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Tuesday, September 30, 2008


This is the last few paragraphs from a Time magazine article, sent to me by my friend Janet, pointing out very explicitly how Palin's policies in Alaska are at odds with her (and McCain's) campaign rhetoric.

One thing Barack Obama and McCain disagree on is an oil windfall–profits tax. McCain is against it, on the theory that it is a tax and therefore bad, and also that it would discourage domestic production. Obama is for it, on the theory that if oil companies can make a nice profit when oil sells for $50 per bbl., they can still make a nice profit when it sells for more than $100, even if the government takes a bit and spreads the money around to those who are hurting from higher oil prices.

Although Palin's words side with McCain in this dispute, her actions side with Obama. Her major legislative accomplishment has been to revamp Alaska's windfall-profits tax in order to increase the state's take. Alaska calls it a "clear and equitable share" tax. The state assumes that extracting oil from the tundra costs about $25 per bbl. and takes as much as 75% of the difference between that and the sale price.

Why is a windfall-profits tax good for Alaska but not for the U.S.? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? People in Alaska are better than people in the rest of the U.S. They're more American. Although there are small towns and farms and high school hockey teams in the lower 48, there are fewer down here, per capita, than in Alaska. And there are many more journalists and pollsters and city dwellers and other undesirables who might benefit if every American had the same right to leech off the government as do the good citizens of Sarah Palin's Alaska.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Republican propaganda

Liberals have used the Hollywood establishment to promote political candidates and causes for a long time, but there's a solid conservative presence as well (one less with the death of Charlton Heston). Now they've got their own movie, directed by David Zucker (famous for the Airplane! movies), and starring many B List Hollywood Republicans, including Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, James Woods and Dennis Hopper.

An American Carol concerns a Michael Moore-like liberal filmmaker who's visited by three ghosts who teach him important lessons about loving America. No, I'm not kidding.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Memo from Wall Street

I found this on my favorite blog, Hullabaloo, but it comes from that well-known socialist rag, Barron's [that's sarcasm - Barron's is a business journal]. Below is just an excerpt, a good summary of what's gone wrong, but the full memo offers excellent, and still brief, specifics.

We on Wall Street feel somewhat compelled to take at least some responsibility. We used excessive leverage, failed to maintain adequate capital, engaged in reckless speculation, created new complex derivatives. We focused on short-term profits at the expense of sustainability. We not only undermined our own firms, we destabilized the financial sector and roiled the global economy, to boot. And we got huge bonuses.


Saturday, September 27, 2008

50 million watch first debate

I have to admit I was quite surprised to see that, according to Nielsen, FEWER people watched this debate than the first 2004 debate:

According to data from across 11 networks, the first presidential debate on September 26 between John McCain and Barack Obama drew 52.4 million viewers.

The TV audience for the first presidential debate of the 2008 election was roughly 16% smaller than the audience for the first debate between President Bush and John Kerry during the 2004 election, which drew 62.5 million viewers on September 30, 2004.


"Financial WMDs"

From my favorite blog, Hullabaloo:

. . . just as people who said "No Blood For Oil" were told to sit down and shut up or risk having the boogeyman use drone planes to create mushroom clouds in shopping malls, those who are saying today, "no bail out for the rich" are similarly being told that the global economy will suffer a nuclear meltdown if the government doesn't spend this enormous amount of money. And just like then, this all happened in the few short weeks between September and November in a major election year.

We don't know if there are financial WMDs out there. Certainly, enough people think there are that you can't dismiss it. But when the experts who have been predicting the WMD say that the plan to rid the world of them is fatally flawed and won't cure the problem, then they should be listened to. And unfortunately, that won't happen. We're listening to the usual suspects who have always been wrong about everything. And the results are likely to as good as they always are.


Friday, September 26, 2008

"Blame the Jews"

Just kidding - it's a line from a new Sarah Silverman video, called "the Great Schlep," designed to encourage Jewish Americans to visit their grandparents in Florida and persuade them to vote for Obama.

Two different friends have now sent me this video, and the other one appearing in this web post called "Israelis for Obama," featuring prominent figures and regular citizens praising the Senator as a friend of Israel and directly addressing the smears launched at his candidacy.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Putting the ICK in maverick

My friend Mary sent me this link to this DailyKos post showing Photoshopped McCain/Palin yard signs. There are some very clever people out there - I was giggling and giggling. These are just two of my favorites.


Political posters

Some people went beyond the assignment.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Who's to blame for the financial crisis?

I read this at my favorite blog Hullabaloo yesterday, and I can't stop thinking about it. It's rather dazzling reframing to turn Wall Street fraud and greed into an indictment of poor people. Bottom line, who benefitted over the last few years? Not the people who lost their homes or are saddled with mortagages they can't afford.

From The American Spectator:

The reason we're in a mortgage meltdown is this. For years the federal government and everyone else has done everything possible to encourage people to buy their own homes. One of the biggest liberal criticisms of the market was that low-income people -- particularly blacks and Hispanics -- were excluded from ownership through "blackballing," "red-lining," and other forms of discrimination.So the banks and mortgage markets responded. They invented "sub-prime" loans for high-risk customers and tried to spread the risk by bundling them into broader financial instruments. Eventually the market became overextended and we're all suffering the consequences.

The National Review went even further:

Credit Is Not a Civil Right [Mark Krikorian]
I have no way of judging whether the Wall Street bailout is a necessary evil or an impending disaster. But we're in this mess, ultimately, because our political elites thought it was good social policy to encourage banks to give mortgages to uncreditworthy people, resulting in what Sailer months ago called the "
Diversity Recession" (if this doesn't work, make that the Diversity Depression). In other words, if poor people in general, or blacks or Hispanics in particular, were less likely to be approved for a mortgage, the only possible reason was racism or classism or whatever. Thus "creditworthiness" was an illegitimate, dead-white-male concept, like middleclassness. Because, after all, isn't everyone entitled to credit?

It's astonishing to hear that sub-prime mortgages were invented in response to the pressure of social policy, not market forces. I'm surprised Mark whats-his-name can keep a straight face while suggesting such a thing.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Railin' against Palin

Sam Harris, the famous atheist, is not everyone's cup of tea. But this essay in the latest issue of Newsweek makes an excellent case against Palin (though I can't imagine why they titled it "When Atheists Attack" - that's not a fair description of the content, since he spends very little time on her religious perspective and none at all on his):

The point to be lamented is not that Sarah Palin comes from outside Washington, or that she has glimpsed so little of the earth's surface (she didn't have a passport until last year), or that she's never met a foreign head of state. The point is that she comes to us, seeking the second most important job in the world, without any intellectual training relevant to the challenges and responsibilities that await her. There is nothing to suggest that she even sees a role for careful analysis or a deep understanding of world events when it comes to deciding the fate of a nation. In her interview with Gibson, Palin managed to turn a joke about seeing Russia from her window into a straight-faced claim that Alaska's geographical proximity to Russia gave her some essential foreign-policy experience. Palin may be a perfectly wonderful person, a loving mother and a great American success story—but she is a beauty queen/sports reporter who stumbled into small-town politics, and who is now on the verge of stumbling into, or upon, world history.

The problem, as far as our political process is concerned, is that half the electorate revels in Palin's lack of intellectual qualifications. When it comes to politics, there is a mad love of mediocrity in this country. "They think they're better than you!" is the refrain that (highly competent and cynical) Republican strategists have set loose among the crowd, and the crowd has grown drunk on it once again. "Sarah Palin is an ordinary person!" Yes, all too ordinary.

Anna Quindlen also got into the act in her essay:

A presidential election is a game now, and we're not playing, we're getting played. With very few exceptions—hats off to you, David Gergen—nothing being said has much to do with the future of this country or the well-being of its citizens. As a wise woman said to me the other day, talking points and talking are two very different things.

It can't possibly be that we've become so insecure about our power, our primacy, our place in the world that we can't bear a person who stands on principle. It can't really be that America has become a nation so small-minded that intellect must be belittled. It can't really be about likability, can it? I don't need the president to be my friend. I have friends. What I need is someone to clean up the mess George W. Bush has made of the country I love.

At a moment like this, to discuss who is the pig and who the lipstick in a shopworn simile is a sign that you've gone down a dark road and wound up in a cul-de-sac. Who cares if you like Sarah Palin, if your kid plays hockey and so do hers? Here is the only thing about anyone's kids that matters now: every time you vote you make your kids a promise. It's a promise that you will look past cheap slogans and lazy alliances to try to find a way to make America worthy of a new generation. And if we keep that promise in November, we not only keep faith with our children, we keep faith with the country.

My favorite of course is Matt Taibbi, who is even more enraged than usual in his RollingStone column:

Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she’s a new low in reptilian villainy, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power. Not only is Sarah Palin a fraud, she’s the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV – and this country is going to eat her up, cheering every step of the way. All because most Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Conspiracy theory

So a guy on the bus this morning is talking about politics and says something along the line that had been Bush planning this economic crisis to explode later, so he could leave it for Obama to deal with and it happened sooner than he planned. I don't usually buy into conspiracy theories - it gives too much credit to people - I doubt Bush could plan for the economic downturn, now or later. But I liked the way the story has Bush assuming Obama will win.


Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bartlet advises Obama

My friend Susan brought this to my attention - Aaron Sorkin wrote an imagined converstaion between Obama and President Bartlet from The West Wing. It's so great, you can almost hear Martin Sheen talking.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

"Skigamadoo or whatever you call it"

I loved this blog entry from Hullabaloo:

Matthews: We can't understand it. I'm one of them. I don't get it. What are all these derivatives and all this short selling and all this complicated financial ... skigamadoo or whatever you call it. What is it?

Wolf: Even the candidates have problem getting through this alphabet soup. I mean, they've both mangled the players and the key terms of those involved here. Are they talking about firing the right person when he talks about Chris Cox? Is it Fannie Mac or Freddie Mae?
[ . . . ]
Matthews: Will they let him be King Henry?

That's obviously the right question. But these villagers don't even blink at the concept --- indeed, they appear to think that the congress should let Paulson be King because he's so much more "big headed" then them. And they think this because they assume that the American people are as stupid as they are and just want daddy to fix things for them so they can go back to talking about lipstick and blow jobs, which is all they really understand.

Chris Matthews makes five million dollars a year. And he can't be bothered to read a fucking primer on the current financial crisis so that he can speak competently about it? Why is he on my television?

And . . . the other 2 pretended that Obama sounds just as moronic on the economy as Matthews and McCain, which it is patently untrue. Obama clearly knows what a derivative and short selling is and he knows what that Fannie Mae isn't Fannie Mac. It's nonsense. Maybe Chris Matthews is too ignorant to even know the basics of the modern financial world despite his vast wealth, but Obama isn't and he certainly doesn't need to appoint a "king" to run our country for us.

This is the thinking that led to Bush seizing the presidency in 2000. The media panicked and starting speaking in tongues and rending their garments about how all hell would break loose if the race wasn't decided immediately. It happened again with Iraq. At this point, whenever they start talking about how time is of the essence and we need to "trust them," watch your wallet.


Friday, September 19, 2008

Just one of me

LogoThere are
or fewer people with my name in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

This is fun. This website provides
some interesting name details from Census data:
There are 305,218,465 people in the U.S.
There are fewer than 336 people in the U.S. with the last name Masursky.
There are 227,388 people in the U.S. with the first name Danielle.
Statistically the 288th most popular first name.
Click on the logo above to go to the website and find out about your own name.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Prudence isn't just a Beatles song

Oh no, I agree with David Brooks again (my friend Russ sent me this column):

In the current Weekly Standard, Steven Hayward argues that the nation’s founders wanted uncertified citizens to hold the highest offices in the land. They did not believe in a separate class of professional executives. They wanted rough and rooted people like Palin.

I would have more sympathy for this view if I hadn’t just lived through the last eight years. For if the Bush administration was anything, it was the anti-establishment attitude put into executive practice.

And the problem with this attitude is that, especially in his first term, it made Bush inept at governance. It turns out that governance, the creation and execution of policy, is hard. It requires acquired skills. Most of all, it requires prudence.

What is prudence? It is the ability to grasp the unique pattern of a specific situation. It is the ability to absorb the vast flow of information and still discern the essential current of events — the things that go together and the things that will never go together. It is the ability to engage in complex deliberations and feel which arguments have the most weight.

How is prudence acquired? Through experience. The prudent leader possesses a repertoire of events, through personal involvement or the study of history, and can apply those models to current circumstances to judge what is important and what is not, who can be persuaded and who can’t, what has worked and what hasn’t.

Experienced leaders can certainly blunder if their minds have rigidified (see: Rumsfeld, Donald), but the records of leaders without long experience and prudence is not good. As George Will pointed out, the founders used the word “experience” 91 times in the Federalist Papers. Democracy is not average people selecting average leaders. It is average people with the wisdom to select the best prepared.

Sarah Palin has many virtues. If you wanted someone to destroy a corrupt establishment, she’d be your woman. But the constructive act of governance is another matter. She has not been engaged in national issues, does not have a repertoire of historic patterns and, like President Bush, she seems to compensate for her lack of experience with brashness and excessive decisiveness.

The idea that “the people” will take on and destroy “the establishment” is a utopian fantasy that corrupted the left before it corrupted the right. Surely the response to the current crisis of authority is not to throw away standards of experience and prudence, but to select leaders who have those qualities.


Matt Damon nails it

I LOVE this video of Matt Damon saying how absurd and how scary the prospect of President Palin is:


He's basically saying the same thing as Brooks, but in a much more accessible way.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Feminists against Palin

My friend Lynda sent me this Eve Ensler essay about Palin - below is an excerpt:

I don't like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop violence against them. It is hard to write about Sarah Palin. This is why the Sarah Palin choice was all the more insidious and cynical. The people who made this choice count on the goodness and solidarity of Feminists.

But everything Sarah Palin believes in and practices is antithetical to Feminism which for me is part of one story -- connected to saving the earth, ending racism, empowering women, giving young girls options, opening our minds, deepening tolerance, and ending violence and war.
[ . . . ]
Sarah believes in God. That is of course her right, her private right. But when God and guns come together in the public sector, when war is declared in God's name, when the rights of women are denied in God's name, that is the end of separation of church and state and the undoing of everything America has ever tried to be.


HUGE anti-Palin rally in Ancourage

My friend Sharon sent this to me. Of course the MSM didn't cover this at all b/c it was the same weekend that Palin went back to Alaska to send her son to Iraq.

You can see more photos of the great people and the great signs they carried, and links to videos of the rally:

This link goes to a 2 minute video of some of the best signs:
My faves~
Sarah Palin: Thanks but no thanks
Sarah Palin: A woman not afraid to hate women
Sarah Palin would have me fired for this!
Don't insult my pitbull
Blink before going to war!
Real leaders don't have to cram for interviews
Jesus Christ was a community organizer
Martin Luther King was a community organizer

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Biden hits the nail on the head

Below is part of a speech that Biden gave yesterday, sent to me by my friend Stessa:

Eight years ago, a man ran for President who claimed he was different, not a typical Republican. He called himself a reformer. He admitted that his Party, the Republican Party, had been wrong about things from time to time. He promised to work with Democrats and said he'd been doing that for a long time.

That candidate was George W. Bush. Remember that? Remember the promise to reach across the aisle? To change the tone? To restore honor and dignity to the White House?

We saw how that story ends. A record number of home foreclosures. Home values, tumbling. And the disturbing news that the crisis you've been facing on Main Street is now hitting Wall Street, taking down Lehman Brothers and threatening other financial institutions.

We've seen eight straight months of job losses. Nearly 46 million Americans without health insurance. Average incomes down, while the price of everything -- from gas to groceries -- has skyrocketed. A military stretched thin from two wars and multiple deployments.

A nation more polarized than I've ever seen in my career. And a culture in Washington where the very few wealthy and powerful have a seat at the table and everybody else is on the menu.

Eight years later, we have another Republican nominee who's telling us the exact same thing:
This time it will be different, it really will.
This time he's going to put country before party, to change the tone, reach across the aisle, change the Republican Party, change the way Washington works.

We've seen this movie before, folks. But as everyone knows, the sequel is always worse than the original.
[ . . . ]
Don't tell me that these people, people who are our nation's heart and soul - deserve to be treated as economic scapegoats.

These people worked hard, they did everything right, and they're willing to work hard again. But instead of their government supporting them, their government walked away from them. Nobody stood up for them.

Barack and I will.

What is John's response to the state of the economy? Let me quote him: "A lot of this is psychological." Let me tell you something: Losing your job is more than a state of mind.
[ . . . ]
When Senator McCain was subjected to unconscionable, scurrilous attacks in his 2000 primary campaign, I called him on the phone to ask what I could do. And now, some of the very same people and the tactics he once deplored his campaign now employs. The same campaign that once called for a town hall a week is now launching a low blow a day.

Barack and I can take it. That's not what bothers me.

It bothers me that -- as one media watchdog put it -- John's recent commercial is the, "latest in a number that resort to a dubious disregard for the facts." As another news organization put it: The wheels have come off the straight talk express.

But what really bothers me, is that every punch thrown at us is an attempt to distract you. And they can be plenty distracting.

Like the McCain advertisements that misrepresent a vote by Barack Obama to protect young children from sexual predators. Like Senator McCain's effort to obscure the fact that Barack Obama's tax cuts will benefit 95 percent of all working people. Like John McCain's attempt to cloak himself in reform by misrepresenting his running mate's record.

It's disappointing to me to think that John McCain really does approve this message.

Every false debate we're drawn into is a real conversation we don't have with the American people. Character attacks get media attention, but they make this election about us when it really needs to be about you.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Lies and more lies

I saw Paul Begala deliver this line on cable news today, but he included it in this essay as well:

"Palin's gotten her state so much pork she's at risk for trichinosis."

In both the essay and on TV he was asserting that Palin and McCain have been flat out lying. It was very refreshing to hear it stated so baldly. I don't know how McCain can sleep at night - he's been all about honor all these years and now he's willing to sell his soul to win. It's pathetic and he should be ashamed. I even heard him say on TV that the kindergarten ad against Obama is "factually correct." Unbelievable. I guess he has to tell himself that to live with himself.


Regulate, baby, regulate

So the economy is in the toilet big time today and I'm listening to McCain's speech in Florida where he says, among other things, that Wall Street needs more regulation. Huh? Because the Republican party is all about regulating private industry. He's either flat out lying, and has no intention of suggesting such a thing once he's elected, or he's really bucking his party. Of course the audience duly applauded, as they do no matter what McCain or Palin say. Here's how the NY Times covered it:

On the campaign trail on Monday, Mr. McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, struck a populist tone. Speaking in Florida, he said that the economy’s underlying fundamentals remained strong but were being threatened “because of the greed by some based in Wall Street and we have got to fix it.”

But his record on the issue, and the views of those he has always cited as his most influential advisers, suggest that he has never departed in any major way from his party’s embrace of deregulation and relying more on market forces than on the government to exert discipline.

While Mr. McCain has cited the need for additional oversight when it comes to specific situations, like the mortgage problems behind the current shocks on Wall Street, he has consistently characterized himself as fundamentally a deregulator and he has no history prior to the presidential campaign of advocating steps to tighten standards on investment firms.


Sunday, September 14, 2008

Reform Judaism

I was rather offended at the synagogue today. This year, we're following a community discussion program from the URJ (Union of Refrom Judaism, the national organization) - "10 Months, 10 Conversations." The first question (posed this month) is "What does it mean to be a Reform Jew in the 21st century?" A friend's friend was at our table, and immediately started the conversation by saying that she doesn't "get" Reform Judaism. She was raised Conservative. Now, all Jews think that anyone less observant than they are isn't really a Jew. Which I know, and which doesn't really bother me (at least we don't slaughter each other like the Protestants and Catholics). Except when I'm sitting in my own Temple. This woman joined the Reform Temple because, although there are two excellent Conservative Temples in Syracuse, she married a non-Jew and, as a mixed couple, they weren't really welcome there. So if there's anything to "get," it's that the Reform movement is inclusive of all Jews, regardless of who they marry. But she still feels completely free to sneer at us, despite seeking refuge with us. Not very, um, courteous.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"Invent, baby, invent"

Harsh words on the McCain campaign from that notorious liberal, Thomas Friedman (that's sarcasm) in his NY Times column today (this is just an excerpt):

Who cares how much steel John McCain has in his gut when the steel that today holds up our bridges, railroads, nuclear reactors and other infrastructure is rusting? McCain talks about how he would build dozens of nuclear power plants. Oh, really? They go for $10 billion a pop. Where is the money going to come from? From lowering taxes? From banning abortions? From borrowing more from China? From having Sarah Palin “reform” Washington — as if she has any more clue how to do that than the first 100 names in the D.C. phonebook?

Sorry, but there is no sustainable political/military power without economic power, and talking about one without the other is nonsense. Unless we make America the country most able to innovate, compete and win in the age of globalization, our leverage in the world will continue to slowly erode. Those are the issues this election needs to be about, because that is what the next four years need to be about.

There is no strong leader without a strong country. And posing as one, to use the current vernacular, is nothing more than putting lipstick on a pig.


Pro and con Palin websites

Here's a site that's classy and inspiring. Sent to me by my friend Danny in Iraq (!)


If you want to get your blood pressure up, check out this one:


I didn't notice this "Wisconsin working mother" putting up a blog to document the treatment that Clinton got. They're all outraged, now that *their* lady is getting The Treatment. Welcome to the big leagues Sarah.


Friday, September 12, 2008

Gloria Steinem

Just part of an essay that she wrote on September 4, after Palin's selection.

So let's be clear: The culprit is John McCain. He may have chosen Palin out of change-envy, or a belief that women can't tell the difference between form and content, but the main motive was to please right-wing ideologues; the same ones who nixed anyone who is now or ever has been a supporter of reproductive freedom. If that were not the case, McCain could have chosen a woman who knows what a vice president does and who has thought about Iraq; someone like Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison or Sen. Olympia Snowe of Maine. McCain could have taken a baby step away from right-wing patriarchs who determine his actions, right down to opposing the Violence Against Women Act.

Palin's value to those patriarchs is clear: She opposes just about every issue that women support by a majority or plurality. She believes that creationism should be taught in public schools but disbelieves global warming; she opposes gun control but supports government control of women's wombs; she opposes stem cell research but approves "abstinence-only" programs, which increase unwanted births, sexually transmitted diseases and abortions; she tried to use taxpayers' millions for a state program to shoot wolves from the air but didn't spend enough money to fix a state school system with the lowest high-school graduation rate in the nation; she runs with a candidate who opposes the Fair Pay Act but supports $500 million in subsidies for a natural gas pipeline across Alaska; she supports drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, though even McCain has opted for the lesser evil of offshore drilling. She is Phyllis Schlafly, only younger.

I don't doubt her sincerity. As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Assn., she doesn't just support killing animals from helicopters, she does it herself. She doesn't just talk about increasing the use of fossil fuels but puts a coal-burning power plant in her own small town. She doesn't just echo McCain's pledge to criminalize abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, she says that if one of her daughters were impregnated by rape or incest, she should bear the child. She not only opposes reproductive freedom as a human right but implies that it dictates abortion, without saying that it also protects the right to have a child.

So far, the major new McCain supporter that Palin has attracted is James Dobson of Focus on the Family. Of course, for Dobson, "women are merely waiting for their husbands to assume leadership," so he may be voting for Palin's husband.

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Scorched earth

I think this guy is right on:

McCain, in his overwhelming desire for office, is unloosing forces that are likely to make the country only barely governable no matter who wins. This would be very bad juju at any time, but George Bush has so seriously weakened the country over the course of his administration that we don't have a lot of room for error left . . .

Digby at Hullabaloo agrees:

I think he's probably right. However, I actually don't think it's because of McCain's choice to wage a scorched earth presidential campaign. It's because Republicans believe in scorched earth politics.

Until the modern conservative movement of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan has run its course, there will be no "post partisanship." This kind of politics defines them. Even if Obama were comfortably ahead and the Republicans had no chance they would wage this kind of campaign and unless they lose by a substantial margin to someone who has completely repudiated their program, they will always fight a Democratic president with psychotic dementia. For them, the action is the juice. Conservatism itself has to be soundly defeated, not accommodated.

I'm not gloomy about that because I accept it as a necessary fight. I'm pretty sure that people are pretty tired of stale Reagonomics, preening chauvanism and culture wars, but they don't have a clear picture of the alternative. I believe that if Democrats would make the arguments and take the battle to the Republicans, they might be able to break this deadlock. Call me a glass half broken kind of person.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Bush Doctrine

People are having a field day over Palin not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is, but I think that is much less the issue than her actual answer. She ignored Bush's (and McCain's) stated policy of preemptive attack and instead responded with an answer that virtually any reasonable person would agree with - that a response would be justified if Americans were threatened with imminent attack. Intentionally or not, she conflated a reasonable position with the intolerable Bush/McCain position, instead of making a distinction between them. And he totally let her get away with it - no follow up at all, no pointing out that the scenario she described is not the Bush Doctrine nor is it the McCain position. So we move on as if they're the same somehow - the reasonable and the unreasonable, without any debate or discussion. Very troubling!


Voter suppression

My favorite blog, Hullabaloo, summarizes some of the new voter suppression techniques being used this year, including telling college students that they'll lose their scholarships if they vote absentee, and using home foreclosure lists to challenge voters at the polling station. This short Slate article covers issues/tactics in several keys states.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The deficit personalized

A friend sent this comment to me today:

I think that it is good to have an active, excited Republican party that is at least claiming to be for small government, and to act Republican, as compared to their actions for the past decade. Perhaps they will actually act like they believe what they are saying. When I hear $480 billion dollar deficit this year, I think another $25,000 of expense for [my wife] and me.

I listened to some intelligent discussion of the US budget deficit this morning, and my reaction to it was not that it was going to personally cost me money. My reaction is that it's bad for this country and it's bad for American citizens. We will suffer because of this - the country will suffer and the people will suffer. We will have fewer opportunites because of this. My children's future opportunities will be narrowed because of this. Do I care that it will cost me money? I guess, but it's such a larger issue than that. The ramifications are so much bigger than my personal situation.

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Offensive language in the campaign

Some comments from my favorite blog, Hullabaloo:

Because of the way conservatives constructed the playing field, and no one jumped all over them in time to stop it, liberals aren't allowed even to use common phrases like "lipstick on a pig" to describe an opponent's plans. But describing blacks as "uppity" is fair game.
[ . . . ]
They're tough to counter, even though they make no sense and are often just purely silly. The press loves them and they end up becoming such a distraction that the Dems finally conclude that it's not worth it to fight them. So they concede. And then they look like weenies.
[ . . . ]
This is a war in which one side, ours, is being deliberately and systematically disarmed. How many times does this exact same scenario have to play out, before Democrats get it?

[ . . . ]
[The controversy over the pig comment,] is COMPLETELY MANUFACTURED. [And it's] ridiculous. And the newfound Republican guardians of feminism, the ones who spent the spring selling Hillary nutcrackers and Citizens United Not Timid T-shirts, are somewhat less than credible.

The McCain campaign has no honor and no shame, and they will try to ram this down everyone's throat. The goal here ought to be letting the traditional media know, from a grassroots level, that they ought to give this exactly the attention it deserves, which is none. But, this is a tailor-made manufactured story for the daytime talking heads to cackle over.


Loved this comment on the whole lipstick-pig brouhaha:

Right wingnuts are hyperventilating, claiming that Obama called Palin a pig (since she owns the word lipstick now). Obama should stand by his statement and make it clear that Palin is the lipstick... and McCain is the pig.


Working women's juggling act

I would never, never judge another woman's choice regarding career and family, and my objections to Sarah Palin have nothing to do with whether or not she can "handle" having a demanding job and raise a family simultaneously. However, I found these comments from Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus to be quite interesting:

I don't question whether Palin can pull off the most impressive juggling act in the history of working moms, balancing, as she told People magazine, BlackBerry and breast pump. But I do wonder -- somewhat to my astonishment -- why she'd choose to, and I suspect many mothers feel the same.

Looking over my female friends -- educated and accomplished -- it is hard to think of one who has not trimmed her career sails to accommodate family life. Amazingly, I know more women who have opted out than who work full-steam ahead.

This is not what I expected. Fourteen years ago, pregnant with my first child, I listened to two female friends, then high-powered Capitol Hill lawyers, discuss their dream part-time schedules.
"Not me, ladies," I thought, smugly certain. Eight months later, maternity leave up, I was in my editor's office, announcing that I wanted to scale back to four days a week. In a few years, I was down to three -- and my friends had left their Hill jobs. Now I work full time, but not without ample agonizing and only because of a flexible boss.

[ . . . ]
My husband is a terrific dad, but the stark truth is that he does not feel the same homeward tug.
[ . . . ]
Wondering about Palin's choice does not make me less of a feminist -- just a realistic one.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

David Brooks says, "Be weird"

My friend Suzanne sent me this David Brooks column from today's NY Times, but my response is - sounds good, but I don't buy it. What voters are responding to, as always, is the cult of personality. McCain had it most, then Obama, now Palin. I heard someone on the news last night saying that people like Palin because she's "authentic." Obviously, no one is responding to promises to work across the aisle, either because they don't believe it (they shouldn't) or because they don't give a damn (that's what I would bet). They still just vote for the most likable person, period. The question about Palin is will the infatuation with her last long enough to really help McCain - as Chuck Todd of MSNBC said: "Palin is a bubble, like a stock bubble or housing bubble. Question is whether she pops before election day or not."

As an aside, I don't even think that Brooks believes what he wrote. The culture and class war tactic that the Repugs are using is working out just great for them - why would McCain start talking about bipartisanship now? And of course Brooks wants Obama to attack anyone criticizing or (heaven forbid!) mocking Palin - that's such a winning strategy . . . if you hate the people who are attacking Palin. He's so transparent.

Here's part of what Brooks said:

If I were advising the candidates, I’d tell them to double down on weirdness. Obama needs to occasionally criticize his own side. If he can’t take on his own party hacks, he’ll never reclaim the mantle of systemic change. Specifically, he needs to attack the snobs who are savaging SarahPalin’s faith and family. Many liberals claim to love working-classfamilies, but the moment they glimpse a hunter with an uneven collegerecord, they hop on chairs and call for disinfectant. Obama needs to attack Bill Maher for calling her a stewardess and the rest of the coastal condescenders. If I were McCain, I’d make the divided government argument explicit.

The Republicans are intellectually unfit to govern right now, but balancing with Democrats, they might be able to do some good. I’d have McCain tell the country that he looks forward to working with Congressional Democrats, that he is confident they can achieve great things together.


"Straight up lies"

Interesting comments by Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo:

One of the interesting aspects of this campaign is watching the scales fall from the eyes of many of John McCain's closest admirers among the veteran DC press corps. I'm not talking about the freaks on Fox News or any of the sycophants at the AP. I'm talking about, let's say, the better sort of reporters and commentators in the 45 to 65 age bracket. To the extent that the press was McCain's base (and in many though now sillier respects it still is) this was the base of the base. And talking to a number of them I can understand why that was, at least in the sense of the person he was then presenting himself as.

But over the last ... maybe six weeks, in various conversations with these folks, the change is palpable. Whether it will make any difference in the tone of coverage in the dominant media I do not know. But it is sinking in.

All politicians stretch the truth, massage it into the best fit with their message. But, let's face it, John McCain is running a campaign almost entirely based on straight up lies. Not just exaggerations or half truths but the sort of straight up, up-is-down mind-blowers we've become so accustomed to from the current occupants of the White House.

. . . what is already apparent is that John McCain is running the sleaziest, most dishonest and race-baiting campaign of our lifetimes. So let's stopped being shocked and awed by every new example of it. It's undignified.


Monday, September 08, 2008

Feds bailout Fannie and Freddie

More irony from the Bush administration: from the party that likes to privatize - a government takeover.

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Amen sister!

Arianna Huffington hits the nail right on the head:

Every second of this campaign not spent talking about the Republican Party's record, and John McCain's role in that record, is a victory for John McCain.

Her critics like to say that Palin hasn't accomplished anything. I disagree: in the space of ten days she's succeeded in distracting the entire country from the horrific Bush record -- and McCain's complicity in it. My friends, that's accomplishment we can believe in.

Just look at the problem John McCain faced. George Bush has a disastrous record, and the country knows it. John McCain -- the current one, not the one who vanished eight years ago -- has no major disagreements with George Bush (and I'm sorry, wanting to fire Donald Rumsfeld a bit sooner doesn't qualify) and wants to continue his incredibly unpopular policies for another four years. The solution? Enter Sarah Palin, a Trojan Moose carrying four more years of disaster.

And the plan has worked beautifully. Just look at what's being discussed just 57 days before the election. Is it the highest unemployment rate in five years? The bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac? The suicide bombing yesterday in Iraq that killed six people and wounded 54 -- in the same market where last month a bomb killed 28 people and wounded 72? That the political reconciliation that was supposedly the point of "the surge" is nowhere near happening? That Iraq's Shiite government is now rounding up the American-backed Sunni leaders of the Awakening? That the reason 8,000 soldiers may be leaving Iraq soon is so more can be deployed to Afghanistan where the Taliban is steadily retaking the country?

No. We're talking about whether Sarah Palin was or was not a good mayor, whether she was or was not a good mother, whether her skirts are too short and her zingers too sarcastic.

Contrary to what we're hearing 24/7 in the media, the next few weeks are not a test of Sarah Palin. The next few weeks are a test of Barack Obama.

He needs to dramatically redirect this election back to a discussion over the issues that really matter -- the issues that will impact the future of this country. A presidential campaign is a battle and this is the time for Obama to show some commander-in-chief skills. I'm not talking about calling Palin out for lying about his record and demeaning community organizing. I'm talking about grabbing the political debate by the throat. The country is already angry about what's happened over the last seven-plus years -- he shouldn't be afraid to give voice to that anger. Obama has spent years adopting a non-threatening persona; but he can't let his fear that appearing like an "angry Black man" (a stereotype not-too-subtly fueled by Fox News) will turn off swing voters keep him from channeling the disgust and outrage felt by so many voters --swing and otherwise.

McCain's team, in an effort to distract, is going to keep doing what they're doing -- diverting voters and the media with a tantalizing combination of personal trivia and small lies. It doesn't matter if they're caught in them -- in fact, all the better. Because they know there is no way in hell they can win if this election is about the big truth of the Bush years.

McCain's real running mate is George Bush and the failed policies of the Republican Party. Even if they are dressed up in a skirt, lipstick, and Tina Fey glasses.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

"Feeding frenzy"

I know the Repugs always fall back on the "liberal media" narrative, and it's been profitable for them to do so. On the other hand, when they pick a candidate who is not a national figure and is virtually unknown, well, there's going to be a process of public vetting and everyone knows it. These few days of turnmoil are NOTHING compared to what Hillary and Obama have enjoyed over the past couple of years. Welcome to the big leagues.

As for the ridiculous claim that the teenage daughter's pregnancy is completely off limits, all I can do is roll my eyes. Like the press and the Repugs wouldn't comment if Chelsea Clinton or Amy Carter had turned up pregnant. Please. As for me, yes, it bothers me. It's a bad role model. But MUCH more, people like Palin (i.e., evangelical Christians) have been telling people like me for YEARS that the way they live their lives is better than the way I live mine, that the way they do it is far, far superior. But, surprise, surprise, the way they do it turns out about the same as the way I do it, so shut the fuck up already, you smug jerks.


Boy, am I getting sick of all the rapture (usage intentional) over Palin "energizing the base" (Jonah Goldberg's column in today's paper made this argument without irony). Of course, this is exactly what Obama did (he just energized a different base), and he's been skewered for it, and not just by Republicans. He has been continually criticized for being inspirational but somehow lacking in substance, but that's exactly what Palin is, and the same people who were dismissive of Obama are celebrating this quality in her. Even more upsetting than this blatant hypocrisy is that "the base" in her case means a bunch of religious fanatics, which I had hoped were past their political prime. That John McCain, of all people, felt the need to do this - to use her to pacify them - is pathetic, and says a lot about the state of our political system, none of it good.


"Palin is not a hockey mom"

My friend Mary sent me this terrific piece that she read on Dailykos, but that origially came from fivethirtyeight.com:

She's a hockey player. She’s a fourth-line hockey agitator, beloved by the home crowd, loathed by the opponents, injecting passion into both fan bases, the kind of home-team hero that no Stanley Cup winner goes without.
[ . . . ]
Initiators win, reactors lose. Expect adversity, because it's built in. The fourth-line, no-scoring-talent, pest agitators (or as we now call them, "energy guys") have a specific job. Skate in, take a cheap shot, make it after the whistle. Make it against the rules. Stir something up. Put a wet glove in the other guy's face and rub it. Get the outrage flowing. Get the opponent not thinking about the game, get them thinking about your shenanigans. And what happens? The "victimized" team loses its composure, hitting back. The guy who hits second is always the guy who goes to the penalty box.

In the hockey analogy, Palin wouldn’t get within a thousand miles of an NHL All-Star Game because she’s not a scoring talent. She’s a role player, an emotion-rouser. Emotion messes with the chalkboard-drawn game plan and thus achieves a specific strategic objective. She can make game-changing agitation plays that rouse her home team and provoke the other side into counterattacks that – 100% of the time – end up punishing the team who hits back. Democrats would be smart to understand her as such, and I see a lot of reaction that doesn't seem to grasp what Palin is doing and the value she's providing. I see a lot of Democrats taking a lot of bait.


Saturday, September 06, 2008

It's "bullshit"!

How freaking awesome is this??? Republican groupie Peggy Noonan was caught saying some pretty harsh stuff about McCain and Palin:

NEW YORK Peggy Noonan had been defending the John McCain choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate for days, most recently just this morning in a widely-read Wall Street Journal online piece from the GOP convention. Palin was "powerful," she wrote, her story was strong, she might even be "transformative."

But the savvy media veteran, and former Reagan speechwriter, then forgot the first rule of live TV -- beware of the live mike. After finishing up an interview with MSNBC's Chuck Todd today, as the scene was about to shift and guests were off camera, Noonan and former top GOP strategist Mike Murphy were caught still chatting with Todd on their microphones. "It's over," Noonan said, referring to the Republicans' chances. And, concerning Palin: "The most qualified? No! I think they went for this -- excuse me-- political bullshit about narratives.... Every time the Republicans do that, because that's not where they live and it's not what they're good at, they blow it."

Murphy added: "You know what's really the worst thing about it? The greatness of McCain is no cynicism, and this is cynical."


Friday, September 05, 2008

Palin tried to ban books as mayor

O.k., so we're starting to know what Sarah Palin stands for: she's extremely anti-choice - she doesn't support abortion rights in any situation, even in the case of rape or incest. She wants abstinence-only sex education (that worked out well for her family). She thinks public schools should teach creationism. She's against stem cell research. And she doesn't believe that humans contribute to global warming.

But now it's been revealed that as mayor of Wasilla, she tried to ban books from the public library, going so far as to threaten to fire the librarian. There's some dispute as to whether this story is true (the journalist got it from the man who lost the mayoral election to Palin), but she clearly plays hard ball.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

McCain's speech

I don't agree with his policies, but I'll give him this:

I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else's. I loved it not just for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice, and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again; I wasn't my own man anymore; I was my country's.

I'm not running for president because I think I'm blessed with such personal greatness that history has anointed me to save our country in its hour of need. My country saved me. My country saved me, and I cannot forget it. And I will fight for her for as long as I draw breath, so help me God.

My friends, if you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you're disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. Enlist in our Armed Forces. Become a teacher. Enter the ministry. Run for public office. Feed a hungry child. Teach an -- an illiterate adult to read. Comfort the afflicted. Defend the rights of the oppressed. Our country will be the better, and you will be the happier, because nothing brings greater happiness in life than to serve a cause greater than yourself.

I'm going to fight for my cause every day as your president. I'm going to fight to make sure every American has every reason to thank God, as I thank him, that I'm an American, a proud citizen of the greatest country on Earth. And with hard work -- with hard word, strong faith, and a little courage, great things are always within our reach. Fight with me. Fight with me. Fight for what's right for our country. Fight for the ideals and character of a free people. Fight for our children's future. Fight for justice and opportunity for all.

Stand up to defend our country from its enemies. Stand up for each other, for beautiful, blessed, bountiful America. Stand up, stand up, stand up, and fight. Nothing is inevitable here. We're Americans, and we never give up. We never quit. We never hide from history. We make history.

Thank you, and God bless you, and God bless America.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"Palin Power"

So despite all the Republican bitching about Obama, I guess giving a good speech IS politically advantageous. She can talk, I'll give her that, but what she says! I remember having the same reaction during the Republican convention 4 years ago - they're willing to say anything with a straight face. And the crowd applauds everything, no matter how absurd. I couldn't believe that she, and others, were MOCKING Obama for working as a community organizer. Palin says she was serving in government (as mayor of Wasilla) while he was doing that, but since when is the Republican party the one that prefers government service to private actions? It truly made me scratch my head. But my favorite was definitely Palin's assertion that she returned the taxpayer's money to them when the state's coffers filled with oil company revenue. What? First of all, it's not citizens' money, it's the oil company's money, but more to the point, that extra income for the state came from a windfall profit tax - exactly what the Democratics are proposing on a national scale. But who cares what reality is, as long as it creates an applause line.


How about this assertion: Palin got more votes for mayor of Wasilla than Biden got for president . . . They're only counting the votes he got in Iowa (2328), since he dropped out after that (Wasilla is a town of about 5400). However, he was on the ballot in both Florida and California and got over 33,000 votes in those states. The Repugs do have nerve, you almost have to admire it.

I wonder about this line of argument also (this text is from Hawaii governor Linda Lingle's speech, a couple hours before Palin's) - this exact same thing could be said about the TOP of the Republican ticket:

I find it especially amusing that the other party says Governor Palin lacks experience when their own candidates for president and vice president...have NO executive experience... ZERO! Neither Senator Obama nor Senator Biden has ever managed a multi- billion dollar budget, or been a chief executive of any city... or state, of any size... or of anything for that matter.


I like what Obama said in response: "I've been called worse on the basketball court." He has a reputation as hard to rattle. He also said this about critiques of community organizing:

"Why would that kind of work be ridiculous? Who are they fighting for? What are they advocating for? They think that the lives of those folks who are struggling each and every day, that working with them to try to improve their lives is somehow not relevant to the presidency? I think maybe that's the problem -- that's part of why they're out of touch and they don't get it 'cause they haven't spent much time working on behalf of those folks."

I also loved what Jon Stewart said about the way they mocked being a community organizer: "For all you out there trying to make a difference in your communities, you know what you are - a thousand points of bullshit."


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Damn it!

We lost Don LaFontaine today, the man whose name is almost unknown, but whose voice is known to millions - his deep voice is featured in over 5000 movie ads and previews. He recently appeared in a Geico ad, skewering his own voiceover style ("In a world. . . "). He was only 68. A huge loss.


McCain's governing philosophy

I generally think David Brooks is a pompous ass, but I thought this assessment of McCain was damned interesting. Thanks to my friend Russ for bringing it to my attention.

[ . . . ]
My worry about Palin is that she shares McCain’s primary weakness — that she has a tendency to substitute a moral philosophy for a political philosophy.

There are some issues where the most important job is to rally the armies of decency against the armies of corruption: Confronting Putin, tackling earmarks and reforming the process of government.

But most issues are not confrontations between virtue and vice. Most problems — the ones Barack Obama is sure to focus on like health care reform and economic anxiety — are the product of complex conditions. They require trade-offs and policy expertise. They are not solvable through the mere assertion of sterling character.

McCain is certainly capable of practicing the politics of compromise and coalition-building. He engineered a complex immigration bill with Ted Kennedy and global warming legislation with Joe Lieberman. But if you are going to lead a vast administration as president, it really helps to have a clearly defined governing philosophy, a conscious sense of what government should and shouldn’t do, a set of communicable priorities.

If McCain is elected, he will face conditions tailor-made to foster disorder. He will be leading a divided and philosophically exhausted party. There simply aren’t enough Republican experts left to staff an administration, so he will have to throw together a hodgepodge with independents and Democrats. He will confront Democratic majorities that will be enraged and recriminatory.

On top of these conditions, he will have his own freewheeling qualities: a restless, thrill-seeking personality, a tendency to personalize issues,
a tendency to lead life as a string of virtuous crusades.

He really needs someone to impose a policy structure on his moral intuitions. He needs a very senior person who can organize a vast administration and insist that he tame his lone-pilot tendencies and work through the established corridors — the National Security Council, the Domestic Policy Council. He needs a near-equal who can turn his instincts, which are great, into a doctrine that everybody else can predict and understand.

Rob Portman or Bob Gates wouldn’t have been politically exciting, but they are capable of performing those tasks. Palin, for all her gifts, is not. She underlines McCain’s strength without compensating for his weaknesses. The real second fiddle job is still unfilled.


Monday, September 01, 2008


Nice to see that Hurricane Gustav was less destructive than anticipated, and even better to see that New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were prepared for the storm, even if it never quite arrived. As one commentator said, if they had prepared this way for Katrina, the outcome would have been very different.


Vacation movies

Didn't get to any theater movies while I was on vacation, but I saw several movies on video.

My favorite was Wilby Wonderful (2004), an adorable Canadian dramedy about a day in a the life of a small island town, with a terrific cast, including the GREAT Sandra Oh and Ellen Page, pre-Juno. It's sort of like Love, Actually, but not as splashy or self-conscious, and a bit darker. One of the films released by Film Movement.

I enjoyed Lucky You (2007) from director Curtis Hanson (In Her Shoes, La Confidential), with Eric Bana scorching up the screen as Huck Cheever, a troubled poker player in Vegas trying to live up to, and come to terms with, his dad, played by the GREAT Robert Duvall. Drew Barrymore has a key role as a sweet but wise young woman who turns Huck's head, and the movie is full of great cameos, including Robert Downey Jr, Jean Smart and Debra Messing. The first half is better than the second half, and the ending is frustratingly predictable, but it's very much worth watching.

I also finally saw An Unfinished Life (2005), directed by Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules, My Life as a Dog) with Robert Redford as the bitter father, and Jennifer Lopez as the guilt-ridden wife, of a man who died young in a car accident. A bit predictable and a tiny bit slow in places (with a completely unnecessary subplot regarding Jenny's abusive ex-boyfriend). But it has terrific supporting characters, including the GREAT Morgan Freeman, Camryn Mannheim and the ever adorable Josh Lucas. I laughed, I cried (a little) and was glad I saw it.