Monday, March 31, 2008

New England SSM, Not Quite Ripe

Lured to Rhode Island Friday, I eagerly anticipated the symposium The Culture of Same-Sex Marriage in New England. While I didn't get definitive answers, it was well worth the drive for an afternoon on Mt. Hope Bay.

The two panels and keynote speaker had lots of useful and some moving commentary. The sweeping conclusions didn't come, largely because we are still in flux as a region as well as a nation on SSM.

Photo Note: A few images from the afternoon accompany these posts. I apologize here for their so-so or lower quality. It was my first go at a conference setting requiring telephoto and flash. In the future, I'll be even more obnoxious than usual and get closer.

A later post will cover two very different personal tales of 1) what homosexual couples can't get when SSM is illegal, and 2) what they can't get when it isn't ubiquitous.

Gettin' There, Gettin' There

From both legal and political angles, probably the most useful information and opinion was from Jenn Steinfeld (right), Marriage Equality Rhode Island co-chair. She took a bit of the edge off explaining why they don't expect SSM there for another three years.

I'm an impatient sort, but she has a firm grip on the possible. "Thank God for term limits," she said firmly and sincerely. Largely she was referring to Gov. Donald Carcieri, who be out in 2011 as he finishes his second four-year term.

He and R.I. Bishop Thomas Tobin have long records of anti-gay stances and rhetoric. Even when the pro-marriage equality folk have had a majority, but not a veto-proof one, Carieci has stymied bills. For his part, Tobin went beyond preaching against SSM. When the AG said that the state should recognize Massachusetts SS marriages, Tobin' s statement included, "It is clear that the Attorney General’s thinking on this issue has been influenced by the relentless gay agenda so prevalent in our State."

She and Gay & Lesbian Advocates and Defenders attorney Karen Loewy (left) brought the law students and some of the rest of us up to snuff on the oddments of Rhode Island marriage law. Basically, they codified their laws later and lighter; they have a lot fewer marriage-related laws.

This leads to what Steinfeld refers to as a porous border between Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Both she and Loewy have good relations with the R.I. AG Patrick Lynch. They were not surprised a year ago when his office announced that the state should accept Massachusetts marriages as valid.

Search this blog from the box up top for comity to get your fill on the subject.

To those of us 50 miles northeast of Providence the logical first question is why Rhode Island has not become the second state with full SSM. It has few anti-SSM legislators and the voters poll strongly in favor of SSM. From previous research and reporting on this, my best answer is that they don't jump into anything legislatively there. They'll get there, but after the current governor is out.

Elsewhere in New England, we have the same prima facie possibilities:
  • Connecticut legalized civil unions through the legislature. What about SSM?
  • Vermont was first in the nation with civil unions and has eight years of positive experience. What about SSM?
  • New Hampshire made a huge leap last year for civil unions. How far away is SSM?
  • Maine finally beat back the attempts to overturn gay-rights wording is regulations and statutes. They are openly discussion SSM and civil unions. When will it happen?
Loewy, who was co-counsel on Goodridge, has her fingers in the New England states for GLAD. She wasn't too sanguine about a block of SSM states here anytime soon.
  • Connecticut. GLAD argued for full marriage equality before the state Supreme Court ten months ago. Everyone's awaiting that decision.
  • Vermont. Legislative leaders didn't want SSM to be a 2008 election issue, so they decided last summer to study the subject, but not act before 2009.
  • New Hampshire. This state has what Loewy calls "really bad constitutional law," with a DOMA on the books and a ban on gay adoptive parents. However, the real problem is one that may replicate elsewhere as civil unions gain purchase. Loewy said that no one should expect to use civil unions a a wedge to get marriage equality. When a legislature passes civil unions, they don't think of it as a half measure. "They think they're done."
  • Maine. Alas, Mainers are pretty much exhausted. They've come a long way in gay rights. The state does have a form of domestic partnership. SSM is quite a slope up from there. The symposium speakers made no judgments on Maine.
Pending posts will touch on those personal stories, and on getting from Puritanism to SSM.

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Sunday, March 30, 2008

New England Crawling Toward SSM

Numerous times, I've noted what a thumb we New Englanders are in the anti-marriage equality folks' eye. Friday at Roger Williams University School of Law, eight panelists and a keynote speaker came at the subject in a symposium, The Culture of Same-Sex Marriage in New England.

I'll post a few takes on the symposium in the next day or two. Also, we'll kick it around over at our Left Ahead! podcast on Tuesday afternoon. That will also be available for streaming from there or downloading at our site anytime after the podcast ends at 3:30.

We heard from several key activists and lawyers, as well as the chief of the AG's Civil Division there. They made predictions on which states were and were not likely to go to SSM.

It addition, the main speaker and a panelist had very different but each very affecting personal tales of marriage equality.

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Friday, March 28, 2008

Deval, Barack and Phoning It In

So, the New York Times' Amy Goodnough blew into her pennywhistle about how two charming Black politicians talk a good line about change and hope. That Early Dazzle... article came in for its full share of criticism (shallow, racist, and from BMG's Charley, inaccurate).

There is good stuff in there though. I've been kicking this can up and down this blog for months, and almost certainly other bloggers have too. I haven't noticed it in MSM before now, but for example:
[I try not to let too much ego get involved in this. I get a kick out of the bloggers who post how many hits they've gotten and other such marks of insecurity. It's possible that Goodnough somehow was ignorant of these published ideas — it's just unlikely. My touchstone here is a very different article I did several decades ago when I was the editor of a grocery magazine. Back when many still smoked cigarettes, I had a flash and took a siding onto smokeless tobacco (wet and dry snuff). A month after the issue, the Times business section ran that subject, quoting my identical sources and stats. Whether it was put down to research, laziness or theft, they were, after all, the newspaper of record and didn't have to credit us. The biz section was on our comp list, so they got the issue. Being first with an idea and its expression is often irrelevant.]

It's not surprising that one or more Massachusetts bloggers noticed and noted the parallels and perils of Patrick and Obama. We don't have a lot of politicians campaigning on high ideals with a smattering of populism.

We are at a bifurcation or rather a three-way fork. Nationally, we can do the fearful, no-big-changes GOP way, the woman with the stick saying, "I got your compromise right here!" or the Deval-style aspiration/consensus guy.

Those of us who hopped into Deval's bag of promises are largely still hoping and anticipating good stuff. I did have overly high anticipation that he could build the teams and lubricate the compromises as he did in the business world. That has happened only at low to moderate levels.

The hungry, hungry hippo next to the picnic table, of course, is funding. Patrick's visions and programs to lead us politically, in policy and economically will only come for those who can pay for them. At the moment (year), the reactionary forces typified by House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, but certainly not limited to him, have stifled most advances.

There has not been sufficient outcry by voters or courage by lawmakers to catalyze the state change required. The commonwealth has been foundering for two decades and reactionaries need a dope slap, likely several.

They are terrified of raising any taxes. Odd though, isn't it that they let then Gov. Willard Mitt Romney pretend that his multiple new and increased fees weren't taxes because he said they weren't.

We see what failing to pay for the necessary can do. Education, public safety, business innovation and on and on worsen and fail. The inevitable fixes only become more expensive. We now can look at a worst-case future of being like Michigan.

Perhaps having these issues aired in the Times will help, even if they are expressed imprecisely. Certainly if the MSM here were doing their civic duty, the news and editorial pages will increasingly carry calls for the legislature to enable and not obstruct the necessary maintenance and improvements we need so desperately. Years of pretending things will suddenly become great without intervention and taxes haven't done it.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

Saved from Voting Republican

It's puerile. It's emotional. It's personal. Yet, there's a Republican I could vote for.

Fortunately, Ralph Martin has saved me from my weakness. He again took himself out of consideration for a political office.

According to the local rags, this time it's Boston mayor he isn't running for. The Globe has the straight off the press conference mic story — he'll run the local HQ of his gigantic law firm. The Herald claims to have spoken directly with him. Over at the Phoenix, David Bernstein lets loose a short pseudo-lament, "Will nobody step in with a serious campaign to enliven the tedium of the suffering political journalists?" To this I add and the voters. If Menino runs for another term, it would be a yawner.

He has the record for longest tenure in the job (elected in 1993 in his own right after four months as acting mayor). Give it a rest. He's not a bad mayor, just out of ideas and effectiveness.

A lot of good stuff has been hanging and not likely to get any resolution or advance with him. We had a shot to be an early free Wi-Fi town. We might have gotten out of the smothering monopoly of Comcast, as most suburbs have already. We could have been a bicycling city. We might have gotten clean and efficient cops and firefighters. Name the initiative and the answers range from no to not yet.

Thomas Michael Menino is our English Channel swimmer who doesn't swim. He's looking across the Strait of Dover, but not only isn't he in the water, he's still dressed in one of his lumpy suits. He's not going anywhere. He doesn't have the wit or political capital to pull off great innovations or even proper maintenance of existing systems like schools.

He's a dust devil when we need a tornado. It's past time for greater energy, a mandate for sweeping changes, and some big, honking new ideas.

Personally, I like Ralph Martin, enough to forgive his being a Republican. Yet, we should not base our votes on knowing and liking someone. Sure, in town meeting and other forms of direct democracy, personal affinity and identification can be the decision points.

Yet, Ralph has always had insight and the ability to implement, notably as Suffolk DA. Oddly enough, that insight appears to be the final deciding factors here.

He's 55 and figures if he got the mayoralty, that would take him up to retirement. He's a superb manager (the city has long needed one of those), but he's also a top business attorney. Taking over the huge Bingham McCutchen LLP office here means he can pick his drives and fights. He can run the show and still get fascinating cases.

That's refreshing to hear that he doesn't have the fire and vanity for politics, and is willing to leave it for someone who does. That's a welcome alternate to Menino, who has often said, "What else would I do?"

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Castrating Word

Whisper, "Impeach," and almost everyone within earshot in Congress finds their gonads shrinking to microscopic proportions. Even the former Queen of Bluster, House Speaker Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro Pelosi, morphs into a small, tweeting, caged songbird.

She predates the Baby Boom by six years (her birthday is this very day of days; I hope someone gives her a courage refill). She's old enough to have gone to school when they taught civics and history. As a California and then U.S. Representative, she should also understand such concepts as checks and balances, and the Bill of Rights.

Unfortunately, she is not the only coward in Congress. She does submit daily and willingly to a President, Vice President and bit players who are well into destroying our democracy and freedoms.

Let there be no doubt that at the least George Bush and Dick Cheney should and could be impeached. Pelosi becomes the pivot because that is the duty of the House and she must act for it to happen. As constitutional scholar and gadfly Bruce Fein has said and written in many fora, she single-handedly took impeachment off the table, despite the huge groundswell of support for it among the public.

Fein has also testified before the U.S. Senate on the travesty of Bush's signing statements. Fortunately, his profile is so high the lawless administration won't ship his to Gitmo or elsewhere for re-education, but it must gall them not to do so.

If you've been living in a red world or neocon bubble, there are many sites and other resources listing the specific impeachment bases. For example:
Also, for the simply outraged, Dan Savage's ITMFA site has a not-safe-for-work title and bumper stickers on the subject.

More important at this point though is understanding why impeachment now is crucial to the future of our freedoms and democracy. Pelosi and her flock of capons are unwilling to act and have totally failed in their duty to protect us. Frankly, we are not getting what we are paying for. Our cowardly House is doing a far worse job than some 435 guys off the street.

If you need further clarity on this issue, click over to a Bill Moyers Journal segment, Tough Talk on Impeachment. Please note that this is in two parts and the second video link is near the bottom of the text. Together, they run 40 minutes or so.

In addition to Fein, The Nation contributor John Nichols discusses the basis and need for impeachment of both Cheney and Bush. He is the author of The Genius of Impeachment. By the bye, Fein wrote the first articles of impeachment for Bill Clinton.

I won't predigest the content of the show. Suffice it to write that we are long overdue to act and that anyone who cares about our system of government should start today. In fact, this is Nancy's birthday. Give the present of clear direction.

  1. You can email her here.
  2. Write her D.C. office at Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, 235 Cannon HOB, Washington, DC 20515
  3. Drop by her California office at 450 Golden Gate Ave., 14th Floor, San Francisco, CA 94102
  4. Call her D.C. number, (202) 225-4965
Anything that would let her know you are watching, you are bitterly disappointed, and you demand that she act to save our democracy would be a great birthday present. Give the gift of courage.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cuomo Hedges on Obama

Here's looking at you, Dems. Geraldine Ferraro (top), former VP candidate, brayed like a donkey. Mario Cuomo (bottom), former NY governor, orated like a statesman. Coming onto November, the Democrats might weigh Cuomo's comments.

I've already held forth on Ferraro. She has marginalized herself back to another century and seems to speak like a 19th Century man. For a view from another angle, over at The Root, Marjorie Valbrun brings down the class and privilege hammers in Black Women Are Not Feeling the Feminists' Pain. She tears the rag off the bush.

For a jollier treatment, head over to Lunch with the FT: Mario Cuomo. This is just the latest in an addictive series of conversations with famous folk in all areas of business, politics, the arts and beyond. You even get to see what they ate and drank, and what it cost.

The wonderful Financial Times has an odd fixation with food and drink. Their weekend edition has impossible-to-source recipes from a famous chef, Rowley Leigh — the recipe equivalent of those movie critics who write primarily to show they've seen and analyzed everything, you plebe. On the top end though, the casual tabletop chats over lunch are masterworks of eavesdropping.

Cuomo is a Clinton leaner, whose son, NY AG Andrew Cuomo, has endorsed Hillary. Yet, his one voiced trepidation about Obama's candidacy is a much sharper expression than the same idea by others.

His version is worthy of consideration even to those of who who disagree. Regular readers here know that I am a bit nervous about a President Obama stumbling as our governor, Deval Patrick, has in not being able to get consensus from the incumbent reactionaries. Yet, I believe that this is a chance well worth taking.

As background, be aware that Cuomo is not some isolationist who fears immigrants. He sees America as having benefited from each wave of newcomers, not a melting pot but a mosaic in his terms. He adds that either Clinton or Obama can win because we are "open to excellence of all kinds." He thinks Americans are not so bigoted as to reject a great candidate.
"I honestly, objectively conclude, a good Greek-American could have won: Dukakis. A good Italian could have won: Giuliani – given the correction of certain moves. A good Irishman: obviously Kennedy. A good black … I don’t think there’s any question." A woman? "Absolutely."
In that light, were he is nervous about Obama related to that oft-quoted aphorism he coined, "You campaign in poetry, but you govern in prose."

He told the editor, Chrystia Freeland:
Obama can give a speech. He’s very, very strong personally. His persona is wonderful, just like Reagan. Reagan went out there and said, "Morning in America", we’re going to change everything. That’s all he had to say because everybody was unhappy with the previous period. So they’re unhappy with the previous period now...Nobody promised better than Reagan and what he offered us was an utter failure.
Coming up for voters in Pennsylvania and the remaining primary states, and particularly superdelegates, will face that optimism/cynicism choice. Both sides on this have fallen back to the I'm-only-being-realistic pose of those who must rely on gut feelings. Clinton's camp promises she offers solutions and not speeches, despite her scant and spotty record of achievement. Obama's asks us to trust and hope, the standard progressive slogans.

Those would be two very different presidencies. After being beaten and burned by GOP controlled for stymied Congresses and the past seven years of abject failure, this nation is certainly as ready for big changes, as they were in electing Reagan. Yet, do we go for the wonk or the crusader?

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

BlogHer Still Waiting for Candidates to Wake Up

Even Lisa Stone's outrage is perky. I warn you because you can catch her lecture on blogs and/by women at She says tough stuff, but very nicely.

Steve was at the presentation by the co-founder of BlogHer. Her What Women Want: How Candidates and Companies Hurt and Help Themselves with Women Today was part of Harvard Law's Berkman@10 series. That insidious Garfield used his Nokia phone and Qik software to vlog live. By the time I took Red Line to Orange Line and shank's mare home, I found that he had streamed the lecture. At least he missed the Q&A portion and the ambient noise stretched the capabilities of his phone. There was a little justification for having made the round trip.

For good measure, I'll stick a crop of a capture from his video here. The pic above is from BlogHer, which you can click on for her bio.

She's a great marketeer, an anomaly for a former journalist. She admits to not being all that geeky and regrets that she isn't an engineering sort. However, she and her co-founders have managed over three years to build a advertising rich and profitable blog community, with over 1,400 "contextually targeted blogger affiliates" (that's regular bloggers on known topics to you and me), a series of fat and popular conferences and on and on.

So all her growth and marketing examples were fine and unlike general, no new-media versions. However, the fascinating stuff was how the political parties and Presidential candidates have blow off the 8.3 million unique monthly visitors during this whole campaign. They continue to do so, stupidly in my estimation.

The potential coverage was a gimme, and seemed a natural, at least for the two remaining Dem candidates. BlogHer offered massive coverage at tiny effort to any and all candidates. Fewer than one accepted.

By the time the two major parties' candidates announced, BlogHer was ready. Over 200 of their community squirreled up during last summer's big conference to agree on 12 key questions in four major areas. BlogHer biggies then went to all Dem and GOP candidates' campaigns and offered:
  • To video their responses to the 12 policy questions
  • To ask the same questions of each candidate (no surprises or ambushes)
  • To conduct the interview using a friendly BlogHer blogger from their party
  • To publish and promote the video on BlogHer
I was astonished to hear that not a single candidate, including Clinton and Obama took them up on it. This surely falls in the gift horse and mouth class. Every candidate has put out a lot more effort for a lot less return many times.

The readership and viewership demographic is only representative of the quintessential American voter. You'd think...

Stone noted that they were astonished how little the candidates had on big issues for women on their own sites. Clinton is very recently coming on, augmenting health care with some education issues. Obama doesn't seem to get it. For example, on his main site there seems to be a total absence of anything about reproductive rights.

A question that Stone helped formulate for the 12 was whether birth control should be paid for by health insurance. There's a good, open, non-partisan question that lets a candidate be candid, or not, and doesn't presuppose one right answer.

The best they have gotten at all has been a couple of campaigns saying they'd consider letting a spouse answer the questions. BlogHer's members told management no dice.

Stone's folk have been scouring the candidates' websites trying to answer the 12 on their own. They are also searching for relevant video in campaign material. They may end up creating a profile as best they can. That remains damning for candidates too arrogant or clueless to respond. Stone adds that just because the candidates don't provide answers on their sites doesn't mean they don't have those answers. I remain astonished that their campaign staffs have not made it plain that this is a request they would be smart to honor.

In that same vein, Stone noted that last year's BlogHer conference invited all announced candidates. None came. Two (Clinton and McCain) sent representatives. Then the next week, all seven appeared at the Daily Kos convention.

In her default mode as marketer, Stone profiled the desirability of BlogHer members and bloggers in numbers, purchasing power, influence among peers, and of course, as voters. Whether it is to promote a new product or sell a candidate, the rules for connecting with BlogHer folk are the same:
  1. Reach out to established, existing women's networks. Don't make them go exclusively to your website.
  2. Stop marketing to and start talking with women. The approach should be, "Hi. Tell me what you want."
  3. Don't separate women into moms, singles or some stereotypical monolithic bloc.
  4. Don't limit the conversation to so-called women's issues. They are as likely to care about Iraq as knitting.
Stone says that the approach is crucial. "If you strike the right tone, we'll reward you...If you miscommunicate, you can do damage to your brand."

Unfortunately, she adds, candidates are pretty narrow right now. They want to engage with an archetype of how they think of women as a group. This seems to be reflected too in such 20th Century ideas as tucking some "women's issues" on their website and thinking they've addressed this massive audience.

Stone sees this as an effort to carefully control the interaction. Instead, she suggests that they go to where the women already congregate and sites they trust, like the popular blogs on BlogHer and elsewhere. This may get candidates out of thinking they can pour all women into "discrete purple and pink silos."

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Political Crotch Test

Cyclists, particularly mountain bikers, have great argot. One term, crotch test, applies at the moment. That's when you're churning along and hit a deep hole that causes the saddle to knock out your wind, display flashes before your eyes, and give you that turn-and-cough experience.

Barack Obama's speech on race and related issues was a great colander or winnowing paddle. It separated those eager to bolt. In addition to those in favor of McCain or Clinton, those wanting an excuse to reject Obama's candidacy had lots of tiny nails to hang their equivocations on. Whether they were confused or racist or undecided, they suddenly had gotcha phrases. Others simply could play offended that he'd speak what so many have muttered or whispered about for months.

I fear the majority do not share his hope or, as some would have it, fantasy that our long-standing racial divides can be addressed directly and eventually closed. He spoke to Americans as though we were largely intelligent adults. We're not used to that from politicians or MSM.

Most TV and other MSM didn't even bother to hear. Watch Jon Stewart's recap of the typical analysis, below:

Plethora of 'pinions

Of course The Nation and a few papers will offer solid coverage. However, some of the strongest analysis comes in the Black Commentator. Warning: you don't get trivial snippets telling you what to think; the 11 editorial-board members have a range of views and take-aways.

Note: The article contains mini-bios of the authors as well as emails or websites or both for most of them.

The caustic, some say toxic, sermon outtakes from Rev. Jeremiah Wright do state the obvious so often noted by historians, economists, and many well-read among us. Class and race are tightly woven. Wright certainly spoke with evidence that a larger, often rapacious white society has had a vested interest in exploiting an underclass. It is much like colonial eras, including our own United Fruit-style ventures. At its worst, capitalism enables some to under-compensate where they profit from exploiting the human and material resources of others. Many of the worst exploiters often would say, "If we didn't do this, these people would starve." The same logic and words played for slavery, child labor and sweat shops domestically.

In that context, Wright's comments are pretty accurate. Some of his phrasing and even the volume seem to shock many who, like me, attend WASPy churches where ministers seem afraid to offend pledging units. I'm fortunate to have had broader experience. I have been Black churches in the North and South numerous times. Also, my favorite UU preacher, Victor Carpenter, never let us leave a sermon without specific social-action tasks for the week.

Over at the Black Commentator, read each piece and consider them as a whole. A few excerpts follow to tease your brain:
  • Bill Fletcher Jr. — Yet Senator Obama, at one and the same time, attributes much of the anger of Rev. Wright to the past, as if Rev. Wright is stuck in a time warp, rather than the fact that Rev. Wright's anger about the domestic and foreign policies of the are well rooted--and documented--in the current reality of the USA...The anger of a Rev. Wright is not a throw-back, but is a reality check.
  • William L. (Bill) Strickland — (T)he real issue: Can America face the truth about itself and its History? Reverend Wright is doubtful and Obama is hopeful.
  • Ethel Long-Scott — (Obama's speech) did nothing to unravel the central contradiction of Mr. Obama’s candidacy. That contradiction is rooted in the fact that America has always needed a class of workers who are kept downtrodden and in poverty to make its economy work. That is a fact that has not changed, and none of the remaining presidential candidates are dealing with it. ..The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was trying to raise some of these issues as he advised his congregation not to get so lost in their “middleclassness” that they failed to reach out to those in poverty...We can conclude that while major party politicians can talk about change, they are not likely to fight for the kinds of changes that would really end poverty. To do that, we the people must organize with new ideas and a new vision of justice.
  • James Jennings — The limitation of the speech is that class issues are raised as important, but little discourse about how we can discuss such, within a context of the nation's racial history, and racial alienation among many in this society. Alas, raising this issue as natinonal, indeed international, may be the first step in responding to the latter.
  • Lenore J. Daniels — Look at the U.S. domestic and foreign policies of the last 40 years. These policies have not benefited the masses of Black, Brown, Red, and poor whites nor have they benefited the Caribbean, Latin American, African, and Middle-Eastern nations...Racism is “endemic” in this country. It rests at the foundation of this nation...Would Rev. Martin Luther King have to apologize for his “Beyond Vietnam,” Riverside speech if he were alive today?
  • David A. Love — Obama had a clear choice: either respond to the attacks against him, out of cold political cynicism, desperation and blind ambition - and throw his pastor and mentor Rev. Jeremiah Wright off the cliff (not to mention the African American community, in the process) - or speak from the heart and make it plain. He chose the latter...Obama redirected the current discussion away from the unhelpful distractions, the scapegoating and the smokescreens, and towards the larger fundamentals of inequality and power in America. He addressed the legacy of oppression that people of color face, and the economic deprivation that many whites experience, all against the backdrop of corporate greed and a devotion to business as usual among the political elites. This is just the beginning of a conversation that is needed in this country.
  • Jamala Rogers — Most black folks are attracted to—even if superficially—anyone who speaks truth to power, who can “tell the truth and shame the devil.” I have yet to find a black person to wholly condemn the sermons by Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Our lives, our voices are muted or silenced every day in so many ways. Even our joys and successes are eclipsed by louder voices and more powerful images that propel the perceived worst of a people into the public domain. This often results in our blanket condemnation of one another without looking at the historical roots of our oppression...The question that remains is whether Obama’s goal of opening up space for substantive dialogue about race will end up in America’s graveyard of missed opportunities.
  • Steven Pitts — But the power of a speech lies not its words nor its deliverer. The power of a speech lies in the strength of the movement that inspires the speech and is inspired by the speech. Without such a movement, the spoken words are like the sound of a tree falling in a forest when no one is around. The challenge for Black progressives (and all progressives) has been to use this moment and the incredible energy unleashed by the Obama candidacy to build a movement for social change that will make a lasting mark on U.S. society.
  • Carl Bloice — A friend wrote to me right after the speech: "What if we actually end up with a president who is capable of drawing lessons from history and conveying them to the nation he leads?"...I would be more than surprised and pleased if the other prominent politicians exhibited such responsible thinking and understanding.
  • Larry Pinkney — (Deferring to Cynthia McKinney), "I am glad that candidate Obama mentioned the existing racial disparities in education, income, wealth, jobs, government services, imprisonment, and opportunity. Now it is time to address the public policies necessary to resolve these disparities. Now it is time to have the discussion on how we are going to come together and put policies in effect that will provide real hope and real opportunity to all in this country. "
The larger piece understandably reveals very differing views on the speech. Yet, the common themes of the inseparable race, class and policy issues emerge in all. These are what our MSM chooses not to cover. It is far, far easier to whittle this down to a simple call for better race relations.

It is one thing to call for dealing with our racist past and quite another to demand dealing with the complex issues of power and the commonweal. If Hillary Clinton is as smart as she claims to be, she'll jump on this, pick it up and run. Neither Dem is anywhere near progressive enough for me, but if one is elected saying the new administration will immediately and constantly deal with the issues Obama raised, the nation has to be better off for it.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No Casino Magic

The Finance Fairies seem to have scratched Massachusetts off their delivery schedule. There'll be no surprise economic miracle here today or tomorrow or anytime in the next decade.

I confess to mixed feelings seeing that the Legislative Committee on Economic Development will recommend that the whole Massachusetts House reject Gov. Deval Patrick's three-casino plan. Their 10 to 8 ought-not-to-pass (a.k.a. up yours!) recommendation is almost always fatal to a bill.

I don't see big gaming as the way out, or even a way out, of our money troubles. We remain in the same dreadful spot — lots of needs, no funding, and no proposals from the House, which controls state moneys.

His High Pettiness, House Speaker Sal DiMasi won yet again. His (insert noun) is bigger than anyone's. However, he remains so shortsighted that he smugly leaves us hanging. He and his minions have stymied every proposal from Patrick to free money to get our economy moving. More important, DiMasi has nothing, nada, zilch to propose himself. He'll naysay us into squalor.

He won't raise business taxes to fair levels that these identical companies pay in other states. He won't raise taxes to bring us even to the top half of tax rates in the nation. He continues to push off infrastructure necessities as legislators and nearly two decades of Republican governors have done.

I'm beginning to believe that Patrick did not crop his hair closely. Rather DiMasi is causing him to lose it in frustration.

Patrick has given DiMasi one funding source another, only to have it stuffed back in his face. Casinos were down the list. The best we can hope for now is that legislators and voters scream Enough! at Sal.

The best outcome for today's latest financial roadblock would be for the legislature to say collectively, "Okay, we can't even fantasize on gambling money. We have to come up with some way to keep the commonwealth perking."

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

News, Noise, Annoys

It's time again for the annual self-absorption fest. The State of the News Media report gives professionals a great chance to whine about how the Project for Excellence in Journalism gets it wrong, how it does not fully understand their efforts and brilliance.

For years too, bloggers can increasingly warm themselves in reflected glory. More and more Americans visit blogs and claim to get news from them. The facts that nearly all of us are part-times doing it for free and rarely have any real news is not important. Some bloggers somewhere are doing it this time when MSM are doing news decreasingly well.

The chant that blogs are all about pictures of pets has more often turned into a winger mumble that they are damned liberals confusing opinion with knowledge. In many ways, that has a good basis. Consider that most of us:
  • Write in snatched moments by a single blogger
  • Don't have staff to gather news and do what fact checking we can on the fly
  • Have the arrogance abetted by our readers that folk do pay attention to what we think
  • Are rarely at accepted sources for regurgitated quasi-news, like press conferences and other staged events
On the other hand, consider multi-contributor efforts that stress news, even the hyper-local snippets that I have sometimes derided.


This is true citizen's journalism. It's real and it's local. The Watertown site teaches the natives how to report, write and edit news. Some of it seems trivial to outsiders, but that's long been long been true of even beloved weeklies. News to someone who knows the people, pastry shop or street is meaningless to many others. There's a lot in every day's H2Otown that MSM like the Boston Globe or TV stations can't or won't cover. It's news, it's there, and if the site doesn't cover it, for most of us, it's like it never happened. In addition, sites like this create an archive for research and reference that exists nowhere else.

Universal Hub

Many in this area don't go a day without clicking into Universal Hub for the same reasons, but with a very different slant. Adam Gaffin not only finds, digests and presents Boston-area and related news, rants, pictures and other features, but his thousands of readers add their details. Some comments are eye witness accounts, while others just put another briquette of frivolity on the grill. The dozens of daily pieces are concise and easy to browse. As with H2Otown, there's a ton here that won't make the MSM. In addition, UH often scoops the local papers and stations on smaller stories. In addition, it aggregates news, saving us time from trying to find other sources on our own.

I note too that the Globe certainly blundered when it dropped Adam's weekly column pointing to Boston news and oddments we didn't see elsewhere. This was not particular surprise though. The paper has long run citations from blogs and other online sources with no links in its own online edition. That's kind of like a restaurant serving only pictures and descriptions of food.

How 'bout Bloggers?

So what's the noise about news and blogs this year, you ask? You can see just that section of the report here.

The punchline is that many more people are viewing blogs, but that most say they see them as entertainment and not news sources. We can stop and chuckle considering Fox (alleged) News and such that they do think they are getting news from daily.

Supporting the rationale, only 5% of bloggers (Pew polls) claim "they concentrated primarily on news and current events." A related makes-you-think number (Zogby poll), however, is that 15% of Americans read blogs for news and information. This 3:1 ratio suggests that the hobbyists and voyeurs are weighing more to blogs as news sources. I bet that next year's report will reflect more of the same as more bloggers add or increase their news content.

Navel gazers (blog about personal experiences) topped bloggers at 37%. The next was more my style of opinion ("issues of public life," in the survey) at 11%. The news motivation was third at 5%.

Interestingly, the report leads with "most Americans are not turning to blogs for news." Numerically that's true, but the trends have been for modest, steady increases here. (You can explore the four previous reports here.)

Just as internet users don't know quite what to do with blogs, neither do newspapers. The report spins it, "If citizens are gravitating to blogs more for personal pleasure, traditional media are working to connect them more to the news. Fully 95% of the top 100 newspapers included blogs from reporters in March 2007, up from 80% in 2006" (Bivings Group).

I won't be overtly catty about the value of newspaper blogs. I have noted that in the main, these are just additional duties thrown on busy reporters and editors. Looking at the Globe's for examples, their hearts and minds are clearly not in it.

Getting to the quick, the report includes "...blogging appears to have become a compelling way to attract new audiences online." The latest figures, from 2006, (Nielsen/Net Ratings) have it that, "..the number unique visitors to blog pages on the 10 most popular newspaper sites grew 210% from December 2005 to December 2006. Collectively, those visitors made up 13% of total traffic to these Web sites."

Implications in the report include that ad revenues online will continue growing, often at the expense of print. Newspapers and big websites will tussle for the money. More blogs will get ad money, some enough to sustain them and perhaps profit.

Disclaimer: Here ads bring in small amounts. This blog is also one of many that gets additional pittances from readers accessing us through pay services, such as Lexis. It's not enough to keep me in beer, much less skew any of my coverage or opinions.

Among the most intriguing figures in the report was expectations for bloggers and news hounds. These are tucked in the financial section. Consider:
The majority of Americans expect blogs to play an increasingly prominent role in bringing them the news. According to the Zogby Poll, 55% believe blogging will be an important aspect of journalism in the future. An overwhelming number (74%) saw amateur citizen reporters, as opposed to established media outlets, playing a key role.
Coupled with a youth-heavy skew to regular blog readers, this suggests considerable opportunity for growth and more blog news content. This has a solid fit with a 2007 Synovate finding that only 15% of Americans read blogs daily.

As frenzied efforts by newspapers and others make blogs common, accepted news sources can only expand that number. Older adults, boomers, were not early adopters of blogs, but are being sucked into the vortex surrounding them.

It's healthy for news in general. Rather than simply bemoan MSM cutbacks that lead to less and less local coverage, we can rejoice in the sites that more than putty these cracks.

I bet next year's report will show increases in blog readership for news as well as the percentage of bloggers who concentrate on news. We probably don't need much more than a doubling to 10% of news-oriented blogs to get a critical mass enough to attract those laggard online readers.

Ideally, this trend will capture more of the teens and 20s who grew up on those LITE snippets of TV news or what passes for news. Few of them read newspapers. If they get news and analysis online, we'll all be better off.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Critters on the Wing

A noteworthy winger comment today gets special treatment here, because:
  • It included a very long post that was an entire anti-Obama column and a link to an anti-Clinton one.
  • It came in related to my fustigation of Geraldine Ferraro last week — out of place.
Instead, if you have not seen the Obama one, you should read it. It's intellectually and politically weak, but likely portends GOP attacks on whoever becomes the Dem nominee. It's pretty typical gotcha pseudo-analysis, picking this and that, and then extrapolating sweeping conclusions. Yawn.

You can find Barack Obama Offers Wild Revision of His Own History at the arch-conservative Human Events. You can find more of author Paul R. Hollrah's oeuvre there too. He is an equal-slanderer for all Dem candidates and liberal ideas.

This column ends with a call to spread the message, which apparently led an anonymous poster from Illinois to present it to me this morning. Happy St. Patrick's Day!

My gift box also had a link, but not the Newsday column, Clinton earmark requests: You ask, we don't tell. This has a bit more substance, noting that she has not been forthcoming on earmarks, which everyone except Senators and those who get the benefits seem to hate. She should have fessed up when challenged on hers and didn't.

These sniping incidents have come from the fringes and not the Republican party per se. They probably do foretell what we'll hear in the summer and fall. Unfortunately for the GOP, their impact is likely muted. Those who hate Democrats, Obama, Clinton, liberals, progressives, liberal and such are already convinced of their evil.

The best those who advertise the gotcha pieces can hope is that they befuddle the already confused. We have seen in the news-like-programs such as 60 Minutes people saying they have heard that Obama is a radical Muslim. They are three-quarters to the place these wingers want them to be.

The desperation that drives these writers to such works is understandable. The alternate is to look at the abject failures of their own party, particularly over the past seven years. We can expect many more efforts at diversion and calls to emotion. Be warned.

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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Equal Marriage? Sure...Sort Of.

Our leading lights are pretty dim on marriage equality. Their perceived wisdom is that doing and saying the right thing is the wrong thing for Presidential candidates, at least as far as same-sex marriage is concerned.

It was particularly frustrating to watch the vegetable soup of Dem candidates bob and turn early on. The few who came out for marriage equality, like Kucinich and Gravel, never had a shot and had lots of obvious shortcomings. They were, in effect, the Ron Pauls of our side. Everyone enjoyed them, much like the comic relief of the clown car.

For those who support marriage, including enabling equality, the most painful aspect surely had to be John and Elizabeth Edwards. After the first debates and the big winnowing, John was the closest to a progressive left standing. Yet, despite his wife's common sense and innate fairness on the issue, he could not or would not get off his civil unions, but begrudgingly, stance. The remaining Dem candidates have the same tepid and cowardly view.

You'd think John's exposure to such civil-rights wisdom would have converted him long ago. Instead, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are as conservative as John on this.

Likewise, I generally like our U.S. Senator John Kerry, but am aghast that he can't cross the bridge here. Yesterday, there were some fascinating comments on a fine BMG diary by Laurel contrasting Kerry's GLBT positions with those of challenger Jim Ogonowski.

There was a lot of chatter on that post. Particularly noteworthy to this point was Marc Davidson's:
Kerry's position will be clear
once he's fully given up his presidential aspirations. Kerry is on the right side of this issue, but had made an unfortunate calculation that the right side was the wrong side with regard to his presidential candidacy.
In his defense (however weak), this was a calculation that most Mass. politicians made up until very recently with regard to SSM. Now the other position is a liability. Who would have thought it possible?
This (sigh) may be correct. Candidates' calculi seems to include the cynical (or pragmatic, depending on your view) position that morality and reason are only meaningful if you first get in power. Getting there may mean lying, directly or by omission.

Hillary and Bill have always been pretty socially conservative. DOMA has Bill's endorsement, literally and figuratively. I think it's his worst disgrace of his administration. Barack claims to be against SSM and may or may not be in his closeted heart.

Regardless, both remaining candidates are like Kerry here. They are convinced that were they to declare they were in favor of marriage equality, they'd be unelectable. That's bitterly amusing in as much that as recently as four years ago, being Black or female would have been viewed the same way.

As they can't fake their appearance, they have managed to make the most of what they have done and what they think. On the other hand, they can fake their thoughts and feelings on such issues as SSM.

We can bemoan that candidates second guess their positions on their perceived alignment with voters — maybe a tiny, tiny bit left of where they think the electorate is. That should give the illusion of leadership and courage.

Certainly sweeping progressive improvements are not likely to come from an administration headed by either such timorous folk. That may reduce us to hopes for:
  • Incremental improvements from a new leader
  • Support for moderate change from voters exhausted by incompetence and deceit from Republican administrations and legislators
  • At best, a few big changes when additional left-leaning legislators tip both houses of Congress from their current reactionary positions
The marriage-equality issue became a bellwether of the election. Because otherwise flaky and flawed candidates favored SSM, we can't know how that might have played if they had gotten farther in the winnowing process. We know only that the two survivors cling to their perceptions that it's too dangerous a place to visit.

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Kerry Flies the Take-Me-or-Leave-Me Flag

Our junior Senator (with a mere 24 years tenure), John Kerry gave a bunch of us the better part of an hour by phone today. I'll muse a bit on his comments about his pending re-election campaign.

Over at BlueMassGroup, Bob Neer live blogged the Kerry conversation — no mean feat, with a so-so connection, Kerry having to delay and absent himself to run between votes, and a motley crew of bloggers, supporters and even a marine scientist asking questions.

Kerry seemed in his element. I suspect he was sincere when he said it would a regular happening. Netroots and all...

There's more info coming in a future post about crippling Bush program cuts and how Congress is restoring some crucial aspects. Meanwhile, consider that Kerry faces primary opposition and a likely GOP opponent in November. He has the office, his bank account is impressive, and he won his last re-election in 2002 with 80% of the vote.

On today's call, he claimed he does not assume victory ("I never do," as he put it). So, we have to wonder how real is his opposition from both sides? What tack will they take?

Candidates for Kerry's seat have until Tuesday, May 6th, to file with signatures. However, running for U.S. Senate is not trivial and announced candidates are pretty well set. In fact, one has already dropped out and endorsed another; very right wing Republican Kevin Paul Scott abandoned for Jim Ogonowski at the end of January.

Current challengers to Kerry include:
It's not fair and not too meaningful, but the initial Federal Election Commission filings on this race are risible. The other guys start with hundred or thousands and Kerry with millions of dollars. We can expect if not a flood at least a spittoon full of cash, particularly for the Republican nominee. There will be ad budgets.

It's easy to predict that it'll be Ogo, as his team likes to call him (I prefer the Og), against Kerry in November. Kerry will skunk him, but not by 80% to 20%.

O'Reilly Fracture

The Ed O'Reilly candidacy is perhaps the most salient. He positions himself as the progressive against the centrist and has a case to make.

He's a firefighter (and son, grandson and nephew of firefighters) turned criminal defense lawyer turned do-gooder.

Amusingly enough to those of us who consider legendary liberal Senators Kerry and Barack Obama as not left enough, O'Reilly positions himself for the cliché rather than the reality of Massachusetts. Many locals may vote for the most liberal Presidential candidate, but still be socially and fiscally conservative. We saw that too as the Og came pretty close to Niki Tsongas in the Congressional special election last year.

O'Reilly proclaims in fairly simplistic but moderately defensible terms that he is for and Kerry is against:
  • single-payer health care
  • immediate start to withdrawing troops from Iraq
  • marriage equality
  • closing rich folk's tax loopholes
  • impeaching President Bush and Vice President Cheney
  • mandating local-government use of renewable energy
On today's call, Kerry rebutted some of that and if they end up debating, he'll certainly have different views of those argument. Well, most of those. Kerry is wishy-washy on impeachment and opposed to marriage equality.

He said he's not going to change what he does because of those campaigns. He intends to run on his record.

Of course, in the party primary, O'Reilly will have to plead that voters take a flier on him. Toss the guy who has brought home the projects and done much of what you wanted for 24 years. That's likely an impossible sell.

Moreover, he needs some work on the arguments. His Iraq-withdraw platform is pretty thoroughly thought out. Because he likes an existing bill (HR676) on single-payer, he lists its features and that looks pretty solid too. However, the rest is vague. Education is to fund Head Start fully and examine No Child Left Behind. The environment — he's for protecting it. Likewise, energy is some sketchy education ideas and those local mandates.

O'Reilly seems to be left of Kerry and he has progressive ideas and ideals. There's not much muscle on this skeleton.

Warrin' Beatty

For me, GOP candidate Jeff Beatty is the Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore of the race. He is a winger. He has his own security firm. He was an Army Delta Force captain, and then an FBI and CIA agent.

He has his own section on YouTube, mostly winger cable news hosts talking to him as a terrorism subject-matter expert. Other than an endorsement from a retired officer, there's nothing really related to the current campaign. Beatty is no Steve Garfield.

Beatty has a small set of bellicose and somewhat churlish issues, including:
  • (No) Immigration — No amnesty or benefits for unregistered aliens. Close the borders and keep all the money for genuine American taxpaying workers.
  • Crush 'em and Train 'em in Iraq and Afghanistan. Withdraw timetables are for ignorant sissies. Keep fighting until we get the locals ready to handle their defense. Only then can we discuss phased withdraw. Oh, and he'll pray for our soldiers.
  • Tax Cuts and Program Slashes. Tax cuts are close to an economic panacea. " get more take home pay. It's simple!" Then cut spending and shrink government.
  • Guns for All. The Cap'n is a huge Second Amendment guy who'll oppose any effort to hinder gun ownership.
  • Teacher in Every Closet. He wants smaller class sizes and more teachers (and still smaller government with lower expenses?). He's big on school choice (public funding for private schools?) and "Jeff also understands how to make our schools safe." I think we can figure out how.
Shortly, this guy is going to see how much time and money it takes to contest this seat. He's likely out of there quickly, after declaring he raised the issues no one else was man enough to tackle.

Og Super-Pointy Stick

Ogonowski seems to have a permanent political ego swelling after a strong run for 5th CD replacement for Marty Meehan. Showing the often hidden conservative nature of much of exurban Massachusetts, he lost 51% to 45%. Now, he just can't help himself.

He styles himself, George-Washington style, as both a farmer and a soldier. It's seems accurate that he spent 28 years in the Air Force and Air National Guard. Most of that was as a manager. He was not Jeff Beatty. Likewise, his I'm-a-farmer claim needs qualification. He's still a manager. He runs his sister-in-law's 100 acre hay farm. Most of the dried grasses go to his wife for her horse farm. This is certainly not Granddaddy's farm or farming. He's retired military growing hay while the sun shines.

The 5th CD race was to many a surrogate battle. Jim's brother, John, was the known hero, a pilot who died in the 9/11 attacks. Niki's late husband, Paul, was a widely adored U.S. Congressman and Senator. Neither Jim nor Niki really had the credentials to claim Meehan's job outright. The game was afoot.

The Og isn't exactly lying about his background. Yet, the impression from his words is fuzzy to the point of hyperbole. Likewise, his platform is vague.

So far, the initial push is that Kerry is a long-time insider and out of touch with the hay farmer (or insert your job). As the Og puts it on his site:

“It’s a call to change the way Washington does business. It’s public service for the right reasons. That means serving the people and not the lobbyists and Washington insiders.”

Ogonowski claims he will strive to return government to the people and stand up to special interest groups and Washington insiders.

You can dig for specifics. The best set so far comes from his announcement as candidate:

  • Kerry doesn't visit the home district towns enough.
  • "Financial, economic, public and homeland" security is what people want and need.
  • Economic stimulus package = good.
  • Possible carryovers from the Tsongas race may be energy efficiency, stopping illegal immigration, and not bringing troops out of Iraq until the Iraqis can handle their defense.

Obviously, he won't be able to get by with the generalities that characterized the 5th CD race. That was rushed and neither Niki nor the Og had a legislative record and fleshed-out positions. Kerry has 24 years of legislation with a fair amount of goodies for the home folk as well as national laws.

Yet, the Og is great at the kind of VFW bar talk. Those illegals...war on brother, the hero...Washington insiders... Republicans and conservatives of all stripes will want to play kick the Kerry.

Unfortunately for the man from Dracut, Kerry has the cash as well as the record. It remains to be seen how many wingers and disgruntled voters will want to toss their money at the Og to prove their point. I predict far too few for his needs.

For his part, Kerry talked the talk today. "I'm not taking anything for granted," he told us. He's started his signature drive, centering on party activists and labor unionists.

My own cliché is that in light of the Og's absentee-Senator criticism, it's always good when Kerry hits the pavement. He speaks with lots of voters he doesn't often see. Some will tell him things he doesn't want to hear. Others will say a few things that make him think, act and represent them better.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Woe to Geraldine!

The I'm Just Being Realistic Award goes to Geraldine Ferraro this month. She becomes the sad and mad oldster who can't take responsibility for her words.

The 1984 Dem VP candidate refuses to see a problem with announcing that Barack Obama is lucky to be Black and is only able to advance because of his color. Consider:
If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color), he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.
I've long held that race must be an issue in this election. The first Black man to have a shot at the White House will necessarily have people who vote for him because of his color and others who vote against him because of it.

Yet, Ferraro's contention that his color is a key advantage is what has raised wails far beyond the Obama camp, and even a distancing by Hillary Clinton's. What is astonishing is that she thinks it was smart and cool. She would like people to say that because she faced and fought discrimination of various types for 40 years, she's untouchable on this.

Moreover, on Fox News, she was more audacious. She said Obama had better be nice to her. Specifically, she said after bragging about bringing in money for Clinton:
If Barack Obama is the candidate, he really should not antagonize people like me, because he's going to come to me and ask me to raise money for Barack Obama, and I would do it for him too if he stops doing this kind of horrendous attacks on me.
As a Southerner, I have to say, honey, you may have fought the feminist fight and even marched for Black people on occasion, but listen to yourself. You're saying — in full context — this Black man got where he was because people cut him slack for his race. Then you pile it on telling him he'd better know his place because you have so much power.

She compounds one offense with another. She seems to think she covered herself by saying she wouldn't have gotten the 1984 shot if she were a man, but the fact is that she's lost it.

Huntington Post is all over this. Henry Blodget had the shortest and probably clearest view. He wrote that her comments weren't racist, just moronic.

He holds that far beyond skin color, Obama's voter-popular traits are eloquence, intelligence and education, looks, inspiration, youth, charm, and freshness. "Does Ferraro seriously believe that a white Obama with all of the qualities above 'would not be in this position?' The Democrats have been waiting a decade for someone with these qualities to come along, and they'd take him or her in any shape, size, color, or species."

Apparently, she does. Were I the praying type, I'd beseech the heavens for what she also needs most — help me age gracefully.

Predictable Update: Late Wednesday, Ferraro stepped down, voluntarily she says, from Clinton's campaign finance committee. Keeping to the low road, she continued to hold that any fault was with others — "Am I sorry? No, no, no. I am sorry there are people who think I am racist."

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Primaries? No Guarantees!

Are the two Dem candidates being stupid...or do they just think we are? Each has been predicting a high correlation with and extrapolation from primary and caucus victories.

Clinton says she can win:
  • Highly populous states
  • Concentrations of white women
  • Blue-collar workers
Therefore, she'd have it, she wins the essential groups that any candidate must have to take the general election in November. Plus, she has that fetish of Ohio.

Obama says he can win:
  • Black voters
  • Southern states
  • Young voters
  • Independents
Therefore, he concludes that you must conclude that these groups will continue to be energized and skew the November vote. Plus Dems definitely will want the GOP to lose, so they'll cover polling places like ants on a dropped cookie.

It's the same argument and the same jive.

Truth be told — and we should not expect Clinton, McCain or Obama to be candid — where you win in the primary season is one general indicator, at best. Holding up the traditional clichés like you absolutely must win Ohio does not mean that a primary win in Ohio will translate at all into a November big win.

Variables will include:
  • Independents. Will they bother in November and will more more go nationwide to Bush lite McCain or the Dem? Moreover as Jeff Greenfield hypothesizes at Slate, many self-identifying to exit pollsters are instead registered in one of the major parties and will vote that way.
  • Skewed voting blocs. Dem-favoring primary voters won't stay home and cede the election if their favorite doesn't get the top spot. The Dem nominee doesn't have to beat the other Dem as well as McCain. So all that I'm better here or with this group stuff is hooey.
  • Big states/little states. A candidate who sucks up a state in the primary is beating only the party's candidate there. As we have seen for decades, it's unsafe to infer that the other party's nominee won't own that state when it really counts.
This posturing by both Obama and Clinton appears to be for the benefit of the super-delegates and assumes a convention battle. None candidate, nor any of us, should imagine that because either of them did well in a specific location or with a particular demographic that they must be the nominee.

It's a little more sensible to watch the polls that ask if the election were today, how would you vote in Obama v. McCain and Clinton v. McCain. Those aren't very accurate, but at least they ask the right question.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Attack of the Consensus Masters

Too much and then not enough has been made of Barack Obama and Deval Patrick's similarities.

On the trivial end, those literal types watching for chances to kick Presidential aspirant Obama seized the speech overlap. That Obama would lift several phrases directly from a Patrick speech — without concomitant oral footnotes — became an extreme example of the worst plagiarism and a moral failure beyond all belief. Yawn.

In fact, Patrick's trust-ourselves and hope-hope-and-work speeches are fairly hackneyed and borrow heavily from very similar phrasing. They only work or him and for Obama because each is sincere and charming.

Instead, the real comparison is how they gamble on consensus. We live in strident and cynical political times. We as a nation may have come out of WWII and into the following boom economy with hope for the nation and respect for our democratic processes. Then at least since Richard Nixon's administration, contention and a lot of deceit have ruled.

Some say we had a respite with the very good man, Jimmy Carter. Yet, he may be the best cautionary tale. He was surely one of our brightest and best hearted Presidents. Yet, he accomplished little, except beyond our nation's borders.

He arrived as the self-announced outsider who would break the rules and transcend party and other political impediments. Long before the smarmy G.W. Bush promised he was a uniter, Jimmy planned to get Washington to work together.

Folks love to blame this righteous, legume farming fellow for failing to pass his ambitious programs. Yet, in light of Patrick's funding struggles here and Obama's promises everywhere, we have to ask whether times were not ripe for Carter.

Just over a year ago, Patrick campaigned on and took office on a record of and promises for progressive changes through consensus. Now, Obama is pledging similar goals and tactics. Both claim long and specific histories of getting the powerful to compromise and work together — Patrick in the corporate world and Obama in the Illinois legislature and Congress.

Those who pooh-pooh talk of compromise, bipartisan efforts and cooperation are quick too to point to Patrick's stagnation as governor. The legislature here, and particularly House Speaker Sal DiMasi who controls the money bills, have stiffed him. They won't go along with his proposals or their funding. Moreover, they won't offer alternatives. The commonwealth crumbles, while they smirk.

So, it is fair to ask whether Patrick can get consensus and compromise. Will he spend his first full term fighting for funding instead of advancing his causes? Is this a personal failure or did he run afoul of an intractable power freak?

Likewise, as sick of war and economic incompetence as Americans are, will they be willing to try a similar approach with another great consensus builder? Is the mood of the voters sufficiently plain to the lethargic and reactionary Congress that a progressive President could accomplish big things?

Those questions are much more likely to be real and meaningful than some jive about whether Obama would order air strikes quickly enough in the pre-dawn darkness.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Non-Political Pointers

I've been leaving the national to others. Meanwhile, there are two non-political shorts over at Harrumph!
  • Tommy touts single-stream for all! The dump-it-all-in-one-big-cart recycling test including us is over and coming to all Boston neighborhoods. See Boston Trash Elite.
  • Vignette of the biggest, toughest Hell's Angel. I had a flashback to my year living across the street from the New York City clubhouse. See a couple moments with Vinny.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Huckabee in McCain's Bonnet

Smugness often glares in print. Consider double also-ran Henry Clay's 1840s comment that he'd rather be right than president.

Today's version is the self-effacing Mike Huckabee, in quitting the GOP race. His long-winded version in his concession speech was, "I'd rather lose an election than lose the principles that got me into politics in the first place."

In fairness to Clay, he was not only not president, he was right. He was strongly anti-slavery when it took insight and considerable courage. Huckabee, well, he's a pleasant enough guy who checks his brains at the door too often.

Huckabee's website's abridged version of the speech stresses his call for Republican unity. He puts this with an odd qualification though:
While many in the establishment never really believed I belonged, there were many in the country that did. Thanks to their sacrifices, I had a voice – and I only pray that I have been able to give them a voice.
I am reading, "Nearly one out of three think I'm right. Ignore them at your peril, Johnny!"

In light of all the results, there were minor flares indicating there may be a way to go with that unity. The outliers still on the menu in various states had their wee followings even yesterday.


Ron Paul

Mitt Romney




Rhode Island









Of course, the party is and should be far more concerned about Huckabee's victories in three caucus states (Iowa, Kansas and West Virginia) and five primary ones (Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee). Coupled with his solid polling in the states he lost (but often came in second), that puts extra pressure on the right vice presidential candidate to pull in evangelicals and social conservatives.

Not surprisingly, he invoked his religion repeatedly — St. Paul and Isiah. However, the earthly power he called into play was an army of the underclasses. He verbally assembled an impressive host of folk, seemingly as a warning to this party.

In thanking his small contributors, he said "Those are the folks who have given me a voice, and I only pray to God that I've been able to give them a voice..." His list then included:

  • unborn children of this country
  • hard-working people
  • (everyone) who puts on a uniform and keeps us free
  • every small business owner
  • single moms
  • guys...working two shifts

Then he had to break from his list of carefully crafted tropes to conclude:

For all of the conservatives of this country and party who want less government and who want what government they have to be a little more efficient, a little more effective, a little less filled with corruption, and a whole lot filled with the kind of competence that we pay for, I also believe that there are people out there for whom I hope I've given a voice, and that's the people who believe that we need to really overhaul our tax system and implement the Fair Tax and get rid of the IRS.
Those are his claims and I'm sure he'll stick to them. It remains to be seen whether his press-ganged army wants any GOP platform changes as a "group."

Huckabee's candidacy and programs differ so vastly from John McCain's that the Republican Party may have to hope that his former supporters vote begrudgingly to keep a Dem out of office or that they just stay home in November. Until the party reinvents itself as it has successfully several times, there'll be no unity. The King-James-told-me-so and love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin folk aren't about to make up with social moderates.

There can be no Huckabee vice presidency or even a cabinet slot, unless McCain introduces a Secretary of Mumbo Jumbo.

In a bit of historic eloquence, Huckabee delivered his concession in Texas with an Alamo ending. He spoke of how inspiring the dedication was of the 13-day holdouts there, knowing they'd die in their cause. He used that to return to his smug theme — "These were people who understood their battle was not about them. It was about the principles of liberty that they deemed more important than their own lives. "

While that's again an apt, if melodramatic, analogy for his failed campaign, it has an implicit message for McCain and party officials that maybe only Texans and those up on their history got. The seemingly meaningless loss at the Alamo actually delayed the Mexican army enough for Sam Houston's forces to mass and win the real battle, at San Jacinto, a short time later.

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