Saturday, March 08, 2008

Welcome To The Big Leagues, Son

I love this paragraph:
But after his defeats this week at the hands of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, there is frustration and anger among his supporters, advisers and contributors about the Clinton campaign’s attacks on him — and still-unresolved tension about how far he can go in striking back without sacrificing his claim to be practicing a new brand of politics.
Hm. All these freshly washed faces attracted to the Obama campaign because, you know, he still has that "new pol" smell about him, which is all that distinguishes him from Clinton or McCain, for that matter.

Ethical questions, close ties to shabby lobbyists, the ability to bald-faced lie to voters while cutting back room deals with the people who his "policies" will a Clintonista, it's been fun watching Obama peeled back like an onion.

But you know what they say about onions: you keep peeling them and finally you're left with nothing. That, above all else, is probably why Obombers are so angry and frustrated right now with what are very mild hits by the Clinton campaign against their hero.

The Sally Power incident yesterday shows what a deep fracture there is between the Obama public face and what goes on behind the scenes.

“Last Monday, I made inexcusable remarks that are at marked variance from my oft-stated admiration for Senator Clinton and from the spirit, tenor, and purpose of the Obama campaign."

That last bit is clearly a lie. She is senior enough in the campaign staff that those sentiments had been reinforced somewhere in the echo chamber that is all campaigns. You are insulated from reality and develop a deeply paranoid sense of both grandeur and suspicion.

That's just the nature of a campaign, like it or not. You're too focused on the work in front of you to take a breath and put things into perspective.

Which is why it's been delicious this week to watch Obombers sweat a little. The assumption that the nomination was there for the taking has been shattered like the illusion it was ever since there was no clear winner on Super Tuesday, and Hillary Clinton has exposed a deep flaw in the nominating process: once you take it off the table and put it into subjective territory, the case for either candidate can be made.

We Clintonistas knew that, which is why when the Obombers were gloating, we merely smiled, and egged them on. Neither Obama nor Clinton will win this on the hustings. It will be up to the superdelegates, and the Clintons have far more to deal to them, because, you see...well, it's like legislation: you don't want to see what goes in it to get it passed.

The end game is starting to take shape here: Obama will end up with about a 100 delegate lead in elected delegates. He might end up with the popular vote (depending on Florida and Michigan, both heavily Clintonian strongholds), but Clinton can point out that more Democrats voted for her, even disallowing Florida and Michigan, therefore she deserves to represent the majority of Democrats.

That, I think, is a very strong argument, and she can back that up by pointing out that in primaries alone, you know, where the people vote, people who vote and then go to their jobs and not the idle rich who can put in two or three hours standing around a school cafeteria, she not only clobbered Obama in the popular vote, but in the delegate count as well.

In other words, we've got a brokered ticket. And then the fun begins at the convention or before.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Friday Cat Kitten Blogging

Hallo mah peepz! I no fel so gud dis week. Muss bin sumfin dadby feeded me. Butt I dint wanna dispoind you!

Friday Music Blogging

Blondie - Rapture

Y'know, if you hang around long enough, things take on a whole new meaning that you're certain the creators couldn't possibly think about. While there was never a deep philosophical discussion regarding the meaning of this song..."Duuuuude, great beat, easy to dahnce to, I give it a 74, mon!...after twenty years of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and eight years of Bush...listen closely to the lyrics and think about the song title.

I've Made A Decision

I'm going to write a book. A series of them, in fact.

I won't reveal details until I've submitted to a publisher, but the very very few people I've approached with the idea believe it could sell quite nicely.

The best part is, no research! I can do all this in my sleep, which is how I write most blogposts anyway...

One Reason To Be A Little Worried

While the primary Democrats have raised nearly a half billion dollars in funds, the party is broke. The Republicans are not:
The Democratic National Committee ended 2007 nearly flat broke, with cash of $2.9 million and debts of $2.2 million. Since then it has raised some money, paid down debt and managed to put $3.7 million in its piggy bank. This compares, however, with $25 million that the Republican National Committee has in cash on hand, after having raised $97 million since the beginning of 2007.

And with Senator John McCain now the presumptive Republican nominee, party officials started plotting with his campaign this week on deploying those resources against the well-financed Democratic candidacies of Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
Remember, the parties can spend money on the presidential campaigns, particularly in the grey zone between the primary campaigns and the convention, when candidates are barred from using general election funds OR primary funds.

Howard Dean, the 2004 Barack Obama, screwed this up, royally, according to the article.

Nobody Asked Me, But...

1) You know, this is the third similar bombing in roughly three years. You'd think a bombing at the embassy of two of our stanuchest allies might get as much national attention.

2) Someone will have to explain to me how caucuses are valid means of selecting a candidate, since they favor the wealthy and discourage the working classes. We've heard from the folks who claim the election was stolen in Ohio since people had to stand in line for hours to vote, choosing between voting (presumably for Kerry) and their jobs. Well, doesn't spending two hours in the middle of the working week constitute a similar burden? Haven't we had enough plutocractic decisions made for us? Can Obama truly represent the least among us if he's been chosen by the elites? How patrician!

3) This is interesting, and I'm shocked that more noise hasn't been made about it. Colombia is gearing up for what appears to be border skirmishes with Venezuela and Ecuador, both of whom, to put it politely, have certain antagonisms and animosities towards the Bush administration. You'd *think* they'd want to make this case go away, yet they are the ones pressing it. It could be that this same guy has been funneling arms to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. It could also be that the guy is Russian. Together, those might trump any PR stink that Chavez can raise.

4) This is truly a tragic loss, for her family and her school of course, but for all of us. it has been written than any man's death diminishes me. This death in particular shows just how much we lose. She could have been the next generation of great woman.

5) It's time for the annual reminder that 20% of soldiers returning from combat are returning with serious emotional timebombs in their heads. And the annual observation that near not a damn thing is being done to help them.

6) Yea. Barack Obama's a new kind of politician...from as far back as the hate-filled "1984" spoof to the race-baiting after Bill Clinton's comments regarding Obama's Iraq fairy tale, up to this point, Barack Obama has never taken responsibility or denounced OR rejected the misogynism and hatred his followers have spewed. To his credit, for this last comment, Obama very quietly said there was no place for it. I challenge you to go find that part of the tale. At the law, and Obama is a lawyer, silence means consent. He could have, should have, spoken out if he finds this kind of politics so unattractive, as loudly as he does when he perceives it's being lobbed at him.

7) Neither candidate can win this on the hustings, that much is clear. Once you open the door to subjective considerations, all bets are off as to who the nominee will be. It doesn't matter who has "the most votes". And for those who believe it does, I have three words for you: Al Gore 2000.

8) And for those who plead with Hillary to leave the race "for the good of the party", I have three words for you: Al Gore 2000. You didn't like it then, so stop being a hypocrite now.

9) You might think a sport like golf would be a bit more civilized than to engage in animal slaughter. He fired ten times to do the trick.

10) Not that this helps me much this year anyway, I'm still due for one, but it's nice to have them cut back a little. The procedure is not completely horrible, but the preparation is.

11) Finally, it may be symbolic, but it is historic! Thank you, Brattleboro and Marlboro!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

What An Unusual Choice Of Phrase...

“I don’t think it is fair to suggest somehow that we have been trying to hide the bone on this,” Obama told Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times.
...and then he turned and ran out of the room, reporters' questions trailing behind him like passengers trying to catch a train leaving early.

Seven Weeks

That's an eternity in a political calendar, particularly in the modern political calendar where stories no longer have "second day" details, but have follow ups in the second hour. I imagine we'll be seeing a lot of stories like these:

1) 'NAFTAgate' began with remark from Harper's chief of staff

2) ONLY GORE CAN STOP A MELTDOWN ('s the Rupert Murdoch-owned NY can't be true!)

3) They must go for Hillary Clinton

4) Obama and Clinton Supporters Must Drop Out of the Race (a not-particularly comic take on the candidates themselves dropping out...I'd like to think I was some influence on this, but damn! I'd hate to bear any responsibility for "teh UNfunny"!)

5) The Sanjaya Effect? (And a Few Other Stray March 4 Thoughts) (skip the article. It's NRO's The Corner)

6) HILLARY, 'MOST SECRETIVE POLITICIAN IN AMERICA'? (Surprisingly, not a Murdoch-onwed outlet, it's MSNBC (= Misogynists Slap Nice Blonde Candidate?))

...and so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, add Pepto Bismol and lie down...

You get the sense that a bunch of bloggers and writers, looking down at a blank screen after imbibing way too much Tuesday night and needing something to post because they're bumping up against their expense account limits, decided to, you know, get stupid.

Stupider, I should say. This goes beyond "hangover stupid" straight to "hair of the dog, and another, and another" stupid reporting and analysis. This goes straight to "Ohmygod, I slept with THAT?!" stupid. This goes straight to "Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 and is trying to get uranium" stupid reporting.

It's hard to coax breathless prose to signify THE! MOST! IMPORTANT! STORY! EVER! when in fact nothing is happening and nothing is going to happen at least until Saturday. April 5, I mean.

Guys, give your livers, your brains and your readers a break! It's nearly Spring. Take a walk, stop imagining that you're still in Manchester, NH, and enjoy yourselves. We'll have plenty to occupy ourselves!

American Idol is in full swing! We're about due for a Britney sighting any day now! Baseball is about to get underway! Some celebrity somewhere is about to give birth to a baby! A bear's about to shit in the woods!

On the other hand, maybe you could, you know, write about something that matters?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Hump Day Comedy Blogging

The Inimitable Lisa Nova on the Democratic primaries

It Ain't Over...

...'til the pantsuited lady sings...which would be pretty scary, I think!:
“No candidate in recent history — Democratic or Republican — has won the White House without winning the Ohio primary,” Mrs. Clinton, of New York, said at a rally in Columbus, Ohio. “We all know that if we want a Democratic president, we need a Democratic nominee who can win Democratic states just like Ohio.”
It doesn't sound like she's even warming up her voice yet.

Interesting possibilities arise out of last night's V,O,T,R primary: Vermont, Ohio, Texas, and Rhode Island.

For one thing, Hillary swept all of Ohio except for the isolated counties containing large urban areas like Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton and Cleveland. A startling observation for Obama is that he didn't carry the surrounding suburbs of those cities. That would concern me because he's never had that problem in other big-ticket states. Indeed, in Texas, he carried the suburbs of Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Curiously, he didn't carry San Antonio. We might chalk that up to that city being more conservative than the other three.

Clinton's electoral map is starting to show great strength in the Southwest and Northeast. This is comforting news for her should she continue on to the convention and be within striking distance of Obama at that point: she can make a very strong case that she will win in states that Democrats must win in order to win the elecdtion, where Obama's strengths are in states that normally won't vote Democratic if you held a gun to the voters' heads.

Should a brokered ticket be necessary, meaning Obama and Clinton agree to both appear on the ticket, this might be enough for her to win the top spot.

While Pennsylvania is the next truly key battleground state, should Clinton prevail there, which seems likely now given that nearly all the counties surrounding it have gone into the Clinton column, the next race of interest after that would be Oregon on May 20, which could prove to be the stopper for either Obama or Clinton.

North Carolina on the 6th of May should be an easy Obama victory, but look for Bill Clinton to pull the same moral victory there that he did in Alabama: Obama won that state by 14% points in the popular vote, but the Big Dog's campaigning made the delegate race a 27-25 split.

Apart from Mississippi and Wyoming, there are no more primaries this month. Obama should do well in both of those states, but keep an eye on Wyoming in terms of the Afghanistan oversight issue.

One side note to the Obombers who believe Hillary's done for: we all castigated Al Gore for giving up too easily. Maybe you guys should cut her some slack. She has a point about her candidacy being viable, still.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Walking Back the Cat

This interview with Stephen Kinzer on Democracy Now is a must read/see. In a nutshell, a Middle East primer from the author of "Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq" and "All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terrorism".
"....—they call it in the CIA “walking back the cat.” You can walk back the cat endlessly on this one. And the reason the story is so relevant is that it tells us the main thing you need to know in assessing the current idea of an attack on Iran, which is the worst consequences are ones you can’t even imagine. Not even the wisest analysts, the most prescient specialists, in 1953 could ever have imagined all these consequences. Ah, the Shah’s going to fall; there’s going to be mullahs in power; the Soviets are going to invade Afghanistan; all these other things will happen. It shows you that when you violently interfere in the affairs of another country, you’re like setting off a wheel at the top of a hill. You let it go; you have no idea how it’s going to bounce."
Also, the exchange between hostage Bruce Laingen and one of his hostage taker/jailers is, well, let's just say, NOT part of the perspective widely circulated in the West. But certainly gives one pause given current affairs in Iraq. Not to mention Iran again. When will we ever learn......

Easy For HIM To Say!

On the face of things, this sounds like a good idea:
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke, battling the worst housing recession in a quarter century, urged lenders to forgive portions of mortgages held by homeowners at risk of defaulting.

``Efforts by both government and private-sector entities to reduce unnecessary foreclosures are helping, but more can, and should, be done,'' Bernanke said in a speech in Orlando, Florida today. ``Principal reductions that restore some equity for the homeowner may be a relatively more effective means of avoiding delinquency and foreclosure.''
Approximately ten percent of mortgages in the country are in technical default, meaning that the amount owed to the lender exceeds the market value of the house. Figure another twenty percent beyond that are at or just around a default, meaning that if housing prices drop any further, they too would risk being in technical default. This doesn't take into account actual defaults, where families simply toss the keys on the table and walk away, unable to make anymore payments.

So would banks agree to this?

Probably not, except in limited circumstances. I can visualize a scenario where banks decided to reduce some mortgages on borrowers who they deemed to be good re-risks: in other words, likely to come back and borrow more, which would make up some of the reduction in loans receivable for the bank's balance sheets.

Widespread mortgage reductions simply ain't happening and we have only to look as far as the new Visa IPO to see how silly this talk is.

If you don't know about this, a consortium of banks owns the Visa credit card as a private joint venture amongst them. These banks are attempting to spin off the Visa division as a stand-alone public company.

Odd time to spin off a credit card company, don't you think? Consumer defaults on credit cards are at all-time highs, lending risk is skyrocketing, and people are maxed out on their credit cards. How could Visa possibly mine new territory now in order to make the IPO work?

Many reasons have been put forth for this, but underlying all these excuses seems to me a very simple piece of logic: the banks are seeing what Bernanke is seeing and taking self-serving action to support their own stock prices: they are off-loading bad debts not by expensing them and taking a hit to the bottom line, but by moving them into the new Visa entity, then spinning that off to basically drop dead and drop their debt off on the suckers who buy the stock.

This will give the banks the funds necessary to try to salvage their mortgage banking business, roughly $10 billion across the IPO.

Naturally, this makes the shareholders of the banks happy and they would not be pleased to see that money "squandered" on some bunch of suckers who borrowed more than they should have.

I guess it's easy to be bloodless when your blood runs cold anyway.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Hm. This Is Troubling...

(via) In July 2005, reported that Rezmar, Inc., a corporation owned by Tony Rezko (Obama's indicated bagman who is about to stand trila for corruption charges today in Chicago), signed a joint venture agreement with Iraq to operate...wait for it...a power plant in Iraq.

What makes this truly interesting is another piece of the Obama puzzle I reported on the other day: the connections between an exiled Iraqi oil billionaire Nadhmi Auchi and Barack Obama's campaign, in which the billionaire feloniously financed through a loan to Obama's campaign an Obama fundraiser in May of that same year, 2005 (presumably this was to repay debts incurred in his rookie run for Senate).

For the mapless, let me draw one:Iraqi oil billionaire, repatriated oil assets, ready customer base, US President

The deal was signed before the $3.5 million dollar loan to Obama, and was arranged through Tony Rezko. Quid pro quo? Maybe not, but it sure smells funny.

But wait, there's more, as the kids say: Tony Rezko has ties to former Iraqi Energy Minister Aiham Alsammarae, who was tried and convicted of stealing $650 million in Iraqi reconstruction funding provided by the Bush administration. He also lived while in exile from Iraq in...Chicago!

This theft also partly explains why Iraqis only have about eight to ten hours of electricity every day.

Funny how all this corruption surrounds the energy industry in Iraq, isn't it?

Funny how it all centers around Barack Obama's Presidential candidacy. After all this is a man who's positions on Iraq have run from "No war" to his July 27, 2004 comment that there's "not that much difference between my position and George Bush’s position at this stage" to his current "once we had driven the bus into the ditch, there were only so many ways we could get out," flimflam.

We now get a look behind the curtain at this particular "evolution in action" moment of Barack Obama, lubricated in large part by illegal campaign financing, outright theft of American taxpayer money, and shady connections to a country whose economic and physical future is dependent upon who will be the next President.

I think Obama, for the good of the Democratic party, should consider dropping out now, before this embarassment becomes exploited by the Republican party.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

BEFORE You Get All Cocky About November

Watch this video (roughly an hour and twenty minutes)

This was a recent panel in a symposium held in the New York Public Library called "There You Go Again: Orwell Comes to America", which invited experts from fields as diverse as linguistics and government to speak about manipulation and propaganda.

This particular panel, comprised of George Lakoff (Co-Founder and Senior Fellow, Rockridge Institute and the Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics, UC Berkeley), Frank Luntz (political pollster and consultant; author of "Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear."), and Drew Westen (professor of psychology/psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory University; author of "The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation."), moderated by Nicholas Lemann (dean and Henry R. Luce Professor, The Journalism School, Columbia University), was on the topic of "Deceiving Images: The Science of Manipulation".

Much has happened since this symposium, just five short months ago, but some of the conclusions drawn are fascinating.

In a nutshell, this video helps explain why Democrats have had such horrible times trying to win elections. In particular, pay close attention to George Lakoff's discussion, and to the reaction people have to Frank Luntz, who, while a reprehensible little man, has some valuable insight into the political process and for that, deserved a respectful-if-chilled reception.

He speaks about Kerry and Gore losing their elections, and then gets roundly heckled by folks who point out those elections were stolen.

No matter how true that is (and certainly, cases can be made for both), the simple fact is, neither election should have been close enough to steal and here, Luntz is golden in explaining how the GOP managed to turn the election to that plane. This is stuff we NEED to hear and only goes towards proving Luntz's points about communications.

It's Sunday. There's no football on. You can spend some time watching.

And then go throw LinkTV a few bucks for showing it. You can even pick up two DVDs that will show you how the Republicans plan on stealing this year's election, including BBC reporter Greg Palast's "The Election Files 2008" which includes early efforts to cage voters this year, as well as reports on Diebold failures from 2006 and how that company has been having elected officials who reported them fired! That's right: elected officials are being fired on the orders of a private corporation.

Medical Update

I got some possibly good news yesterday.

The first surgeon called, and she said that the Columbia U review of her slides showed that her diagnosis was accurate: she got that entire first tumour in her surgery.

She's asked the second surgeon to send over those slides so she can review them herself. As she put it, he's not a dermapathologist, and they may not have had one on staff at the hospital.

So my surgery this week has been postponed.