Do you know the difference between an opinion poll and an Ouija board?

May 6th, 2008 by Steve

Based upon the performance of the polls so far this year (and the wide discrepancy of their findings for the upcoming primaries – here and here), the principal difference I can see is that the Ouija board has some value since it can be repainted as a game board.

Hillary still wants to obliterate Iran

May 4th, 2008 by Steve

Well, isn’t that just peachy keen. It’s one thing for a politician to drop a little ill-advised over-the-top saber rattling in the heat of political combat. It’s quite another for her to later assert that she meant every word.

Clinton has no regrets about threat to ‘obliterate’ Iran

Hillary Clinton said Sunday she had no regrets about vowing to obliterate Iran if it used a nuclear bomb on Israel, but Barack Obama accused her of George W. Bush-style “bluster.”

The Democratic White House rivals locked horns over the Islamic republic on separate television shows, two days before their next nominating showdowns in Indiana and North Carolina.

Clinton was asked on ABC News whether she had any regrets about threatening to “totally obliterate” Iran if it used nuclear weapons against Israel, which prompted Tehran to complain to the United Nations.

“Why would I have any regrets? I am asked a question about what I would do if Iran attacked our ally, a country that many of us have a great deal of, you know, connection with and feeling for,” Clinton said.

“I think we have to be very clear about what we would do,” Clinton said. “I don’t think it is time to equivocate about what we would do.

“I sure want to make it abundantly clear to them that they would face a tremendous cost if they did such a thing.”

Let’s check out the definition of obliterate, shall we? Per the friendly folks at “To do away with completely so as to leave no trace.”

That kind of sounds like the wholesale slaughtering of civilians, doesn’t it? Call me a wimp, but somehow that’s not the kind of language I like having a would-be president throw around for political gain.

But, on the other hand, at least she’ll save us a quarter a day in gas costs during the summer.

A gas tax civics test

May 3rd, 2008 by Steve

Could calling for a gas tax holiday be the pander too far for Hillary Clinton?

Time will tell, of course, but this issue is beginning to look like a gift to Barack Obama: a chance to recapture the image of the new style politician, while clearly differentiating himself from both Clinton and McCain on an issue where he comes across as taking the high road.

And having one’s opponent this closely associated with the GOP standard bearer on a major issue can hardly be a bad thing in these “partisan” times. 

The new public letter by 100 economists attacking the tax holiday proposal almost seems like piling on. The silliness of the proposal is already so clearly established: it won’t significantly lower gas prices, but it will offer a windfall to the major oil companies. Meanwhile, desperately needed highway funds will be lost.

Not exactly the types of things the Democratic Party normally advertises as constituting its core values.

The whole thing seems cheesy: you almost expect to see the word gimmick clearly branded on its butt.

Will the average Joe (and Josephine) in Indiana and North Carolina see it that way? Or will he (she) just become giddy at the thought of saving a quarter? We’ll know next Tuesday.

Call it a civics test.

E.J. Dionne Jr. on the Wright-Hagee hypocrisy

May 2nd, 2008 by Steve

E.J. Dionne Jr. says pretty much the same thing I do about the disparate ways in which the media treats white and black preachers who say controversial things — he just says it more E.J Dionne Jr. like than I do.

Best political ad I’ve seen in a long time

May 1st, 2008 by Steve

Obama’s new ad responding to the McCain-Clinton pandering — I mean proposal — for a federal gas tax moratorium may just be the best political ad I’ve seen this election cycle.

This DU post has the You Tube version.

No quarter for the media on John Hagee

May 1st, 2008 by Steve

Condemned at last! Condemned at last! Thank God almighty Barack’s condemned Wright at last!

Could there have been a more pressing issue anywhere in the world — a wrong more demanding to be made right — than the absolute imperative of having Barack Obama not merely deplore Rev. Wright’s verbal excesses, but also to condemn them?

I mean, getting out of Iraq and solving the health care crisis are concerns of microscopic significance compared to this great moral imperative, as surely any fool can plainly see.
So Glory be to the Creator, for Obama has done it at last: he has now officially condemned and cut his ties from Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr.: not that Wright left him much option.
So, fine, the deed’s been done (though predictably it hasn’t quieted the howling): let’s call it the black candidate’s burden — that unwritten rule that mandates that every black office seeker (but only black office seekers) must expressly repudiate each and every person of the same race anywhere who has ever said something controversial.

And, by the way, if you think that sounds racist it’s only because it is.

If you’re like me, you’ve probably been wondering why the huge multinational corporations that now own virtually every major news source in the United States (companies that market to African Americans) decided to push this sort of racist tripe so hard. Here’s a thought: maybe we should ask them.

Seriously, let’s ask them. Ask them once; ask them twice; ask them six million times, if need be. Beat them over the head with inquiries about it until they scream for mercy.

Now, I should give credit where credit is due for this New York Times editorial:

Mr. Obama and Rev. Wright

It is an injustice, a legacy of the racist threads of this nation’s history, but prominent African-Americans are regularly called upon to explain or repudiate what other black Americans have to say, while white public figures are rarely, if ever, handed that burden.
Senator John McCain has continued to embrace a prominent white supporter, Pastor John Hagee, whose bigotry matches that of Mr. Wright. Mr. McCain has not tried hard enough to stop a race-baiting commercial — complete with video of Mr. Wright — that is being run against Mr. Obama in North Carolina.
If Mr. Obama is the Democratic presidential nominee, we fear that there will be many more such commercials. And Mr. Obama will have to repudiate Mr. Wright’s outbursts many more times.
This country needs a healthy and open discussion of race. Mr. Obama’s repudiation of Mr. Wright is part of that. His opponents also have a responsibility — to repudiate the race-baiting and make sure it stops.

No doubt about it, that was a good start by The Times. But now let’s hear from the networks and the other big time media players. Let’s here them justify why McCain supporter John Hagee’s assertion that God destroyed New Orleans to punish it for an upcoming gay rights parade, was somehow less hateful than Wright’s statements. And maybe while they’re at it they can explain why McCain’s refusal to disavow Hagee is so much less newsworthy than Obama’s relationship with Wright.

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How about an “open book test” debate

April 28th, 2008 by Steve

No, we don’t need more media sponsored debates, with their gotchas and lack of substance.

And, no, we don’t need the unmoderated no-holds-barred debate format Hillary Clinton is proposing. It might be interesting, but it would likely quickly break down into total anarchy, which could be very bad for the Democratic Party. (What Hillary is proposing, by the way, has nothing to do with the format of the original Lincoln-Douglas Debates, despite the fact that’s how she’s describing it.)

But here’s a debate I’d go for — even after 21 others: An “open book test” debate with all the questions disclosed up front.

Here’s how it would work: the debate would last 90 minutes and be made up of eight questions, with each candidate getting five minutes to speak (yes, that long might get boring but this is supposed to be about substance): the last 10 minutes would be taken up with five minute closing statements (sorry, ABC, but no commercial breaks this time).

The eight questions would be settled upon well in advance: the goal wouldn’t be to test the candidates’ ability to respond on the spur-of-the-moment. We’ve seen enough of that already. What voters need now is a better appreciation of where the candidates stand on the important issues of the day: something — thanks to the miserable nature of the major media’s coverage of this campaign — many voters still lack.

Here’s my suggestion for the questions:

1. How, as president, would you each go about getting the United States out of Iraq?

2. Set forth in detail your plans for addressing global warming.

3. What would each of you do during your first 100 days in office to address the current economic crisis?

4. Economic inequality is at record levels in this nation. Economic growth in recent years hasn’t been shared by all Americans, but has tended mostly to benefit the wealthiest in our society: Do you consider this to be a problem that should be addressed by the government and if so how?

5. Please describe in detail what your governing philosophy would be as president in deciding when to send American troops into combat? Describe in particular how that philosophy would apply to nations like Iran, Syria and North Korea.

6. You have both been critical of certain aspects of the Bush tax cuts. What specific changes would you propose and why? Please describe more generally what you taxation policy would be?

7. There is concern over politicization of the Department of Justice. What concrete steps would you take as president to be certain that the Department would never be used as a political weapon? Also, what steps, if any, would you take to investigate prior alleged misconduct?

8. Each of you has expressed disapproval of at least parts of the No Child Left Behind law. What specific changes would you propose? And more generally, in what ways do you believe the federal government can best play a role in improving the quality and availability of educational opportunity at all levels?

Yeah, that would be a debate I’d be willing to tune in for. And for those who can’t get over their nostalgia for Rev. Wright and Bosnia sniper fire, well, there are plenty of clips from earlier debates posted on the web.

But not this time: this debate would be all substance from start to finish. 

Hey, a guy can dream, can’t he?

Marxist Polygamist Terrorists, Inc. for John McCain!

April 25th, 2008 by Steve

As you may have heard, John McCain is now attacking Barack Obama based upon favorable comments about Obama allegedly made by a leader of Hamas. The fact Obama has repeatedly and unequivocally condemned Hamas apparently isn’t good enough in McCain’s book.

McCain On Obama: “Clear Who Hamas Wants to be the Next President”

McCain spoke with bloggers this morning on a number of issues ranging from William Ayers to Rev. Wright to Tony Rezko. Jennifer Rubin noted that Hamas had endorsed Senator Obama and asked McCain whether Obama might have given “an unhelpful signal” to the terrorist group. McCain’s response:

All I can tell you Jennifer is that I think it’s very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. So apparently has Danny Ortega and several others. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas’s worst nightmare….If senator Obama is favored by Hamas I think people can make judgments accordingly.

While some small-minded sorts might claim that it’s wrong to try to hold a candidate responsible for the statements of an organization he’s specifically condemned, John McCain knows better. He realizes that candidates are 100% responsible for everyone who purports to support them, no ifs, ands or buts (Rev. John Hagee, anyone?).

That is, after all, the straight-talking way. 

And we here at Marxist Polygamist Terrorists, Inc. couldn’t agree more! And it is in that very spirit that we hereby proudly announce our enthusiastic and unconditional endorsement of John McCain for President of the United States!

We want to make it very clear where Marxist polygamist terrorists stand in this election! And where we stand is squarely behind John McCain!

So, as Big John McCain would put it himself . . . If Senator McCain is favored by Marxist polygamist terrorists I think people can make judgments accordingly.


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No, Obama isn’t another McGovern

April 25th, 2008 by Steve

Marx was wrong, by the way — about a lot of things, of course — but in particular about history repeating itself. It doesn’t. History’s relevance to contemporary events — and it has great relevance — is as metaphor, not prophecy. 

With all due respect to George Santayana, those who cannot learn from history are not doomed to repeat it. On the other hand, they probably are doomed to fu*k things up. As to the first part of the equation, it simply isn’t intellectually honest to take the alleged precipitating circumstances for historical events that occurred decades (or even centuries) ago and then pretend that they are likely to bring about the same results under radically different circumstances today. They aren’t.

Long ago, for instance, Congress would often flee the Capital during the summer months because of the risk of acquiring malaria from mosquitoes. Will history repeat itself, with numerous representatives becoming deathly ill, if Congress holds a summer session today? Not likely. On the other hand — getting to the second part of the equation — the public heath lessons implicit in this piece of history remain very valid today.

So with this — perhaps excessively long — introduction out of the way, let’s turn to the newest obsession of the punditocracy: the making of stupid comparisons between Barack Obama’s candidacy and that of George McGovern in 1972

John B. Judis, writing in The New Republic, got the ball rolling:

Indeed, if you look at Obama’s vote in Pennsylvania, you begin to see the outlines of the old George McGovern coalition that haunted the Democrats during the ’70s and ’80s, led by college students and minorities. In Pennsylvania, Obama did best in college towns (60 to 40 percent in Penn State’s Centre County) and in heavily black areas like Philadelphia.

Its ideology is very liberal. Whereas in the first primaries and caucuses, Obama benefited from being seen as middle-of-the-road or even conservative, he is now receiving his strongest support from voters who see themselves as “very liberal.” In Pennsylvania, he defeated Clinton among “very liberal” voters by 55 to 45 percent, but lost “somewhat conservative” voters by 53 to 47 percent and moderates by 60 to 40 percent. In Wisconsin and Virginia, by contrast, he had done best against Clinton among voters who saw themselves as moderate or somewhat conservative.

Obama even seems to be acquiring the religious profile of the old McGovern coalition. In the early primaries and caucuses, Obama did very well among the observant. In Maryland, he defeated Clinton among those who attended religious services weekly by 61 to 31 percent. By contrast, in Pennsylvania, he lost to Clinton among these voters by 58 to 42 percent and did best among voters who never attend religious services, winning them by 56 to 44 percent. There is nothing wrong with winning over voters who are very liberal and who never attend religious services; but if they begin to become Obama’s most fervent base of support, he will have trouble (to say the least) in November.

Okay, let me see if I have this straight: Obama is McGovern, which means, I guess, McCain must be Nixon (at a pre-Watergate time when he was an extremely popular incumbent president). Carrying the analogy forward, I suppose this means that McCain is going to use his nifty new 1970s style bell bottom trousers to trip Obama, or perhaps befuddle him in a fog of “peace, love, dope and rock and roll.”

Yeah, right.

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Bush v. Gore will never be over

April 24th, 2008 by Steve

I see that Justice Antonin Scalia has once again been kind enough to advise us to get over Bush v. Gore. Fat chance.
I’ve got a better idea: why don’t you, Justice Scalia, try facing up to the fact that the disgrace of that decision — the raw partisan abuse of power — will stain you and the other four justices who made up the majority for as long as the history of this era is recorded.
Now, you get over that.
The comments that follow borrow extensively from something I wrote about Sandra Day O’Connor — a much more sympathetic figure, by the way — on the occasion of her retirement. But this updated version is just for you, Justice Scalia.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the old expression, popular both in retail merchandizing and neoconservative empire building, “If you break it, you own it.”
Well, you and your colleagues broke American democracy in December of 2000: Now you own George W. Bush.
As the people who put him into power, his legacy is your legacy.
You own it lock, stock and barrel.
You own the War in Iraq.
You own the foreign policy that’s left America hated throughout the world.
You own the incompetence of allowing Osama bin Laden to escape by refocusing our armed forces from Afghanistan to Iraq.
You own the corruption of the multi-billion dollar boondoggle no-bid contracts handed out like candy to Bush’s political friends.
You own the torture.
You own the ballooning national debt.
You own the lies.
You own the practice of using the Sept. 11 attacks for political gain.
You own Karl Rove.
You own the near complete disregard for our natural environment.
You own the dirty tricks.
You own the degradation of our civil liberties.
You own the slander directed against anyone who dares oppose Bush.
You own the failure to even try to address Global Warming, potentially the single greatest threat ever to confront humanity.
You own the tax giveaways to the super rich.
You own the outing a CIA operative, potentially placing everyone she’s ever worked with into danger, merely to score a little cheap political revenge.
You own the practice of filling up regulatory boards and commissions with industry insiders.
You own the near dictatorship level obsession with governmental secrecy.
You own the growing economic inequality in America.
You own the failure to even try to address America’s broken healthcare system.
You own the playing politics with stem cell research.
And you own the far right extremists Bush is appointing to the federal bench.
You own the betrayal of New Orleans.
You own the junking of the American economy.
You own the corruption.
All of this, and so much more, belongs to you now.

To be clear, your contribution to many of these sins goes far beyond Bush v. Gore. The infamy of your tenure on the Court has been anything but one-dimensional: but this is the one history will remember.  
You see, Justice Scalia, you didn’t just put the losing candidate into the White House in 2000; you put there the worst president in American history. And that is something that will never be forgotten.