Friday, February 29, 2008

Some Nails Get Pounded

Let's get this right. The U.S. Congress is going to keep our world healthy and our democracy intact by pounding down Roger Clemens. There's no hammer to spare for a president, vice president, chief political adviser or other officials who, say, spied on Americans, set up torture and other war crimes, deliberately and repeatedly lied to Congress to get us into two wars, caused the deaths of thousands of U.S. soldiers and contractors (and many tends of thousands of others) and losses exceeding one trillion dollars, revealed a CIA agent's identity, and otherwise subverted our Constitution and laws.

After all, what's important?

Reading how the FBI is devoting its time and staff to finding out if yet another dull-witted and arrogant pro athlete 1) took performance-enhancing drugs, and 2) lied under oath to Congress about it, I am stunned. Tell me another dozen times why it matters. Pretend that the integrity of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and indeed, our whole way of life is at stake here.

I'll certainly feel safer and freer when yet another lying multi-millionaire jock is brought down.

We do have those little matters of a certain current President deserving impeachment like no one since Dick Nixon. He and this present and former cohorts should be removed from office and jailed. Thinking about Bill Clinton impeached for lying about receiving fellatio from a young woman while Bush, Cheney, Rove and their gang walk about should stun us all.

So, Congress protects us from lies by fat old baseball players at the end of their careers. It whistles and looks away at elected and appointed officials who lie big, often and to horrific effect. Those who make Congress to be dupes, fools and hypocrites seem to be fine. If you took steroids and tell them you didn't, that's big trouble.

It reminds me of a long time ago when I was a newspaper reporter in Beaufort, South Carolina. The first time I met the county sheriff, L.W. Wallace, we sat almost knee to knee in facing chairs. He put his doughy, always sweaty hand on the pearl handle of his holstered pistol (no easy feat considering his gigantic gut). Then he slapped my thigh and said, "You write lies about me, boy, and you be in big trouble."

There's Congress for you. Roger Clemens is in big trouble for small lies. George Bush, Dick Cheney and too many others, are mincing their way to the end of the term, having told and continuing to tell big lies and spitting on everything that is American.

We know what's wrong with this picture. We know Congress has a hammer. We also know that they use it on the wrong targets.

Saturday Brinksman Update: U.S. AG Michael Mukasey refuses to prosecute evil doers Chief of Staff Joshua B. Bolten and former presidential counsel Harriet E. Miers. On the shameful canning of the fleet of U.S. Attorneys, they refused to comply with congressional subpoenas at the urging of George the Lesser. The best report seems to be in the Washington Post. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says she'll see him in court. In her written statement, she included, "The House has already provided authority for the Judiciary Committee to file a civil enforcement action in federal district court and the House shall do so promptly. As public officials, we take an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect our system of checks and balances and our civil lawsuit seeks to do just that."

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Say Gay, Bay State

The Bay State doesn't seem to be hurting too much from same-sex marriage associations. I do recall four years ago the dire admonitions. Enabling SSM would mean the end of all good including:
  • Our best and brightest singles and straight couples would flee to New Hampshire, where men were men and sheep were sheep.
  • Students, tourists and associations would not attend college, visit (and spend money) or hold their conventions here, in the Gay State.
  • Companies would relocate to avoid the taint of homosexual love and lust.
  • Quickly on the stilettos of SSM would follow legalization of polyamorous, sado-masochistic and other relationships that affront God and require great physical flexibility.
In short, the end was nigh.

Apparently, our economy, business leaders, tourists and others didn't get the anti-SSM memos. Tourism is at a high, as is college enrollment. Out-of-staters complain, but that the housing costs for those wanting to move here are high, not because there may be married SS couples nearby. Moreover:
It's not a good time for the anti-gay and anti-SSM folk. Their dire predictions have been wrong from the first syllables and continue to be so. Quite simply, SSM is a plus here. Being the nation's only state with full marriage equality is attractive to many.

We can't link to ads yet. The campaign by the Mullen agency hit the airwaves today in select markets, but we can't see the tourism's roll-out on their site until 4/1/8. (Why do companies even consider starting new projects on April Fool's or Halloween? Every software product I've known that had either release date fared poorly.)

The ads start in a series of new markets. These include Albany and Providence, short drives from Massachusetts in general and Boston specifically. Betsy Wall, the tourism office's executive director finessed the gay angle with some mealy mouth wording:
We're spending taxpayers' money here, and we don't want to paint a picture of one version of Massachusetts. This is a place that is diverse and varied. We're trying to show that Massachusetts is welcoming to everyone and there truly is a lot to do here for a lot of different people.
The BBJ folk were more candid. The article cited a headhunter who said, "There's a woman that I'm working with right now because she came to Massachusetts so her marriage would be recognized. Also, Henry Hoey, a board member of the Greater Boston Business Council, noted that membership is up 5% over last year. He said, "Since the marriage law passed, we see a lot more (gay) professionals moving into the Boston area. The effects of this law are starting to take hold."

Amusingly enough the article stretched to find a counterpoint, turning to Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute. They were the big losers in trying to block and then repeal SSM here. The best he could offer is a pathetic I-got-nothing claim. "There's anecdotal evidence that (there has been) an exodus of families from Massachusetts because of the same-sex marriage law. So there's two sides to the story."

Of course, in this case, there really aren't. Years ago, when my wife wrote for Scholastic Magazines' middle-school newspapers, she had to find at least two-sides to every issue. Everything was this, but that. Not here...SSM is good for biz.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Prog Slog for 2009

Hillary still has a shot to wiggle into the Dem nomination, but Barack is certainly more likely. He also appears to be ahead of the presumptive GOPper, John, that borrow-and-spend hawk whom so many conservatives distrust.

So, for us self-identified progressives, what's the chance of getting big results from this moderately liberal glad hander? I fear not too good.

In the middle of the race, Johnny Reid (not Hussein) Edwards was the standard bearer for the underclasses and the best spokesman for progressive issues. ...and he wasn't that impressive.

The key issues have fallen out of the candidates pockets and speeches, as they promote their electability. Too progressive, they seem to think is scary to voters. I think they are dead wrong, that this is precisely the time for one of those brief peaks of big improvements. Americans are sick of war, of corporate greed, of shameless pandering to and rewarding of the richest at the expense of the rest of us.

I have to concur with Bill Fletcher, Jr., over at the Black Commentator, in his Obama, Enthusiasm & Movement Building. He writes that it's hard times for progressive issues, and offers only scant hope:
While there are many progressives who have entered into the Obama campaign and are doing good work, there needs to be an independent voice and location to push progressive politics. I spoke the other day with someone working in the campaign that - as enthusiastic as she is - acknowledged that a number of the proposals her committee has been developing have simply been overlooked. My guess is that more of that will happen and the candidate will be increasingly influenced by financial contributors and those forces he believes to be most significant. If the progressive voice is only one among many, it will be drowned out. Progressives need to figure out where they can make a difference in the larger campaign as well as explain to their respective constituencies why they are taking the step of supporting Obama; what to expect and what not to expect from the candidate; and what can be done now.
There's the hope and it's more crumbs than loaf.

In theory and faint possibility, Obama could take office and show that's he's the serious progressive he's never been as a legislator or candidate. Don't count on it.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Who Can Do for 2009?

By far the most elegant irony in the current Democratic race for Prez is the mangling of the hope v. experience arguments. Hillary Clinton has been hoping she can stay vital in this contest; Barack Obama is showing his expertise and experience in handling a difficult person and her attacks.

Taking the cues from two worthwhile pop-psychology books, there is a delicious reversal of stereotypical roles that many MSM and blogger sorts have noted. Barack Obama has the more clichéd feminine role of urging cooperation and almost UU togetherness. Hillary Clinton in firm, very firm, contrast does the supposedly male thing of confronting and talking tough on everything from Congress to war.

Just-in-case note: If you somehow avoided the gender-communication topics, consider the seminal books Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus by John Gray and You Just Don't Understand: Men and Women in Conversation by Deborah Tannen. The latter is much beefier. Not only does Tannen conceal the massive academic research supporting her writing, she provides specific how-to-fix-it info you can use.

In last night's probably last debate for the odd couple, both reprised those roles. The consensus this morning is clearly that Obama's style played better. Clinton must look now to her residual goodwill from her maybe-still-committed voter pools in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island.

Therein lies another veneer of irony on the race. Clinton started out in early caucus and primary states with strong support from sets such as middle-aged and older white women, Latinos, and union members. The first is an easy identification and transference. The other two are stranger and strained.

Various pontificaters held that she started as the machine candidate. Those who like to swim in the warm, gentle currents of the party mainstream go that way. Plus her husband, ex-Prez Bill Clinton, had considerable cred in Latino and union households. So, she should have had more ward healers and workers who could get people to vote and vote the right way.

For unions, given her privileged background, it's hard to see the association and trust. Her grandparents, to be sure, came from Welsh and British coal mining families. However, in this country, her father quickly made a success in textile wholesaling. She grew up in a conservative, management-not-worker home. From there to tennis lessons, debate team, Wellesley and Yale. She is decidedly a mortar board and tiara lady, not a hardhat or housedress woman.

In colleges, she reinvented herself as a sort-of lefty. Many do that and there should be acknowledgment of such positive evolution.

So we come to the March 4th proving grounds. Da Hill has steadily lost poll positions to da Bam. Sadly, much of that was predictable just from Obama's string of victories. ...rats and sinking ships, cockroaches in the sudden light...

The blowhards all seem to agree that she absolutely needs to come on top in Ohio and Texas, and ideally would sweep the four states next week to counter Obama's relentless march. Where they differ is how likely her former support groups will be to stay with her in these four. To this particular blowhard, Ohio's union vote and Texas' women's will be a life preserver or anvil tossed to the foundering Clinton.

She's low on battle strategies too. Her confrontational and often hypocritical attacks in the past few weeks have not swung polls her way. She has too many small and large personal liabilities to point out Obama's real and imagined ones. Also, he's such a blend of smart, articulate and pleasant, it's like she's trying to stuff the teddy bear into the garbage disposal.

On the other hand, Obama's deflecting and benefiting from her hostility speaks well of his ability to do the same when the McCain forces go after him. In this too, Clinton seems to be unintentionally undermining herself.

I'm often wrong picking election winners. I haven't totally buried her candidacy. I have the shovel in hand though.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Same-Sex Couples Doing Just Fine

The cackling glee from some corners over same-sex marriages, unions and divorces continues to astound. A benign form recently appeared in a Salon piece, one that smelled heavily of make-news.

As predicted here and elsewhere, the same-sex coupling non-issues were easy to foresee. In civil union, marriage and domestic partnership states:
  • Some couples had been together for a long time and rushed to take advantage of their new options.
  • That meant a big front-loaded jump, followed by dribbles of new ones.
  • Most of those have a considerably lower dissolution rate than different-sex ones. Quite simply, the couples were more committed to each other, often for a long time. There are few drunken-weekend ceremonies with ensuing regret.
  • As in the larger population, some individuals and couples distrust and dislike the concepts and restrictions of marriage or marriage-imitating relationships. Long before Vermont civil unions and Massachusetts marriages, we have seen decades of declines in different sex marriage, and in couples marrying later in life.
While I was away for most of last week, New York's Monroe County executive, Maggie Brooks, announced that she would appeal the State Appellate Court ruling that mandated acceptance of Canadian same-sex marriages there. The implication was also that Massachusetts SSM couples would get recognition in New York.

Her reasoning, to use the term loosely, was sad and stereotypical:
This is a clear case of misinterpretation of the law. We must appeal this decision in order to protect Monroe County taxpayers. We can not simply extend benefits to unmarried couples and we certainly can not ignore the definition of marriage that currently exists under State law...To expand these benefits to same-sex couples is to ignore the will of the people of Monroe County and New York State. Therefore, the County is seeking an appeal of the recent ruling in this case.
Parse that to show the Catch 22 gay and lesbian couples continue to face in most places. It's illegal for you to marry, we won't make it legal, and by the bye, you can't have equal rights because, after all, you aren't married. Nah nah.

Layering the keeping-costs-down-for-taxpayers is particularly odious and surely won't stand as part of any argument. However, it's good political fare.

So, we have the grand stew of gay marriage. Committed couple who do want marriage and the related benefits and options, in general cannot wed. Those who do not want to marry or have a civil union are often pointed out illogically as proof that there is no need for same-sex marriage. Those tax-paying SS couples who do want the access to health care, inheritance and other marriage benefits are often accused of burdening taxpayers. (Wait, aren't they taxpayers too?)

The hypocrisy and cruelty is not going to stop until there's marriage equality. In Massachusetts, marriage rates are high and divorce rates are low — gay and straight alike. Other states cite us as proof of the positive effects of SSM.

Yet, most of the nation's politicians chant la-la-la-la they can't hear us. Meanwhile, it will take decades for there to be a critical mass of population that can equally access marriage.

I'm probably the wrong guy to debate this. I'm coming up on 32 years of marriage this spring. I don't deride those couples who don't want marriage any more than I do those who do not have children. Those are choices. One would think that the anti-SSM forces would favor marriage more and be happy to expand it. Not so.

As I recall though from my upbringing, we in this country proudly differentiate ourselves from other nations in our freedoms, in our choices. Two men or two women should have the choice to wed. It's only American.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Our Failed Cuba Policy

Five decades of American failure remain living in its feeble state just off Florida. Fewer than 100 miles south, Cuba well illustrates our national irrationality and hypocrisy all too clearly.

We must wonder whether either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton would have the leadership and courage to cut the crap and make the island nation into a democracy and ally. It will likely be an early test for the next President.

GOP and Dem administrations one after another failed the test of expanding democracy. Eisenhower chose to play golf rather than meet with new leader Fidel Castro, when we had the best chance to turn him our way. Kennedy played puerile mine-is-bigger-than-yours games. Clearly his wasn't.

Those and later Presidents aligned with or installed brutal anti-democracy right-wing dictators while leaving Cuba open for support from extreme lefties like the Soviet Union and now Venezuela. Our businesses, banks and organized criminals used to own pre-Castro Cuba. We could surely have owned it through our support, and earned likely a contentious but mutually beneficial relationship.

After WWII and the really never completed Korean War, we were gun-shy of anything that smacked of communism or even left-wing goals and verbiage. This became insurmountable for our Presidents in the face of the nationalization by Castro. I recall well a lunch over 30 years ago with the New York head of a gigantic German bank. He told me that the European headquarters of his and other banks understood that they lost all assets in Cuba, but he added that the American banks did not and never would accept that. They continued to demand full reparations...with interest...and lobbied Washington continually and particularly when any discussion of Cuba was likely to arise.

We have also failed practically and publicly. Kennedy started a trade embargo, which continues. While Cuba has gotten some funding from communist nations, it was small for a nation. Foreign trade in sugar, fruit and cigars has been key for base survival.

Yet despite repeated invasion attempts and tries to assassinate Castro, we have failed. We have not attempted democracy through peaceful means. Our financial and military brute-force efforts show us to be international incompetents and weaklings. We have been unable to best this tiny, poor nation.

The best we have done is shameful. We have starved Cuba's residents of food, medicine and other essentials. There likely can't be an accurate count of the resulting deaths. Moreover, our presence on the island, the Guantánamo naval base, is an international symbol of anti-democracy and cruelty. The matrix of Cuba, which is the brunt of constant calumnies from our shores, looks positively benign and gentle in contrast to Gitmo.

This is not a glorious contrast and legacy for G.W. Bush or the long line of gutless Presidents who came before him. Yet our pathetic current President has no sense of the gravity of the moment of Castro's retirement. Instead, as the Financial Times quotes him as saying this is the time to continue pushing for reform, not stability with the new leaders.

There will be some who say, "Let's promote stability." Of course, in the meantime, political prisoners will rot in prison and the human condition will remain pathetic in many cases. This transition ought to lead to free and fair elections - and I mean free and I mean fair, not these kind of staged elections that the Castro brothers try to foist off as being true democracy.

Yet, this is exactly the time to bolster Cuba and bring it under our influence. In fact, many large European countries, such as Spain, have been engaging Cuba and see this as the time for a real change. Punishing Cuba relentlessly not only is a WWII-generation construct, it is also a phenomenal failure.

Another FT piece has a clearer view of the possible — "...Brazil’s leader, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been advising Raúl Castro against the temptation to follow the 'Chinese model' of opening up the economy without releasing the ruling party’s grip on political life.Such reports show Fidel Castro’s claim that Cuban socialism is “irrevocable” to be an Ozymandian boast. As Cuba modernises, its economic model will be the first thing to go."

You don't have to possess extremely keen vision to see that. Yet long-standing American myopia on Cuba may blind the next President as well. Again, will Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton have the leadership and courage to cut the crap and make the island nation into a democracy and ally?

The chanted cliché of evil Cuber as Kennedy said taunts us in our personal failings not only to crush the island neighbor, but also while we are unable to feed and house Americans or to provide them all with jobs and medical care. The things we slam Cuba for all exist in our system, including the political prisoners and torture.

We have normalized all types of relations with former enemies, countries we fought and who actively murdered our soldiers. It is long past time to bring Cuba into our fold and be able to boast of how we brought democracy and freedom to a former foe.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Attack of the Slime People!

And so it begins...

In a delicious paradox, Hillary claims her's is bigger than Barack's. Likewise, after seeing Obama skunk the blustering ex-First Lady, GOP-man John McCain waves his hands, while saying to pay no attention to that guy's words.

The former is desperate and the latter about to become so. We have seen the mid-term and longer sleaze bombs begin to land.

Clinton's is the most absurd. After Obama ground her under his wingtips in Wisconsin and Hawaii yesterday, we heard snatches of the strategies — and character — of the key players. Briefly:
  • McCain did a Wizard of Oz behind the curtain trick. "I will fight every moment of every day in this campaign to make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change ... that promises no more than a holiday from history and a return to the false promises and failed policies of a tired philosophy that trusts in government more than the people"
  • Obama was similarly nasty about McCain, but used substance and issues instead of innuendo. "But when he embraces George Bush's failed economic policies, when he says he's willing to send our troops into another 100 years in Iraq, then he represents the party of yesterday, and we want to be the party of tomorrow."
  • Hillary was the saddest and much the college freshman lad with, "One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world. . . . One of us has a plan to provide health care for every single American -- no one left out. . . . One of us has faced serious Republican opposition in the past. And one of us is ready to do it again."
It will be fascinating to see how that bellicose theater plays in the delegate-bulging Texas. It is amusing of course that she claims I'm-more-of-a-man-than-Barack. It likely makes Republican functionaries hope she's the nominee. McCain can play that game on a much, much higher level.

On his part, McCain's acting is good only from a distance. In pending debates, position papers and speeches, he can only hope that the majority won't really want a change from the Bush failures, that the new terrifies them even more. Good luck with that, flyboy.

Obama's attack has some heft. He can keep that up and score with it.

Blogger note: I was trying not to post this week. They made me do it with those comments.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Wack-A-UU on WBUR

On Point on WBUR is not normally a yuck-fest. Today, though, I caught the Jimmy Bresllin segment while driving. It's worth listening to for the first caller, a UU minister.

This show will be online shortly here.

As a disclaimer, I admit that I'm a long-term UU. I even drive the cult car, a Volvo sedan. Also, I am a former journalist and as someone whose high-school tenure was exactly the same as Breslin's three years writing columns for the New York Herald Tribune. We got the local paper, the NY Times and the Trib daily. I"d start with the Breslin column any day it ran. So, I can identify with both self-righteous UUs and newspaper writers, and of course, Breslin in particular.

I nestled in when I heard that he'd be on talking about his latest collection of Mob Tales, The Good Rat: A True Story, and taking listener calls. I got an extra charge when Tom Ashbrook rushed the introduction to start taking calls and the first caller was someone I'd met.

That would be Rev. Aaron Payson. His a big guy who dresses colorfully. He's the minister at the UU Church of Worcester. He's the other type of UU minister.

About half of them are slight and wiry with close cropped gray beards. Payson is the other kind — tall and chunky, smiling with dreadful sincerity.

We met in Worcester in court at the Larry Cirignano trial last fall. Payson was a witness for the prosecution, as well as a friend of the victim. He attended the whole trial and we chatted on occasion in the chamber and outside. We're not buddies.

I do have a full enough sense of him to see my lefty politics racing behind his eyes, eager to assert themselves in conversation. That he did with Breslin...failing miserably several times.

Payson started with a longish assertion disguised as a question. It tangentially keyed off Breslin's long journalistic and fictive association with the Mafia. Payson's routine had two points:
  • Does writing about the Mob, treating them as entertainment, do society a disservice?
  • If the Mafia killings and such are somehow justified and humanized, does that lead to excusing the bloodshed of such adventurism as the current Iraq war?
Breslin was born in 1930 and has seen and done a lot. As far as I know, gangsters threatened him many times for his coverage, but only beat him severely once. As well as well writing, he's extremely well read and is very thoughtful. He'd have none of Payson's UU syllogisms.

I have no doubt that Payson rides those violence horses around his nave and in his living room. As a UU of more than 20 years, I am puffy and pedantic like that often as well.

Breslin noted that not only is violence one of the few mainstays of our entertainment, that has long been true. He said something to the effect that William Shakespeare had the stage littered with bodies before the end of many of his first acts.

Payson kept coming back. Breslin kept pushing back. He found it outrageous that someone would see a causality from writing about gangsters to thinking it's okay to murder folk in foreign lands.

It's a hoot and I hope I think of it the next time some right winger edges me into a debate. We lefties, particularly Unitarian ones, have to guard against such silliness.

By the bye, that BUR link has its sub-link to a selection from Breslin's book.

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Boobytrapping Bipartisanship

Another alter kaker moment (they seem more common) came this morning when I heard George the Lesser play scold to Congress yet again. This time, on NPR news, he buggered and brutalized bipartisan.

For the House showing rare courage in standing up to his pathetic disdain of a series of Bill of Rights amendments in the current surveillance bill, he responded at his worst and most cynical. He read from the script the White House put our yesterday as a press release.

This bill would perpetuate spying on Americans in violation of our freedom of speech, freedom from unreasonable search, and rights to privacy, it would grant immunity to telcos for illegal spying they already did at the White House's bidding. It would make the sweeping spying powers permanent. Despite the wide and deep powers this President and his minions already have, they want more. There needs to be an alarm, but warning of the thugs in the White House and Senate. They are simply anti-American.

On top of this usual act-now-or-we-all-go-to-hell-immediately routine, he tried shaming the chamber who are showing a little guts. He said the Senate had passed its version with strong bipartisan support, so the House was obligated to do the same.

So far, the House leaders show reason and wisdom instead. Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to Bush's jive with, ""He has nothing to offer but fear" Moreover, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had already replied in a letter to Bush, "Instead of needlessly frightening the country, you should work with Congress in a calm, constructive way."

Bush's do-what-I-demand-now (or-the-terrorists-have-won) gambit has proven such a lie so badly so many times, it is astonishing that so many in Congress and beyond play along. Even worse for the current election cycle may be what he has done to the concept of bipartisanship.

He has so bastardized the definition that he has taken us back down to Wonderland for transient meaning and intent. When he vetoes a bill like expanded health care for poor kids or war funding with a troop withdrawal time table, the fact that it had strong support from both parties doesn't enter into it. However, when the Senate supports his spying-on-us bill, that's bipartisan approval than needs total respect, nay, obeisance.

From Through the Looking Glass:
"When I use a word, "Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."
"The question is,' said Alice," whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master - - that's all."

Let us note that this was the same House session that cited two former White House aides — Joshua B. Bolten, the chief of staff, and Harriet E. Miers, former counsel,— for contempt. The pair led the effort to block investigation into the outrageous firing of U.S. Attorneys by refusing to testify or cooperate. Despite the 223 to 32 bipartisan vote for contempt, in a small, impotent fit of petulance, the dissenters talked out of chambers. So there.

So Bush and some of his GOP congressional supporters want to call for bipartisanship only in the most cynical way. When it means bolstering their narrow goals, all is well and it's a two-party solution. Otherwise, it's treason.

Unfortunately, this election hinges increasingly on this now sullied term. Both Presidential front-runner candidates have cast themselves in the gestalt of the moment. Americans are demanding a dramatic shift from the past seven years of economic, domestic and military insanity. Both John McCain and Barack Obama acknowledge this can only happen if the President and legislators in both parties work together on the biggest repairs and redirection.

No doubt, no doubt both sides could and will maintain their party credentials by fighting on small issues.

Bush has smeared so much excrement on bipartisan that it will take a lot of airing in the campaign to make the concept acceptable again and to clarify what both sides mean, what they intend to do, and how they can distance the concept from the devolved version we heard yesterday.

As a nation, we're not likely to get another such chance when voters are ripe for the good. Let's get it on.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

(Shudder) Bipartisan

Perhaps the shared air they breathed during the debates infected them both. Front runners GOP John McCain and Dem Barack Obama both speak of bipartisanship and achieving meaningful goals through compromise if elected Prez.


Even my own podcast buddy, Ryan Adams, held forth on that in yesterday's sounding. He accurately notes the long-term Republican Presidential and Congressional scorched-earth policy of forcing what they want and demand on Democrats and the whole nation. This has worked when they out-represented Dems in Congress, used their filibuster powers and Bush vetoes to block majority votes, clogged the courts by refusing to confirm moderate judges, and successfully counted on timorous behavior by far too many Dems in Congress.

It is more than understandable that many leftists are not willing or eager to compromise. Certainly for the past seven years and arguably since the 1994 Contract with (on) America, Republicans have done whatever they could to manifest their hopes and fantasies. We live in crippling national debt, have buried many thousands of our soldiers and support troops, have seen the value of our output and currency flailing, and have lost the role of world leader in authority, morality, economics, industry, innovation, education and health. Scorched earth, indeed.

With the background of conservative behavior and leftist reaction, it is no surprise when either side screams, "No compromise!" However, it is a bit of a shock that the two current front runners do not shy away from bipartisan and compromise lingo when so many in their respective parties decry the concepts as weak, ineffective and even immoral.

When both were on the floor of the Senate this week, McCain strode across the chamber to greet Obama and clasp his arm. It was a reprise of their cordial greeting in a portion of the AP photo by Steve Senne above. That befits McCain's maverick image and reinforces that both of them think this holds more promise than adversarial legislating.

We know what GOP and Dem hardliners think of this. What would Ayn Rand say?

Well fortunately, we have some pith on the subject. Consider:

  1. The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles. — Ayn Rand in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

  2. From the beginning of our history the country has been afflicted with compromise. It is by compromise that human rights have been abandoned. I insist that this shall cease. The country needs repose after all its trials; it deserves repose. And repose can only be found in everlasting principles. — Sen. Charles Sumner

  3. All government -- indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act -- is founded on compromise and barter.Edmund Burke
Rand, of course, hated the term and concept of compromise. In his own way, staunch abolitionist Sumner was just as much an absolutist. In fact, he was so uncompromising that he was relieved of Senate roles, including constructing the 13th Amendment banning slavery. The moral certitude of each sounds familiar today.

I don't fear compromise or bipartisan deals on either political or moral bases. In fact, I argue that we may well be at one of those rare political moments that occurs only every few generations. Only when times and public attitudes are right can pacific and progressive visions stand a chance.

Compromise need not follow a drug pusher's sort of the-first-one's-free trap. Working together to extricate us from the Iraqi and Afghani disasters does not mean caving on social issues or piling more cash on the plutocrats.

One could quibble that bipartisanship and compromise differ. However, in this time, such distinctions ignore the far more important underlying concepts. For those who believe that the right wingers have so poisoned the well that none can drink from it, the ideas seem impossible. For many centrists, the memory of how accommodating the right seems to equal capitulating to destructive policies.

Certainly, many right-wing politicians and their puppeteers seem to know only brinksmanship, one-upmanship, and bullying. If a President comes in wanting to put the good of the nation over party ideology, those sorts will be at a loss. It has been far too long since they've been civil that they will soil the rugs and scare the children.

Undoubtedly, if a Barack Obama tries consensus and reason unsuccessfully upon taking office, he will not sit in a corner whimpering in defeat. Compromises can be catalyzed with other tools, such as political pressure and even threats, and the classic public shaming over indefensible positions.

Expect to hear ideologues and those bent on revenge reviling talk of bipartisan politics. They are stuck in the past, but are likely to remain firm in their views.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

U.S. Spits on Your Liberty

The geldings have it, 68 to 29. The U.S. Senate voted today to give uncounted officials in the Bush administration and their telecommunications company co-conspirators free passes on spying on American citizens.

Why do Republicans and so many complicit Dems disdain freedoms we used to take for granted? They passed FISA (S. 2248), expanding wire tapping and other spying virtually without effective limits or other controls. Civil libertarians were not only outraged by such brazen disregard for citizens' rights, but also by the immunity from prosecution and lawsuits for telcos and government employees.

This goes to conference with the House and is likely to pass in today's form.

Freedom? You get the freedom from search and seizure the President and intelligence agencies decide to let you have. You just won't know what that is unless they tap your phones, intercept your internet communications or otherwise invade your privacy. The undefined tactics in the vague war on terror trump our Constitution, Bill of Rights and case law now.

Not surprisingly, zero Republicans voted nay on this disgrace and sell-out. The Dems who love liberty and respect Americans did. The other geldings let the wingers harness them up and hitch them to the plow.

The roll call was:

YEAs ---68
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Inouye (D-HI)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wicker (R-MS)
NAYs ---29
Akaka (D-HI)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Wyden (D-OR)
Not Voting - 3
Clinton (D-NY)
Graham (R-SC)
Obama (D-IL)

Note that the Presidential candidates are there. McCain voted nay to freedom. Clinton and Obama blew off the vote.

Before today's vote, calls, visits and emails to Congress beat back the attempt to provide immunity three times. Now we are left living in a lesser America, closer to repressive and undemocratic regimes that routinely spy on their citizens.

Any Dem on that list of yea votes needs to find another line of work and voters in their states should feel duty bound to expedite that. This is one of the lowest of the low points of the past seven dreadful years.

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Dibs on Primary First

Me, me, me, me is the chant of the Presidential primaries. Yawn.

I suppose it's neither baser nor more childish than traditional pork-barrel projects. Yet this year's rushed trampling panic for states to be first and to be influential is comedic.

New Hampshire has long — by tradition since 1920 and by its law since 1977 — held the nation's first primary. That's an affectation that makes sense in an insecure sort of way. A wee state with a small, atypical population and few delegates is like the little kid who pushes his way in front of the upperclassman for the lunch line.

Allowing that kind of self-interest from the little guy amuses the others.

This year though, Super Tuesday became an embarrassment, as populous states as well tried to elbow each other out of the way to claim that their primary was important. It seemed every state wants to cast its votes as the ones that determine the next president.

If you look mid-term and longer, no state, wee or freakin' huge, is predictive cycle after cycle. The early states like to pretend that the rest of the nation will follow their choices. Har!

Quite simply, the not so wee states with not so few delegates make or break candidacies more often. Even though that should be no surprise, the boys and girls in state houses and political parties are positively faddish about me, me, me, me, I'm first.

So, the giggle this year is that the early states did their thing, followed by super, gigantico, hyper-crowded Tuesday. Now the laggards are beginning to vote. Suddenly the premature voters at the front of the line shrink to microscopic again. Nah nah nah.

Today, we have the mid-Atlantic heavyweights — Virginia, D.C. and Maryland. Then in three weeks, delegate-rich Ohio and Texas vote. For the Dems, these five states are likely to make all the difference.

Hillary Clinton is making kissy face, at least by phone, to the superdelegates. She seems to be getting at least oral support short term.

Suddenly, few care about how this or that early state voted. Barack Obama could have a solid majority of the popular vote and pledged delegates. Clinton could do an end-run using the undemocratic Democratic superdelegate process. She could in effect do a George Bush style win with the other guy getting the votes and her getting the backroom votes that swing nomination. All it would take for an honest race would be for the superdelegates to vote with the majority of their states, but that would require larger 'nads than most of those have shown.

Meanwhile, it is fun to see those who pushed their way in front of the line find out who the new popular kids are, those states who waited their turns. I laugh all over my ballot.

Wednesday Follow-Up: How many times can George the Lesser sound the same dishonorable and dishonest alarm? Apparently with the audience of cowards and buffoons in the U.S. House, at least once more. This morning, he pulled the old give him what he wants or the terrorists will attack again act. He told the House that they didn't need to debate giving immunity to spying criminals in telcos and his administration. Act immediately because "terrorists are planning new attacks on our country ... that will make Sept. 11 pale by comparison."
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Friday, February 08, 2008

Now Playing: Tomorrow's Mitt

Yesterday, my chum John and I solved our own and then the world's problems over a second, then third, beer. He was ahead of me on Willard Mitt Romney though.

He's not the politics addict I am, but he knows how to use cable TV. I had already posted on Mitt's abandonment. However, John asked if I had heard all Mitt's crazy talk about France.

If you have only done what I did on video, do more. The two-minute "I'm also a great American, hightailing it for the good of the party and nation" speech is nothing. The matrix of lunacy around that shows that he intends to go back into training. He'll reemerge to jerk Republicans around in another run.

As John put it, "I wasn't quite sure before, but now I'm really glad he'll never be president."

You can see and hear the whole thing on his site. Maybe better, grab the text at the New York Times here. Otherwise, you might not know how dishonest and delusional he is.

You can get a taste of the craziness with the low lights a different John cites at Live, Love, and Learn. Bless you if you plug ahead here.

The overview is that Mitt used his speech at yesterday's Conservative Political Action Conference to mention in passing that he was renouncing his candidacy. Make no mistake that his aim was clearly:
  • To claim that he was on par with leader John McCain in his ability to get conservative votes, in his delegate count, and in his support around the nation.
  • To construct a facade of himself as international hardliner and hawk.
  • To use extreme right-wing rhetoric to cite in a future campaign.
  • To proclaim that as President he would bully other nations as well as moderates and lefties.
We here in Massachusetts know too well that he has always been a milquetoast social liberal. He could as easily have called himself a Democrat and likely would have if that was the path to office.

In contrast, this speech yesterday was pure theater. He was figuratively weaving a cartoon tapestry to hang on the wall for use in a future race.

It also seems clear that this speech was prepared well in advance and not for this occasion. I suspect this content was to convince a divided party convention that he was their guy. When he finally realized that he was a fish flopping high on land, he — how would a VC put it? — re-purposed the bluster.

The new Mitt differs considerably from the pro-gay rights, pro-women's choice, hide new taxes as fees version. This one is chauvinistic and xenophobic. He blames clear Republican failures on Democrats, asserts U.S. moral and cultural superiority over effete Europeans, and talks as tough as a non-veteran military ignoramus can on terrorism and defense.

Stinky Cheese

Certainly the strangest and most amusing aspect of his speech was the attack on France and by extension Europe. He succumbed to that awful disease of narrow-minded middle-aged sorts, building yourself up by knocking down others.

Pointing to Europe and specifically France as political failures facing demographic disaster, he tried to alarm with, "I'm convinced that unless America changes course, we could become the France of the 21st Century. Still a great nation, but not the leader of the world, not the superpower. And to me that's unthinkable."

[Le Monde is already citing his slurs. They are likely to elicit widespread derision among other nations with more valuable currencies and better records of feeding, housing, clothing and educating their citizens.]

Evil Dems

His central theme from the start was the superiority of American culture. He blamed our numerous long-term national shortcomings on Democrats and liberalism, never on the recurring borrow-and-spend Republican policies that have virtually bankrupted our nation.

That certainly is a set of arguments conservatives like and want to believe, even if they don't care for or trust Mitt.

For our first-world chums across the Atlantic:
Europe — Europe is facing a demographic disaster.

That's the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life, and eroded morality.

Some reason that culture is merely an accessory to America's vitality. We know that it's the source of our strength. And we will not be dissuaded by the snickers and knowing glances when we stand up for family values and morality and culture.
That's right, men and women, we're not in trouble because of absurdly destructive and wasteful wars, continuing to transfer wealth to the few plutocrats, or undermining our citizens' Constitutional rights and protections. It's the queers and other perverts!

As Mitt put it:
The attack on faith and religion is no less relentless. And tolerance for pornography, even celebration of it, and sexual promiscuity, combined with the twisted incentives of government welfare, have led to today's grim realities: 68 percent of African-American kids born out of wedlock, 45 percent of Hispanic kids, 25 percent of white kids. How much harder it is for these kids to succeed in school and in life. A nation built on the principles of the founding fathers cannot long stand when its children are raised without fathers in the home.
Stop laughing now and don't dare note that there's no causality there. Mitt figures, "It's time for the people of America to fortify marriage through a constitutional amendment, so that liberal judges cannot continue to attack it." That'll fix everything — "The development of a child is enhanced by having a mother and a father. Such a family is the ideal for the future of the child and for the strength of the nation."

Europe wasn't enough of a target for the self-framing xenophobe. He paraded the Asian bugbears (and there are billions of them, don't ya know). "China, and Asia are emerging from centuries of poverty. Their people are plentiful, innovative and ambitious. If we don't change course, Asia or China will pass us by as the economic superpower, just as we passed England and France during the last century."

Of course, that course means steering into the Land of Defense. While making a passing mention of what he termed unnecessary governmental spending, what he really meant was to spend more on guns and less for people. When we again are the cops of the world, the real superpower, the sun will shine anew on our blessed (and conservative) nation.

He did not note that as a nation, we spend over 47% of the world's military money. During the current administration, the costs have shot up rapidly. Yet, Mitt wants to go from about 3.5% of GDP for military to at least 4%. He even derided Democratic efforts to slow this drag on our economy and get other nations to chip in fairly. As Mitt put it, "But their numbers have been depleted by the Clinton years, when troops were reduced by 500,000, when almost 80 ships were retired from our Navy, and when our human intelligence was slashed by 25 percent. We were told we were getting a peace dividend. We got the dividend; we didn't get the peace."

Let's Get Emotional

That sort of absurd and irrational sloganeering could work short-term. It has a visceral appeal — if only I had a bigger stick, all the other kids would give me their allowances. Yet, despite Mitt's framing, that won't stand current or historical scrutiny and criticism. It wouldn't last through a Presidential campaign cycle.

As further evidence of how this speech was a set up for his next run, he ended up setting up Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as the scapegoats if they can't reverse the God-awful Republican damage quickly. He said:
Soon the face of liberalism in America will have a new name. Whether it's Barack or Hillary, the result would be the same if they were to be able to...(BOOING)... if they were to be able to win the presidency. The opponents of American culture would push the throttle, devising new justifications for judges to depart from the Constitution. And economic neophytes would layer heavier and heavier burdens on employers and families, slowing our economy, opening the way for foreign competition to further erode our lead.
His punch line was that even though he was punking out the campaign, he'd remain a conservative warrior. "I will continue to stand for conservative principles. I'll fight alongside you for all the things we believe in. And one of the things we believe in is that we cannot allow the next president of the United States to retreat in the face of evil extremism."

Will this be the new face of the GOP in 2012 or 2016? Rather, despite his careful framing, Willard remains neither fish nor fowl, left nor right. With good reason, self-identified conservative Republican and independent voters did not believe in his version of a jailhouse conversion to their views.

In his cadaver sort of way, Mitt is good looking enough. He shows he knows how to make money, at least for the top executives of new companies and his own. He parlayed a huge government bailout of the Salt Lake Olympics into a flimsy legend of managerial competence. He...I guess those were all. Everything else should be an anathema to right-wing wingers.

Assume the Republicans lose the Presidency this time. Then assume they try to reframe and repair themselves as they have done in such times. Next wonder whether a large percentage of them would be desperate enough and forgetful enough to buy the reinvented arch-conservative Willard?

He's clearly planning for that. I remain to be convinced that even the most irrational ideologues would buy such defective goods again.

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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Mitt-sky Out-sky

Everyone's favorite flopper, Willard Mitt Romney put the bow on John McCain's nomination today. He dropped out a few minutes ago.

For someone with no sense of either in his campaign, he used the standard, "I must now stand aside, for our party and our country."

I'll miss using the Cap'n Brylcreem illustrations, but am glad I got to urge him to do this.

He used his cameo at today's Conservative Political Action Conference (an annual bucket of wing nuts).

According to the Washington Post's Chris Cillizza:
Significant pressure will likely be brought to bear on (Mike) Huckabee, who enjoys a good relationship with McCain, to bow out of the race an unify behind a single candidate. It was not immediately clear whether he will accede to that pressure.

I figure getting out before he was a total laughingstock and known loser will give him a chance to run again in 4 or 8 years. Then he can fail to understand his lack of appeal more fully.

Meanwhile, he'll have the chance to see whether he can recoup most of the $35 million plus he lent a broke campaign. That's a job worthy of a financial speculator like he.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Go Home, Mitt!

Round and round he goes, and where he stops everybody but he knows.

Willard, Willard, it isn't going to get any better. Yet even after his thorough drubbing during Super Tuesday, Mitt Romney shows how the privileged handle denial.

Seemingly irrationally buoyed by winning the North Dakota caucuses, he stated, "The one thing that is clear is this campaign is going on." Even this morning, his staff confirmed to the Boston Globe that he was still in, citing his whole 30-minute meeting tomorrow with Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. (He doesn't mention that all the Republicans still in the race, including Ron Paul, are on the agenda.)

His Dakota triumph earned him 26 delegates. His total through yesterday was 265. Mike Huckabee has 169. That pesky John McCain has 559, closing in on half of the 1191 needed for nomination.

Big states with lots of delegates? McCain. The South? Huckabee. Romney won his home states of Massachusetts and Utah, and then Alaska, Colorado, Minnesota, Montana and North Dakota. McCain zoomed past and Huckabee is closing in.

Of course, Romney's failure stems from his not being able to convince Republicans and independents that he is the true conservative in the race. McCain and Huckabee have also used that phrase. All three of them sound like a parody of Pee Wee Herman — I know you're a false conservative, but what am I?

Instead, we have pulled into the expected station and everyone else felt the arrival. Issues of class and privilege keep Romney spinning to the bottom. Who dares give the rich VC the hook? Even his advisers and family who see him wearing his dunce cap have not gotten him to quit.

Face it; the clown has spent more than $35 million of his $200 million plus fortune on this race. Moreover, many of those around him are toadies or at least draw a paycheck as long as this campaign staggers forward.

Someone loyal to his party would get out quickly and cleanly, letting McCain try to prove himself to the very right wing and just maybe cobble a truce among a fractious and disparate bunch. Yet from here, it appears Romney is loyal to, in no particular order, his family, his church and himself.

He's never been much of a Republican. He used the party first to launch his career in Massachusetts as distinguished from all those other wishy-washy slightly liberal Democrats. As a slightly liberal nominal Republican, he won an election. Since then, he has used his party affiliation as a shield and its escutcheon. See, see, he likes to say, I was a red governor in a blue state. What a good boy am I.

Romney has stayed too long at the fair. He can keep buying ride tickets and snacks, but he's a sad figure now, one who doesn't know it's time to go home.

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Post Primary Mass. Musing

For what it's worth...

Brylcreem adI'll ramble a bit below about the meaning of Hillary's win here. Elsewhere, no one seemed surprised at Super Tuesday outcomes, with the possible except of Willard Romney. He probably won't drop out today, although he trails so badly and is losing ground to Mike Huckabee...Huckabee! I'll miss calling the stiff old salesman Cap'n Brylcreem. Ah, Mitt, we knew you only too well.

By the bye, Slate's Trailhead had the best recap on the Cap'n no good, terrible day:
Republican voters, faced with a choice between a say-anything robo-pol and a genuine, slightly nutty Southern boy, chose the guy without any money. Romney was so noxious that Republicans actually chose the less viable candidate—not what Republicans are supposed to do.

Basically, most polls were very close to the outcomes. Most of us shameless blowhards called the results yesterday accurately. California was the wild card, but it too was about what we expected.

Massachusetts, though, was for once worthy of analysis and comment. Hillary Clinton won solidly, but at considerably lower margins than polls had her only a short time ago. She surely senses the charismatic breath (is that even possible?) of Barack Obama.

Many are busy looking for truth and predictability from racial and cultural trends. The MSM seems fixated on whether Black women will vote for the Black guy or the white gal, and where young Latinos will go Clinton like their parents.

I just scanned a wonderful breakdown of the local voting in the Boston Globe. The interactive page has the town-by-town votes. It also lets you roll over a town to see the Clinton v. Obama percentages.

My quicky, quirky analysis suggests (figures are percentages in Obama/Clinton order):
  • Brains for Obama — Places with the highest concentration of degrees, academics and students voted Obama. Williamstown 60/38, Cambridge 63/35, Northampton 58/39, Amherst 66/31, Wellesley 53/36.
  • Blue Collar for Clinton — Traditional union areas normally go with the machine pol who can turn out the votes. Lawrence 24/74, Billerica 29/66, Dartmouth 68/30, New Bedford 27/70, Everett 23/74, Chelsea 65/28, Lowell 32/64, Medford 36/60.
  • Wealthy for Obama — The most financial comfortable Dems were willing to risk a bit more. Belmont 52/46, Brookline 55/44, Dover 56/43, Sherborn 61/38, Weston 57/41.
  • Exurban for Clinton — The more traditionally conservative areas with DINOs went Clinton. Danvers 36/61, Beverly 42/55, Gloucester 43//55 (also the blue-collar contrast to artsy Rockport, 53/44), Wilmington 29/67, Chelmsford 40/57.
We don't have enough big cites to draw much from. Boston went for Obama 53/45. Worcester was stronger for Clinton 35/62. A few kind-of cities were split, like both Newton and Winchester 49/49.

Much has been made of Boston's mayor and the House speaker endorsing Clinton, while our governor and senior U.S. senator went for Obama. We can speculate over a half dozen pints and never know whether Kennedy's blessing brought Obama as close as he was or whether Menino/DiMasi's drove people from Clinton. Meh.

You can roll over this map and see patterns for the whole commonwealth. We can likely learn much more from considering class than race or culture. After all, Massachusetts is still about 88% white and the non-white populations are concentrated in a few urban areas. We can't extrapolate as easily as from states like Georgia or Nevada.

One obvious lesson for Obama's camp here may be the absolute necessity of getting people to polls. It appears as though the young voters did not come to the polls sufficiently for him. In contrast, Clinton's two strongest groups — white women and union-and-blue-collar voters — did. That's a huge advantage in being connected to the Democratic establishment, a.k.a. the machine.

Right now, the two are real close. With voters torn and fractured, and with these candidates' positions as close as they are, the one who gets to the convention with the most delegates may well be the one who got admirers to the polls.

As my 14-year-old is wont to say, "Well, duh."

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Antidote to Mad Dad

The nope-no-gay-couples-here crowd doesn't want to know TerranceDC and his family exist. La la la la. They can't hear him.

Via-à-vis our own Mad Dad, TDC has a super post that appears on his blog and at Pam's House Blend. Do look at Abstaining from the Reality of Gay Families at both spots; each has good comments.

As the post notes, he and his are that uncomfortable contradiction of the pronouncements of the Mad Dad types. Those who would construct bubbles of ignorance for their kids seem to be in cubicles and living rooms here and there. We in the larger world are seldom aware of them except when they decide the world must support their fantasies with new laws and new procedures.

The facts that show what a made-up world they inhabit never seem to sink in for them. You may pause to pity them and then continue with real life.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Drop-Out Candidate Spoor

What remains of the ghost candidates? The departed include:
  • Biden
  • Dodd
  • Edwards
  • Gravel
  • Kucinich
  • Richardson
  • Giuliani
  • Hunter
  • Paul
  • Thompson
  • Tancredo
We can think of them as an animal tracker looking at spoor or an anthropologist analyzing artifacts. They have passed from view but may not be entirely gone.

Plus, there is the zombie Huckabee. Like a Monty Python's Black Knight, he thinks his political death was only a flesh wound, at least in public speech.

His trail is disappearing as I write this. His absurd positions marginalized then vaporized him as soon as voters realized how addled he is. He'd maintain the Kennedy fixation with Cuba, he'd stay in Iraq until America wins, he'd overrule states with a federal definition of marriage, he'd spend billions on unworkable anti-immigration ploys, he'd overturn Roe v. Wade, he'd tax everything we buy instead of income and cut virtually all federal spending except for infrastructure and military. In short, he picked emotional issues for all conservatives, and a few moderates, to display in his Campaign Promises box.

He appears to be hanging around in a vain hope that the nominee will ask him to run as Vice President. Even if he is a middling bassist, he's not likely to hear McCain or Romney ringing his doorbell.

More significant is which also-ran candidates leave meaningful tracks, positions or policies that will influence the race. Consider:
  • Johnny Reid Edwards — He leaves the deepest tracks. He's still too centrist for me and too watery on equality, but he was the only real populist in the race. His dual insistence on universal health care helped keep that in the fore, and his frank pledges to reduce poverty do not allow either Clinton or Obama to soft-pedal this monster in our national closet. At the moment, he's the closest the Democrats have to a party conscience. If the next president is a Democrat, his ideas will be obvious.
  • Ronald Ernest Paul — He is certainly earnest. He comes with the expected libertarian sincerity and baggage. He's a gun-in-every-nightstand, anti-immigrant wall around the entire country, bounty-hunters-to-kill-terrorists, neutralize Roe v. Wade, out-of-Iraq-quickly kind of guy. He's nothing if not innovative. Nearly all of his positions are too extreme to carry into any new administration. He may reemerge in another election, but his tracks are ephemeral at the Presidential level.
  • Dennis John Kucinich — Like Edwards, he has fundamental Democratic and democratic positions. When voters examined the underlying platform, many aligned with him. However, his New Age way of expressing them led folk to think he could convince no one in Washington to implement them. He was the most equality-oriented candidate, but the remaining pair don't have the courage to follow his tracks.
  • Rudolph William Louis Giuliani — Tax cuts, free-market salvation for the economy, no Iraq timetable, blah blah. Short of his leftist social policies, he used typical conservative bluster and did not adequately distinguish himself. He walked largely in others tracks and voters had no reason to follow him. Socially he is really a liberal Democrat. He's gone.
Footnotes might include Fred Dalton Thompson and Thomas Gerald Tancredo. The forgettable Dem also-rans share the same fate with them. Gone, no tracks.

For the most part, only Edwards' tracks will remain on this election, and if the Democratic nominee wins, on the next administration. As I'm sure you are also fond of saying, sic transit gloria mundi.

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Back Barack Tomorrow

I endorse Barack Obama and shall vote for him tomorrow. That can't be too much of a surprise to regular readers or Left Ahead! listeners.

You can volunteer for Obama here and donate to his campaign here.

The choice for Democrats this cycle has been confusing, but for far better reasons than the Republican conundrum. Over at the GOP, they are truly riven. Their philosophical, economic and policy differences have meant that no one candidate would appeal to most of them. Moreover, unlike the past two Presidential votes, any coalition members will be holding their noses and averting their eyes in supporting any one nominee.

On our side, the major problem is that the candidates are too similar. It will be far easier for Dems to unite behind a single nominee without lying to themselves.

It's worth noting that Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich had platforms that more Democrats agreed with than with those of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John Edwards. One recent example and expression of that was on NPR when they interviewed Democrats who took affinity tests online. An amazing number found they were most closely aligned with Kucinich's positions.

Unfortunately, voters did not see either Gravel or Kucinich as electable. In particular, Kucinich was by far the most progressive and visionary of all. There was the flake factor though. Even though he held the best set of positions, he expressed them so bizarrely that virtually no one believed he could get anything done if elected President.

At least he put the key issues out when the leading candidates lacked the courage to do so. At best, we'll hear those issues emerge in the campaign before November. He could have hit the sacrifice fly.

While Clinton allegedly is on course to skunk Obama here, she has recently clearly shown why we must support him. She has dug herself in firmly, proclaiming that she knows how to pull the levers of power and that he's just an idealist, a naïf.

Americans are ready for a real change. It is unlikely to happen with her Congressional private-club mentality. Instead, we are ripe for a change of state. Every generation or two or three, we have a chance to shift gears in a new kind of vehicle. We don't often do it for long, but we make progress as a nation in the process.

...a little naive is better than a lot cynical

Ironically, she is trying to make Obama's nuanced praise of Ronald Reagan into many things it was not. It is unfortunate that he dared present an idea instead of a literal and simplistic slogan when he said:
I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.
Obama doesn't agree with what Reagan did on that path, but Obama is smart enough to realize how it worked. For those of us savvy enough to hear the idea there, that should inform our primary vote. If you believe that Americans are really ready for that change everyone calls for, a little naive is better than a lot cynical. Vote Obama.

He speaks of bipartisanship to the derision of those accustomed to the GOP take-no-prisoners methods. He is offering a vision, a respite from scorched-earth politics. We take a different road from time to time, as we did with John Kennedy, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, as well as that Reagan fellow.

Either Democratic candidate will aim to disentangle us from unnecessary and wasteful wars, absurd shifts of wealth from the middle and lower classes to the plutocrats, and efforts to add theocracy to our government. Voters who want revenge against Republicans should surely go for Clinton. Those who think we are at a moment for a better way of getting what we need and want must vote for Obama.

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