Friday, October 31, 2008

My Tracking Sheet for Tuesday

I think we get 364 - maybe even 375 electoral votes.

I think we win by 7-9% of the popular vote.

And we end up with 59 Senate seats.

That is my prediction.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


Happy Halloween!

Sympathy for John McCain

I am saddened to see John McCain suffer such a personal repudiation, and having rescued his reputation from the dishonor of his role in the Keating Five scandal, it is tragic, really tragic, that he has now thrown it away again. Nothing appears to mean more to him than winning the presidency, but he will have the rest of his life to weigh the cost, and I am sympathetic.

It must be very hard to wake up one day and realize you are no longer a respected hero, but how much worse to have to be regarded instead as a doddering old hack, race-baiter, liar, and overall mean-spirited punk.

Having such sympathy as I do, I will nonetheless cheer lustily, loud and long when Obama tops 270 on Tuesday. I am hoping for 370.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama's Infomercial

Jason Zengerle posted this Obama ad at TNR - he says it is more affecting than the infomercial. I couldn't agree with him more. Powerful stuff.

I watched the infomercial, and although it was very slick and very effective, I really don't much enjoy this sort of thing - the packaging of a candidate like soap flakes. It is demeaning to us as citizens - not a whole lot better than the Joe the Plumber shtick - and I feel like I am being played.

Even so, I am completely sold on Obama. I agree with him on the issues, and I admire his temperament, intellect and persuasive powers. If anyone can do it, he can.

I'll have more to say on the subject later on this week - maybe not till Saturday.

One thing I would like to put out there tonight - anyone else notice that the infomercial announced a change in Obama's tax cut? It has a ceiling of $200,000 now, not $250,000. Why isn't anyone talking about that?


You DO remember the old Budweiser ads - don't you?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tony Hillerman

I just read in today's NY Times that Tony Hillerman passed away this weekend. Hilerman, author of a series of detective novels set in Navajo country, was 83 years old. I loved his books for their descriptions of Navajo culture and traditions, and for the natural beauty of the west that he so carefully and painstakingly captured in his writing.

An excerpt from Marilyn Stasio's NY Times obit:

Mr. Hillerman’s evocative novels, which describe people struggling to maintain ancient traditions in the modern world, touched millions of readers, who made them best sellers. But although the themes of his books were not overtly political, he wrote with a purpose, he often said, and that purpose was to instill in his readers a respect for Indian culture. The plots of his stories, while steeped in contemporary crime and its consequences, were invariably instructive about ancient tribal beliefs and customs, from purification rituals for a soldier returned from a foreign war to incest taboos for a proper clan marriage.

“It’s always troubled me that the American people are so ignorant of these rich Indian cultures,” Mr. Hillerman once told Publishers Weekly. “I think it’s important to show that aspects of ancient Indian ways are still very much alive and are highly germane even to our ways.”
Ms Stasio's obituary is well worth a few moments, and will almost surely send you off to the library for one of Hillerman's award-winning novels. I will include one more excerpt from her excellent remembrance:

The recognition that gladdened him most, however, was the status of Special Friend of the Dineh conferred on him in 1987 by the Navajo Nation for his honest, accurate portrayal of Navajo people and their culture. It was also a special source of pride to him that his books are taught on reservation high schools and colleges.

“Good reviews delight me when I get them,” he once said. “But I am far more delighted by being voted the most popular author by the students of St. Catherine Indian school, and even more by middle-aged Navajos who tell me that reading my mysteries revived their children’s interest in the Navajo Way.”
Hillerman's books were not great literature. They were fun to read, and even Hillerman called them "entertainments" -- but he told stories that celebrated the people and country that he loved, and that created an appreciation among many readers for the culture and traditions of the Navajo and other Native Americans living in the Southwestern United States.

All of us have authors whose work becomes personal to us - we feel connected to the author, as if he is writing just for us. We await his next book like a kid anticipating the next Harry Potter adventure. So it was for me with Hillerman.

I am sorry to hear of his passing. I will do what readers do in such circumstances - I will go find my old copy of "The Blessing Way" and I will read it again. I think he'd probably like that.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

U2 To You Too


A Re-Post

-- Mavis Staples singing "99 1/2 Won't Do"

Cuz it's the mood I'm in today.

One more from Fogelberg

-- Dan Fogelberg "Song for Half Mountain"

Music for the end of October

-- Dan Fogelberg "Old Tennesee"

Muslims for McCain

I wish John McCain could denounce the bigots as clearly as some of his supporters did in this video. American Muslims have had a hard time of it since 9/11, and whatever your religious beliefs, as an American you ought to be disgusted by the way in which some on the right have played on such bigotry in this campaign.

Our enemy is not Islam. Our enemies are those who take their religious beliefs and turn them into justification for war and political upheaval - the forces of fundamentalist intolerance that seek to destroy liberal society and to establish a social order in which individual liberty is constrained by clerical authority.

The enemy of our freedom is not a religious minority that seeks only what any American asks of his neighbors - tolerance, goodwill and respect. The enemy is a large segment our own christian majority who fall in three camps:

-- those who seek to harness political power to a frankly religious agenda;

-- those who see no problem with that agenda but are not part of the movement; and

-- those who are somewhat concerned or even repelled by the politics of the religious right, but do not recognize that movement as a threat to our liberty.

My enemy is not Christianity, and it is not Islam. My enemy is the politicization of religion. My enemy is the use of the power of the state to impose the beliefs of a religious majority on the minority. My enemy is extremism, regardless of the particular set of beliefs and rituals of its adherents.

Before this election is over, I would like to hear John McCain and Barack Obama condemn the insults to American Muslims that have been hurled about during this campaign, but we all know that won't happen. Maybe a few words of consolation will have been spoken by November 4th, but nothing that will be much noticed or remembered.

It says something shameful about America that neither candidate dares to stand up for a religious minority under attack.

Give the kid a break

So they have arrested Ashley Todd and charged her with making a false police report, supported by her own admission that she made up the whole awful story - a story that stroked the deep racial animosities of her neighbors and fellow McCain supporters. Todd, 20 years old and apparently a troubled young woman, needs help. I hope she gets it, and that she is able to live this down without any more harm.

But what of all those on the right who saw political potential in this disgraceful sham of a story? And what of John McCain, whose campaign has whipped up the resentments, fears, and prejudices of the intolerant and under-educated ranks of rednecks, racists and religious extremists?

There is a stain that attaches to people who play the race card, and it is now stapled to John McCain's forehead. If he wants to remove it, he is going to have to speak out, at length and in clear language, condemning those who have attempted to divide America on racial and religious terms.

He won't do that, of course. Just like Hillary, he has painted himself into a corner - just as her campaign in its final thrust boiled down to a naked appeal to racial resentment, his campaign is now all about fear - the fear of being beaten up at an ATM by a big black man, the fear of having a black man in the Oval Office, and the fear that their tenuous hold on lower middle class status may slip away if the lives of black Americans improve in the least.

John Moody, EVP at FOX News, said this: "If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting."

Where are you John McCain?

Let's all hope that McCain's defeat leads to a reappraisal of the value of race-baiting in American politics. Let's hope that our future is one in which a story like Ashley Todd's is dismissed as irrelevant, that the racism that lends such a story its power is finally and forever discredited and abandoned.

Until that day. let us condemn those who insult our intelligence and our character by playing on our fears and prejudices. Shame on you, John McCain!

The God Vote

It isn't pretty, and it's really hard to believe that God approves this message.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm sooooo sorry

Carolina on my mind

-- James Taylor

Happy Friday!

-- Brewer & Shipley "I don't want to die in Georgia"

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

He's got the whole world

Sarah Palin says the election is "in God's Hands" and I am quite certain she means it. Like the preacher in the video, Palin is one of those who expects God to fix the election for the GOP. Why is blasphemy so attractive to the devout?

Palin was interviewed by James Dobson, who asked whether Palin was discouraged by the polls. Says Sarah:

"To me, it motivates us, makes us work that much harder," Palin said. "And it also strengthens my faith, because I'm going to know, at the end of the day, putting this in God's hands, that the right thing for America will be done at the end of the day on Nov. 4. So I'm not discouraged at all."
Now, I know that most people who say they believe in God don't really mean it - that is obvious by the way they live their lives. At least it is clear that - no matter what they say - deep down they know God isn't paying attention to what they do, and is extremely unlikely to intercede in their lives.

But Palin is one of those scary folks who seem to think God is on the job, like some supernatural precinct captain - like a divine Boss Tweed. So the polls don't matter, and it doesn't matter that the voters may prefer Barack Obama, because if God wants McCain to win, then John will win. Maybe McCain should suspend his campaign and hold a big prayer meeting. Why worry about Acorn, when you have the Almighty on your side?

For myself, as an atheist with enough sense to doubt my own conclusions, I find it easy to accept the proposition of some transcendent, remote and impersonal deity - but impossible to imagine a Supreme Being worthy of the name who stoops to meddle in elections (for either side).

It is absurd, even obscene, to suggest that a politically active God would fix this election to stop Barack Obama or John McCain, but did not prevent the rise of Adolf Hitler or Josef Stalin. But this is the kind of crap that one expects from Sarah Palin and today's GOP. It is appalling.

Can you read the durned sign?

Sheriff Steve Bizzell in Johnson County, North Carolina, has been working hard to find and accelerate the deportation of illegal aliens. Is he just carrying out his sworn duty to uphold the law, or is something less noble at work?

Bizzell, in an interview for a newspaper report on immigration reform published last month, complained that ''Mexicans are trashy.''

He pointed to several children playing in one community as if they proved his next generalization about Latinos: ''All they do is work and make love.''

He said Latinos spread a culture of drunkenness and violence through his mostly rural county, a short drive from Raleigh.

Bizzell quickly apologized for his remarks to The News & Observer, but his contrition wasn't enough to ward off critics who call his comments evidence that the nation's increasingly popular efforts to enforce immigration statutes locally have nothing to do with law and order.

''The chief law enforcement officer is demonstrating his racism in public, and he's allowing his officers to do the same,'' said Tony Asion, the executive director of nonprofit advocacy group El Pueblo and a retired Delaware state trooper. ''It gives them the green light to treat Latinos any way.''
Is that what Sarah Palin is talking about when she salutes the "pro-American" parts of the country? Or do you think Bizzell is voting for Obama?

Here's another tidbit from the Times story:

''Look at that,'' he said, pointing at a storefront during his tour of the area with the newspaper reporter. ''You can't even read the durned sign. Everywhere you look, it's like little Mexico around here.''
Lovely. I bet those durned Mexicans are too trashy to even speak good American. You betcha.

Slimy Republican Tactics

Jon Chait at TNR links to a WSJ piece by Steven Waldman. Waldman is President of and previously the national editor of US News & World Report. In his article, Waldman makes the case that Republicans are behind the disinformation campaign against Obama - that fewer than half of McCain's supporters believe Obama to be a Christian, and that 16% believe that the Democrat is actually a Muslim.

Here, a lengthy excerpt from the article:

There are some instances of Republican Party officials stoking the idea. The Tennessee Republican Party issued a press release about “Barack Hussein Obama” that included a picture of Sen. Obama in “Muslim garb.” The Clark County, Washington, Republican Party declared on its Web site that “Barack Hussein Obama has joined the United Church of Christ in an attempt to downplay his Muslim background. It is reported that Obama swore his oath of office using the Koran….This is chilling information about a candidate for the highest office in the Country especially given the radical Muslim claims that they will destroy American from the inside.”

The Web site of the National Black Republican Association featured an article analyzing “Obama’s Muslim Connections,” which declared, “It’s important to scrutinize Obama’s Muslim background to determine if his Islamic past influences his decisions and actions toward America, including his decision to select an anti-American pastor as his spiritual adviser.”

Marcia Stirman, chairman of Otero County Republican Women in New Mexico, said of Obama in a letter to the local newspaper: “He’s a Muslim socialist.”

Mainstream Conservative Media

Most important, the idea has been spread by mainstream conservative media – not just a few lonely conservative bloggers in their basement but major conservative publications or figures with large followings:
A popular conservative Web site,, ran a story this week called, “Was Obama a Muslim?” and another one, “Obama ‘Lying’ About Muslim Past, Expert Says.”

Another popular conservative Web site,, ran a piece called “’Muslim’ photo raises Obama connection questions.”

Human Events, a conservative publication that John McCain just granted an interview , also published an essay entitled, “Our First Muslim President?”

Conservative talk show host and bestselling author Michael Savage repeated a common myth that Sen. Obama attended a “Madrassa,” a radical Muslim school.

Floyd Brown, a conservative activist who created the Willie Horton ad against Michael Dukakis in 1988, issued a new ad, asking “Was Barack Obama ever a Muslim?”

Conservative talk shows – and some cable TV shows, it should be said – gave air time to Jerome Corsi, whose book “The Obama Nation” argued that Sen. Obama has “extensive connections to Islam.” He appeared on Hannity & Colmes to publicize his book and on Sean Hannity’s radio show to argue that Sen. Obama has a close connection to a radical Muslim politician in Kenya. Hannity also gave substantial TV time to Andy Martin, a free-lance activist, who helped originate one of the Internet emails arguing that Obama was Muslim.

Rush Limbaugh more recently added a new wrinkle by arguing that Sen. Obama is not African American but rather “an Arab.” Limbaugh did not say Sen. Obama is Muslim but many Americans believe that all Arabs are Muslim.

Finally, there’s the matter of the middle name. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin have made a point of never referring to their opponent as Barack Hussein Obama, apparently viewing that as an unfair attempt to imply Sen. Obama is Muslim or shady in some way. “I absolutely repudiate such comments,” Sen. McCain said, after someone introducing him used Sen. Obama’s full name. “It will never happen again.”

Using Obama’s Middle Name

But many prominent Republicans and conservatives have, including Mr. Limbaugh, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter (she has called him “B. Hussein Obama” and “President Hussein”), Mike Gallagher, and Bill Cunningham. And on two different occasions, Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin were introduced at rallies by men who used the formulation.

With schoolboy innocence, many conservative commentators say they were merely raising questions or stating facts. And you know what? That’s largely true.

Many stuck to the points about Sen. Obama that were accurate: His middle name is, after all, Hussein. He was listed as a Muslim as a boy when he attended school Indonesia. His stepfather was Muslim.

One could merely repeat those facts and it would lead many to believe Sen. Obama was Muslim – especially if one didn’t mention that Sen. Obama has been a practicing Christian for 17 years and was in Indonesia only until age 10 or 11.

Calling Imelda Marcos

Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic reports on Sarah Palin's $150k wardrobe, and its apparent illegality.

As a former John Edwards supporter, I remember the outrage over a $400 haircut. Let's see if Sarah Palin is criticized for spending $150,000 at Saks and Neiman Marcus on clothing.

Ambinder provides the relevant legal text:

(b) Prohibited use

(1) In general
A contribution or donation described in subsection (a) of this section shall not be converted by any person to personal use.

(2) Conversion
For the purposes of paragraph (1), a contribution or donation shall be considered to be converted to personal use if the contribution or amount is used to fulfill any commitment, obligation, or expense of a person that would exist irrespective of the candidate's election campaign or individual's duties as a holder of Federal office, including--

(A) a home mortgage, rent, or utility payment;
(B) a clothing purchase;
That seems clear enough. She broke the law, and so did the RNC for buying the clothes. What surprises me is that it is so excessive and unjustifiable, even if it weren't also illegal.

Did the Governor of Alaska have nothing to wear except moose hides and mukluks? As a woman who reads everything, you know, a very large part of her personal spending goes for books, newspapers, and magazines, of course. So naturally she needed to buy some clothes.

But can you imagine spending $150,000 on clothing? Evidently, the difference between a pitbull and a hockey mom has been jacked up.

When Sarah Palin complains about Obama's plan to spread the wealth, you just know she means to spend it all on herself instead. Spread it around, and she'll have to dress like the Governor of Alaska, doggone it.

The Republican Spirit

I was reminded of this low moment in Republican attack rhetoric (Nov 2005 if you're wondering) by the recent examples from Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachman. Republicans celebrate such ugliness - they cheer when Ann Coulter offers her crudest and most insulting sarcasm.

Lately I have attributed the anger and bitterness of Republicans to the shock they must be feeling as their era of rule comes to an ignominious end. But then I remember how profoundly miserable and angry these people were from the very start, and in the moments of their greatest power. They love the culture war, and now that they are losing, they cling to it. It is their safety blanket. It is their consistent theme, going back to Reagan and Buchanan, Gingrich and DeLay, Schmidt and Coulter, and now Palin and even John McCain.

In the final days of this campaign, we see the Republicans working overtime, striving mightily to close Obama's lead. They are pulling out all the stops - calling northern Virginia "communist country" while protesting that Obama's health care and tax policies amount to socialism; playing the race card wherever voters appear to be open to such tactics; and painting Obama as a foreigner, a Muslim, and a terrorist.

Mean-spirited and dishonest attacks seem to offer some relief to men and women for whom religious and political duty are tied together with Republican bumper stickers - people for whom tribalism trumps tolerance, evolution is a dirty word, Democrats are terrorists, immigrants are a threat, and global warming is just a liberal invention.

Sarah Palin is one of these people - clearly part of that sub-culture of ignorant, jingoistic, creationist, pro-life, nativist, corporate supply-side tax-cut populism, but John McCain seems to be riding the wave. Occasionally, he registers an objection, but mainly he surfs the sea of anger, ignorance, and racial resentment - hoping that he will manage somehow to land safely on the beach.

After the 2000 election, McCain expressed sincere regret that, in the pursuit of a few votes, he had expressed support for the display of the Confederate flag in South Carolina. What will he say when this race is done, and who will be inclined to listen?

More importantly, when we have won, and the government is in our hands, can we do right by these people - through tax relief, improvements in education and health care, and through growth in real wages and jobs - so that they never again can be played by the cynical Republican hate machine?

We face many challenges in the next few years, but in order to succeed we need to change some hearts. We need to move past the debilitating culture wars, and the limits imposed by the polarized politics of the past thirty years.

I believe Barack Obama understands this. He says it all the time, and he has run a campaign that has reflected this insight and commitment from the very beginning, through the primaries, and right up to this moment. That consistency speaks more loudly and clearly than any of his speeches or advertisments.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

They strongly object to my vote

McCain supporters heckling voters at a polling place in North Carolina, whish was opened for early voting. I have been a voter for 35 years and have never been harrassed at a polling place. Of course, race has nothing to do with it, right?

John McCain - these are your supporters, and these are the rancid recollections that will stick to you when your campaign for the presidency is long past, the memories that will define you more clearly than any tale of heroism.

Is this how you want to go out?


I think McCain has to take some blame for the ugliness his campaign has stirred up in the past few desperate weeks of his campaign, but who is really surprised that some Americans are reacting so poorly to Barack?

Many of us aspire to be better and bigger than the sum of our prejudices and the boundaries of our experience, but for some of us, those prejudices are intertwined with values, identity and tradition. We who aspire to something nobler need to remember that we launch these aspirations from our earthly plane, while swirling around us are the fetid waters of ignorance.

Pennsylvania. One wonders how she keeps her head above those waters.

They are for McCain

When this election is over, John McCain will go back to the Senate. Sarah Palin will return to Alaska. And these people will still live in your neighborhood.

These are your fellow Americans.

Deer in the headlights

For almost thirty years now, since the low-brow, greedy, self-righteous and mean-spirited Christian Right began its political ascendancy on the coattails of Ronald Reagan, people like Michelle Bachman have enjoyed the illusion of being right about everything. God was on their side, Washington had bent to their will, and the money was flowing in from every fatcat corporate client and lobbying firm that wished to suck at the teat of our dwindling Treasury. There was nothing they could not do, and the idea that their reign might not last was beyond the capacity of their narrow and ever narrowing minds.

Michelle Bachman is a perfect example of the infirmity caused by three decades of such undeserved prominence. With all the charm of Tom DeLay, the civility of Ann Coulter and the expressive power of George W Bush, Ms Bachman launched her fruitcake attack. Guess what - she thinks Democrats are anti-American. Watch her performance in this interview with Chris Matthews, and see if she doesn't remind you of that girl in high school who can't accept that her team isn't going to make up a deficit of fifty points in the last 30 seconds of the football game.

I felt sorry for that girl, but Ms Bachman is in the Congress - not high school. It is time the Republicans graduated, don't you think?

The Agony of Defeat

Christopher Orr, at The New Republic, recounts the latest pathetic story of rancorous Republicans spewing bilious clouds of nastiness as they sink into the muck and the despair that is Rove-McCain politics in this age of open-eyed citizenship.

Robin Hayes, a four-term Republican Congressman from North Carolina, told a crowd at a campaign event that "liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God." Afterwards, Hayes had his spokeswoman deny that he said anything of the sort.

Orr writes:

Astonishingly, an audio recording of the event was found. Still more astonishingly, Hayes said just what he was accused of saying. He's since responded, "I genuinely did not recall making the statement and, after reading it, there is no doubt that it came out completely the wrong way. I actually was trying to work to keep the crowd as respectful as possible, so this is definitely not what I intended."
It must be hard to accept defeat when you're convinced God is on your side.

Monday, October 20, 2008

For Dan

A lament for a loved one who has gone away - and a very pretty song indeed.


It seems that you have faded away and abandoned the love of life
The snow is spread about at the mouth of the sea
Your yellow flowing hair and little gentle mouth
We give you Mary Chinidh to swim forever in the Erne

‘My dear mother,’ said blonde Mary
By the edge of the shore and the mouth of the sea
‘A mermaid is my noble mother’
We give you Mary Chinidh to swim forever in the Erne

I am tired and will be forever
My fair Mary and my blond Patrick
On top of the waves and by the mouth of the sea
We give you Mary Chinidh to swim forever in the Erne

The night is dark and the wind is high
The Plough can be seen high in the sky
But on top of the waves and by the mouth of the sea
We give you Mary Chinidh to swim forever in the Erne

From Clár Áine Cook's website

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another Lovely Tune

Kate Rusby - "The Wild Goose"

Just a Lovely Tune

Neil Young - "Bandit"

Early Voting in Ohio

Joel Stein, at Time, checked out Ohio's early in-person voting to see what these early birds are like - the results were quite amusing. Here an excerpt:

I was interested less in which candidate Hamilton County will vote for than in finding out what kind of person votes a month before the election. To my shock, none of them told me they were voting early "to avoid old people." Equally surprising, no one found that question to be strange. The voters were, however, dubious about my professionalism when I asked whether "people sometimes call them anal"--though 36% said yes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Al Smith Dinner

Anyone else see McCain last night speaking cordially of Barack Obama? It was eye-opening, to say the least. Maybe McCain isn't a nasty little shit, after all? I was amazed.

Watch the video - it's pretty funny. McCain's praise of Obama starts at about the 10 minute mark. It is hard to reconcile this classy performance with the crude and dishonest personal attacks of his campaign - maybe it is a sign that McCain intends to take his campaign, and his honor, back from Steve Schmidt and Karl Rove.

One can only hope.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


This is a pretty good comeback.

Found at The Stump.

Weird Moments

John McCain's screwy weirdness is all-too reminiscent of the man he hopes to succeed in office, the great miscommunicator himself. Last night, McCain talked about Sarah Palin's knowledge of autism, leaving many of us to wonder if he did not know her well enough to understand that autism is not the same as Down Syndrome.

I wonder what Sarah Palin thought when she heard that - assuming she wasn't too busy reading her many news sources to watch the debate.

Of course, Sarah is as screwy as McCain. She probably didn't give it a second thought, assuming she ever has such a thing.

I lifted the photo above from The New Republic. It seems the perfect visual for the McCain campaign -- moronic; unpresidential; hopelessly weird.

Maverick No More

Last night, when Bob Schieffer asked John McCain about the nasty nature of his campaign's personal attacks on Obama, McCain responded by complaining about John Lewis (ignoring that he and his running mate have stood by while their supporters yell out death threats).

Then Schieffer asked McCain to comment on Sarah Palin's accusation that Obama pals around with terrorists. McCain responded by defending her audience.

OBAMA: But when people suggest that I pal around with terrorists, then we're not talking about issues. What we're talking about...

MCCAIN: Well, let me just say I would...

SCHIEFFER: (inaudible)

MCCAIN: Let me just say categorically I'm proud of the people that come to our rallies. Whenever you get a large rally of 10,000, 15,000, 20,000 people, you're going to have some fringe peoples. You know that. And I've -- and we've always said that that's not appropriate.
Senator McCain appears to be incapable of following the questions, and despite his reputation as a man who prizes honor above all else, his dissembling and self-interested rationalizations are especially jarring and deeply disappointing.

His campaign is shameful. When he defends the people who shout "Kill him" at his rallies, he insults the intelligence and character of the American people, and extends the Rove/Bush legacy of polarizing politics and cynicism. We have had enough of this, Mr McCain. We will be as glad to see you leave the stage on November 4 as we expect to be on January 20, when Bush and Rove slink off to whatever stinkhole will have them.

The crudescence of Republican politics has reached its nadir. One can only hope that the few remaining decent men and women of the GOP will take their party back over the next four years. McCain had a chance to start them in the right direction, but he chose instead to go with the flow. What a pity he did not live up to his now laughably discredited nickname.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What do I know?

From an article in the NY Times on the latest CBS News / New York Times poll:

Voters who said their opinions of Mr. Obama had changed recently were twice as likely to say they had grown more favorable as to say they had worsened. And voters who said that their views of Mr. McCain had changed were three times more likely to say that they had worsened than to say they had improved.

The top reasons cited by those who said they thought less of Mr. McCain were his recent attacks and his choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate.
I don't get it. I would have thought voters would pay little attention to the mudslinging, and even less to Palin, and that the main reason for the shift towards Obama would be the financial meltdown and McCain's erratic response to that crisis. I am glad that the crude dishonesty and mean-spirited personal attacks are costing McCain, but I am also surprised.

Shows how little I know.

Noam Scheiber at TNR points out that Obama is doing very well among white voters, for a Democrat of any color. He's pulling 45% of whites in the poll, tied with McCain in that category. Apparently, that's a higher percentage than our side usually gets, and again one is left to wonder. I thought these were the voters we needed Hillary to get for us.

Each poll that comes out reinforces a growing sense of victory, and an emerging confidence that real change may be within reach. I want to celebrate, but I am increasingly confused by the numbers. I will be looking forward to the exit polls and final vote tallies on election night, and to the analysis that follows.

Something strange and wonderful is happening, but it feels like a dream.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Partying with Putin

This is something I found a week or so ago at TNR. In the anticipation of tonight's final debate, I thought I would put it up here for laughs.

Can we afford progress?

Volunteers for Obama, Hackensack, NJ

I was canvassing for Obama this past weekend, and one conversation with a man named Ira whose home I visited stands out in my mind this morning. He was older than me - maybe 65 or so - and he talked about the inequities of the past 8 years, and how the system was rigged to benefit the rich guy. He talked about the bailout - he called it the $7 billion bailout and I wonder if he could even conceive of $700 billion. He complained about the cost of the Iraq war - $10 billion a month (he had that figure right) - and he wondered how we could pay for any of it.

It is quite reasonable to be worried - even amazed at the scale of our recent financial debacle.

I also worry that the many important things we need to do may be held hostage to the debt we have accumulated through the Bush years - that this recent debacle will make us hesitant about important undertakings. I worry that reasonable people will support the kind of small-minded compromises that became the legacy of the Clinton presidency - prioritizing deficit-reduction over progressive policy priorities, cleaning up the economic mess of a past Republican administration rather than building a platform for future growth, and delaying once again a serious effort to gain energy independence and limit the impact of global climate change.

Having endured 8 years of winter, I fear that we will not take full advantage of this marvelous springtime opportunity for renewal and growth. We must not miss this opportunity.

Jonathan Cohn, writing in The New Republic, argues on good economic grounds that President Obama should ignore the bailout and move forward with his program. Cohn writes:

...the perception that Obama must radically pare back his ambitious spending proposals--a perception widely shared in Washington--makes several fundamental errors. For one thing, it misunderstands the nature of a Wall Street "bailout"--which, properly constructed, shouldn't seriously deplete federal funds. More important, the conventional analysis ignores the fact that we face deep economic problems besides the financial crisis--problems that only government can fix. The case for Obama's spending agenda hasn't suddenly become weaker. If anything, it's actually grown a bit stronger.
Cohn's article is worth a read, if like me you are concerned that our progressive agenda has been hocked by the outgoing lame-duck President and his ongoing lame-ass legacy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Swing Voters?

George Packer, writing in The New Yorker, about voters in southeastern Ohio, who may be facing their "hardest vote" - a vote that would cross a racial line that looms larger than the issues and their economic self-interest. An excerpt:

A maintenance man at the nearby high school, who declined to give his name, said that he had been undecided until McCain selected Palin to be his running mate, which swung his support to Obama.

“So you’re a sexist more than a racist,” Herbert joked.

“I just think the guy Obama picked would do better if he got assassinated than McCain’s if he died of frickin’ old age in office,” the maintenance man said.

Four women of retirement age were sitting at the next table. All of them spoke warmly of Palin. “She’d fit right in with us,” Greta Jennice said. “We should invite her over.” None had a good word to say about Obama. “I think he’s a radical,” a white-haired woman who wouldn’t give her name said. “The church he went to, the people he associated with. You don’t see the media digging into that.”

“I don’t know anyone who’s for Obama,” said Jennice, a Democrat who supported Hillary Clinton and who won’t vote in November.

“If they are, they don’t say it, because it would be unpopular,” an elderly former teacher named Marcella said. That had not been true of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or John Kerry, she added.

“I think the party-line Democrats are having a hard time with Obama,” Bobbie Dunham, a retired fourth-grade teacher, told me. When I asked if Obama’s health-care plan wouldn’t be a good thing for people in Glouster, she said, “I’ll believe it when I see it. If it’s actually happening, I’d say that’s good.” But she and the others had far more complaints about locals freeloading off public assistance than about the health-insurance industry and corporations. Dunham declared her intention to write in a vote for either Snoopy or T. Boone Pickens. “I’m not going to vote for a Republican—they’ve had their chance for the last eight years and they’ve screwed it up,” she said. “But I really just don’t trust Obama. He only says half-truths. He calls himself a Christian, but he only became one to run for office. He calls himself a black, but he’s two-thirds Arab.”
One wonders how it could be that so many Americans could be so poorly informed, so culturally backward, so crudely prejudiced. How can any nation face the 21st century challenges of the global economy, and deal with climate change, the war on terror, nuclear proliferation, energy independence, health reform, and the financial market meltdown, with such limited brainpower? The world looks to us for leadership (yes, even after the disappointments of the past 8 years) - how can we possibly lead while we carry the dead weight of such abysmal ignorance on our backs?

Packer's point of course is not to mock these folks. Nor is it mine. We ought to figure out how to help these people, for our own sake if not for theirs.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

More of the Same Hero Worship?

Initially, I was an Obama doubter. I was backing John Edwards - now of course it is clear where my doubts should have rested, but even as I have come to appreciate the manifold talents, temperament, and decency of Mr Obama - indeed, even as I have thrown myself into campaigning on his behalf, I retain a sense of reservation. I am subtly but increasingly wary and even resistant to the pull of hero-worship that seems to infect everyone around me.

Deep down a voice inside me whispers with urgency "We do not need a savior, a hero on a white horse, a great man - this is a path away from democracy and the end of our great republic." After eight years of the Cheney administration's "Unitary Executive", I want to avoid a counter-reaction from the left, a swing in direction but a continuation of a governing power that resides not in the Congress but in the White House, a continuation of the emasculation of checks and balances and the withering of the applicability of laws to those residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

When the President does it, it isn't illegal - these words of Richard Nixon's have been the credo of Mr Cheney and his ilk. The underlying mindset that permitted the return of this pirate ethos to the Presidency is a willingness among a broad swath of Americans to place their trust in one man, believed to be in touch with God Almighty, rather than in the laws, traditions, and institutions of o ur government.

The government is not the solution to our problems - it is the problem, argued the great man-leader of Republicans. This attitude produced the tragic ineptitude and neglect that was so evident in the aftermath of Katrina, in the administration of the ruinous war in Iraq, and in the meltdown of our financial markets and institutions.

We do not need more of the same. I support Barack Obama, and I hope with all my heart he has the wisdom of Lincoln, the genius and perserverance of FDR, the energy and political mastery of LBJ, and the goodness, idealism, generosity of spirit, and humane decency that is needed in such a time of crisis and hardship. But my deepest hope is that my elected representatives in Congress will assert the power of their institution and regain my trust and the trust of the nation. My deepest hope is that that my President and my Congress will work together to meet our great national challenges - and to heal the injuries to our constitutional, republican and democratic government.

I fear that in placing the halo on Obama's head, we are repeating the mistake made by those who placed that same halo on the head of George W Bush. I am uneasy, even as I tingle with anticipation of the coming Democratic victory.

10 Habits of Ineffective Government

Glenn Greenwald has posted 10 normal principles our government follows in general, and has followed in the recent crisis. Here they are, somewhat abridged:

(1) Incredibly complex and consequential new laws are negotiated in secret and then enacted immediately, with no hearings, no real debate, no transparency.

(2) Those who created the crisis, were wrong about everything, drive the process. Experts who dissent from the prevailing Washington orthodoxy, particularly ones who were presciently warning about what was happening, are simply ignored -- systematically excluded from the process.

(3) Public opinion is largely ignored, as always, and public anger is placated through illusory, symbolic and largely meaningless concessions.

(4) The Government begins with demands for absolute power so brazen and absurd that anything, by comparison, seems reasonable...

(5) Wall Street, large corporations and their lobbyists own the Federal Government and both parties, and (therefore) they always win.

(6) The people who run the Washington Establishment are drowning in conflicts of interest.

(7) For all the anger over what Wall St. has done, the Government -- as it bails them out -- isn't doing anything to rein in their practices.

(8) When the Government wants greater and greater power and wants to engage in pure corruption, it need only put the population in extreme fear and it gets its way in every case.

(9) On the most consequential and fundamental questions that define the country, the establishment/leadership of both political parties are in full agreement, and insulate themselves from any political ramifications by acting jointly.

(10) Whenever you think that the Government has done things so extreme that it can't top itself -- torture, theories of presidential lawbreaking, a six-year war justified by blatantly false pretenses -- it always tops itself.

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Thursday, October 02, 2008

AOL Journals

I met people and made friends through my AOL Journal, and was amazed at the community that inhabited the AOL Journals space. I made some friends there that I will always hold in my heart, even though I never met some of them.

Blogging gave me an opportunity and inspiration to sit down and work my thoughts and feelings into words. When I am in my most authentic voice, writing about something that really matters, I find it to be among the subtlest and most unexpected pleasures of my life, as well as good exercise for a often muddled brain.

The folks at AOL pretty much killed the AOL Journals community when they forced advertising banners onto the pages of the members. I don't know why that pissed everyone off so much, but within a few weeks many of the people I knew had picked up and moved to new locations. Although I kept in touch with some folks, things haven't been the same since.

Today, AOL announced they are shutting down AOL Journals, and asking everyone to pick up their stuff and go elsewhere.

The party of course, is long over.

In my mind, I imagine a lonely chap with a broom and bucket, cleaning up in some darkened hall after a grand affair has ended and wondering what magic might have happened there.

To all my fellow former AOL Journalers, I offer my best wishes.