Friday, October 31, 2008

It Takes a Brit to Put Our Politics Into Perspective

Tonight, Keith Olbermann interviewed former Monty Python star John Cleese. The interview is fairly long and touches on a number of issues, but Cleese makes one point exceedingly well (beginning at about 1:50). Watch the whole video if you're a Cleese fan; I'll provide a mini-transcript of the part that I'm referring to below:

Here's the part that really caught my attention:
I think the problem, the problem came when they all wanted George W. to be President because he was someone they could have a beer with. You know, someone you feel comfortable with. I don't want a President I feel comfortable with. I want a President who's so damn smart and well-informed and sharp and a good assessor of people that if I was there I'd just keep my mouth shut so that he didn't realize what a fool I was, you know? But that seems to be the opposite of what a certain kind of -- I don't know if I should say Republican, but largely it seems Republican voters want someone who's going to be comfortable with. And you know, the Americans are terrific about not being envious about money compared with the Europeans. They seem to be very envious about intelligence. And the idea of actually being with someone who's sort of intelligent, well-informed, and educated, you know Ivy League coll- [Cleese makes a funny face and funny noises] not a proper American, you know? And there's a sort of envy of that with the result that they want someone that they'd be comfortable with who is not going to be terribly bright or very highly intelligent or awfully sharp or a very good judge of people. Considering its for the job, it's the most powerful man in the world, it's rather alarming.
I guess it takes a Brit to put our politics into perspective.

Update: Oops. Forgot to give the post a title...


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Are Long Waits to Vote the Equivalent of a Poll Tax

Poll taxes have been illegal for a long time. But this evening, I heard MSNBC's Rachel Maddow suggest that long lines that force people to wait for hours to vote is the modern equivalent of a poll tax. How's that, you ask? Simple. Many professionals can afford to take off half a day (or more) to wait in line to vote. Stay at home moms and the retired can afford to spend the day at the polls. But can workers earning an hourly wage, often with unsympathetic employers, take off half a day, probably without pay, just to vote? It won't cost me anything to take time off to vote. I can work extra hours another time to make up billings lost while waiting in line (heck, I can probably even do some work while I wait in line). But the single mom who works two jobs just to feed her kids and pay her bills probably can't afford to miss a day (or even half a day) of work. So, if she can't take time to vote because it will be too costly, then those lines are, in effect, no different than a poll tax. That is wrong. That is not what our democracy should be about.


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Looking Out for the Jews?

I saw a query from Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo that got me thinking:
Why are right-wing freaks now the self-appointed defenders of Jews, defending us from the candidates the overwhelming proportion of us Jews plan to vote for?

Over recent days, we've heard Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin and even Joe the Plumber talking about Sen. Obama being bad for Israel. What is it that these people (Joe the Plumber?) know that we Jews, we who think about Israel on an almost daily basis, we who have friends or family either in Israel or from Israel, we who have visited Israel and eagerly look forward to visiting again, what do these people think that they know that we Jews don't know?

One thing that I've said repeatedly, is that we Jews need to recognize that friends of Israel are not necessarily friends of the Jews. People like Gov. Palin who need Israel (perhaps even a "Greater Israel") for her "end of days" and rapture may be "friends" of Israel, but only to the extent that Israel is necessary for the fulfilment of their own religious ends. Go listen to some of Rev. Hagee's sermons for a better understanding of this (remember Rev. Hagee, who Sen. McCain pursued for an endorsement for months...?). I wish that those "friends" of Israel would take a bit more time learning about Jews here in America and learning about issues that are important to us (oh, like, maybe separation of church and state, for example...) rather than simply presuming that they are "friends" of Jews solely because they are "friends" of Israel. I think that we Jews have a little bit more understanding of the issues that involve Israel (not the least of which are the existential threats to Israel) than those on the religious right who, as Marshall suggests, seem to feel the need to be our "defenders".

Speaking for myself, I don't really need the "friendship" of someone who only wants to be my friend because I am, myself, the friend of a country that person believes necessary to their own religious salvation. And I don't particularly want to hear those people tell me that Sen. McCain will be better for Israel when I know that he will neither be better for Israel (wars is the Middle East, easpecially ones that empower and embolden Iran are not good for Israel) nor good for the Jews.

Perhaps if Israel is such an important issue for those on the right, they will look to us Jews for advice and, when they see that we support Sen. Obama by a large margin, maybe they'll change their minds and switch from red to blue. And maybe Elvis will come endorse Ralph Nader tomorrow.


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Updates on Hagan-Dole Race

Over the last few days, I've written about the despicable smear ad from Sen. Elizabeth Dole and my thoughts on the response from challenger Kay Hagan. Well, today has seen more action in this increasingly ugly campaign. First, Sen. Dole (not surprisingly) ignored Hagan's cease and desist letter. So Hagan filed a defamation suit against Sen. Dole and Dole's campaign committee. And, for her part, Sen. Dole has released yet another smear ad:

First, a quick look at the facts. Hagan attended a fundraiser in Boston. It was hosted by dozens of donors and featured, among others, Sen. John Kerry. Two of those donors happen to be the heads of an organization called Godless Americans PAC (couldn't they come up with a better name that that?). That PAC did not give any money to Hagan, but one of the individuals associated with the PAC did give her just over $2,000. And Hagan says that she did not know that the individual donor was also associated with that particular PAC.

But what is more important is to really think about Sen. Dole's charge and what it really says about Sen. Dole's version of America. Her charge -- she's now dropped the allegation that Hagan herself is an atheist -- is that Hagan ... gasp ... took money from atheists and implies, from that charge, that Hagan is unfit to represent the citizens of North Carolina. Again, replace atheist with any other minority group, whether Muslim, Jew, Mormon, Catholic ... or black. Presume, for a moment, that Hagan knowingly accepted money from atheists. What of it? Would Hagan be criticized for taking money from Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, blacks, Latinos, or any other group? Of course not. So what makes atheists toxic? Or is it, perhaps, that what Sen. Dole is really saying is that Hagan should be suspect for accepting money from somebody who "isn't like you"? But then, that would imply that taking money from any minority group would be "bad". And that is, it seems, precisely what Sen. Dole's ad is intended to imply.

I'd be curious to hear from Sen. Dole whether she believes that atheists are somehow lesser members of society or less entitled to constitutional protections or civic participation and, if she answered either in the affirmative, her explanation of why.

As I've said before, the suggestion that any legal segment of society is somehow untouchable is dangerous for our society. But as we've seen this campaign (and in other campaigns of recent years), the politics of fear and division far too often seem to work. This year, those politics have taken many forms, from the rumors that Sen. Obama is an Muslim (or Arab), to the charges that some areas are "pro-America" (or "real Virginia") or some members of Congress (not to mention Sen. Obama) are "anti-American", to the use of darkened photos of a Congressional candidate of Indian decent that make him look sinister (like an Arab, maybe?), to the repeated use at some Republican rallies of Sen. Obama's middle name, to Sen. Dole's use of atheists as if she was talking about devil worshippers or pedophiles.

But what is gratifying to see is that this year, for a change, it appears as if many Americans have finally decided that they're tired of these kinds of divisive politics and many of the candidates relying upon those tactics are trailing in the polls. Right now, challenger Hagan is leading Sen. Dole.


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Hints and Whispers Don't Equal Facts - But They Do Create Fear and Mistrust

Here is one of the stranger interviews that this campaign season has brought. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, was interviewing McCain campaign national spokesman Michael Goldfarb who claimed that Sen. Obama has a "long track record of being around anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American rhetoric." Sanchez then challenges Goldfarb to provide examples:

Whether Sen. Obama "hangs around with" people with anti-Semitic or anti-Israel views is a legitimate issue and is worth discussing (for example, to analyze whether Sen. Obama "hangs around with" those people, whether they have any influence upon his worldview and decision-making, whether he has expressed agreement or repudiated their ideas, and whether those ideas are, in fact, either anti-Semitic or anti-Israel). But just saying "there are people" without providing names is one of the worst kinds of political smear tactics.

In essence, Goldfarb wants people to fear Sen. Obama but won't identify those he is apparently referring to so that his claims can be analyzed and, if appropriate, refuted. I could claim that Sen. McCain hangs out with fascists or neo-Nazis or anti-Semites, too, but saying it doesn't make it true (although one might want to consider the U.S Council for World Freedom...). If Goldfarb -- who speaks for the McCain campaign and, thus, for Sen. McCain -- wants to make the allegation, he needs to spell it out so that we can analyze it and evaluate it. But, as the McCain campaign has demonstrated throughout this campaign, it isn't the truth that matters; no, it's simply about sowing the seeds of mistrust and fear. Even if those tactics led to a McCain victory, what kind of legacy would those tactics leave for our country? Only a resounding defeat of Sen. McCain, one where pundits can, for years, point to the sleaze and lies as being among the reasons that Sen. McCain lost, will help start us down the path to healing the hate that this election has engendered.


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Eagleburger Critical of Choice of Palin

Last weekend, Sen. McCain was interviewed on the Meet the Press:

Well, it appears that one of those former Secretaries of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, doesn't admire Sen. McCain's judgment in selecting Gov. Palin:


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Even More Humorous Campaign Videos (and a Serious One)

Once this election is over, I suspect that there will be quite a bit of withdrawal as the pipeline of new campaign videos dries up. But, the campaign isn't over yet, so here are a few new videos that caught my attention (two funny and one serious):

And on a more serious note:

Sally Anthony: "So Long"

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCain Admits Obama Not a Socialist

I didn't get to watch Sen. McCain's appearance on Larry King's show last night (sorry, but I just can't take Larry King...), but one interesting question and answer from the interview is worth noting (I'll post video if and when I can find it...):

KING: You don't believe Barack Obama is a socialist do you?

McCAIN: No, but I do believe that he has been in the far left of American politics and stated time after time that he believes in spreading the wealth around. He has talked about courts that redistribute the wealth. He has a record of voting against tax cuts. And for tax increases.

(Transcript from Politico.)

So now that Sen. McCain has acknowledged that Sen. Obama is not a socialist, do you think that the Republicans can finally give this constant allegation a rest? If so, they need to let former Congressman Tom Delay know; last night on Hardball he actually called Sen. Obama a Marxist! And he tried to defend that statement.

Apparently, Joe the Plumber was none too pleased to see his candidate of choice admit that Sen. Obama was not a socialist:

Nothing quite like standing up a candidate for President...


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Hagan Fires Back at Dole -- But Misses the Point

Yesterday I wrote about Sen. Elizabeth Dole's despicable ad that accused her challenger, Kay Hagan, of accepting campaign contributions from atheists and, via the use of a voiceover at the end of the ad, suggested that Hagan herself didn't believe in God. Well, apparently, I'm not the only commentator who thought that Sen. Dole's smear went too far:

Newspapers in North Carolina have also taken a harsh view of Sen. Dole' ad. The Charlotte Observer said:

This is indecent. It is the modern-day version of the “white hands” ad, a lie born of Dole's desperation in a race in which she has trailed for weeks. It is also a deliberate attempt by Dole's campaign not just to distort the truth, but to shatter Hagan's admirable record as an elder for more than a decade in Greensboro's First Presbyterian Church, as a Sunday School teacher and a volunteer in her church's fundraising campaigns, worship services and community service programs.

Political campaigns in this state are often hard-fought, with bitter, overwrought accusations that stretch the truth, embellish the facts and attempt to confuse voters. Hagan has hit Dole hard. Dole has hit Hagan hard. That is par for the course.

This ad is something else, an attack on a Christian woman's faith against all evidence to the contrary. It is wrong. It may well backfire on Dole.

It has no place in N.C. politics. Unless she admits this egregious, shameful mistake and acts appropriately, Elizabeth Dole has no place in N.C. politics, either.

And the Greensboro News-Record said:

If Elizabeth Dole is still the gracious person North Carolinians have admired for many years, she'll pull her new attack ad off the air. It's worse than dishonest in its depiction of rival Kay Hagan as a "Godless American."


Even in a campaign long ago driven down in tone by Democrats and Republicans, this is a low blow. Making false insinuations about a candidate's religious beliefs is beyond the bounds of acceptable political disagreement.

Hagan actually had her attorneys send a cease and desist letter to Sen. Dole. The letter makes a number of fine points and hits hard on the fact that the ad is false and that the Sen. Dole's campaign new that it was false. The letter also includes the following quote from Garrison v. Louisiana, a 1964 decision of the United States Supreme Court:

At the time the First Amendment was adopted, as today, there were those unscrupulous enough and skillful enough to use the deliberate or reckless falsehood as an effective political tool to unseat the public servant or even topple an administration. That speech is used as a tool for political ends does not automatically bring it under the protective mantle of the Constitution. For the use of the known lie as a tool is at once at odds with the premises of democratic government and with the orderly manner in which economic, social, or political change is to be effected. Calculated falsehood falls into that class of utterances which are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth than any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality. Hence the knowingly false statement and the false statement made with reckless disregard of the truth, do not enjoy constitutional protection.

Hagan is now airing her own ad in response:

But you know, all of this still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Why? Two related reasons. First, let's look at why Hagan is angry:

I believe in God. I taught Sunday School. My faith guides my life, and Senator Dole knows it.

In the cease and desist letter (and in statements to the press and emails to voters), Hagan has expounded on her church involvement. So, while I recognize that Hagan is upset that her own religious beliefs were challenged, I'm more concerned with the fact that religious beliefs (or atheist non-belief) was interjected in the first place. Recall Colin Powell's comments following his endorsement of Sen. Obama (on the subject of rumors that Sen. Obama is a Muslim):

I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian.  He's always been a Christian.  But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America.

(Emphasis added.) Go back and read Powell's comments again, but simply replace "Muslim" with "atheist". I guess that I can't expect Hagan to stand up and say, "Gee, I do support atheists, even if I'm not one." But why not? She might make such a statement about African-Americans or Muslims or even criminals who have completed a prison sentence. What is so hard -- so wrong -- with supporting an atheist's right not to believe and to be a part of the political process.

This concern of mine is further exacerbated by the last line of the Hagan's response:

Sure politics is a tough business, but my campaign is about creating jobs and fixing our economy, not bearing false witness against fellow Christians.

(Emphasis added.) Um. Would it be OK to bear "false witness" against a Muslim or a Jew? What about an atheist? The problem is that, while Hagan has responded forcefully to Sen. Dole's bigoted and nasty smear, her response has actually allowed Sen. Dole to control the issue by allowing religion to be interjected into the debate. That is wrong.

I hope that Sen. Dole loses. I hope that the voters of North Carolina give her a strong message that her attack ad was way beyond the pale. But I also hope that Kay Hagan will come to realize that the right response was to recognize that religion and religious beliefs should not be issues in the campaign and that there is nothing wrong with supporting minority religious (or anti-religious, as the case may be) viewpoints. Hagan's anger is just; her response is strong; but she misses the point.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Charges of Socialism Are Ridiculous

A few times over the last week or so, I've started (and stopped) writing posts to explain precisely what Sen. Obama's tax policies are, to explain why they are not socialism, to explain what, precisely, socialism really is, and, just for good measure, to explain why the progressive tax system is a good thing. Each time that I've started, I've put the essay aside; not because I didn't believe what I was writing, but because I don't have time to give the material the depth of discussion truly necessary. Plus, as my wife keeps telling me, essays that are too long won't be read anyway.

But as the election draws closer and the charges of socialism keep on coming, I decided to try my hand at a brief analysis of the issue, not via a detailed economic or historical analysis, but rather, by simply looking at what the candidates have done and said. But, before I do that, I want to offer a "quickie" from Sen. Obama's speech earlier today:

What is scary about this, is that the charge that Sen. Obama jokes about isn't too far removed from the charges of socialism that are being leveled against him.

So, let's look at that charge of socialism. The basic premise of the charge really goes back to the conversation with "Joe the Plumber" (by the way, if you listen to the entire exchange between Sen. Obama and "Joe" you will see that it was a much more thorough and engaging discussion of economic and tax policies than the oft-repeated sound bite) in which Sen. Obama speaks of "spreading the wealth". Again, I don't want to get into a detailed analysis of socialism (or capitalism or communism or any other -ism), but the very notion of taxes that do anything other than pad the monarch's pockets is, essentially, spreading the wealth. Thus, when we use tax revenues to build a strong military, we're spreading the wealth to defend all of society. When we use tax revenues to build roads, we're spreading the wealth. When we use tax revenues for public transportation, to send humans into space, to research cures for cancer, to subsidize certain crops, or to help people stricken by disaster, we are spreading the wealth. When we provide Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, GI Benefits, and Pell Grants, we are spreading the wealth.

Thus, the issue isn't really about spreading the wealth at all; no, the issue is about who we tax and at what rate. That is really all that is behind the charge of socialism. Sen. Obama wants to give a tax break to the middle class and raise the tax on the wealthiest Americans to the level that it was before President Bush's tax cuts. Sen. McCain wants to keep President Bush's tax cuts and place and not give a tax break to the middle class (because prosperity will "trickle down" just as it did(n't) for the last eight years...). That is the dispute. So now, let's look at a bit of history (sorry for the small bit of duplication between these videos):

In other words, Sen. McCain favored a tax policy very similar to Sen. Obama's tax policy, at least until he had to change his mind in order to become more appealing to the Republican base. In these videos there is an exchange between Sen. McCain and a young woman at Michigan State University back in 2000. Here's a bit more on that taxes and that exchange in particular (from The New Yorker):
Of course, all taxes are redistributive, in that they redistribute private resources for public purposes. But the federal income tax is (downwardly) redistributive as a matter of principle: however slightly, it softens the inequalities that are inevitable in a market economy, and it reflects the belief that the wealthy have a proportionately greater stake in the material aspects of the social order and, therefore, should give that order proportionately more material support. McCain himself probably shares this belief, and there was a time when he was willing to say so. During the 2000 campaign, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” a young woman asked him why her father, a doctor, should be “penalized” by being “in a huge tax bracket.” McCain replied that “wealthy people can afford more” and that “the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t pay nearly as much as you think they do.” The exchange continued:

YOUNG WOMAN: Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism and stuff?. . .

MCCAIN: Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.
So what Sen. McCain thought was "nothing wrong" and was not socialism in 2000 has now become socialism and an example of why Sen. Obama should not be elected.

I also want to spend a brief moment talking about Gov. Palin. She has been very vocal in her charges against Sen. Obama. But remember what they say about throwing stones when you live in a glass house? That same article in The New Yorker points out:

For her part, Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.
In reality, Sen. Obama is no more "socialist" than Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin. Rather, the Republicans have hit upon a buzz word that they have been exploiting to try to make their case. Rather than try to win on the basis of a careful and detailed discussion of economics and policy, they have resorted to the political equivalent of name-calling. If we can make the electorate fear Sen. Obama, the reasoning must go, then we have a chance to win. Never mind the policies (damn the torpedoes?), let's just call him a name that will scare voters!

That sort of politics is at the core of what is wrong with our political system these days. Our politicians don't give the American public credit for being able to (or wanting to) understand nuance and details about complicated issues. And perhaps many people can't understand some of those issues. But I'd like to see our politicians try to explain their policies rather than trying to scare people.

Finally, in the last few days, much has been made of Sen. Obama's comments in a 2001 radio interview in which he ... gasp ... used the word "redistribute":

One of the I think the tragedies of the Civil Rights movement was because the Civil Rights movement became so court focused I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that.
(If you want to read the entire quote, it can be found here.)

Of course, Gov. Palin, that great legal mind, reads this quote exactly backwards:

Sen. Obama said that he regretted that the Supreme Court hadn't been more radical. And he described the Court's refusal to take up the issues of redistribution of wealth as a tragedy. And he said he also regretted that the Supreme Court didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers there in the Constitution.
And from this, she extrapolated:

So you have to ask, is this a suggestion that's he’d want to re-write the founding document of our great nation to accomplish his goals.
Here is what law professor Cass R. Sunstein (formerly of the University of Chicago School of Law and presently at Harvard Law School) had to say about this in The New Republic (I apologize in advance for the length):

In the last few days, the McCain campaign has portrayed Barack Obama as a "socialist," and apparently the campaign and others are combing through Obama's past statements to see if he has ever favored "redistribution."

The latest ridiculousness, featured in a screaming headline on the Drudge Report and described under the title "Shame" on the National Review website, involves some remarks made by Obama on public radio in 2001.

In that interview, Obama was discussing efforts, in the 1960s and 1970s, to redistribute resources through the federal courts. Obama said that the Warren Court was not so terribly radical, because it "never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society." He complained, not that the Court refused to enter into those issues, but that "the civil-rights movement became so court-focussed," [sic]

In answering a caller's question, he said that the court "is just not very good at" redistribution. Obama added, with approval, that the Constitution "is generally a charter of negative liberties."

Obama's principal claim--about the institutional limits of the courts--was made by many conservatives (including Robert Bork) in the 1960s and 1970s: Courts should not attempt to guarantee "positive" rights, or interpret the Constitution to redistribute wealth. Obama is squarely rejecting the claim that was made by many liberal lawyers, professors, and judges at the time--and that is being made by some today.

Apparently, though, some people are thinking that Obama is displaying his commitment to redistribution, at least in principle. We have to make some distinctions here. The word "redistribution" is easily politicized, but, in terms of actual policy, it seems to include the Social Security Act (which redistributes wealth), the Americans with Disabilities Act (which also redistributes), educational reform that would improve schools in poor areas, Head Start programs, statutes allowing parental leave, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the progressive income tax, and much more. Almost all candidates for public office (including Senator McCain) favor significant forms of redistribution. With his court-skeptical statements in 2001, Obama was referring to the sorts of claims being made in courts in the relevant period, for which the word "redistribution" has often been used. (Those claims involved denials of education and medical care, and discrimination in welfare programs.)

It is true that Obama supports the Earned Income Tax Credit (an idea pioneered by Republicans). It is also true that Obama supports the minimum wage. It is true too that Obama is centrally concerned with decent education for all -- and the right to education was at stake in perhaps the most important case that Obama is discussing. It is true, finally, that Obama wants to make health care available for all. But it is truly ridiculous to take Obama's remarks in 2001 as suggesting that the nation should embark on a large-scale redistributive scheme.
OK, OK. I know that I started by saying that I wouldn't go on for too long. Sorry. But these are important issues. And for these still undecided, for those who are listening to Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin and trying to understand the issues, I believe that it is important to really understand those issues and really understand what the candidates are (or not) saying and have (or have not) said. Our system presumes an informed electorate and "informed" does not mean just listening to sound bites from the candidates or Fox news; instead, "informed" means taking the time to learn about and really think about the issues.

Sen. Obama is not a "socialist" -- at least no more so than Sen. McCain.


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When Sports Are Used for Political Hypocrisy

Here's another one of those "you can't make this stuff up" moments. Yesterday, Sen. McCain complained about Sen. Obama's purchase of prime time television airtime tonight before the World Series:
No one will delay the World Series with an infomercial when I'm president.

However, there are two teeny tiny problems with this complaint. First, according to Politico:

A Fox Broadcasting executive denied that Barack Obama's half-hour ad, scheduled for tomorrow night, forced Fox and Major League Baseball to delay the start of a World Series game.

That notion -- which had been reported repeatedly, including here, has become a Republican talking point.

"No one will delay the World Series game with an infomercial when I'm president," John McCain said today.

But the Fox account executive who negotiated the ad buy said Obama's ad isn't delaying the first pitch -- it's just replacing the pre-game show.

"Our first pitch for the world series is usually around 8:30 anyway – so we didn’t push back the game, it was really just about suspending the pre-game -- you know, Joe Buck," said the account executive, Joe Coppola. "That’s all we did."

He said World Series games this season have begun between 8:22 p.m. and 8:35 p.m."We didn’t push back the game at all," he said. He also said Obama had initially arranged to buy the time only if the Series were over before Game Six (in fact, a rain-delayed Game Five will continue tomorrow night), but Fox then decided to sell the campaign the time whether or not the game was played."

By no means did they push to get us to accommodate them with Game Six," said Coppola, whom the Obama campaign suggested I call. "We’re just missing the pregame, which isn’t a big deal for us. It was a business decision."

And remember, this is Fox that we're talking about. You remember Fox, don't you? Hannity? O'Reilly? Yeah, that Fox.

Second, I wonder how many people remember that the opening game of this year's NFL season was moved from a 8:30 kickoff to a 7:00 kickoff. Why? To accommodate Sen. McCain's convention speech! I guess that was OK while delaying (not really) the start of a baseball game is problematic. I'm gonna have to work my brain around that one...


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Today's Offensive Campaign Ad

In North Carolina, Republican incumbent Senator Elizabeth Dole is running in a hotly contested campaign against challenger Kay Hagan. Recently, Sen. Dole has been running ads that assume Sen. Obama will win and asking voters not to give the Democrats control of both houses of Congress. But now, Sen. Dole has hit another new low in campaign ads:

That's right. Sen. Dole is telling voters to vote against Hagan because ... gasp ... Hagan got money from atheists.

A few quick thoughts come to mind on this. First, how is casting "shame" on the basis of relationships with atheists any different from doing the same for Jews or Muslims or Catholics or any other religious group? Answer: It isn't any different. It is simple bigotry (maybe mixed with a bit of good old hatred and fear-mongering, too). Second, I'd love to see Hagan run a response pointing out how many of the Founding Fathers were, at most Deists, and more likely, atheists. You know, people like Thomas Jefferson, who made his own revision to the Bible to remove all of the supernatural elements. Finally, I don't know how many atheists there are in the US; I suspect that there are more than most people think (as I suspect many atheists are hesitant to share that view with others for fear of discrimination as evidenced by Sen. Dole).

So, while Sen. Dole's ad may play well to the religious right, I suspect that those (like me) who view religious (or areligious) diversity as good and who believe that discrimination on the basis of religion is bad (not to mention, generally illegal), will be offended by Sen. Dole's ad and, by implication, by Sen. Dole herself. I'm curious: Would Sen. Dole stand on the floor of the Senate and criticize atheists? How about Muslims? Jews? Catholics?

Some people will do anything to get elected, even if it tears at the very moral fiber of our civil society.


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Parents in Minnesota Shouldn't Have to Protect Their Kids From Campaign Literature

The race for one of Minnesota's seats in the Senate has become very heated. As some of you may know, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Al Franken. Yes, that Al Franken, the former comedian, writer and actor for Saturday Night Live, and Air America host. In the primary and in the general election, Franken's challengers have tried to use his former career against him, but by and large these efforts have failed. It seems that Minnesota's voters are able to understand that what he wrote and said in his capacity as a comedian, even if vulgar or profane, really has nothing to do with how he would perform as a United States Senator. But in the closing days of the election, with polls showing that Franken has a narrow lead, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has stooped to a new low; so low, in fact, that Sen. Coleman apparently has tried to disavow the advertisement that his party mailed to voters:

What idiot thought that it was acceptable to create a comic book with images that would invite children to open and read about serious (non-)issues like pornography and rape? If Republicans want to talk about Franken's prior career, that is certainly fair game and (maybe) an appropriate subject. Whether you approve of Franken's humor or found his jokes to be funny is not the issue. Some may have enjoyed him as an entertainer; others, not so much. But to talk about these issues in a way that may force some Minnesota parents to answer difficult questions from their kids is just wrong. Plus it shows that Republicans still don't recognize that voters can distinguish between humor and reality and between a former profession and a current occupation.


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This Doesn't Mean Anything, But...

This is one of those little pieces of news that doesn't really mean anything at all when compared to the real issues of the campaign, but is nevertheless interesting and instructive. Earlier today, Sen. Obama held a rally at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. It was cold and pouring rain and 9,000 people showed up anyway.

According to Politico:

Wearing jeans, white sneakers and an insulated windbreaker, Barack Obama delivered his stump speech this morning in a chilly, steady rain in Chester, Pa.

"A little bit of rain never hurt anybody," Obama said, surveying the soaking, umbrella-covered crowd at Widener University, occasionally rubbing his hands together for warmth and squinting through the raindrops.


The Obama campaign considered moving its event inside, but couldn't find an appropriate venue, an aide said. An estimated 9,000 people turned out.

And, also according to Politico:
Obama took the stage less than an hour after the McCain campaign announced it was postponing a rally at 1:15 p.m. in Quakertown, Pa., about one hour north of Chester, "due to weather."
The comparison of how the campaigns handled the weather says, in some small way, something about the campaigns and the candidates.


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One Way to Deal With Stolen Yard Signs

In the past, I've written about campaign yard signs (one for Sen. Clinton and one for Sen. Obama) that have been stolen. Yesterday, we heard from a friend that she has had several stolen, one thrown onto the roof of her house, and garbage thrown all over her yard. Another friend related that people in her neighborhood have had signs stolen and hate mail placed in their mailboxes. Nothing like civil discourse at work!
Anyway, I came across this photo showing a particularly inventive way to handle the problem of stolen yard signs:
Too bad I don't have a hill in my front yard!

Update (September 9, 2015): Original image no longer available; replaced with what I believe to be the same image that I used when the post was first published.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Still More Videos

Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals of all time (if not my absolute favorite). So, these terrific videos really caught my attention:

A popular Internet prank known as "Rickrolling" involves having people click on links that, instead of leading where the link claims, instead takes the person to a video of Rick Astley's '80s hit "Never Gonna Give You Up". So, with that in mind, check out this video:

Apparently, this is called "BarackRolling". YouTube certainly adds an entirely different complexion to election campaigns.

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Republicans Don't Research Before They Speak

On Friday, Gov. Palin gave her first policy address. Her speech focused on the commitment of the McCain-Palin ticket to children with special needs. Among the issues and proposals included in Gov. Palin's speech, were some of her thoughts on autism:
For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference. That's why we're going to strengthen NIH. We're going to work on long-term cures, and in the short-term, we're going to work on giving these families better information.

Gov. Palin also talked about additional funding for other programs as well, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which Gov. Palin noted has not been fully funded (much like No Child Left Behind, but that's another story...). These are all laudable goals and I commend Gov. Palin for bringing these issues to the forefront of the campaign.

But, remember, Sen. McCain has proposed a spending freeze. So where will these extra funds be found? Gov. Palin's answer: eliminate earmarks.
This is a matter of how we prioritize the money that we spend. We've got a three trillion dollar budget, and Congress spends some 18 billion dollars a year on earmarks for political pet projects. That's more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good -- things like fruit fly research in Paris, France....

So far so good, right? Well, not exactly. You see, one reason that scientists study things like fruit flies is to learn about things that can help humans. For example, according to
Now scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for these nerve cell connections to form and function correctly.

The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies may lead to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders, as recently, human neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.

That's right. Fruit fly research has been useful to help identify genetic risk factors for autism, one of the special needs areas that Gov. Palin wants to help find ways to provide information for and early identification of. Fruit fly research has also helped to "revolutionize" the study of birth defects. So, of all of the earmarks that Gov. Palin could have used as her example (how 'bout that Bridge to Nowhere she supported before she opposed it?), Gov. Palin picked one that actually helps do exactly what she wants.

I don't fault Gov. Palin for wanting to direct more money to help special needs children or their families. And, I think that directing more money at research into things like autism is a terrific idea. I commend Gov. Palin for talking about these issues.

No, my problem is not with the either the policy or the proposal. My problem is the process of thinking about the issue appears to be so shallow. Of all the earmarks to use as an example, why fruit flies? Could it be because that particular earmark just happens to be the first one listed on the Citizens Against Government Waste 2008 "Pig Book" (awards for pork barrel spending)? (Note that Alaska's Sen. Stevens gets the page's third award...) You see, in a competent campaign, before simply writing the speech and choosing the example, someone might have asked the question, "Gee, what is the purpose of this particular earmark and is it good?" But in the worldview of Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin, no earmarks are good (well, Gov. Palin doesn't think earmarks are good now that she's running for Vice President...).

There is no question that some earmarks are bad; maybe most of them are bad. And there is no question that earmarks should be closely examined and voted on, not hidden away in appropriation bills. But there is also no question that some earmarks are actually beneficial. Thus, I'm troubled that whoever wrote Gov. Palin's speech didn't take the time to actually examine the earmark in question before using it as the proverbial poster child for government waste. Maybe that particular earmark was wasteful; I don't know. But the fact that there is a tie between the nature of the research that earmark was for and the very content of the speech and proposal for funding reallocation suggests to me a lack of intellectual curiosity that we should bring to the examination of each and every government policy and program (and isn't that precisely what Sen. Obama has proposed?).

One more point: Sen. Obama's policy statement on disabilities calls for fully funding IDEA and Sen. Obama also has a policy statement on Autism Spectrum Disorders available on his website. So, while it is nice that the McCain campaign is now showing an interest in these issues, they have been featured components of Sen. Obama's platform all along.


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An Interesting Way to Examine the Federal Budget

During this campaign there has been much discussion of the federal budget, yet few of us really have a good understanding of how the budget works or where the money goes. Here is an interesting interactive poster showing how our federal tax dollars are spent:

The display works best in full screen mode (upper right corner). Then, you can zoom in to review the parts of the budget that you find most interesting.


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So You Think Are Elections Are Safe (part 2)

Last week, in my post "So You Think Elections Are Safe", I posted some videos about how electronic voting machines could be hacked to change the results of an election. Subsequent to that post, I came across the documentary "Stealing America: Vote by Vote". It is a long program (about 90 minutes) and I have not yet had a chance to watch the entire show. Nevertheless, for anyone interested in the integrity of our electoral system, I thought that it was worth posting the video for those who want to watch. (A DVD can apparently be ordered from the movie's official website.)


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More Humorous Election Videos

Here are two more more humorous campaign videos that I've come across:

First, Ron Howard, Andy Griffith, and Henry Winkler reprise some very famous roles (sorry that younger readers will probably have no clue who any of these people are):

If the embedded video won't load, try this link to the video on Funny or Die.

Then there are these guys reprising their roles from the old Budweiser "Wassup" ads (I hated those ads...):

Update: Removed YouTube version of the Ron Howard video (it was removed from YouTube) and replaced it with the link from Funny or Die. I originally used the YouTube version because Funny or Die videos don't always embed properly.

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38 Reasons People Might Vote for McCain

I saw this list in a post over on Daily Kos and thought that it was worth re-posting here (with a few minor edits...). If nothing, it was good for a few chuckles. So, here are 38 reasons people can give to explain why they might choose to vote for Sen. McCain or Congressional candidates:
  1. I’m voting Republican because I want corporate America to have even more power over the government than it does now.
  2. I’m voting Republican because I love to use roads, bridges, highways, mass transportation, and satellites for my GPS, without having to pay for them.
  3. I’m voting Republican because I rely on the protection of the police and the fire department, the court system, the national guard, and our national military without wanting to pay for them either.
  4. I’m voting Republican because I have too much money in my bank to be protected by the FDIC.
  5. I’m voting Republican because I’m super-rich, and I need more tax breaks to make even more money.
  6. I’m voting Republican because I have seven houses, and thirteen cars, just like the average American does!
  7. I’m voting Republican because I complain about people in society constantly not being able to make my change after ordering a latte, or store employees not being able to speak English, and I’m not willing to pay to educate them properly.
  8. I’m voting Republican because I believe that the rights of a group of dividing cells outweighs the rights of the woman carrying those cells, no matter what.
  9. I’m voting Republican because some amendments of the “Bill of Rights” matter more than others, namely the Second amendment.
  10. I’m voting Republican because I think CEOs of corporations should make my health care decisions, based on the profit margin for their company.
  11. I’m voting Republican because everyone in America already has health care, or should pay for it on their own.
  12. I’m voting Republican because I want to make sure to dismantle that pesky wall between church and state; as long as it’s a Christian church, that is.
  13. I’m voting Republican because I support illegal wars, based on faulty intelligence, against countries that didn’t attack us first.
  14. I’m voting Republican because I believe that voting is only for a privileged few, and that voting should be controlled by corporations.
  15. I’m voting Republican because I believe that the government should be able to secretly listen to my private phone calls, read my letters, e-mails, or find out what books I’m checking out of the library, all without oversight.
  16. I’m voting Republican because I believe that only certain people have a right to habeas corpus in our court system ... again, going to back to those pesky amendments!
  17. I’m voting Republican because I think the Constitution is a dead document that should only be read in terms of 19th century America; therefore, I support the return of counting African-Americans as 3/5 of a person, that women shouldn’t vote, and that the loser of our presidential election should automatically be vice-president.
  18. I’m voting Republican because shredding the Constitution in the name of safety and fear is a great idea.
  19. I’m voting Republican because it’s okay for America to torture people.
  20. I’m voting Republican because I believe building our economy on liquefied fossils is a smart idea … they will never run out!
  21. I’m voting Republican because blowing off the tops of mountains, and piling the detritus into valleys and streams is a great way to mine for coal, and we have an endless supply of land.
  22. I’m voting Republican because I believe the system of checks and balances we learned in middle school is a fluke; that there should be one all-powerful executive branch (unless, of course, the president is a Democrat, which is why we need corporate-owned voting machines).
  23. I’m voting Republican because I want to force my moral standards on everyone else in the country, especially those of other religions or beliefs.
  24. I’m voting Republican because I believe that government should be monitoring the private actions of two consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes.
  25. I’m voting Republican because a loving couple should have no business wanting to make each other’s medical decisions, or visit each other in a hospital, or leave an inheritance to the other when one passes, unless I approve of the relationship first.
  26. I’m voting Republican because the more rich people we have in this country, the better off we will be.
  27. I’m voting Republican because the middle class was only a temporary after-effect of FDR’s New Deal, and that we don’t really need to protect their interests any longer.
  28. I’m voting Republican because our country and planet can take more pollution, more contamination, more warming, because it’s just part of nature, and not man made.
  29. I’m voting Republican because federal budget deficits just don’t matter.
  30. I’m voting Republican because declaring a war for oil was a great idea; and letting corporations into the country afterwards gave those businesses billions of unaccountable dollars.
  31. I’m voting Republican because I don’t believe that workers need a minimum wage, and that corporations should be free to pay as little as they need to for work, like Wal-Mart, to keep prices low for me.
  32. I’m voting Republican because Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Jack Abramoff, Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz, and President George W. Bush are just great guys.
  33. I’m voting Republican because I approve of the way the government handled the hurricane Katrina disaster, and I think its great it took days for federal help to arrive to the starving, thirsty people of New Orleans.
  34. I’m voting Republican because I believe a variety of viewpoints, and intellectual discourse, has no place in the Oval Office; there should be one infallible decider.
  35. I’m voting Republican because we need to maintain our white, Christian, male dominated, English speaking society for the benefit of our diverse society.
  36. I’m voting Republican because after twelve years of Republican rule in Congress, and eight years of Republican executive rule, the fundamentals of our economy are strong (not including the present bailout, the mortgage crisis, the stock market crisis, the increasing unemployment, or the golden parachutes by several CEOs).
  37. I’m voting Republican because equality – economic, class, gender, sexuality, racial – doesn’t matter.
  38. I’m voting Republican because I don’t believe that an elite, college Constitutional law professor, who came from humble origins and worked his way up to Harvard, and who inspires hope in millions of people ignored by the last administration has any business leading our country.

Granted, some of those reasons are "better" than others, but as a list of reasons that people can give, it seems pretty exhaustive. Have another reason? Let me know!

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why Palin Had Trouble With Couric's Questions

Who can forget Gov. Palin's rambling, off-target, mostly unintelligible answers to Katie Couric's questions? Earlier this month, I wrote about Gov. Palin's explanation of her performance in an interview with Sean Hannity (as reported on CNN):

I did feel there were a lot of things she was missing in terms of an opportunity to ask what a VP candidate stands for, what the values are that are represented in our ticket," Palin said. "I guess I have to apologize for being a bit annoyed, but that’s also an indication about being outside that Washington elite, outside that media elite also, and just wanting to talk to Americans without the filter and let them know what we stand for.
As I noted in my prior post:
Couric asked her about Supreme Court decisions that she disagreed with, her thoughts on the economic bailout, her foreign policy experience, Sen. McCain's legislative record on regulatory issues, her thoughts on abortion and birth control, and what periodicals she read to help form her worldview.
But Gov. Palin gave nonsensical answers ("bafflegab") because she was "annoyed". I'm not sure why, but I was actually quite surprised to see Gov. Palin repeat the charge that she was "annoyed" when speaking in Indiana earlier today. According to CNN:
"Last time I was here I got to tell a crowd that I had to give a national interview that didn’t go so well,” she said. “And it was because I was kind of annoyed with the questions that I was being asked because I thought they were kind of irrelevant to, you know, national security issues and getting our economy back on track, so I kind of showed some of that annoyance."
Note, though, now Gov. Palin says that Couric's questions were "irrelevant" and blames that for her having shown "annoyance". So, just to be sure that I understand, Gov. Palin claims that she thought Couric's questions about the Supreme Court, economic bailout, foreign policy experience, Sen. McCain's record on regulatory issues, abortion, birth control, and periodicals that helped form her worldview were "irrelevant" because those questions weren't about "national security issues and getting our economy back on track". Do I have that right? And, because Couric's questions were "irrelevant", Gov. Palin showed "annoyance" by giving rambling, unintelligible, nonsensical answers.

I don't know. If I was "annoyed" at a question, I'd still try to look like I understood the question and provide a well-reasoned and competent answer. And I'd tell the interviewer that I thought the questions were bad. But under no circumstances, would I try to make myself look like a fool (though I might try to turn the tables on the interviewer). Such an interview might look something like this:

This interview, conducted last Thursday in Orlando, focused on "irrelevant" issues. You can tell that Sen. Biden gets angry by WFTV anchor Barbara West's biased and offensive questions (did she really ask if Sen. Obama was a Marxist?), yet he never really loses his cool. He chides her for her questions, asks her if she's joking, and asks her who wrote the questions. Yet, through it all, Sen. Biden gave strong, reasoned answers that demonstrate an understanding of the issues and a willingness to address the questions posed, no matter how biased or and no matter that they were seemingly taken straight from Republican talking points. That West's questions were apparently biased, it turns out, isn't so surprising. After all, West's husband is Wade West, a Republican strategist and donor to Republican candidates. Maybe that's where she got those Republican talking point questions.

And for what it's worth, compare West's biased attack questions posed to Sen. Biden, with the softball ("why haven't you gone after him") questions that she posed to Sen. McCain in an interview on October 14. When interviewing Sen. Biden, she attacks Sen. Obama's plans and policies and asks if Sen. Obama is a Marxist, but when speaking to Sen. McCain, her questions also attack Sen. Obama and his policies. I suspect that West will be hosting her own show in Fox News any day now... In the meantime, you'd think that viewers in Orlando would be demanding a more even-handed approach from their news sources.

But the point of all this is that some candidates, even when confronted by difficult, aggressive, biased questions, still answer the questions while others offer unintelligible gobbledygook (or bafflegab) and then blame the questions for the candidates inability to give intelligent, well-reasoned, and meaningful answers. The contrast is, to me, striking, and says much about what each of those candidates would be like should they be elected to the offices they are seeking.


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Some Endorsements Have to Sting a Little

Over the last week or so, newspapers across the country have begun to issue their endorsements for the upcoming Presidential election. Three of those endorsements (or two endorsements and a pass...) caught my attention.

The Financial Times endorsed Sen. Obama:
[A] campaign is a test of leadership. Mr Obama ran his superbly; Mr McCain’s has often looked a shambles. After eight years of George W. Bush, the steady competence of the Obama operation commands respect.

Nor should one disdain Mr Obama’s way with a crowd. Good presidents engage the country’s attention; great ones inspire. Mr McCain, on form, is an adequate speaker but no more. Mr Obama, on form, is as fine a political orator as the country has heard in decades. Put to the right purposes, this is no mere decoration but a priceless asset.

Mr Obama’s purposes do seem mostly right, though in saying this we give him the benefit of the doubt. Above all, he prizes consensus and genuinely seeks to unite the country, something it wants. His call for change struck a mighty chord in a tired and demoralised nation – and who could promise real change more credibly than Mr Obama, a black man, whose very nomination was a historic advance in US politics?

We applaud his main domestic proposal: comprehensive health-care reform. This plan would achieve nearly universal insurance without the mandates of rival schemes: characteristically, it combines a far-sighted goal with moderation in the method. Mr McCain’s plan, based on extending tax relief beyond employer-provided insurance, also has merit – it would contain costs better – but is too timid and would widen coverage much less.


In responding to the economic emergency, Mr Obama has again impressed – not by advancing solutions of his own, but in displaying a calm and methodical disposition, and in seeking the best advice. Mr McCain’s hasty half-baked interventions were unnerving when they were not beside the point.

On foreign policy, where the candidates have often conspired to exaggerate their differences, this contrast in temperaments seems crucial. For all his experience, Mr McCain has seemed too much guided by an instinct for peremptory action, an exaggerated sense of certainty, and a reluctance to see shades of grey.

He has offered risk-taking almost as his chief qualification, but gambles do not always pay off. His choice of Sarah Palin as running mate, widely acknowledged to have been a mistake, is an obtrusive case in point. Rashness is not a virtue in a president. The cautious and deliberate Mr Obama is altogether a less alarming prospect.

The Financial Times also concludes its endorsement with a dose of sobering reality:
Rest assured that, should he win, Mr Obama is bound to disappoint. How could he not? He is expected to heal the country’s racial divisions, reverse the trend of rising inequality, improve middle-class living standards, cut almost everybody’s taxes, transform the image of the United States abroad, end the losses in Iraq, deal with the mess in Afghanistan and much more besides.

Succeeding in those endeavours would require more than uplifting oratory and presidential deportment even if the economy were growing rapidly, which it will not be.

The challenges facing the next president will be extraordinary. We hesitate to wish it on anyone, but we hope that Mr Obama gets the job.

Next is my hometown paper, The Indianapolis Star (usually thought of as a conservative leaning paper [see below], except by local right-wingers, who think it is a liberal rag) which, essentially, punted:
The Editorial Board is made up of eight ordinary people, privileged by position to hear more directly than most Americans from the candidates and their campaigns but also affected, like all Hoosiers, by hopes and fears for the nation and state. Board members take the responsibility to offer political endorsements seriously, weighing candidates' strengths and weaknesses and balancing those judgments with the opinion page's long history of support for traditional values and opposition to intrusive government programs.

After lengthy and impassioned discussions, the Editorial Board remains evenly divided, along philosophical lines, over whether McCain or Obama is the better choice for president. For that reason, the board will withhold an endorsement in the presidential race this year.

For the record, Dennis Ryerson, editor and vice president of The Indianapolis Star, notes that the paper's editorial board has a "history of mostly right-of-center positions".

Finally, Gov. Palin's hometown paper (well, to the extent that Anchorage is to Wasilla as Indianapolis is to Carmel...), the Anchorage Daily News also gave its endorsement:
Gov. Palin's nomination clearly alters the landscape for Alaskans as we survey this race for the presidency -- but it does not overwhelm all other judgment. The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation.

Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, brings far more promise to the office. In a time of grave economic crisis, he displays thoughtful analysis, enlists wise counsel and operates with a cool, steady hand. The same cannot be said of Sen. McCain.

Since his early acknowledgement that economic policy is not his strong suit, Sen. McCain has stumbled and fumbled badly in dealing with the accelerating crisis as it emerged. He declared that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" at 9 a.m. one day and by 11 a.m. was describing an economy in crisis. He is both a longtime advocate of less market regulation and a supporter of the huge taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailout. His behavior in this crisis -- erratic is a kind description -- shows him to be ill-equipped to lead the essential effort of reining in a runaway financial system and setting an anxious nation on course to economic recovery.


On the most important issue of the day, Sen. Obama is a clear choice.

Sen. McCain describes himself as a maverick, by which he seems to mean that he spent 25 years trying unsuccessfully to persuade his own party to follow his bipartisan, centrist lead. Sadly, maverick John McCain didn't show up for the campaign. Instead we have candidate McCain, who embraces the extreme Republican orthodoxy he once resisted and cynically asks Americans to buy for another four years.

It is Sen. Obama who truly promises fundamental change in Washington. You need look no further than the guilt-by-association lies and sound-bite distortions of the degenerating McCain campaign to see how readily he embraces the divisive, fear-mongering tactics of Karl Rove. And while Sen. McCain points to the fragile success of the troop surge in stabilizing conditions in Iraq, it is also plain that he was fundamentally wrong about the more crucial early decisions. Contrary to his assurances, we were not greeted as liberators; it was not a short, easy war; and Americans -- not Iraqi oil -- have had to pay for it. It was Sen. Obama who more clearly saw the danger ahead.


Gov. Palin has shown the country why she has been so successful in her young political career. Passionate, charismatic and indefatigable, she draws huge crowds and sows excitement in her wake. She has made it clear she's a force to be reckoned with, and you can be sure politicians and political professionals across the country have taken note. Her future, in Alaska and on the national stage, seems certain to be played out in the limelight.

Yet despite her formidable gifts, few who have worked closely with the governor would argue she is truly ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth. To step in and juggle the demands of an economic meltdown, two deadly wars and a deteriorating climate crisis would stretch the governor beyond her range. Like picking Sen. McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time.

That has to sting...


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Finally, A Positive Reaction

Over the last few weeks, I've recounted the reactions of people that I've encountered at my local grocery and drug store (plus the theft of my yard sign). Finally, things may be changing, a bit. Yesterday morning, my wife sent me on a quick early morning grocery run (my daughter wanted to try making breakfast burritos for us!). On the way out of the grocery, as I was getting back into my car, a BMW pulled up behind me and the driver rolled down her window. My expectation upon seeing a 40-something woman in a BMW with a Ping hat in Carmel was that I was going to have to listen to another anti-Obama diatribe. So, imagine my surprise when the woman's face opened into a giant smile as she said, "I love your bumper sticker. Where can I get one?" Yes!

She and I spoke for a few moments about the reactions that we've each had from others and we chuckled at the sheer idiocy of the objections that we've each heard. As I've said before, the amount of support that I've seen for Sen. Obama (be it yard signs or reactions like that from BMW lady) in this most Republican of districts cannot be a good sign for how the Republicans will fare on election day. I just hope that the pro-Obama sentiment (or anti-McCain or anti-Palin or anti-Bush or whatever sentiment it may be) will have coattails to extend at least a bit of the way down the ticket -- far enough, that is, to send Dan Burton home.


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Friday, October 24, 2008

Factoid of the Day (October 24, 2008)

I heard an interesting factoid somewhere in the last few days (sorry, I don't remember the source): The Republicans have not won a Presidential election without Nixon or a Bush on the ticket since 1928:

1952: Eisenhower & Nixon
1956: Eisenhower & Nixon
1968: Nixon & Agnew
1972: Nixon & Agnew
1980: Reagan & Bush
1984: Reagan & Bush
1988: Bush & Quayle
2000: Bush & Cheney
2004: Bush & Cheney

Of course, having Nixon or a Bush on the ticket does not guaranty a victory:

1960: Nixon & Lodge
1992: Bush & Quayle

But when neither Nixon nor a Bush has been on the ticket the Republicans have lost:

1932: Hoover & Curtis
1936: Langdon & Knox
1940: Wilkie & McNarry
1944: Dewey & Bricker
1948: Dewey & Warren
1964: Goldwater & Miller
1976: Ford & Dole
1996: Dole & Kemp

None of this means much, but I found it interesting.

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Goodbye Candidates (update)

I was looking back over a few things that I wrote about the election earlier this year and one of my previous posts caught my eye. I thought that I'd share that post again here for new readers and old. I find my thoughts from May to be interesting, especially given how this campaign has progressed:
Last week [early May 2008, just before Indiana's primary], I heard an interview with Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels. He commented on how exciting it was to have the Presidential candidates paying attention to Indiana and Hoosier voters. But, he noted wistfully, as soon as the primary was over, that would be the last that Indiana would see of Presidential candidates. Well, the primary is over. Sen. Clinton won by a pretty thin margin. And off she goes to West Virginia; Sen. Obama had already left for North Carolina (and then, I presume, on to West Virginia). Unfortunately, because Indiana is widely regarded as a "red state" (I don't think that Indiana has voted for the Democratic candidate since before the Mayflower...), Gov. Daniels' prediction is sure to come true. It was fun while it lasted.

Of course, there is one possibility for us to see the candidates again: If Indiana's Democratic voters speak loudly enough (I'm not sure if that only means "raise lots of money" or not) in support of the eventual candidate and in support of local Democratic candidates (in particular, the Democratic candidate for Governor), then it remains possible (though a remote and highly unlikely possibility) of Indiana being thought of as "in play". Yes, Indiana has a reputation for voting Republican; but let's don't forget that Indiana had a Democratic governor for four terms and has often had at least one Democratic Senator. And over 1,000,000 votes were cast for the two Democratic Presidential candidates yesterday (yeah, I know some were crossover votes). So anything is possible.

What? Where do the rules say that wishful thinking is prohibited?

Come November, if gas prices are still high (I heard a prediction Tuesday afternoon that suggested that by next spring gas prices might be close to $7 per gallon), if Hoosiers are still dying in Iraq, if jobs are still vanishing, if the Supreme Court continues to eat away at our civil liberties (did you hear about the 98 year old nun who couldn't vote yesterday because she didn't have a valid photo ID?), if Hoosiers continue to be unable to afford healthcare and drugs, if John McCain continues to suggest that it would be acceptable for American troops to stay in Iraq for 100 years, if more people continue to recognize the threat of global warming, if ... well, you get the idea. Come November, anything is possible.

That may be wishful thinking, but then isn't "hope" part of the American dream?

Apparently wishful thinking can pay off from time to time. The fact that I've had a chance to see Sen. Obama twice this month, that Gov. Palin is about to make her second visit to Indiana, that Sen. McCain has had to pull advertising money out of other states to advertise in Indiana, and that national pundits and pollsters are actually focusing on Indiana as a new "battleground" state means that those hopes that I expressed back in May have materialized. I didn't anticipate a global economic meltdown or Sarah Palin (or Tina Fey), but my wish that Indiana might be in play, much to even my own surprise, has turned out to be true. Wow!


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Hoax: McCain Campaign Worker Attacked by Obama Supporter

By now, many of you will have read or seen news about Ashley Todd, a McCain campaign worker in Pittsburgh who told police that she was robbed at an ATM and that when her assailant -- a "large black man" -- realized that she supported Sen. McCain (she said the assailant saw her bumper sticker), he beat her and carved the letter "B" into her cheek. Pictures of the Todd were everywhere this morning and Fox News covered the story with as much gusto as they might have covered the assassination of a major world leader. The right-wing blogosphere was really hammering on the story. Take for example, how Advance Indiana described the story:
This Texas woman [showing a photo] volunteering for John McCain in Pittsburg [sic] found out the hard way what happens when you cross the path of a mugger while visiting an ATM machine with a McCain bumper sticker on your car. It wasn't enough that her attacker robbed her. He also used a knife to carve the The One's initial "B" on her face. It's happening all across America. People who dare to express their public support for the McCain-Palin ticket are being assaulted or having their property vandalized by Obama's thugs. Is this the future we have to look forward to in America under an Obama presidency? No tolerance for dissenting views? Looks more like The One's cousin Odinga's Kenya than the United States of America where you lose an election, blame the Christians and then go burn their villages.

Ouch. (As evidence of some of the claims, Advance Indiana gives links to a story about a person allegedly beaten by an Obama supporter and a person whose car was vandalized. That is the evidence of "happening all across America". Of course, no mention is made of similar incidents with Obama supporters as the victims...) And John Moody, Executive Vice President of Fox News wrote that this incident as a potentially game-changing moment:
Part of the appeal of, and the unspoken tension behind, Senator Obama’s campaign is his transformational status as the first African-American to win a major party’s presidential nomination.

That does not mean that he has erased the mutual distrust between black and white Americans, and this incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election.

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

But guess what? According to news sources in Pittsburgh:
Pittsburgh police said a 20-year-old woman who originally said she was robbed and assaulted at knifepoint in Bloomfield because of her political views made the story up.

Ashley Todd -- who has a backward letter "B" scratched into her right cheek -- confessed to faking the story and will be charged with filing a false report, Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant said at a news conference Friday.

Todd, of College Station, Texas, admitted there was no robbery or attacker and said she had prior mental health problems, according to Bryant.

It will be interesting to see whether the right-wing (and Fox) will issue a giant mea culpa for jumping on this story so quickly and without due investigation or if the story (and the finding that Todd made it up) will simply die a quiet death. If Advance Indiana is any guide, the fraudulent story will still be held up to prove ... um ... something:
Note that this young lady's psychotic behavior does not negate the fact that there have been numerous cases of assaults and vandalism to property conducted across the country by Obama supporters. Note also that Sen. Obama has never apologized to Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin for spreading false rumors that their supporters were chanting "Kill Him", referring to Obama, at McCain-Palin rallies at which the candidates spoke.

(Note that plenty of sources have reported on the "kill him" reference; however, the Secret Service could not confirm the shout in order to continue an investigation. Note further that Advance Indiana ignores other shouts like "terrorist", "traitor", and "Bomb Obama" that have been captured on audio and videotape.)

Let's remember Moody's thought on this incident (emphasis added):
If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.


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Jews Finally Lining Up Behind Obama

Throughout this election cycle, there has been concern that Jews might not be as supportive of Sen. Obama as they usually are of other Democratic candidates. One need look no further than The Great Schlep for evidence of this worry. A Gallup poll released yesterday finds that Jews seem to have finally rallied behind Sen. Obama. According to the poll, Jews favor Sen. Obama (74%) to Sen. McCain (22%).

Did The Great Schlep work?


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Republicans Endorsing Obama

As election day draws nearer, a number of prominent moderate Republicans are endorsing Sen. Obama. Last weekend Colin Powell endorsed Sen. Obama and that endorsement appears to have started a bit of a flood. According to an article in The New Republic, Charles Fried, Solicitor General under Ronald Reagan and a member of Sen. McCain's Honest and Open Election Committee and Justice Advisory Committee, has written to the McCain campaign to ask that his name be removed from these committees. Fried announced that he had already voted for Sen. Obama via absentee ballot. In his letter to the McCain campaign, Fried said that an important factor in his decision was "the choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis." Similarly, former Massachusetts Republican Governor William Weld has also announced his endorsement of Sen. Obama. During the primary season, Gov. Weld was a supporter of Mitt Romney. Just yesterday, former Minnesota Republican Governor Arne Carlson announced his endorsement for Sen. Obama. Finally, earlier this week, Scott McLellan, President Bush's former press secretary announced that he, too, was endorsing Sen. Obama.

I'm anticipating Sen. McCain's endorsement of Sen. Obama any day now... After all, he is a maverick, isn't he?


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