election. Among his observations:
But rarely has there been as drastic or as cynical an overhaul as the one starring McCain in a docudrama titled "The Remaking of a (Would-Be) President 2008." Who could have imagined that different-drummer McCain would emerge as a press-conference-avoiding, media-baiting, fact-fabricating generic Republican?

More and more observers and commentators are starting to recognize just how desperate Sen. McCain is and how bold (not to mention frequent) his lies are becoming. My question is when will the national media and, more importantly, the voting electorate begin taking note?

I also came across the following comments about Gov. Palin from Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), one of the most prominent and well-known Republican Senators:

She doesn't have any foreign policy credentials," Hagel said Wednesday in an interview. "You get a passport for the first time in your life last year? I mean, I don't know what you can say. You can't say anything."


The McCain campaign has cited the proximity of Alaska to Russia as evidence of her international experience.

Hagel scoffed at that notion.

"I think they ought to be just honest about it and stop the nonsense about, 'I look out my window and I see Russia and so therefore I know something about Russia,'" he said. "That kind of thing is insulting to the American people."

Imagine that, someone saying what they really think instead of just reciting the party line or the approved talking points. Of course, this isn't much different than what we've heard Republican strategists say when they didn't think anyone was listening...

Shaun Mullen, a columnist for TMV has some interesting observations in his essay McCain & Palin Peak While Obama & Biden Climb: Why This Week Is The Game Changer:

McCain seems unsteady without Sarah Palin at his side and is drawing smaller crowds now that he is out on his own. Meanwhile, the post-convention bounce and Palin boomlet have ended with a thud and the Alaska governor’s negatives are intersecting with her positives in public-opinion polls.

While Palin’s selection as a running mate was brilliant for its element of surprise, it is likely to go down in political history as an extraordinarily short-sighted move that dragged McCain down, not pulled him up.

Palin has had the unintended effect of making McCain seem ever more the unsteady septuagenarian, is not drawing in disaffected Democratic women in appreciable numbers because of her starkly un-feminist views, her superficiality is apparent in her scripted, cue-card assisted appearances, and the most damning criticism of her has come not from the opposition but McCain surrogate Carly Fiorina, who like “Foreclosure Phil” Gramm has now been thrown under the campaign bus.

Meanwhile, the drip-drip-drip of negative news concerning Palin from Alaska will dog and distract the ticket from here on out, while the record reveals that her reputation as a house-cleaner as small-town mayor and governor is trumped by her penchant for appointing unqualified friends. Case in point: The high school classmate whom she named as Alaska’s agriculture secretary who cites her childhood love of cows as a qualification.

The McCain campaign’s strategy of mud slinging and serial lying — and lying about lying — has had legs, but it has become a story in and of itself and there is now a small army of commentators, including many from the right-of-center, who rue the once principled war horse’s descent into sleaze, another issue that will dog and distract the ticket.

Worse yet, developments on Wall Street have exposed McCain at his most inept. His initial response — to channel Herbert Hoover and declare that the economy is fundamentally sound — was widely-derided. His revised response was plan [sic] scary. And both are political manna for Obama.

There is an opportunity for the Democrat to hammer home the obvious: The economic crisis is a direct result of Republican deregulation efforts led by Gramm, McCain’s erstwhile economic adviser, and enthusiastically endorsed by the candidate himself, whose political career was resurrected after the Keating Five scandal because people believed his vow that he was swearing off lobbyists and going straight. That was smoke and mirrors, of course, and McCain is a poster boy if ever there was one for coddling the rich and shortchanging the middle class and poor.

It is nice to see that not everyone has forgotten Sen. McCain's involvement in the Keating Five scandal -- part of the last great financial crisis to affect America's banking system. Um, why exactly should we trust Sen. McCain now?

David Talbon, another writer for Salon, has an interesting article about Gov. Palin's time in Wasilla's government and her clashes with Baptist minister Howard Bess. Among the items that struck me in that article:
  • Gov. Palin (then either a city council member or mayor) was among a group of anti-abortion activists protesting in front of a doctor's office.
  • A community activist asked Palin how she could believe in creationism, noting that her father was a science teacher. Palin's response: "We don't have to agree on everything." That activist then pushed her on creationist belief and asked if she really believed that the earth was less than 7,000 years old and that dinosaurs and humans had existed at the same time. Palin's response was "yes" because she had seen images of dinosaur fossils with human footprints in them.

Kind of hard to even respond to that... In addition, the article quotes Rev. Bess:

It's truly frightening that someone like Sarah has risen to the national level," Bess said. "Like all religious fundamentalists -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim -- she is a dualist. They view life as an ongoing struggle to the finish between good and evil. Their mind-set is that you do not do business with evil -- you destroy it. Talking with the enemy is not part of their plan. That puts someone like Obama on the side of evil.

"Forget all this chatter about whether or not she knows what the Bush doctrine is. That's trivial. The real disturbing thing about Sarah is her mind-set. It's her underlying belief system that will influence how she responds in an international crisis, if she's ever in that position, and has the full might of the U.S. military in her hands. She gave some indication of that thinking in her ABC interview, when she suggested how willing she would be to go to war with Russia.

"Alaskans liked that certitude when she was dealing with corrupt politicians and the oil industry -- and there is something admirable about it. But when you're dealing with a complex and dangerous world as commander in chief, that's a different story."

Don't forget that video from Gov. Palin's appearance earlier this summer at her church where she nods her head as the minister talks about how Alaska will be a "refuge" in the upcoming "end of days". Is this really someone that we want to be a heartbeat away from the nuclear trigger? Is this really someone that we even want to be in the same room as those discussing how to respond to an international crisis? Compound that with Sen. McCain's well-known temper...

And in the category of "you just can't make this stuff up", take a look at the article "Palin linked electoral success to prayer of Kenyan witchhunter" which describes Gov. Palin's affinity for an African evangelist known for conducting actual witch hunts and exorcisms in Kenya! Gov. Palin is quoted as talking about his bold prayers for her to become governor. So, just to be clear, Gov. Palin appears to believe that world is less than 7,000 years old, humans and dinosaurs coexisted, and "bold" prayers from evangelising witchdoctors helped her get elected governor of Alaska. Um. OK. And people thought Nancy Reagan's reliance on astrology was nuts...


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Thursday, September 18, 2008

McCain Getting Desperate?

Either Sen. McCain has simply lost the ability to tell fact from fiction and truth from lies or he is getting so desperate that he just doesn't care. As I suggested yesterday, I think that he wants so badly to be President that he is willing to lie -- and damage the democratic process -- in order to achieve that ultimate goal. So, I've decided to start laying out some of Sen. McCain's lies as I find them (and I'm not going to bother with the claim that Sen. McCain invented the BlackBerry ... that's just too easy).

Let's start with a stump speech that Sen. McCain gave on Tuesday, September 16 (the day after declaring that the fundamentals of the economy were sound even as Lehman Brothers was going bankrupt, Merrill Lynch was being bought for pennies, and AIG was being bailed out by the government for $85 billion). What did Sen. McCain say on September 16? According to FactCheck:

In a Sept. 16 stump speech in Vienna, Ohio, Republican presidential nominee John McCain went after Barack Obama, his Democratic counterpart, charging that Obama can’t possibly hope to change Washington. After all, McCain said, Obama is a big part of the problem. Why? Here’s McCain:

"McCain (Sept. 16, Vienna, Ohio): He talks a tough game on the financial crisis, but the facts tell a different story. Senator Obama took more money from Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac than anyone but the chairman of the committee they answer to, and he put Fannie Mae’s CEO, who helped create this problem in charge of finding his vice president. That’s not change, that’s what’s broken in Washington."

McCain’s allegation about Obama’s contributions from the FMs is not true. As we’ve said many times, it’s illegal for candidates to accept contributions directly from corporations. But the FEC does keep track of the employers of individuals who give at least $200 to candidates. And according to the respected nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, in the 2008 election cycle Barack Obama has received $18,150 from employees of Freddie Mac. CRP does not list any Obama contributions from Fannie Mae.

But Obama is not No. 2 on the list of those getting contributions from the two companies, as McCain said. In fact, he ranks fourth in combined contributions, trailing Sen. Christopher Dodd, Rep. Melissa Bean and Sen. Lamar Alexander. McCain also neglects to mention his own $9,500 from Freddie Mac.

Obama is second on the list of those getting contributions from employees of only Freddie Mac. But, seriously, neither candidate’s number really makes much difference. Obama has raised more than $389.4 million in the 2008 election cycle. That makes his combined contributions from the FMs work out to roughly 0.005 percent of his total contributions. And McCain has raised about $174.2 million, making his combined FM contributions work out to … 0.005 percent.

Oh, and that part about Fannie Mae’s CEO being on Obama’s VP committee? Sort of. On June 4, Obama announced that Caroline Kennedy, Eric Holder and Jim Johnson would head his VP search committee. Kennedy, of course, is the daughter of JFK. Holder was Bill Clinton’s deputy attorney general. Johnson remained on Obama’s committee for just a week. He resigned on June 11, amid allegations that Johnson received preferential treatment from Countrywide Financial Corp.

But Johnson wasn’t the current CEO of Fannie Mae, as you might think from listening to McCain. He left nine years ago, in 1999.

How many lies did Sen. McCain manage to shove into one short statement? And we're supposed to think that Sen. McCain is an honorable, straight talker?

For some analysis of some of Sen. McCain's other recent lies, see There He Goes Again, Energetically Wrong, Belittling Palin?, Off Base on Sex Ed, and McCain-Palin Distorts Our Finding (all from and all from within the last 8 days). also finds fault with some of the statements coming from Sen. Obama's campaign, but not of the same character or frequency.

And on the subject of telling lies, Leonard Pitts, Jr., a columnist for the Miami Herald (carried by The Indianapolis Star) has an excellent essay on the prevalence of lies in the campaign. His conclusion echoes some of the concerns that I expressed yesterday and last week:

Like so many other things in this country, it has become splintered and factionalized. These days, every ideology has a ''truth,'' and everybody's ''truth'' has an agenda. Nothing is settled and known. All things are up in the air, all things open to interpretation. Indeed, truth hardly seems to be the point anymore. Lies serve just as well. As a result, we are no longer grounded in the same shared body of facts and in a very real sense, have no basis upon which to reason together, no basis for shared mission, purpose or identity.

Those bases are, not incidentally, foundation blocks of nationhood.

Already the political sides in this country talk past each other like Mars and Venus. If the games of obfuscation and fabrication political hacks play really are becoming common among real people, it can only get worse.

They think they're helping a candidate win an election. Truth is, they're helping all of us lose a whole lot more.

By the way, as to the notion that Sen. McCain is getting desperate, there is an interesting anecdote in The New York Times (confirmed by several other sources):

After Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, his running-mate, riveted the overflow crowd at an airplane hangar here for 16 minutes, it was Mr. McCain’s turn, and people in his audience began murmuring and drifting away midway through a 14-minute speech that was flat and cheerless. When Mr. McCain made his first appearance without Ms. Palin, on Monday morning in Jacksonville, Fla., he faced an arena that was one-quarter full.
MSNBC reports that the Jacksonville, Florida, rally mentioned above had an attendance of only 3,000 people in an arena with 16,000 seats (the Huffington Post has some great pictures of the nearly empty arena). Of course, the McCain campaign doesn't want you to know that Sen. McCain hasn't been able to pack people in to his rallies; in fact, his campaign has been caught lying about attendance figures.

In other words, while the nomination of Gov. Palin may have energized and excited people, that excitement and energy may not actually be rubbing off on Sen. McCain, himself, but the campaign is willing to lie about that too.

When it gets to the point that practically every word coming out of the candidate's mouth is a lie, exaggeration, or gaffe (I hope to have more on Sen. McCain apparently thinking that Spain is in South America and that it isn't one of our allies as the story gets fleshed out...), and when you compound that with errors in judgment (Gov. Palin and the "fundamentally sound" economy, for example), one has to wonder just why anyone would vote for Sen. McCain. More importantly, you to wonder just what a McCain administration would look like? Why would we trust the judgment of a President McCain and why would we trust a President McCain to tell us the truth?

Update (September 19, 2008)

Just so nobody can claim that I'm trying to play fast and loose with facts, FactCheck, which I quoted above, has corrected its facts concerning political contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac:
We said originally that Obama was the fourth largest recipient of donations from troubled mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. That’s wrong. Our post was drawn from data from the Center for Responsive Politics’ Web site, But the data we used were incomplete.

We talked to a spokesperson from the Center for Responsive Politics who told us that looking at all election cycles since 1989 (the first year for which CRP has data), Barack Obama is in fact the second-largest recipient of contributions from employees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, their unemployed spouses and dependent children and both of the FMs’ political action committees.

According to CRP, Obama’s total contributions from the FMs work out to $126,349. Of that sum, $6,000 comes from the FMs’ political action committees, and the rest from individuals who work for one of the two companies. Obama’s FM contributions account for about 0.03 percent of his total contributions to date. McCain’s FM haul is a smaller $21,550, all from individuals. That’s about 0.01 percent of his total contributions. We stand by our doubts that either candidate will be much swayed by numbers of this size.
I find it hard to get worked up over political contibutions from individuals (or a whopping $6,000 from a PAC) that total $120,000 out of nearly $400,000,000 that Sen. Obama has raised, especially when I remember that Sen. McCain has surrounded himself with lobbyists including lobbyists who worked for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.


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LibraryThing: "By Royal Command"

I updated my LibraryThing catalog with a review of By Royal Command [Young Bond #5] by Charlie Higson. I'm currently reading The Lost Constitution by William Martin.


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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

American Idol Candidate

I don't normally like to simply reprint chain emails that I receive. For one thing, I prefer to know the source of material that I copy or cite. For another thing, I usually try to check the facts before printing them. An email that I received yesterday, however, is interesting enough to reprint here, even though I don't know the actual source. The subject line for this email was "The American Idol Candidate":

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....

  • If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're "exotic, different."
  • Grow up in Alaska eating moose burgers, a quintessential American story.
  • If your name is Barack you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.
  • Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.
  • Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.
  • Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.
  • If you spend 3 years as a brilliant community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with over 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while sponsoring 131 bills and serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real leadership experience.
  • If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with less than 7,000 people, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to become the country's second highest ranking executive.
  • If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.
  • If you cheated on your first wife with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you're a Christian.
  • If you teach responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.
  • If , while governor, you staunchly advocate abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant , you're very responsible.
  • If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values don't represent America's.
  • If you're husband is nicknamed "First Dude", with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable.

OK, much clearer now.

Interestingly, while trying to track down the source of that email, I came across an interesting essay from Roger Ebert, movie critic for the Chicago Sun-Times that was also entitled The American Idol Candidate:

I think I might be able to explain some of Sarah Palin's appeal. She's the "American Idol" candidate. Consider. What defines an "American Idol" finalist? They're good-looking, work well on television, have a sunny personality, are fierce competitors, and so talented, why, they're darned near the real thing. There's a reason "American Idol" gets such high ratings. People identify with the contestants. They think, Hey, that could be me up there on that show!

My problem is, I don't want to be up there. I don't want a vice president who is darned near good enough. I want a vice president who is better, wiser, well-traveled, has met world leaders, who three months ago had an opinion on Iraq. Someone who doesn't repeat bald- faced lies about earmarks and the Bridge to Nowhere. Someone who doesn't appoint Alaskan politicians to "study" global warming, because, hello! It has been studied. The returns are convincing enough that John McCain and Barack Obama are darned near in agreement.

I would also want someone who didn't make a teeny little sneer when referring to "people who go to the Ivy League." When I was a teen I dreamed of going to Harvard, but my dad, an electrician, told me, "Boy, we don't have the money. Thank your lucky stars you were born in Urbana and can go to the University of Illinois right here in town." So I did, very happily. Although Palin gets laughs when she mentions the "elite" Ivy League, she sure did attend the heck out of college.

Five different schools in six years. What was that about?

And how can a politician her age have never have gone to Europe? My dad had died, my mom was working as a book-keeper and I had a job at the local newspaper when, at 19, I scraped together $240 for a charter flight to Europe. I had Arthur Frommer's $5 a Day under my arm, started in London, even rented a Vespa and drove in the traffic of Rome. A few years later, I was able to send my mom, along with the $15 a Day book.

You don't need to be a pointy-headed elitist to travel abroad. You need curiosity and a hunger to see the world. What kind of a person (who has the money) arrives at the age of 44 and has only been out of the country once, on an official tour to Iraq? Sarah Palin's travel record is that of a provincial, not someone who is equipped to deal with global issues.

But some people like that. She's never traveled to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America or Down Under? That makes her like them. She didn't go to Harvard? Good for her! There a lot of hockey moms who haven't seen London, but most of them would probably love to, if they had the dough. And they'd be proud if one of their kids won a scholarship to Harvard.

I trust the American people will see through Palin, and save the Republic in November. The most damning indictment against her is that she considered herself a good choice to be a heartbeat away. That shows bad judgment.

Ebert has touched upon a number of the feelings about Gov. Palin that I've been trying to express over the last few weeks. When I read Ebert's essay, I finally remembered what Gov. Palin's nomination most reminds me of. Remember when President George H.W. Bush nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court? The President told us that Thomas was the best person available, but did anyone really believe that? After all, Thomas was largely unknown and did not even receive a unanimous "qualified" from the American Bar Association. But Thomas was: (a) an African-American being nominated to replace Thurgood  Marshall, the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court, and (b) a conservative. Maybe Thomas was the best conservative African-American available, but he certainly was not the best person available. That's exactly how I feel about Gov. Palin. She may be the best conservative woman available (and, frankly, I'm not even about to concede that...), but she is certainly not the best person available.

President Bush chose Thomas because of his race. I don't think that anyone being intellectually honest with themselves would dispute that. And Sen. McCain chose Gov. Palin because of her gender. When the nomination of people to serve on the Supreme Court or in the office of the Vice President stops being about true qualifications and starts to be about racial or gender politics, then we all suffer because rather than having the best, most qualified people serving our nation, we instead end up with people with dubious qualifications so that particular demographic cohorts can be placated or pandered to. America is supposed to be about the best and brightest; it is not supposed to be about the best and brightest of the right race or right gender or right religion. American democracy is about ideas not skin color or genitalia.

I lost a lot of respect for President Bush when he nominated Clarence Thomas. As I said yesterday, I lost the last of the little remaining respect that I had for Sen. McCain when he nominated Sarah Palin. Sen. McCain's refrain of "America First" means very little and, in fact, rings totally hollow, when he dives into the gutter to play gender politics. By choosing a running mate on the basis of her gender rather than her qualifications, Sen. McCain is telling us that he is more concerned with being elected than with the fate of the country. And isn't that precisely what Sen. McCain criticized Sen. Obama about with regard to Sen. Obama's views on the war? Sen. McCain said that Sen. Obama would rather lose the war than lose the election. It is clear to me that Sen. McCain would rather hurt our country than lose an election.

Over the last few weeks, we've seen that Sen. McCain will do absolutely anything to get elected; he has nominated an unqualified person, he is having his campaign work diligently to stop an ethics inquiry into that candidate, and he is lying to the American people, day in and day out about virtually any and every subject. Sen. McCain wants to be President and it appears that he will leave no dirty trick unplayed to get there. Sen. McCain talks about change; he has certainly changed from an honorable man to just another politician willing to lie and cheat to get elected. The military hero who likes to talk about honor should now be hanging his head in shame for the campaign that he is now running is shameful and making of mockery of the democratic process and ideals that are the foundations of our nation.


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