Friday, October 31, 2008

It Takes a Brit to Put Our Politics Into Perspective

Tonight, Keith Olbermann interviewed former Monty Python star John Cleese. The interview is fairly long and touches on a number of issues, but Cleese makes one point exceedingly well (beginning at about 1:50). Watch the whole video if you're a Cleese fan; I'll provide a mini-transcript of the part that I'm referring to below:

Here's the part that really caught my attention:
I think the problem, the problem came when they all wanted George W. to be President because he was someone they could have a beer with. You know, someone you feel comfortable with. I don't want a President I feel comfortable with. I want a President who's so damn smart and well-informed and sharp and a good assessor of people that if I was there I'd just keep my mouth shut so that he didn't realize what a fool I was, you know? But that seems to be the opposite of what a certain kind of -- I don't know if I should say Republican, but largely it seems Republican voters want someone who's going to be comfortable with. And you know, the Americans are terrific about not being envious about money compared with the Europeans. They seem to be very envious about intelligence. And the idea of actually being with someone who's sort of intelligent, well-informed, and educated, you know Ivy League coll- [Cleese makes a funny face and funny noises] not a proper American, you know? And there's a sort of envy of that with the result that they want someone that they'd be comfortable with who is not going to be terribly bright or very highly intelligent or awfully sharp or a very good judge of people. Considering its for the job, it's the most powerful man in the world, it's rather alarming.
I guess it takes a Brit to put our politics into perspective.

Update: Oops. Forgot to give the post a title...


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Are Long Waits to Vote the Equivalent of a Poll Tax

Poll taxes have been illegal for a long time. But this evening, I heard MSNBC's Rachel Maddow suggest that long lines that force people to wait for hours to vote is the modern equivalent of a poll tax. How's that, you ask? Simple. Many professionals can afford to take off half a day (or more) to wait in line to vote. Stay at home moms and the retired can afford to spend the day at the polls. But can workers earning an hourly wage, often with unsympathetic employers, take off half a day, probably without pay, just to vote? It won't cost me anything to take time off to vote. I can work extra hours another time to make up billings lost while waiting in line (heck, I can probably even do some work while I wait in line). But the single mom who works two jobs just to feed her kids and pay her bills probably can't afford to miss a day (or even half a day) of work. So, if she can't take time to vote because it will be too costly, then those lines are, in effect, no different than a poll tax. That is wrong. That is not what our democracy should be about.


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Looking Out for the Jews?

I saw a query from Josh Marshall on Talking Points Memo that got me thinking:
Why are right-wing freaks now the self-appointed defenders of Jews, defending us from the candidates the overwhelming proportion of us Jews plan to vote for?

Over recent days, we've heard Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin and even Joe the Plumber talking about Sen. Obama being bad for Israel. What is it that these people (Joe the Plumber?) know that we Jews, we who think about Israel on an almost daily basis, we who have friends or family either in Israel or from Israel, we who have visited Israel and eagerly look forward to visiting again, what do these people think that they know that we Jews don't know?

One thing that I've said repeatedly, is that we Jews need to recognize that friends of Israel are not necessarily friends of the Jews. People like Gov. Palin who need Israel (perhaps even a "Greater Israel") for her "end of days" and rapture may be "friends" of Israel, but only to the extent that Israel is necessary for the fulfilment of their own religious ends. Go listen to some of Rev. Hagee's sermons for a better understanding of this (remember Rev. Hagee, who Sen. McCain pursued for an endorsement for months...?). I wish that those "friends" of Israel would take a bit more time learning about Jews here in America and learning about issues that are important to us (oh, like, maybe separation of church and state, for example...) rather than simply presuming that they are "friends" of Jews solely because they are "friends" of Israel. I think that we Jews have a little bit more understanding of the issues that involve Israel (not the least of which are the existential threats to Israel) than those on the religious right who, as Marshall suggests, seem to feel the need to be our "defenders".

Speaking for myself, I don't really need the "friendship" of someone who only wants to be my friend because I am, myself, the friend of a country that person believes necessary to their own religious salvation. And I don't particularly want to hear those people tell me that Sen. McCain will be better for Israel when I know that he will neither be better for Israel (wars is the Middle East, easpecially ones that empower and embolden Iran are not good for Israel) nor good for the Jews.

Perhaps if Israel is such an important issue for those on the right, they will look to us Jews for advice and, when they see that we support Sen. Obama by a large margin, maybe they'll change their minds and switch from red to blue. And maybe Elvis will come endorse Ralph Nader tomorrow.


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Updates on Hagan-Dole Race

Over the last few days, I've written about the despicable smear ad from Sen. Elizabeth Dole and my thoughts on the response from challenger Kay Hagan. Well, today has seen more action in this increasingly ugly campaign. First, Sen. Dole (not surprisingly) ignored Hagan's cease and desist letter. So Hagan filed a defamation suit against Sen. Dole and Dole's campaign committee. And, for her part, Sen. Dole has released yet another smear ad:

First, a quick look at the facts. Hagan attended a fundraiser in Boston. It was hosted by dozens of donors and featured, among others, Sen. John Kerry. Two of those donors happen to be the heads of an organization called Godless Americans PAC (couldn't they come up with a better name that that?). That PAC did not give any money to Hagan, but one of the individuals associated with the PAC did give her just over $2,000. And Hagan says that she did not know that the individual donor was also associated with that particular PAC.

But what is more important is to really think about Sen. Dole's charge and what it really says about Sen. Dole's version of America. Her charge -- she's now dropped the allegation that Hagan herself is an atheist -- is that Hagan ... gasp ... took money from atheists and implies, from that charge, that Hagan is unfit to represent the citizens of North Carolina. Again, replace atheist with any other minority group, whether Muslim, Jew, Mormon, Catholic ... or black. Presume, for a moment, that Hagan knowingly accepted money from atheists. What of it? Would Hagan be criticized for taking money from Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Catholics, blacks, Latinos, or any other group? Of course not. So what makes atheists toxic? Or is it, perhaps, that what Sen. Dole is really saying is that Hagan should be suspect for accepting money from somebody who "isn't like you"? But then, that would imply that taking money from any minority group would be "bad". And that is, it seems, precisely what Sen. Dole's ad is intended to imply.

I'd be curious to hear from Sen. Dole whether she believes that atheists are somehow lesser members of society or less entitled to constitutional protections or civic participation and, if she answered either in the affirmative, her explanation of why.

As I've said before, the suggestion that any legal segment of society is somehow untouchable is dangerous for our society. But as we've seen this campaign (and in other campaigns of recent years), the politics of fear and division far too often seem to work. This year, those politics have taken many forms, from the rumors that Sen. Obama is an Muslim (or Arab), to the charges that some areas are "pro-America" (or "real Virginia") or some members of Congress (not to mention Sen. Obama) are "anti-American", to the use of darkened photos of a Congressional candidate of Indian decent that make him look sinister (like an Arab, maybe?), to the repeated use at some Republican rallies of Sen. Obama's middle name, to Sen. Dole's use of atheists as if she was talking about devil worshippers or pedophiles.

But what is gratifying to see is that this year, for a change, it appears as if many Americans have finally decided that they're tired of these kinds of divisive politics and many of the candidates relying upon those tactics are trailing in the polls. Right now, challenger Hagan is leading Sen. Dole.


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Hints and Whispers Don't Equal Facts - But They Do Create Fear and Mistrust

Here is one of the stranger interviews that this campaign season has brought. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, was interviewing McCain campaign national spokesman Michael Goldfarb who claimed that Sen. Obama has a "long track record of being around anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and anti-American rhetoric." Sanchez then challenges Goldfarb to provide examples:

Whether Sen. Obama "hangs around with" people with anti-Semitic or anti-Israel views is a legitimate issue and is worth discussing (for example, to analyze whether Sen. Obama "hangs around with" those people, whether they have any influence upon his worldview and decision-making, whether he has expressed agreement or repudiated their ideas, and whether those ideas are, in fact, either anti-Semitic or anti-Israel). But just saying "there are people" without providing names is one of the worst kinds of political smear tactics.

In essence, Goldfarb wants people to fear Sen. Obama but won't identify those he is apparently referring to so that his claims can be analyzed and, if appropriate, refuted. I could claim that Sen. McCain hangs out with fascists or neo-Nazis or anti-Semites, too, but saying it doesn't make it true (although one might want to consider the U.S Council for World Freedom...). If Goldfarb -- who speaks for the McCain campaign and, thus, for Sen. McCain -- wants to make the allegation, he needs to spell it out so that we can analyze it and evaluate it. But, as the McCain campaign has demonstrated throughout this campaign, it isn't the truth that matters; no, it's simply about sowing the seeds of mistrust and fear. Even if those tactics led to a McCain victory, what kind of legacy would those tactics leave for our country? Only a resounding defeat of Sen. McCain, one where pundits can, for years, point to the sleaze and lies as being among the reasons that Sen. McCain lost, will help start us down the path to healing the hate that this election has engendered.


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Eagleburger Critical of Choice of Palin

Last weekend, Sen. McCain was interviewed on the Meet the Press:

Well, it appears that one of those former Secretaries of State, Lawrence Eagleburger, doesn't admire Sen. McCain's judgment in selecting Gov. Palin:


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Even More Humorous Campaign Videos (and a Serious One)

Once this election is over, I suspect that there will be quite a bit of withdrawal as the pipeline of new campaign videos dries up. But, the campaign isn't over yet, so here are a few new videos that caught my attention (two funny and one serious):

And on a more serious note:

Sally Anthony: "So Long"

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCain Admits Obama Not a Socialist

I didn't get to watch Sen. McCain's appearance on Larry King's show last night (sorry, but I just can't take Larry King...), but one interesting question and answer from the interview is worth noting (I'll post video if and when I can find it...):

KING: You don't believe Barack Obama is a socialist do you?

McCAIN: No, but I do believe that he has been in the far left of American politics and stated time after time that he believes in spreading the wealth around. He has talked about courts that redistribute the wealth. He has a record of voting against tax cuts. And for tax increases.

(Transcript from Politico.)

So now that Sen. McCain has acknowledged that Sen. Obama is not a socialist, do you think that the Republicans can finally give this constant allegation a rest? If so, they need to let former Congressman Tom Delay know; last night on Hardball he actually called Sen. Obama a Marxist! And he tried to defend that statement.

Apparently, Joe the Plumber was none too pleased to see his candidate of choice admit that Sen. Obama was not a socialist:

Nothing quite like standing up a candidate for President...


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Hagan Fires Back at Dole -- But Misses the Point

Yesterday I wrote about Sen. Elizabeth Dole's despicable ad that accused her challenger, Kay Hagan, of accepting campaign contributions from atheists and, via the use of a voiceover at the end of the ad, suggested that Hagan herself didn't believe in God. Well, apparently, I'm not the only commentator who thought that Sen. Dole's smear went too far:

Newspapers in North Carolina have also taken a harsh view of Sen. Dole' ad. The Charlotte Observer said:

This is indecent. It is the modern-day version of the “white hands” ad, a lie born of Dole's desperation in a race in which she has trailed for weeks. It is also a deliberate attempt by Dole's campaign not just to distort the truth, but to shatter Hagan's admirable record as an elder for more than a decade in Greensboro's First Presbyterian Church, as a Sunday School teacher and a volunteer in her church's fundraising campaigns, worship services and community service programs.

Political campaigns in this state are often hard-fought, with bitter, overwrought accusations that stretch the truth, embellish the facts and attempt to confuse voters. Hagan has hit Dole hard. Dole has hit Hagan hard. That is par for the course.

This ad is something else, an attack on a Christian woman's faith against all evidence to the contrary. It is wrong. It may well backfire on Dole.

It has no place in N.C. politics. Unless she admits this egregious, shameful mistake and acts appropriately, Elizabeth Dole has no place in N.C. politics, either.

And the Greensboro News-Record said:

If Elizabeth Dole is still the gracious person North Carolinians have admired for many years, she'll pull her new attack ad off the air. It's worse than dishonest in its depiction of rival Kay Hagan as a "Godless American."


Even in a campaign long ago driven down in tone by Democrats and Republicans, this is a low blow. Making false insinuations about a candidate's religious beliefs is beyond the bounds of acceptable political disagreement.

Hagan actually had her attorneys send a cease and desist letter to Sen. Dole. The letter makes a number of fine points and hits hard on the fact that the ad is false and that the Sen. Dole's campaign new that it was false. The letter also includes the following quote from Garrison v. Louisiana, a 1964 decision of the United States Supreme Court:

At the time the First Amendment was adopted, as today, there were those unscrupulous enough and skillful enough to use the deliberate or reckless falsehood as an effective political tool to unseat the public servant or even topple an administration. That speech is used as a tool for political ends does not automatically bring it under the protective mantle of the Constitution. For the use of the known lie as a tool is at once at odds with the premises of democratic government and with the orderly manner in which economic, social, or political change is to be effected. Calculated falsehood falls into that class of utterances which are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth than any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality. Hence the knowingly false statement and the false statement made with reckless disregard of the truth, do not enjoy constitutional protection.

Hagan is now airing her own ad in response:

But you know, all of this still leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Why? Two related reasons. First, let's look at why Hagan is angry:

I believe in God. I taught Sunday School. My faith guides my life, and Senator Dole knows it.

In the cease and desist letter (and in statements to the press and emails to voters), Hagan has expounded on her church involvement. So, while I recognize that Hagan is upset that her own religious beliefs were challenged, I'm more concerned with the fact that religious beliefs (or atheist non-belief) was interjected in the first place. Recall Colin Powell's comments following his endorsement of Sen. Obama (on the subject of rumors that Sen. Obama is a Muslim):

I'm also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, "Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim." Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he's a Christian.  He's always been a Christian.  But the really right answer is, what if he is?  Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer's no, that's not America.

(Emphasis added.) Go back and read Powell's comments again, but simply replace "Muslim" with "atheist". I guess that I can't expect Hagan to stand up and say, "Gee, I do support atheists, even if I'm not one." But why not? She might make such a statement about African-Americans or Muslims or even criminals who have completed a prison sentence. What is so hard -- so wrong -- with supporting an atheist's right not to believe and to be a part of the political process.

This concern of mine is further exacerbated by the last line of the Hagan's response:

Sure politics is a tough business, but my campaign is about creating jobs and fixing our economy, not bearing false witness against fellow Christians.

(Emphasis added.) Um. Would it be OK to bear "false witness" against a Muslim or a Jew? What about an atheist? The problem is that, while Hagan has responded forcefully to Sen. Dole's bigoted and nasty smear, her response has actually allowed Sen. Dole to control the issue by allowing religion to be interjected into the debate. That is wrong.

I hope that Sen. Dole loses. I hope that the voters of North Carolina give her a strong message that her attack ad was way beyond the pale. But I also hope that Kay Hagan will come to realize that the right response was to recognize that religion and religious beliefs should not be issues in the campaign and that there is nothing wrong with supporting minority religious (or anti-religious, as the case may be) viewpoints. Hagan's anger is just; her response is strong; but she misses the point.


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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Charges of Socialism Are Ridiculous

A few times over the last week or so, I've started (and stopped) writing posts to explain precisely what Sen. Obama's tax policies are, to explain why they are not socialism, to explain what, precisely, socialism really is, and, just for good measure, to explain why the progressive tax system is a good thing. Each time that I've started, I've put the essay aside; not because I didn't believe what I was writing, but because I don't have time to give the material the depth of discussion truly necessary. Plus, as my wife keeps telling me, essays that are too long won't be read anyway.

But as the election draws closer and the charges of socialism keep on coming, I decided to try my hand at a brief analysis of the issue, not via a detailed economic or historical analysis, but rather, by simply looking at what the candidates have done and said. But, before I do that, I want to offer a "quickie" from Sen. Obama's speech earlier today:

What is scary about this, is that the charge that Sen. Obama jokes about isn't too far removed from the charges of socialism that are being leveled against him.

So, let's look at that charge of socialism. The basic premise of the charge really goes back to the conversation with "Joe the Plumber" (by the way, if you listen to the entire exchange between Sen. Obama and "Joe" you will see that it was a much more thorough and engaging discussion of economic and tax policies than the oft-repeated sound bite) in which Sen. Obama speaks of "spreading the wealth". Again, I don't want to get into a detailed analysis of socialism (or capitalism or communism or any other -ism), but the very notion of taxes that do anything other than pad the monarch's pockets is, essentially, spreading the wealth. Thus, when we use tax revenues to build a strong military, we're spreading the wealth to defend all of society. When we use tax revenues to build roads, we're spreading the wealth. When we use tax revenues for public transportation, to send humans into space, to research cures for cancer, to subsidize certain crops, or to help people stricken by disaster, we are spreading the wealth. When we provide Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, GI Benefits, and Pell Grants, we are spreading the wealth.

Thus, the issue isn't really about spreading the wealth at all; no, the issue is about who we tax and at what rate. That is really all that is behind the charge of socialism. Sen. Obama wants to give a tax break to the middle class and raise the tax on the wealthiest Americans to the level that it was before President Bush's tax cuts. Sen. McCain wants to keep President Bush's tax cuts and place and not give a tax break to the middle class (because prosperity will "trickle down" just as it did(n't) for the last eight years...). That is the dispute. So now, let's look at a bit of history (sorry for the small bit of duplication between these videos):

In other words, Sen. McCain favored a tax policy very similar to Sen. Obama's tax policy, at least until he had to change his mind in order to become more appealing to the Republican base. In these videos there is an exchange between Sen. McCain and a young woman at Michigan State University back in 2000. Here's a bit more on that taxes and that exchange in particular (from The New Yorker):
Of course, all taxes are redistributive, in that they redistribute private resources for public purposes. But the federal income tax is (downwardly) redistributive as a matter of principle: however slightly, it softens the inequalities that are inevitable in a market economy, and it reflects the belief that the wealthy have a proportionately greater stake in the material aspects of the social order and, therefore, should give that order proportionately more material support. McCain himself probably shares this belief, and there was a time when he was willing to say so. During the 2000 campaign, on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” a young woman asked him why her father, a doctor, should be “penalized” by being “in a huge tax bracket.” McCain replied that “wealthy people can afford more” and that “the very wealthy, because they can afford tax lawyers and all kinds of loopholes, really don’t pay nearly as much as you think they do.” The exchange continued:

YOUNG WOMAN: Are we getting closer and closer to, like, socialism and stuff?. . .

MCCAIN: Here’s what I really believe: That when you reach a certain level of comfort, there’s nothing wrong with paying somewhat more.
So what Sen. McCain thought was "nothing wrong" and was not socialism in 2000 has now become socialism and an example of why Sen. Obama should not be elected.

I also want to spend a brief moment talking about Gov. Palin. She has been very vocal in her charges against Sen. Obama. But remember what they say about throwing stones when you live in a glass house? That same article in The New Yorker points out:

For her part, Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269. A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.” Perhaps there is some meaningful distinction between spreading the wealth and sharing it (“collectively,” no less), but finding it would require the analytic skills of Karl the Marxist.
In reality, Sen. Obama is no more "socialist" than Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin. Rather, the Republicans have hit upon a buzz word that they have been exploiting to try to make their case. Rather than try to win on the basis of a careful and detailed discussion of economics and policy, they have resorted to the political equivalent of name-calling. If we can make the electorate fear Sen. Obama, the reasoning must go, then we have a chance to win. Never mind the policies (damn the torpedoes?), let's just call him a name that will scare voters!

That sort of politics is at the core of what is wrong with our political system these days. Our politicians don't give the American public credit for being able to (or wanting to) understand nuance and details about complicated issues. And perhaps many people can't understand some of those issues. But I'd like to see our politicians try to explain their policies rather than trying to scare people.

Finally, in the last few days, much has been made of Sen. Obama's comments in a 2001 radio interview in which he ... gasp ... used the word "redistribute":

One of the I think the tragedies of the Civil Rights movement was because the Civil Rights movement became so court focused I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change and in some ways we still suffer from that.
(If you want to read the entire quote, it can be found here.)

Of course, Gov. Palin, that great legal mind, reads this quote exactly backwards:

Sen. Obama said that he regretted that the Supreme Court hadn't been more radical. And he described the Court's refusal to take up the issues of redistribution of wealth as a tragedy. And he said he also regretted that the Supreme Court didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers there in the Constitution.
And from this, she extrapolated:

So you have to ask, is this a suggestion that's he’d want to re-write the founding document of our great nation to accomplish his goals.
Here is what law professor Cass R. Sunstein (formerly of the University of Chicago School of Law and presently at Harvard Law School) had to say about this in The New Republic (I apologize in advance for the length):

In the last few days, the McCain campaign has portrayed Barack Obama as a "socialist," and apparently the campaign and others are combing through Obama's past statements to see if he has ever favored "redistribution."

The latest ridiculousness, featured in a screaming headline on the Drudge Report and described under the title "Shame" on the National Review website, involves some remarks made by Obama on public radio in 2001.

In that interview, Obama was discussing efforts, in the 1960s and 1970s, to redistribute resources through the federal courts. Obama said that the Warren Court was not so terribly radical, because it "never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society." He complained, not that the Court refused to enter into those issues, but that "the civil-rights movement became so court-focussed," [sic]

In answering a caller's question, he said that the court "is just not very good at" redistribution. Obama added, with approval, that the Constitution "is generally a charter of negative liberties."

Obama's principal claim--about the institutional limits of the courts--was made by many conservatives (including Robert Bork) in the 1960s and 1970s: Courts should not attempt to guarantee "positive" rights, or interpret the Constitution to redistribute wealth. Obama is squarely rejecting the claim that was made by many liberal lawyers, professors, and judges at the time--and that is being made by some today.

Apparently, though, some people are thinking that Obama is displaying his commitment to redistribution, at least in principle. We have to make some distinctions here. The word "redistribution" is easily politicized, but, in terms of actual policy, it seems to include the Social Security Act (which redistributes wealth), the Americans with Disabilities Act (which also redistributes), educational reform that would improve schools in poor areas, Head Start programs, statutes allowing parental leave, the Earned Income Tax Credit, the progressive income tax, and much more. Almost all candidates for public office (including Senator McCain) favor significant forms of redistribution. With his court-skeptical statements in 2001, Obama was referring to the sorts of claims being made in courts in the relevant period, for which the word "redistribution" has often been used. (Those claims involved denials of education and medical care, and discrimination in welfare programs.)

It is true that Obama supports the Earned Income Tax Credit (an idea pioneered by Republicans). It is also true that Obama supports the minimum wage. It is true too that Obama is centrally concerned with decent education for all -- and the right to education was at stake in perhaps the most important case that Obama is discussing. It is true, finally, that Obama wants to make health care available for all. But it is truly ridiculous to take Obama's remarks in 2001 as suggesting that the nation should embark on a large-scale redistributive scheme.
OK, OK. I know that I started by saying that I wouldn't go on for too long. Sorry. But these are important issues. And for these still undecided, for those who are listening to Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin and trying to understand the issues, I believe that it is important to really understand those issues and really understand what the candidates are (or not) saying and have (or have not) said. Our system presumes an informed electorate and "informed" does not mean just listening to sound bites from the candidates or Fox news; instead, "informed" means taking the time to learn about and really think about the issues.

Sen. Obama is not a "socialist" -- at least no more so than Sen. McCain.


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When Sports Are Used for Political Hypocrisy

Here's another one of those "you can't make this stuff up" moments. Yesterday, Sen. McCain complained about Sen. Obama's purchase of prime time television airtime tonight before the World Series:
No one will delay the World Series with an infomercial when I'm president.

However, there are two teeny tiny problems with this complaint. First, according to Politico:

A Fox Broadcasting executive denied that Barack Obama's half-hour ad, scheduled for tomorrow night, forced Fox and Major League Baseball to delay the start of a World Series game.

That notion -- which had been reported repeatedly, including here, has become a Republican talking point.

"No one will delay the World Series game with an infomercial when I'm president," John McCain said today.

But the Fox account executive who negotiated the ad buy said Obama's ad isn't delaying the first pitch -- it's just replacing the pre-game show.

"Our first pitch for the world series is usually around 8:30 anyway – so we didn’t push back the game, it was really just about suspending the pre-game -- you know, Joe Buck," said the account executive, Joe Coppola. "That’s all we did."

He said World Series games this season have begun between 8:22 p.m. and 8:35 p.m."We didn’t push back the game at all," he said. He also said Obama had initially arranged to buy the time only if the Series were over before Game Six (in fact, a rain-delayed Game Five will continue tomorrow night), but Fox then decided to sell the campaign the time whether or not the game was played."

By no means did they push to get us to accommodate them with Game Six," said Coppola, whom the Obama campaign suggested I call. "We’re just missing the pregame, which isn’t a big deal for us. It was a business decision."

And remember, this is Fox that we're talking about. You remember Fox, don't you? Hannity? O'Reilly? Yeah, that Fox.

Second, I wonder how many people remember that the opening game of this year's NFL season was moved from a 8:30 kickoff to a 7:00 kickoff. Why? To accommodate Sen. McCain's convention speech! I guess that was OK while delaying (not really) the start of a baseball game is problematic. I'm gonna have to work my brain around that one...


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Today's Offensive Campaign Ad

In North Carolina, Republican incumbent Senator Elizabeth Dole is running in a hotly contested campaign against challenger Kay Hagan. Recently, Sen. Dole has been running ads that assume Sen. Obama will win and asking voters not to give the Democrats control of both houses of Congress. But now, Sen. Dole has hit another new low in campaign ads:

That's right. Sen. Dole is telling voters to vote against Hagan because ... gasp ... Hagan got money from atheists.

A few quick thoughts come to mind on this. First, how is casting "shame" on the basis of relationships with atheists any different from doing the same for Jews or Muslims or Catholics or any other religious group? Answer: It isn't any different. It is simple bigotry (maybe mixed with a bit of good old hatred and fear-mongering, too). Second, I'd love to see Hagan run a response pointing out how many of the Founding Fathers were, at most Deists, and more likely, atheists. You know, people like Thomas Jefferson, who made his own revision to the Bible to remove all of the supernatural elements. Finally, I don't know how many atheists there are in the US; I suspect that there are more than most people think (as I suspect many atheists are hesitant to share that view with others for fear of discrimination as evidenced by Sen. Dole).

So, while Sen. Dole's ad may play well to the religious right, I suspect that those (like me) who view religious (or areligious) diversity as good and who believe that discrimination on the basis of religion is bad (not to mention, generally illegal), will be offended by Sen. Dole's ad and, by implication, by Sen. Dole herself. I'm curious: Would Sen. Dole stand on the floor of the Senate and criticize atheists? How about Muslims? Jews? Catholics?

Some people will do anything to get elected, even if it tears at the very moral fiber of our civil society.


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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Parents in Minnesota Shouldn't Have to Protect Their Kids From Campaign Literature

The race for one of Minnesota's seats in the Senate has become very heated. As some of you may know, Republican incumbent Norm Coleman is facing a strong challenge from Democrat Al Franken. Yes, that Al Franken, the former comedian, writer and actor for Saturday Night Live, and Air America host. In the primary and in the general election, Franken's challengers have tried to use his former career against him, but by and large these efforts have failed. It seems that Minnesota's voters are able to understand that what he wrote and said in his capacity as a comedian, even if vulgar or profane, really has nothing to do with how he would perform as a United States Senator. But in the closing days of the election, with polls showing that Franken has a narrow lead, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has stooped to a new low; so low, in fact, that Sen. Coleman apparently has tried to disavow the advertisement that his party mailed to voters:

What idiot thought that it was acceptable to create a comic book with images that would invite children to open and read about serious (non-)issues like pornography and rape? If Republicans want to talk about Franken's prior career, that is certainly fair game and (maybe) an appropriate subject. Whether you approve of Franken's humor or found his jokes to be funny is not the issue. Some may have enjoyed him as an entertainer; others, not so much. But to talk about these issues in a way that may force some Minnesota parents to answer difficult questions from their kids is just wrong. Plus it shows that Republicans still don't recognize that voters can distinguish between humor and reality and between a former profession and a current occupation.


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This Doesn't Mean Anything, But...

This is one of those little pieces of news that doesn't really mean anything at all when compared to the real issues of the campaign, but is nevertheless interesting and instructive. Earlier today, Sen. Obama held a rally at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. It was cold and pouring rain and 9,000 people showed up anyway.

According to Politico:

Wearing jeans, white sneakers and an insulated windbreaker, Barack Obama delivered his stump speech this morning in a chilly, steady rain in Chester, Pa.

"A little bit of rain never hurt anybody," Obama said, surveying the soaking, umbrella-covered crowd at Widener University, occasionally rubbing his hands together for warmth and squinting through the raindrops.


The Obama campaign considered moving its event inside, but couldn't find an appropriate venue, an aide said. An estimated 9,000 people turned out.

And, also according to Politico:
Obama took the stage less than an hour after the McCain campaign announced it was postponing a rally at 1:15 p.m. in Quakertown, Pa., about one hour north of Chester, "due to weather."
The comparison of how the campaigns handled the weather says, in some small way, something about the campaigns and the candidates.


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One Way to Deal With Stolen Yard Signs

In the past, I've written about campaign yard signs (one for Sen. Clinton and one for Sen. Obama) that have been stolen. Yesterday, we heard from a friend that she has had several stolen, one thrown onto the roof of her house, and garbage thrown all over her yard. Another friend related that people in her neighborhood have had signs stolen and hate mail placed in their mailboxes. Nothing like civil discourse at work!

Anyway, I came across this photo showing a particularly inventive way to handle the problem of stolen yard signs:

Too bad I don't have a hill in my front yard!

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Still More Videos

Les Miserables is one of my favorite musicals of all time (if not my absolute favorite). So, these terrific videos really caught my attention:

A popular Internet prank known as "Rickrolling" involves having people click on links that, instead of leading where the link claims, instead takes the person to a video of Rick Astley's '80s hit "Never Gonna Give You Up". So, with that in mind, check out this video:

Apparently, this is called "BarackRolling". YouTube certainly adds an entirely different complexion to election campaigns.

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Republicans Don't Research Before They Speak

On Friday, Gov. Palin gave her first policy address. Her speech focused on the commitment of the McCain-Palin ticket to children with special needs. Among the issues and proposals included in Gov. Palin's speech, were some of her thoughts on autism:
For many parents of children with disabilities, the most valuable thing of all is information. Early identification of a cognitive or other disorder, especially autism, can make a life-changing difference. That's why we're going to strengthen NIH. We're going to work on long-term cures, and in the short-term, we're going to work on giving these families better information.

Gov. Palin also talked about additional funding for other programs as well, including the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), which Gov. Palin noted has not been fully funded (much like No Child Left Behind, but that's another story...). These are all laudable goals and I commend Gov. Palin for bringing these issues to the forefront of the campaign.

But, remember, Sen. McCain has proposed a spending freeze. So where will these extra funds be found? Gov. Palin's answer: eliminate earmarks.
This is a matter of how we prioritize the money that we spend. We've got a three trillion dollar budget, and Congress spends some 18 billion dollars a year on earmarks for political pet projects. That's more than the shortfall to fully fund the IDEA. And where does a lot of that earmark money end up? It goes to projects having little or nothing to do with the public good -- things like fruit fly research in Paris, France....

So far so good, right? Well, not exactly. You see, one reason that scientists study things like fruit flies is to learn about things that can help humans. For example, according to
Now scientists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine have shown that a protein called neurexin is required for these nerve cell connections to form and function correctly.

The discovery, made in Drosophila fruit flies may lead to advances in understanding autism spectrum disorders, as recently, human neurexins have been identified as a genetic risk factor for autism.

That's right. Fruit fly research has been useful to help identify genetic risk factors for autism, one of the special needs areas that Gov. Palin wants to help find ways to provide information for and early identification of. Fruit fly research has also helped to "revolutionize" the study of birth defects. So, of all of the earmarks that Gov. Palin could have used as her example (how 'bout that Bridge to Nowhere she supported before she opposed it?), Gov. Palin picked one that actually helps do exactly what she wants.

I don't fault Gov. Palin for wanting to direct more money to help special needs children or their families. And, I think that directing more money at research into things like autism is a terrific idea. I commend Gov. Palin for talking about these issues.

No, my problem is not with the either the policy or the proposal. My problem is the process of thinking about the issue appears to be so shallow. Of all the earmarks to use as an example, why fruit flies? Could it be because that particular earmark just happens to be the first one listed on the Citizens Against Government Waste 2008 "Pig Book" (awards for pork barrel spending)? (Note that Alaska's Sen. Stevens gets the page's third award...) You see, in a competent campaign, before simply writing the speech and choosing the example, someone might have asked the question, "Gee, what is the purpose of this particular earmark and is it good?" But in the worldview of Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin, no earmarks are good (well, Gov. Palin doesn't think earmarks are good now that she's running for Vice President...).

There is no question that some earmarks are bad; maybe most of them are bad. And there is no question that earmarks should be closely examined and voted on, not hidden away in appropriation bills. But there is also no question that some earmarks are actually beneficial. Thus, I'm troubled that whoever wrote Gov. Palin's speech didn't take the time to actually examine the earmark in question before using it as the proverbial poster child for government waste. Maybe that particular earmark was wasteful; I don't know. But the fact that there is a tie between the nature of the research that earmark was for and the very content of the speech and proposal for funding reallocation suggests to me a lack of intellectual curiosity that we should bring to the examination of each and every government policy and program (and isn't that precisely what Sen. Obama has proposed?).

One more point: Sen. Obama's policy statement on disabilities calls for fully funding IDEA and Sen. Obama also has a policy statement on Autism Spectrum Disorders available on his website. So, while it is nice that the McCain campaign is now showing an interest in these issues, they have been featured components of Sen. Obama's platform all along.


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An Interesting Way to Examine the Federal Budget

During this campaign there has been much discussion of the federal budget, yet few of us really have a good understanding of how the budget works or where the money goes. Here is an interesting interactive poster showing how our federal tax dollars are spent:

The display works best in full screen mode (upper right corner). Then, you can zoom in to review the parts of the budget that you find most interesting.


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So You Think Are Elections Are Safe (part 2)

Last week, in my post "So You Think Elections Are Safe", I posted some videos about how electronic voting machines could be hacked to change the results of an election. Subsequent to that post, I came across the documentary "Stealing America: Vote by Vote". It is a long program (about 90 minutes) and I have not yet had a chance to watch the entire show. Nevertheless, for anyone interested in the integrity of our electoral system, I thought that it was worth posting the video for those who want to watch. (A DVD can apparently be ordered from the movie's official website.)


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More Humorous Election Videos

Here are two more more humorous campaign videos that I've come across:

First, Ron Howard, Andy Griffith, and Henry Winkler reprise some very famous roles (sorry that younger readers will probably have no clue who any of these people are):

If the embedded video won't load, try this link to the video on Funny or Die.

Then there are these guys reprising their roles from the old Budweiser "Wassup" ads (I hated those ads...):

Update: Removed YouTube version of the Ron Howard video (it was removed from YouTube) and replaced it with the link from Funny or Die. I originally used the YouTube version because Funny or Die videos don't always embed properly.

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38 Reasons People Might Vote for McCain

I saw this list in a post over on Daily Kos and thought that it was worth re-posting here (with a few minor edits...). If nothing, it was good for a few chuckles. So, here are 38 reasons people can give to explain why they might choose to vote for Sen. McCain or Congressional candidates:
  1. I’m voting Republican because I want corporate America to have even more power over the government than it does now.
  2. I’m voting Republican because I love to use roads, bridges, highways, mass transportation, and satellites for my GPS, without having to pay for them.
  3. I’m voting Republican because I rely on the protection of the police and the fire department, the court system, the national guard, and our national military without wanting to pay for them either.
  4. I’m voting Republican because I have too much money in my bank to be protected by the FDIC.
  5. I’m voting Republican because I’m super-rich, and I need more tax breaks to make even more money.
  6. I’m voting Republican because I have seven houses, and thirteen cars, just like the average American does!
  7. I’m voting Republican because I complain about people in society constantly not being able to make my change after ordering a latte, or store employees not being able to speak English, and I’m not willing to pay to educate them properly.
  8. I’m voting Republican because I believe that the rights of a group of dividing cells outweighs the rights of the woman carrying those cells, no matter what.
  9. I’m voting Republican because some amendments of the “Bill of Rights” matter more than others, namely the Second amendment.
  10. I’m voting Republican because I think CEOs of corporations should make my health care decisions, based on the profit margin for their company.
  11. I’m voting Republican because everyone in America already has health care, or should pay for it on their own.
  12. I’m voting Republican because I want to make sure to dismantle that pesky wall between church and state; as long as it’s a Christian church, that is.
  13. I’m voting Republican because I support illegal wars, based on faulty intelligence, against countries that didn’t attack us first.
  14. I’m voting Republican because I believe that voting is only for a privileged few, and that voting should be controlled by corporations.
  15. I’m voting Republican because I believe that the government should be able to secretly listen to my private phone calls, read my letters, e-mails, or find out what books I’m checking out of the library, all without oversight.
  16. I’m voting Republican because I believe that only certain people have a right to habeas corpus in our court system ... again, going to back to those pesky amendments!
  17. I’m voting Republican because I think the Constitution is a dead document that should only be read in terms of 19th century America; therefore, I support the return of counting African-Americans as 3/5 of a person, that women shouldn’t vote, and that the loser of our presidential election should automatically be vice-president.
  18. I’m voting Republican because shredding the Constitution in the name of safety and fear is a great idea.
  19. I’m voting Republican because it’s okay for America to torture people.
  20. I’m voting Republican because I believe building our economy on liquefied fossils is a smart idea … they will never run out!
  21. I’m voting Republican because blowing off the tops of mountains, and piling the detritus into valleys and streams is a great way to mine for coal, and we have an endless supply of land.
  22. I’m voting Republican because I believe the system of checks and balances we learned in middle school is a fluke; that there should be one all-powerful executive branch (unless, of course, the president is a Democrat, which is why we need corporate-owned voting machines).
  23. I’m voting Republican because I want to force my moral standards on everyone else in the country, especially those of other religions or beliefs.
  24. I’m voting Republican because I believe that government should be monitoring the private actions of two consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes.
  25. I’m voting Republican because a loving couple should have no business wanting to make each other’s medical decisions, or visit each other in a hospital, or leave an inheritance to the other when one passes, unless I approve of the relationship first.
  26. I’m voting Republican because the more rich people we have in this country, the better off we will be.
  27. I’m voting Republican because the middle class was only a temporary after-effect of FDR’s New Deal, and that we don’t really need to protect their interests any longer.
  28. I’m voting Republican because our country and planet can take more pollution, more contamination, more warming, because it’s just part of nature, and not man made.
  29. I’m voting Republican because federal budget deficits just don’t matter.
  30. I’m voting Republican because declaring a war for oil was a great idea; and letting corporations into the country afterwards gave those businesses billions of unaccountable dollars.
  31. I’m voting Republican because I don’t believe that workers need a minimum wage, and that corporations should be free to pay as little as they need to for work, like Wal-Mart, to keep prices low for me.
  32. I’m voting Republican because Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Jack Abramoff, Alberto Gonzales, Paul Wolfowitz, and President George W. Bush are just great guys.
  33. I’m voting Republican because I approve of the way the government handled the hurricane Katrina disaster, and I think its great it took days for federal help to arrive to the starving, thirsty people of New Orleans.
  34. I’m voting Republican because I believe a variety of viewpoints, and intellectual discourse, has no place in the Oval Office; there should be one infallible decider.
  35. I’m voting Republican because we need to maintain our white, Christian, male dominated, English speaking society for the benefit of our diverse society.
  36. I’m voting Republican because after twelve years of Republican rule in Congress, and eight years of Republican executive rule, the fundamentals of our economy are strong (not including the present bailout, the mortgage crisis, the stock market crisis, the increasing unemployment, or the golden parachutes by several CEOs).
  37. I’m voting Republican because equality – economic, class, gender, sexuality, racial – doesn’t matter.
  38. I’m voting Republican because I don’t believe that an elite, college Constitutional law professor, who came from humble origins and worked his way up to Harvard, and who inspires hope in millions of people ignored by the last administration has any business leading our country.

Granted, some of those reasons are "better" than others, but as a list of reasons that people can give, it seems pretty exhaustive. Have another reason? Let me know!

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Why Palin Had Trouble With Couric's Questions

Who can forget Gov. Palin's rambling, off-target, mostly unintelligible answers to Katie Couric's questions? Earlier this month, I wrote about Gov. Palin's explanation of her performance in an interview with Sean Hannity (as reported on CNN):

I did feel there were a lot of things she was missing in terms of an opportunity to ask what a VP candidate stands for, what the values are that are represented in our ticket," Palin said. "I guess I have to apologize for being a bit annoyed, but that’s also an indication about being outside that Washington elite, outside that media elite also, and just wanting to talk to Americans without the filter and let them know what we stand for.
As I noted in my prior post:
Couric asked her about Supreme Court decisions that she disagreed with, her thoughts on the economic bailout, her foreign policy experience, Sen. McCain's legislative record on regulatory issues, her thoughts on abortion and birth control, and what periodicals she read to help form her worldview.
But Gov. Palin gave nonsensical answers ("bafflegab") because she was "annoyed". I'm not sure why, but I was actually quite surprised to see Gov. Palin repeat the charge that she was "annoyed" when speaking in Indiana earlier today. According to CNN:
"Last time I was here I got to tell a crowd that I had to give a national interview that didn’t go so well,” she said. “And it was because I was kind of annoyed with the questions that I was being asked because I thought they were kind of irrelevant to, you know, national security issues and getting our economy back on track, so I kind of showed some of that annoyance."
Note, though, now Gov. Palin says that Couric's questions were "irrelevant" and blames that for her having shown "annoyance". So, just to be sure that I understand, Gov. Palin claims that she thought Couric's questions about the Supreme Court, economic bailout, foreign policy experience, Sen. McCain's record on regulatory issues, abortion, birth control, and periodicals that helped form her worldview were "irrelevant" because those questions weren't about "national security issues and getting our economy back on track". Do I have that right? And, because Couric's questions were "irrelevant", Gov. Palin showed "annoyance" by giving rambling, unintelligible, nonsensical answers.

I don't know. If I was "annoyed" at a question, I'd still try to look like I understood the question and provide a well-reasoned and competent answer. And I'd tell the interviewer that I thought the questions were bad. But under no circumstances, would I try to make myself look like a fool (though I might try to turn the tables on the interviewer). Such an interview might look something like this:

This interview, conducted last Thursday in Orlando, focused on "irrelevant" issues. You can tell that Sen. Biden gets angry by WFTV anchor Barbara West's biased and offensive questions (did she really ask if Sen. Obama was a Marxist?), yet he never really loses his cool. He chides her for her questions, asks her if she's joking, and asks her who wrote the questions. Yet, through it all, Sen. Biden gave strong, reasoned answers that demonstrate an understanding of the issues and a willingness to address the questions posed, no matter how biased or and no matter that they were seemingly taken straight from Republican talking points. That West's questions were apparently biased, it turns out, isn't so surprising. After all, West's husband is Wade West, a Republican strategist and donor to Republican candidates. Maybe that's where she got those Republican talking point questions.

And for what it's worth, compare West's biased attack questions posed to Sen. Biden, with the softball ("why haven't you gone after him") questions that she posed to Sen. McCain in an interview on October 14. When interviewing Sen. Biden, she attacks Sen. Obama's plans and policies and asks if Sen. Obama is a Marxist, but when speaking to Sen. McCain, her questions also attack Sen. Obama and his policies. I suspect that West will be hosting her own show in Fox News any day now... In the meantime, you'd think that viewers in Orlando would be demanding a more even-handed approach from their news sources.

But the point of all this is that some candidates, even when confronted by difficult, aggressive, biased questions, still answer the questions while others offer unintelligible gobbledygook (or bafflegab) and then blame the questions for the candidates inability to give intelligent, well-reasoned, and meaningful answers. The contrast is, to me, striking, and says much about what each of those candidates would be like should they be elected to the offices they are seeking.


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Some Endorsements Have to Sting a Little

Over the last week or so, newspapers across the country have begun to issue their endorsements for the upcoming Presidential election. Three of those endorsements (or two endorsements and a pass...) caught my attention.

The Financial Times endorsed Sen. Obama:
[A] campaign is a test of leadership. Mr Obama ran his superbly; Mr McCain’s has often looked a shambles. After eight years of George W. Bush, the steady competence of the Obama operation commands respect.

Nor should one disdain Mr Obama’s way with a crowd. Good presidents engage the country’s attention; great ones inspire. Mr McCain, on form, is an adequate speaker but no more. Mr Obama, on form, is as fine a political orator as the country has heard in decades. Put to the right purposes, this is no mere decoration but a priceless asset.

Mr Obama’s purposes do seem mostly right, though in saying this we give him the benefit of the doubt. Above all, he prizes consensus and genuinely seeks to unite the country, something it wants. His call for change struck a mighty chord in a tired and demoralised nation – and who could promise real change more credibly than Mr Obama, a black man, whose very nomination was a historic advance in US politics?

We applaud his main domestic proposal: comprehensive health-care reform. This plan would achieve nearly universal insurance without the mandates of rival schemes: characteristically, it combines a far-sighted goal with moderation in the method. Mr McCain’s plan, based on extending tax relief beyond employer-provided insurance, also has merit – it would contain costs better – but is too timid and would widen coverage much less.


In responding to the economic emergency, Mr Obama has again impressed – not by advancing solutions of his own, but in displaying a calm and methodical disposition, and in seeking the best advice. Mr McCain’s hasty half-baked interventions were unnerving when they were not beside the point.

On foreign policy, where the candidates have often conspired to exaggerate their differences, this contrast in temperaments seems crucial. For all his experience, Mr McCain has seemed too much guided by an instinct for peremptory action, an exaggerated sense of certainty, and a reluctance to see shades of grey.

He has offered risk-taking almost as his chief qualification, but gambles do not always pay off. His choice of Sarah Palin as running mate, widely acknowledged to have been a mistake, is an obtrusive case in point. Rashness is not a virtue in a president. The cautious and deliberate Mr Obama is altogether a less alarming prospect.

The Financial Times also concludes its endorsement with a dose of sobering reality:
Rest assured that, should he win, Mr Obama is bound to disappoint. How could he not? He is expected to heal the country’s racial divisions, reverse the trend of rising inequality, improve middle-class living standards, cut almost everybody’s taxes, transform the image of the United States abroad, end the losses in Iraq, deal with the mess in Afghanistan and much more besides.

Succeeding in those endeavours would require more than uplifting oratory and presidential deportment even if the economy were growing rapidly, which it will not be.

The challenges facing the next president will be extraordinary. We hesitate to wish it on anyone, but we hope that Mr Obama gets the job.

Next is my hometown paper, The Indianapolis Star (usually thought of as a conservative leaning paper [see below], except by local right-wingers, who think it is a liberal rag) which, essentially, punted:
The Editorial Board is made up of eight ordinary people, privileged by position to hear more directly than most Americans from the candidates and their campaigns but also affected, like all Hoosiers, by hopes and fears for the nation and state. Board members take the responsibility to offer political endorsements seriously, weighing candidates' strengths and weaknesses and balancing those judgments with the opinion page's long history of support for traditional values and opposition to intrusive government programs.

After lengthy and impassioned discussions, the Editorial Board remains evenly divided, along philosophical lines, over whether McCain or Obama is the better choice for president. For that reason, the board will withhold an endorsement in the presidential race this year.

For the record, Dennis Ryerson, editor and vice president of The Indianapolis Star, notes that the paper's editorial board has a "history of mostly right-of-center positions".

Finally, Gov. Palin's hometown paper (well, to the extent that Anchorage is to Wasilla as Indianapolis is to Carmel...), the Anchorage Daily News also gave its endorsement:
Gov. Palin's nomination clearly alters the landscape for Alaskans as we survey this race for the presidency -- but it does not overwhelm all other judgment. The election, after all is said and done, is not about Sarah Palin, and our sober view is that her running mate, Sen. John McCain, is the wrong choice for president at this critical time for our nation.

Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee, brings far more promise to the office. In a time of grave economic crisis, he displays thoughtful analysis, enlists wise counsel and operates with a cool, steady hand. The same cannot be said of Sen. McCain.

Since his early acknowledgement that economic policy is not his strong suit, Sen. McCain has stumbled and fumbled badly in dealing with the accelerating crisis as it emerged. He declared that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong" at 9 a.m. one day and by 11 a.m. was describing an economy in crisis. He is both a longtime advocate of less market regulation and a supporter of the huge taxpayer-funded Wall Street bailout. His behavior in this crisis -- erratic is a kind description -- shows him to be ill-equipped to lead the essential effort of reining in a runaway financial system and setting an anxious nation on course to economic recovery.


On the most important issue of the day, Sen. Obama is a clear choice.

Sen. McCain describes himself as a maverick, by which he seems to mean that he spent 25 years trying unsuccessfully to persuade his own party to follow his bipartisan, centrist lead. Sadly, maverick John McCain didn't show up for the campaign. Instead we have candidate McCain, who embraces the extreme Republican orthodoxy he once resisted and cynically asks Americans to buy for another four years.

It is Sen. Obama who truly promises fundamental change in Washington. You need look no further than the guilt-by-association lies and sound-bite distortions of the degenerating McCain campaign to see how readily he embraces the divisive, fear-mongering tactics of Karl Rove. And while Sen. McCain points to the fragile success of the troop surge in stabilizing conditions in Iraq, it is also plain that he was fundamentally wrong about the more crucial early decisions. Contrary to his assurances, we were not greeted as liberators; it was not a short, easy war; and Americans -- not Iraqi oil -- have had to pay for it. It was Sen. Obama who more clearly saw the danger ahead.


Gov. Palin has shown the country why she has been so successful in her young political career. Passionate, charismatic and indefatigable, she draws huge crowds and sows excitement in her wake. She has made it clear she's a force to be reckoned with, and you can be sure politicians and political professionals across the country have taken note. Her future, in Alaska and on the national stage, seems certain to be played out in the limelight.

Yet despite her formidable gifts, few who have worked closely with the governor would argue she is truly ready to assume command of the most important, powerful nation on earth. To step in and juggle the demands of an economic meltdown, two deadly wars and a deteriorating climate crisis would stretch the governor beyond her range. Like picking Sen. McCain for president, putting her one 72-year-old heartbeat from the leadership of the free world is just too risky at this time.

That has to sting...


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Finally, A Positive Reaction

Over the last few weeks, I've recounted the reactions of people that I've encountered at my local grocery and drug store (plus the theft of my yard sign). Finally, things may be changing, a bit. Yesterday morning, my wife sent me on a quick early morning grocery run (my daughter wanted to try making breakfast burritos for us!). On the way out of the grocery, as I was getting back into my car, a BMW pulled up behind me and the driver rolled down her window. My expectation upon seeing a 40-something woman in a BMW with a Ping hat in Carmel was that I was going to have to listen to another anti-Obama diatribe. So, imagine my surprise when the woman's face opened into a giant smile as she said, "I love your bumper sticker. Where can I get one?" Yes!

She and I spoke for a few moments about the reactions that we've each had from others and we chuckled at the sheer idiocy of the objections that we've each heard. As I've said before, the amount of support that I've seen for Sen. Obama (be it yard signs or reactions like that from BMW lady) in this most Republican of districts cannot be a good sign for how the Republicans will fare on election day. I just hope that the pro-Obama sentiment (or anti-McCain or anti-Palin or anti-Bush or whatever sentiment it may be) will have coattails to extend at least a bit of the way down the ticket -- far enough, that is, to send Dan Burton home.


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Friday, October 24, 2008

Factoid of the Day (October 24, 2008)

I heard an interesting factoid somewhere in the last few days (sorry, I don't remember the source): The Republicans have not won a Presidential election without Nixon or a Bush on the ticket since 1928:

1952: Eisenhower & Nixon
1956: Eisenhower & Nixon
1968: Nixon & Agnew
1972: Nixon & Agnew
1980: Reagan & Bush
1984: Reagan & Bush
1988: Bush & Quayle
2000: Bush & Cheney
2004: Bush & Cheney

Of course, having Nixon or a Bush on the ticket does not guaranty a victory:

1960: Nixon & Lodge
1992: Bush & Quayle

But when neither Nixon nor a Bush has been on the ticket the Republicans have lost:

1932: Hoover & Curtis
1936: Langdon & Knox
1940: Wilkie & McNarry
1944: Dewey & Bricker
1948: Dewey & Warren
1964: Goldwater & Miller
1976: Ford & Dole
1996: Dole & Kemp

None of this means much, but I found it interesting.

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Goodbye Candidates (update)

I was looking back over a few things that I wrote about the election earlier this year and one of my previous posts caught my eye. I thought that I'd share that post again here for new readers and old. I find my thoughts from May to be interesting, especially given how this campaign has progressed:
Last week [early May 2008, just before Indiana's primary], I heard an interview with Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels. He commented on how exciting it was to have the Presidential candidates paying attention to Indiana and Hoosier voters. But, he noted wistfully, as soon as the primary was over, that would be the last that Indiana would see of Presidential candidates. Well, the primary is over. Sen. Clinton won by a pretty thin margin. And off she goes to West Virginia; Sen. Obama had already left for North Carolina (and then, I presume, on to West Virginia). Unfortunately, because Indiana is widely regarded as a "red state" (I don't think that Indiana has voted for the Democratic candidate since before the Mayflower...), Gov. Daniels' prediction is sure to come true. It was fun while it lasted.

Of course, there is one possibility for us to see the candidates again: If Indiana's Democratic voters speak loudly enough (I'm not sure if that only means "raise lots of money" or not) in support of the eventual candidate and in support of local Democratic candidates (in particular, the Democratic candidate for Governor), then it remains possible (though a remote and highly unlikely possibility) of Indiana being thought of as "in play". Yes, Indiana has a reputation for voting Republican; but let's don't forget that Indiana had a Democratic governor for four terms and has often had at least one Democratic Senator. And over 1,000,000 votes were cast for the two Democratic Presidential candidates yesterday (yeah, I know some were crossover votes). So anything is possible.

What? Where do the rules say that wishful thinking is prohibited?

Come November, if gas prices are still high (I heard a prediction Tuesday afternoon that suggested that by next spring gas prices might be close to $7 per gallon), if Hoosiers are still dying in Iraq, if jobs are still vanishing, if the Supreme Court continues to eat away at our civil liberties (did you hear about the 98 year old nun who couldn't vote yesterday because she didn't have a valid photo ID?), if Hoosiers continue to be unable to afford healthcare and drugs, if John McCain continues to suggest that it would be acceptable for American troops to stay in Iraq for 100 years, if more people continue to recognize the threat of global warming, if ... well, you get the idea. Come November, anything is possible.

That may be wishful thinking, but then isn't "hope" part of the American dream?

Apparently wishful thinking can pay off from time to time. The fact that I've had a chance to see Sen. Obama twice this month, that Gov. Palin is about to make her second visit to Indiana, that Sen. McCain has had to pull advertising money out of other states to advertise in Indiana, and that national pundits and pollsters are actually focusing on Indiana as a new "battleground" state means that those hopes that I expressed back in May have materialized. I didn't anticipate a global economic meltdown or Sarah Palin (or Tina Fey), but my wish that Indiana might be in play, much to even my own surprise, has turned out to be true. Wow!


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Hoax: McCain Campaign Worker Attacked by Obama Supporter

By now, many of you will have read or seen news about Ashley Todd, a McCain campaign worker in Pittsburgh who told police that she was robbed at an ATM and that when her assailant -- a "large black man" -- realized that she supported Sen. McCain (she said the assailant saw her bumper sticker), he beat her and carved the letter "B" into her cheek. Pictures of the Todd were everywhere this morning and Fox News covered the story with as much gusto as they might have covered the assassination of a major world leader. The right-wing blogosphere was really hammering on the story. Take for example, how Advance Indiana described the story:
This Texas woman [showing a photo] volunteering for John McCain in Pittsburg [sic] found out the hard way what happens when you cross the path of a mugger while visiting an ATM machine with a McCain bumper sticker on your car. It wasn't enough that her attacker robbed her. He also used a knife to carve the The One's initial "B" on her face. It's happening all across America. People who dare to express their public support for the McCain-Palin ticket are being assaulted or having their property vandalized by Obama's thugs. Is this the future we have to look forward to in America under an Obama presidency? No tolerance for dissenting views? Looks more like The One's cousin Odinga's Kenya than the United States of America where you lose an election, blame the Christians and then go burn their villages.

Ouch. (As evidence of some of the claims, Advance Indiana gives links to a story about a person allegedly beaten by an Obama supporter and a person whose car was vandalized. That is the evidence of "happening all across America". Of course, no mention is made of similar incidents with Obama supporters as the victims...) And John Moody, Executive Vice President of Fox News wrote that this incident as a potentially game-changing moment:
Part of the appeal of, and the unspoken tension behind, Senator Obama’s campaign is his transformational status as the first African-American to win a major party’s presidential nomination.

That does not mean that he has erased the mutual distrust between black and white Americans, and this incident could become a watershed event in the 11 days before the election.

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

But guess what? According to news sources in Pittsburgh:
Pittsburgh police said a 20-year-old woman who originally said she was robbed and assaulted at knifepoint in Bloomfield because of her political views made the story up.

Ashley Todd -- who has a backward letter "B" scratched into her right cheek -- confessed to faking the story and will be charged with filing a false report, Assistant Police Chief Maurita Bryant said at a news conference Friday.

Todd, of College Station, Texas, admitted there was no robbery or attacker and said she had prior mental health problems, according to Bryant.

It will be interesting to see whether the right-wing (and Fox) will issue a giant mea culpa for jumping on this story so quickly and without due investigation or if the story (and the finding that Todd made it up) will simply die a quiet death. If Advance Indiana is any guide, the fraudulent story will still be held up to prove ... um ... something:
Note that this young lady's psychotic behavior does not negate the fact that there have been numerous cases of assaults and vandalism to property conducted across the country by Obama supporters. Note also that Sen. Obama has never apologized to Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin for spreading false rumors that their supporters were chanting "Kill Him", referring to Obama, at McCain-Palin rallies at which the candidates spoke.

(Note that plenty of sources have reported on the "kill him" reference; however, the Secret Service could not confirm the shout in order to continue an investigation. Note further that Advance Indiana ignores other shouts like "terrorist", "traitor", and "Bomb Obama" that have been captured on audio and videotape.)

Let's remember Moody's thought on this incident (emphasis added):
If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.


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Jews Finally Lining Up Behind Obama

Throughout this election cycle, there has been concern that Jews might not be as supportive of Sen. Obama as they usually are of other Democratic candidates. One need look no further than The Great Schlep for evidence of this worry. A Gallup poll released yesterday finds that Jews seem to have finally rallied behind Sen. Obama. According to the poll, Jews favor Sen. Obama (74%) to Sen. McCain (22%).

Did The Great Schlep work?


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Republicans Endorsing Obama

As election day draws nearer, a number of prominent moderate Republicans are endorsing Sen. Obama. Last weekend Colin Powell endorsed Sen. Obama and that endorsement appears to have started a bit of a flood. According to an article in The New Republic, Charles Fried, Solicitor General under Ronald Reagan and a member of Sen. McCain's Honest and Open Election Committee and Justice Advisory Committee, has written to the McCain campaign to ask that his name be removed from these committees. Fried announced that he had already voted for Sen. Obama via absentee ballot. In his letter to the McCain campaign, Fried said that an important factor in his decision was "the choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis." Similarly, former Massachusetts Republican Governor William Weld has also announced his endorsement of Sen. Obama. During the primary season, Gov. Weld was a supporter of Mitt Romney. Just yesterday, former Minnesota Republican Governor Arne Carlson announced his endorsement for Sen. Obama. Finally, earlier this week, Scott McLellan, President Bush's former press secretary announced that he, too, was endorsing Sen. Obama.

I'm anticipating Sen. McCain's endorsement of Sen. Obama any day now... After all, he is a maverick, isn't he?


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Thursday, October 23, 2008

So You Think Are Elections Are Safe

Republicans talk about voter fraud. Democrats talk about vote suppression. But we should all be worried about hacked electronic voting machines:

Here's a 4-part documentary (from 2006) called "Hack the Vote" from GoTV:

Unfortunately, a simple search on YouTube will reveal plenty of other videos of other types of voting machines being hacked. Scary, huh? So the question to ask may not be who is voting; instead, the correct question may be who is "counting" the votes or who programmed the computer that is doing the counting?


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Hayden Panettiere Explains Why We Should Vote for McCain

Heroes' Hayden Panettiere explains why we should all vote for Sen. McCain:

Update (October 24, 2008): For some reason, the original embedded video wouldn't load, so I replaced it with a version uploaded to YouTube.

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Guiliani Jumping the Gun?

Unless I'm mistaken, the 2008 Presidential election isn't quite over yet. Last time I checked, we still have 12 days until the election. And just yesterday, I wrote about Rudy Guiliani doing a particularly sleazy robocall for Sen. McCain.

So perhaps somebody can explain to me why Guiliani is already running for President in 2012? Not sure what I'm talking about? Take a look at the URL for Guiliani's page ( or the title of the page ("Join Rudy 2012"). It seems more than a bit ... um ... odd, that Guiliani would be soliciting contributions for a campaign that won't start for several years at the same time that he is helping to elect (bury?) his party's chosen candidate. That's what I call giving your full support to your party! "Hey, John, I'll make sleazy robocalls for you and, because I know you're going to lose (and I know my robocalls will help seal your coffin), I'm gonna start raising money for 2012, OK?"


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35,000 Pack Downtown Indianapolis for Another Obama Rally


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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

News Roundup (October 22, 2008) - Part 2

For the last few days, Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin keep claiming that Sen. Obama is a "socialist". Forget for the time being whether they are right or wrong (they're wrong) or what the real definition of a socialist is. Instead, focus on the policy of Sen. Obama are being labeled as socialist: namely his proposal to give a tax cut to 95% of working Americans while slightly increasing (about 4%) taxes on the wealthiest Americans. The idea that we might tax the wealthy a bit more to give a tax break to the middle class is what the Republicans are calling "socialist" and clearly Sen. McCain is no socialist, right?

Then again...

The McCain campaign has also begun using a truly repulsive new robocall featuring as its designated purveyor of political sleaze: Ruly Guiliani:

Here's the transcript (from Talking Points Memo):

Hi, this is Rudy Giuliani, and I'm calling for John McCain and the Republican National Committee because you need to know that Barack Obama opposes mandatory prison sentences for sex offenders, drug dealers, and murderers.

It's true, I read Obama's words myself. And recently, Congressional liberals introduced a bill to eliminate mandatory prison sentences for violent criminals -- trying to give liberal judges the power to decide whether criminals are sent to jail or set free. With priorities like these, we just can't trust the inexperience and judgment of Barack Obama and his liberal allies. This call was paid for by the Republican National Committee and McCain-Palin 2008 at 866 xxx xxxx.

In the robocall, Guiliani claims to have "read Obama's words". Let's do that shall we? Here is the relevant portion of Sen. Obama's platform:

Eliminate Crack/Cocaine Disparity: The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 imposes a five-year mandatory minimum penalty for a first-time trafficking offense involving 5 or more grams of crack cocaine, the weight of less than two sugar packets and yielding between 10 and 50 doses. To get the same 5 year mandatory minimum for powder cocaine, an offender would need to traffic 500 grams of powder, yielding between 2,500 and 5,000 doses. Against the recommendation of the U.S. Sentencing Commission, these mandatory minimums were signed into law again in 1995. Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe the disparity between crack and powder-based cocaine is wrong, cannot be justified and should be eliminated. The sentencing disparity has disproportionately filled our prison with young black and Latino drug users – men and women who he will work to rehabilitate so they can become productive and responsible community members. More than 80 percent of crack cocaine defendants in 2006 were African American, and African Americans now serve as much time in prison for drug offenses (58.7 months) as whites do for violent offenses (61.7 months). Republican Senators, like Jeff Sessions from Alabama, have argued that as a matter of law and public policy, the heavy mandatory sentences for crack as compared to cocaine make no sense. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will work in a bipartisan way to eliminate these disparities. They will also repeal the mandatory minimum sentence for first-time offenders convicted of simple possession of crack, as crack is the only drug that a non-violent first-time offender can receive a mandatory minimum sentence for possessing.

Reform Mandatory Minimums: There are at least 171 mandatory minimum provisions in federal criminal statutes. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, in FY 2006, 33,636 counts of conviction carried a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment, affecting 20,737 offenders. Most of these counts of conviction – 82.9 percent – were for drug offenses. Black and Hispanic offenders make up the overwhelming majority of individuals convicted under a mandatory minimum sentence. A RAND study found that mandatory minimum sentences are less effective than discretionary sentencing and drug treatment in reducing drug-related crime, and every leading expert body in criminal justice has opposed the use of mandatory minimum sentences, including the Sentencing Commission, the Judicial Conference, the American Bar Association, and leading criminal justice scholars. Chief Justice Rehnquist observed that “one of the best arguments against any more mandatory minimums, and perhaps against some of those that we already have, is that they frustrate the careful calibration of sentences.” Justice Kennedy stated that he “can accept neither the necessity nor the wisdom of federal mandatory minimum sentences.” Justice Breyer, one of the architects of the Sentencing Guidelines, noted that “[m]andatory minimum statutes are fundamentally inconsistent with Congress’ simultaneous effort to create a fair, honest, and rational sentencing system through the use of Sentencing Guidelines.” Politicians of both parties have also come out against mandatory minimums. Barack Obama and Joe Biden will immediately review these sentences to see where we can be smarter on crime and reduce the ineffective warehousing of nonviolent drug offenders.

Now if you read even a little bit carefully, you will note that Mayor Guiliani left out one teeny tiny little word: "mandatory". Sen. Obama does not say that he opposes "mandatory prison sentences" as the robocall claims; rather, Sen. Obama opposes mandatory minimum prison sentences. See the difference? That the McCain campaign would allow a proxy to claim (in a robocall paid for by the McCain campaign) that Sen. Obama doesn't support prison for criminals is simply shameful and represents the absolute worst kind of political smear.

And I'm sure that you've already read this by now, but I wouldn't feel as if my post was complete with a reference to the Republican National Committee's little shopping spree:

The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August.

According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74.

The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September.

The RNC also spent $4,716.49 on hair and makeup through September after reporting no such costs in August.

The cash expenditures immediately raised questions among campaign finance experts about their legality under the Federal Election Commission's long-standing advisory opinions on using campaign cash to purchase items for personal use.

All kinds of jokes come to mind when I read this; most of them are simply too easy. But I told my wife that she should run for office so that we can get political contributions to buy her a new wardrobe. Maybe my kids can run for office, too!


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News Roundup (October 22, 2008)

Once again, there is so much going on that it is impossible to touch on everything that I might like to discuss. Nevertheless, I do want to highlight a few of the news items that I found to be most interesting.

First, take a look at this short film from BraveNew Films about the whole ACORN controversy:

And here is Keith Olbermann's analysis of some of Sen. McCain's ties to Republican vote fraud and voter suppression:

Next, take a look at this short video from an interview with Sen. McCain by a Missouri reporter. As you will see, the reporter hands Sen. McCain a mailing that the McCain campaign has been sending out and asks Sen. McCain is "proud" of the mailing. Sen. McCain replies: "Absolutely".

It seems to me that this is precisely the kind of thing that Colin Powell was talking about in his endorsement of Sen. Obama. In case you're curious, here is the mailing in question:



This is what Sen. McCain is "absolutely" proud of.

Next, is an interesting little "factoid" from a story in The New York Times analyzing the latest Times/CBS poll:

Mr. Obama’s favorability is the highest for a presidential candidate running for a first term in the last 28 years of Times/CBS polls. Mrs. Palin’s negative rating is the highest for a vice-presidential candidate as measured by The Times and CBS News. Even Dan Quayle, with whom Mrs. Palin is often compared because of her age and inexperience on the national scene, was not viewed as negatively in the 1988 campaign.


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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

John Stewart Takes on "Real America"

I just came across these excerpts from The Daily Show. Wow!

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Another Republican Accuses Liberals of Being Unpatriotic

Over the last few days, I've written several posts about Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann and her McCarthy-esque fears of the "anti-American" beliefs of Sen. Obama and liberals. Well, it appears that the new McCarthy-ism is spreading. So too are the lies that those caught making these kinds of vile statements resort to in order to defend themselves.

Case in point? Congressman Robin Hayes (R-North Carolina). According to Jason Horowitz, writing for The New York Observer, at a rally for Sen. McCain on Saturday, Rep. Hayes said:

liberals hate real Americans that work and achieve and believe in God.
Ouch. (By the way, it is worth noting that Rep. Hayes prefaced that comment with the admonition to other speakers not to say anything stupid or mean.) Now, I want to be sure that I understand Rep. Hayes' statement. In his worldview, I, as a liberal "hate real Americans" who he defines as those who "work and achieve and believe in God." For the record, I don't hate those who work or achieve or believe in God. Heck, by that definition, virtually every liberal that I know is a "real American". And, also for the record, I don't hate those who don't work or who fail or who don't believe in God. Most importantly, I don't think that whether someone works or achieves or believes in God has any bearing on whether that person is an American, real or otherwise. There is plenty of evidence that Thomas Jefferson didn't believe in God, but I don't think that anyone would suggest that he wasn't a "real American"...

Apparently, Rep. Hayes' caught some heat for this statement (gee, imagine that...). So, what did Rep. Hayes do? He had his spokesperson deny that he made the statement. According to The Crypt (on Politico):

Amanda Little [Rep. Hayes' spokesperson] says that Hayes absolutely denies making the comments that appear in the Observer article. She noted that other national reporters were at the event and didn't pick up on what the Observer reported.

The Crypt called the Observer reporter in question, Jason Horowitz, and he said he stands firmly by his reporting. "I was there. That’s what I heard. I was taking notes while he was talking," said Horowitz.
Following the denial from Rep. Hayes, several other reporters who were at the event came forward and confirmed that Rep. Hayes had, in fact, made the statement quoted by Horowitz. So, Rep. Hayes' spokesman again denied that Rep. Hayes had made the statement and accused The Crypt of "irresponsible journalism". Only guess what?

Only after being confronted with audio that proves that Rep. Hayes (a) made the statement and (b) lied (twice) about not making the statement, did Rep. Hayes finally responsibility. He told Politico:
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.
Out of curiosity, how does one accidentally claim that liberals "hate real Americans"? And how can anybody, when trying to keep a crowd "respectful" even contemplate using a word like "hate" in the first place?

Finally, while we're on the subject, I just wanted to note some of the explanations that Rep. Bachmann's gave Politico for her McCarthy-esque comments:
Despite the way the blogs and the Democratic Party are spinning it, I never called all liberals anti-American, I never questioned Barack Obama’s patriotism, and I never asked for some House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt into my colleagues in Congress.
I make a statement in an interview. Chris Matthews distorts it — as he is paid so well to do. The liberal blogs contort it even more. The speaker of the House and other Democrat leaders utter absolute lies about what was said in the interview.
It appears that Rep. Bachmann hasn't heard of YouTube or maybe she's just never bothered to watch her own interview. She claims to have never said certain things and also claims that her statements were distorted. You can watch her statements again:

It is awfully difficult to say that you didn't say something when there is videotape of you saying just that. And it is also difficult to claim that your statements were "spun" or "distorted" when all people have done is simply repeat what you've said.

Gov. Palin started us down this very ugly, very slippery slope a few days ago when she talked about "pro-America" parts of the country. Since then, we've had two Republican members of Congress making claims that liberals are unpatriotic or hate "real Americans" and we've even had a McCain spokesperson suggesting that northern Virginia is not "real Virginia". And I haven't heard a repudiation from Sen. McCain...

I'm curious, are Republicans trying to make this election about more than ideas? Are they trying to divide our country into two camps sparring over who are the "real Americans"? Because if so, I am very, very afraid of where that will lead us. Should Sen. Obama be elected next month, what should we expect from those who believe that he and his supporters (presumably a majority of the voting electorate) are anti-American? Should we expect them to quietly sit back and hope for the best (or the worst) or is it likely that their "fear" of "anti-American" liberals who don't live in "pro-America" areas of the country will lead in dangerous directions? And I wonder whether the target of those who fear "anti-American" beliefs will largely be found in our minority communities. Gov. Palin may have, intentionally or not, started her followers on the road to new racial violence. I sincerely hope not.


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Another Funny Campaign Video

Here is yet another funny campaign video, this time from the Ohio Democratic Party:

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Monday, October 20, 2008

Another Voter Explains His Vote

I came across a diary entry from blogger kentuckyscott on Daily Kos that I found to be truly remarkable, so I've elected to simply reprint it here:
I'm a middle-class white guy living in Jacksonville, Florida. I've got a wife and two kids. Because the kids had no school today, I took a vacation day from work, and took the kids downtown to vote early. Fifty-nine minutes later, two smiling children and I proudly sported "I Voted" stickers.

But I didn't vote for Obama.

I voted for my ancestors, who believed in the promise of this country and came with with nothing as immigrants.

I voted for my parents, who taught in the public schools for decades.

I voted for Steve, an acquaintance of mine from Kentucky. (Killed by an IED two years ago in Iraq).

I voted for Shawn, another who's been to Iraq twice, and Afghanistan once, and who'll be going back to Afghanistan again soon -- and whose family earned eleven bucks a month too much to qualify for food stamps when the war started.

I voted for April, the only African-American girl in my high school -- it was years before it occurred to me how different her experience of our school must have been.

I voted for my college friends who are Christian, Jewish, Mormon, and yes -- Muslim.

I voted for my grandfathers, who worked hard in factories and died too young.

I voted for the plumber who worked on my house, because I want him to get a REAL tax break.

I voted for four little angels from Birmingham.

I voted for a bunch of dead white men who, although personally flawed, were willing to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, and used a time of great crisis to expand freedom rather than suspend it.

I voted for all those people and more, and I voted for all of you, too. But mostly, I voted selfishly. I vote for two little kids, one who has ballet in an hour, and once who has baseball practice at the same time. I voted for a world where they can be confident that their government will represent the best that is in this country, and that will in turn demand the best of them. I voted for a government that will be respected in the world. I voted for an economy that will reward work above guile. I voted for everything I believe in.

Sure, I filled in the circle next to the name Obama, but it wasn't him I was voting for -- it was every single one of us, and those I love most of all.

Who else is there to vote for?


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What Do Pundits Think About Powell's Endorsement of Obama

Talking Points Memo has prepared a nice video highlighting what a number of the TV pundits thought of Colin Powell's endorsement of Sen. Obama:


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I Know That McCain Trails Obama in Fundraising, But...

Look, I know that the McCain campaign is seriously behind in fundraising and cash on hand. Over the weekend, the Obama campaign reported raising $150,000,000 in September while Time is reporting that Sen. McCain has just $47 million left to spend until election day. So, I understand that Sen. McCain needs to work to raise funds. But that doesn't explain this article from RIA (Novosti - Russian News & Information Agency):
Russia's permanent mission to the UN has received a letter from U.S. Republican presidential candidate John McCain asking for financial support of his election campaign, the mission said in a statement on Monday.

"We have received a letter from Senator John McCain with a request for a financial donation to his presidential election campaign. In this respect we have to reiterate that neither Russia's permanent mission to the UN nor the Russian government or its officials finance political activities in foreign countries," the statement said.

According to Ruslan Bakhtin, press secretary of the Russian mission, the letter dated September 29 and signed by McCain, was addressed to Vitaly Churkin, Russia's envoy to the UN, and arrived on October 16.

The ambassador's title was not included in the letter, and was not clear why the letter had taken over two weeks to arrive.

Enclosed was a request for a donation of up to $5,000 to McCain's election campaign to be returned with a check or permission to withdraw the money from the donor's credit card until October 24.

Individual donations to candidates' election campaigns are capped by law at $2,300, and it is illegal to accept donations from foreign nationals.
I'm sure that this was entirely a series of mistakes. Right? Maybe it is even a fraud. But even still, it just looks ... um ... odd? It will be interesting to see if Sen. McCain takes credit for this mistake or if he claims that it was a fraud.

I can just hear the righteous indignation that would be coming out of the McCain campaign if Sen. Obama sent a similar request to a foreign embassy. The difference is that, if the sender were Sen. Obama, many people would automatically believe that it was intentional just on the basis of Sen. Obama's name and race.


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Patriotic Americans Donate to Defeat McCarthy Protege

Over the weekend, I wrote about Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann. If you recall, she claims Sen. Obama and those with whom he associates have "anti-American" views and she demanded an investigation into which members of Congress were also "anti-American". She essentially implied that all liberals are "anti-American". I also wrote about her (lame) attempts to clarify her statement (she was "misread" she claims...) and Colin Powell's reference to Rep. Bachmann's comments as an example of why he was endorsing Sen. Obama and why he was upset with the tone of this campaign.

Following Bachmann's comments, "pro-Americans" all across the country stood up for such ideals as democracy, the marketplace of ideas, freedom of speech, thought, expression, and association, and the very concept that we can disagree with each other and with our government without being unpatriotic. The day after Rep. Bachmann spewed her vile McCarthy-esque claims, her opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg raised over $450,000 from more than 9,000 contributors and by this morning, had raised $640,000 from more than 13,000 contributors. Apparently there are quite a few people who didn't take kindly to Rep. Bachmann's venom.


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Brief Confrontation With Ignorance and Bigotry

Last night I had to run up to our local drugstore (in the same strip center as the grocery that I mentioned a few days ago). While walking back to my car, two teenage (?) girls (old enough to drive...) stopped and pointed at my Obama bumper sticker as one called out "I like your bumper stick." So far so good, right? Well, at the same time, an elderly gentleman was getting out of his car (a Lincoln or Cadillac) and, when the girls called out to me, he looked over. He then said, "You man's a Muslim and a socialist."

Now, I was tired and not in a very good mood (the Colts were destroyed and the kids were ... um, how to put this politely ... being difficult), plus I needed to get home. So I didn't take the time to engage him in a susbstantive discussion and I'm not sure that my response was exactly on point. But, based on his facial expression, I think that I made an impact: "No, sir," I said. "My man's an American and you sir, when you cash your social security check, you sir are a socialist." Then I got in my car and drove home.


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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Do Republicans Really Care About Vote Fraud

Over the last few weeks, Sen. McCain and Republican officials and supporters have spoken quite a bit about ACORN and alleged vote fraud (never mind that it appears to be ACORN who was the victim of fraud, not the perpetrator, and never mind that the fraud, if any, was voter registration fraud, and not actual vote fraud). So, it will be interesting to see how Sen. McCain and the Republicans respond to real, actual, vote fraud, of the kind that actually takes a real person's vote and switches it to the other party. According to the Sunday Gazette-Mail (of the West Virginia Charleston Gazette):

Three Putnam County voters say electronic voting machines changed their votes from Democrats to Republicans when they cast early ballots last week.

This is the second West Virginia county where voters have reported this problem. Last week, three voters in Jackson County told The Charleston Gazette their electronic vote for "Barack Obama" kept flipping to "John McCain".

In both counties, Republicans are responsible for overseeing elections. Both county clerks said the problem is isolated.

They also blamed voters for not being more careful.

I'm sure that Sen. McCain will immediately demand that the Justice Department step in a investigate; I'm sure that the Republican Party will immediately sue to put a stop to this kind of action. I'm sure that Sen. McCain will demand the resignation of the county officials and seek a way to allow those who voted early to cast new ballots. Right? I think that we all know the answers to those rhetorical questions. And the truly unfortunate part of this story, besides the fact that the election could be influenced by this sort of machine-based vote fraud, is that many people might never know that they were cheated out of casting the vote that they intended. How many West Virginians might emerge from the polls thinking that they'd cast the vote that they wanted and never know that the machines, overseen by Republicans, had switched their votes. That is the kind of vote fraud that we really need to worry about.

Republicans worry about Mickey Mouse showing up on election day to cast a ballot. Democrats worry about Republican county officials rigging voting machines to miscount votes. You tell me which is a greater worry?


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Bachmann Misreads Herself! Huh?

Friday night I wrote about Minnesota Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann's demand to have an investigation into which members of Congress were "anti-American" and her claims that Sen. Obama may have "anti-American" views and that the people that Sen. Obama associates with are "anti-American", and that Appearing in a TV interview over the weekend, Rep. Bachmann claims that her statements were "misread". Watch:

Just out of curiosity, how exactly exactly did anybody "misread" what Rep. Bachmann said? It seems the she is the only one who thinks that she said something other than what she did, in fact, say. Go back to Friday's post and watch the interview again for yourself. This woman is really frightening. She hearkens back to the darkest days of McCarthy-ism and isn't even smart enough to realize it. Thankfully, people like Colin Powell are taking note of comments like hers and using them as yet more reason to support Sen. Obama.


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Colin Powell Endorses Obama (update)

Earlier today, I wrote briefly about Colin Powell's endorsement of Sen. Obama. Watch this portion of Gen. Powell's explanation of why he has chosen to endorse Sen. Obama:

Unlike too many of Americans, Gen. Powell appears to still understand what it means to be an American and that, at the end of the day, regardless of race, religion, or political ideology, we are all still Americans.

In an interview after he gave his endorsement, Gen. Powell gives further explanations and, as a principal example of what he sees as wrong with the Republican Party, he cites Rep. Michelle Bachmann and her demand for an investigation to determine which members of Congress might be "Anti-American" (which I wrote about Friday night):

Hopefully, undecided voters will listen to Gen. Powell's thoughts about Sen. Obama and his concerns about the direction that some of the Republican scare tactics are taking this country, especially as those tactics relate to our standing in the rest of the world.


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Factoid of the Day (October 19, 2008)

It struck me late last night that Tina Fey's version of Gov. Palin has now give more press conferences than the real Gov. Palin...

And while, I thought it was a funny line, the real Gov. Palin's "complaint" to Lorne Michaels that "I just don't think it's a realistic depiction of the way my press conferences would have gone" is actually far more revealing that humorous. First, note the use of the word "would". Second, if she doesn't think (even in a comedic setting) that Fey's version of a press conference was realistic, Gov. Palin could easily counter that depiction by simply giving her own press conference. Even Joe the Plumber has given more press conferences that Gov. Palin.


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Colin Powell Endorses Obama

I'm about to walk out the door for a full Sunday of family activity, but I wanted to take a quick moment to note a major story. Retired General and former Secretary of State Colin Powell has endorsed Barack Obama. The story can be found on CNN. It is worth remembering that Powell is a Republican. Among the statements that Powell made about Sen. Obama:
Obama displayed a steadiness. Showed intellectual vigor. He has a definitive way
of doing business that will do us well.

And, according the CNN story (reporting about Powell's appearance on "Meet the Press"):
Powell said he questioned Sen. John McCain's judgment in picking Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate because he doesn't think she is ready to be president.

He also said he was disappointed with some of McCain's campaign tactics, such as bringing up Obama's ties to former 1960s radical Bill Ayers.

Powell has been an important figure in America over the last two decades, often able to bridge gaps between the parties and opposing viewpoints. He has been one of those rare figures who is respected across the political spectrum and who, when he has made a mistake, has been willing to stand up and accept responsibility (all to rare in politics). His endorsement of Sen. Obama should put to rest, once and for all, any doubts that some may have still had in Sen. Obama's qualifications or readiness to be President.


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Friday, October 17, 2008

Republican Congresswoman Follows Palin's Lead and Calls for Investigation Into Anti-Americans in Congress

The tenor of this election is getting scary. As I mentioned earlier today, Gov. Palin, campaigning in North Carolina yesterday, referred to the "pro-America" areas of the country which can only mean, by implication, that there must be "anti-America" areas of the country. Now Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota) has latched onto the notion that parts of America are "anti-America" but she even goes a few steps further. For example, she thinks that the "people that Barack Obama has been associating with are anti-American, by and large" and she is concerned that Sen. Obama "may have anti-American views." I'm waiting to hear Sen. McCain's repudiation of those statements. But Rep. Bachmann goes even further: She says that liberals may be anti-America. I think that is the first time that I've ever been accused of being unpatriotic. Finally, and most unbelievably, she thinks that some members of Congress are anti-America and thinks the "news media should do a penetrating expose and take a look. I wish they would, I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out are they are pro-America or anti-America." In other words, in Rep. Bachmann's world, you either agree with her or you are anti-America. And I thought McCarthy-ism ended back in the '50s.

Here is a highlight reel of her comments:

and here is the entire seven minute interview (which includes Rep. Bachmann spewing idiotic vitriol and rhetoric on a number of other issues, too):

One funny thing to note: In the hours after this story was first reported, ActBlue has raised over $11,700 for Bachmann's opponent, Elwyn Tinklenberg. How's that for the power of the Internet?

Incidentally, earlier today, Sen. Biden took aim at Gov. Palin's notion that there are "pro-America" areas and, by implication (as aptly demonstrated by Rep. Bachmann), anti-America areas:

If Rep. Bachmann represents the views of where this country could go, I for one am scared. And if Rep. Bachmann views are, in any way, encouraged or fostered by the rhetoric that Sen. McCain falsely claims to be repudiating, then we will have our evidence that his campaign has done true damage to the American democratic system. We don't need to agree with our neighbors on everything, but we shouldn't hate them just because of our disagreements. That way, lies danger. McCarthy-ism was wrong in the '50s and it's still wrong today. The only "anti-American" that I see right now is Rep. Bachmann who is so clearly ignorant of how a free and open democracy is actually supposed to work and who would sacrifice much of what make our country great in the quest to turn America into some kind of right-wing paradise.


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Another Great Pro-Choice Campaign Ad

Take a moment and watch this subversive little pro-choice campaign ad:


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Chicago Tribune Endorses Obama

This afternoon, The Chicago Tribune endorsed Sen. Obama. So what, you might say. Shouldn't Sen. Obama expect an endorsement from his hometown newspaper? Well, no, actually. As the editors note in their endorsement:
This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the
first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party's nominee for

The first time! In over 160 years! The endorsement is worth reading, but I wanted to highlight a few of the more interesting statements:
We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass
and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.


McCain failed in his most important executive decision. Give him credit for choosing a female running mate--but he passed up any number of supremely qualified Republican women who could have served. Having called Obama not ready to lead, McCain chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. His campaign has tried to stage-manage Palin's exposure to the public. But it's clear she is not prepared to step in at a moment's notice and serve as president. McCain put his campaign before his country [emphasis added].

Obama chose a more experienced and more thoughtful running mate--he put governing before politicking. Sen. Joe Biden doesn't bring many votes to Obama, but he would help him from day one to lead the country.


Obama is deeply grounded in the best aspirations of this country, and we need to return to those aspirations. He has had the character and the will to achieve great things despite the obstacles that he faced as an unprivileged black man in the U.S.He has risen with his honor, grace and civility intact. He has the intelligence to understand the grave economic and national security risks that face us, to listen to good advice and make careful decisions.

The editors of The Chicago Tribune have clearly thought deeply about the election; let's just hope that others follow that lead and make their decisions on the basis of careful thought and not just fear.


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"Make-Believe Maverick": Rolling Stone's Expose

I keep forgetting to post a link to the article "Make-Believe Maverick" by Tom Dickinson in the October 16, 2008, issue of Rolling Stone. It is a long article (and I'll admit, I haven't quite finished it yet), but from the portions that I've read it is worth reading. Here's a taste:
This is the story of the real John McCain, the one who has been hiding in plain sight. It is the story of a man who has consistently put his own advancement above all else, a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather.

In its broad strokes, McCain's life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.

In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.

This week's issue of Rolling Stone includes the article "Obama's Moment" by Eric Bates. I hope to read it over the weekend.


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McCain Flip Flops on Whether We're Better Off

Yesterday, Sen. McCain started running advertisements where he very candidly notes that the "last eight years haven't worked very well" (this is part of his new "I'm not George Bush strategy). But, just a few months ago, Sen. McCain had a very different view of the last eight years:

(Thanks to Jed L over at Daily Kos for this video.)


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Good to See That McCain and Obama Can Keep a Sense of Humor

Last night in New York City, Sen. Obama and Sen. McCain upheld a quadrennial tradition (marred in 2004 by the Catholic Church's concerns about Sen. Kerry's support for abortion rights) and spoke at the Al Smith Memorial Foundation dinner. Both Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama were very funny and were good sports as they joked with and about one another. Sen. Clinton may have had the best laughs of the evening. And, while I think that Sen. Obama won all three debates, I think that I just might have to give Sen. McCain a slight edge when it comes to stand-up comedy. Here are videos of their speeches:

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McCain Appears on Letterman

Last night, Sen. McCain (finally) appeared on Dave Letterman's show and the two engaged in a friendly, funny, but spirited conversation (video can be found on CBS' website and a transcript is available from Time). I, being a customer of Brighthouse Cable, was not able to watch the show. Anyway, among the exchanges, I found a few particularly interesting (I'll include the transcripts below as it may be easier to read it than to wait through the whole video).

The first part of the discussion that really intrigued me was a discussion of the tone of the campaign:

LETTERMAN: He [the moderator] talked about campaigns – some questionable tactics on your part, some questionable tactics by Barack Obama. And for your part, when they go down the list, when they chronicle some of these things that are being hollered out from the crowd, regarding Barack Obama – “traitor, treason, terrorist” – and so on and so forth – and worse, as a matter of fact, that Barack Obama alluded to himself last night.

McCAIN: Do you know what's being shouted out at his rallies? There's always a few fringe people who will abuse their Constitutional rights. Who will show up at these kinds of things and you'll get that fringe element. But I'd love for you to come to one of my rallies. They'd love to see you. A lot of fans of yours come to our rallies. But look, I have groups – rally I was at the other day, Military Wives for McCain. Veterans, wearing their hats from all the wars we were in. There are a few fringe people. There are a few fringe people that attend Senator Obama's rallies. But these are people who are involved and engaged in the political process and I'm very glad that they are. I'm' very glad they are. And I confront them, Dave. You saw that. I confront them when they say anything that is out of bounds, ok? I do.

LETTERMAN: Does your running mate also do that? Does she sit on them pretty good when this stuff comes up?

McCAIN: She does. She doesn't countenance that kind of thing. I mean, nobody does. Senator Obama doesn't. Joe Biden doesn't.

LETTERMAN: But Senator, you yourself in previous campaigns have been the victim of some pretty nasty campaign abuse. So do you feel because of that or just because of your humanity you have a responsibility to lift your purpose here?

McCAIN: I feel I have a responsibility that if someone says anything improper and I am within earshot…Look, people who are quote, GOPers, whom I've never known or heard of, made remarks about Senator Obama questioning his patriotism, etc. I have always repudiated those remarks, Dave. Every time there has been one. And yet he won't repudiate the remarks made by a man I admire and I've written a chapter in my book about, John Lewis. He linked Sarah Palin and me to segregation, George Wallace, and even the bombing of a church in Birmingham that killed four innocent young children. There's no room for that in American politics. And I was sorry that last night Senator Obama did not repudiate John Lewis who is a respected American hero, who…I can't tell you how saddened I was at those remarks.

LETTERMAN: But I thought it was addressed by Barack last night.

McCAIN: He didn't repudiate them. Those remarks should be repudiated, made by anybody. So, look, these are tough times in America. You know that. This is what most people view as the most important race. And of course there is a negativism that's associated with it. But I'd also like to say again. I asked Senator Obama to do town hall meetings. I would love to have Senator Obama come on this show. And I'll sit there and he'll sit here and we'll debate the issues. But he would not do that. That changes the tenor of the campaign when you're on Dave Letterman and trying to defend yourself. So let me just say this. 19 more days. We had a good debate. We had three good debates. Now it's going to be a tough slog. And let's all keep it in bounds and be respectful. But there are differences. That's why we're different party and different philosophy.
They also discussed the selection of Gov. Palin:

LETTERMAN: [I]f she had been a man, would you also have selected him as a man?

McCAIN: Yes, because I believe that Sarah Palin is a reformer. She's the most popular governor in the United States of America. She gave her taxpayers back money. She negotiated a $40 billion natural gas pipeline deal and confronted the big oil companies when she did it. She's been a member of the PTA, the city council, the mayor and a governor. And I am very honored to know her and her family. She has – by the way, her husband, Todd, is a four-time champion of a race of 2000 miles across Alaska in the dead of winter. Amazing person. His grandmother is a native Alaskan. In one of his races, he broke his arm and continued the race for 250 more miles. It's just a wonderful family. And they have a very special child and I'm very proud of them. So I'm very proud to have Sarah with me and I think she has energized our ticket and energized a lot of Americans.

LETTERMAN: No question about that. But I'll tell you… I mean, was she your first choice?

McCAIN: Absolutely.


LETTERMAN: Had you spent time with her?

McCAIN: A couple of times, I'd met with her. I didn't know her real well but I knew her reputation and I didn't know her well at all. I didn't know her well at all. I knew her reputation as a reformer. Running against a governor of her own party, an incumbent governor. She took the guy on after she believed that bad things were going on in Alaska. And she was right.

LETTERMAN: Now here's my point of view on this. And again, I really don't know anything. And I'm an independent. I have no party affiliation. When this happened, I thought to myself, wow, you know in my daily life – and anybody who's got kids, yourself, anybody – you try to take the best care of your children that you can for their future. Present and future. And I kind of felt like that's the responsibility to a huge extent of our administration. So the person, man or woman, who is in charge of that, has got to do the same. And I was just wondering if the thoughtfulness of that process included your selection of Vice President.

McCAIN: Oh sure.

LETTERMAN: I mean, if you are unable to fulfill your office, we get a 9/11 attack, Sarah Palin is the president who leads us through that.

McCAIN: Sure. She's been the governor of a state with 24,000 employees. She's…I mean, maybe you don't like Alaska. But the point is, it's the biggest state we have. And I'm sure they'd welcome you there.

LETTERMAN: I'm a big fan of Alaska.

McCAIN: Look, in all due respect, one of the people I admire most was an obscure governor of a southern state called Arkansas. And he turned out to be a fairly successful president. I mean, Ronald Reagan was a cowboy – no experience in international affairs. Look, I think she has shown leadership. I think she's shown executive ability. And I think she has shown a degree of reform that we need – does anyone think we don't need to clean up the mess in Washington?

LETTERMAN: Let me just get back to my question. Well, I mean, either you're right or you're wrong. You know what you're talking about or you don't know what you're talking about. But I'm just telling you from my perspective that I thought, Oh, oh my God. I'm sure she's a lovely woman. I'm sure she's done a great job in Alaska. But in terms – this country. I'm 61. I've never seen it in this big a mess. I've seen economic problems. I've seen war. I've never seen a combination of things quite like this. I've never seen the free fall diminishment of the impression of the United States around the country. I've never seen anything like this. I have a four-year-old son. I wonder what the hell, is it going to be 160 twenty years from now on his birthday? So I'm thinking, alright, this is a pretty important job.

McCAIN: But with all due respect, she's had the leadership experience that's necessary to run bureaucracies, to reform…And because she was not known inside the Georgetown cocktail circuit, doesn't matter to me.

LETTERMAN: Let me ask you a question. In your guts, in your stomach – you're a smart, tough, savvy guy –

McCAIN: Thank you. That'll be a commercial, coming to you soon.

LETTERMAN: If I were to run upstairs, wake you up in the middle of the night, and say, “John, is Sarah Palin really the woman to lead us through the next four, eight years? Through the next 9/11 attack?”

McCAIN: Absolutely. She has inspired Americans. That's the thing we need. We need inspiration now. We need courage. We need to know that we're the greatest nation in the world. And we can come through this. I agree with your assessment of the way the world and this country is. And they need somebody they say – this, this is a person who is an inspiration to us. This is a person who has done so many things that are very unusual. So all I can tell you is that if you are looking for somebody, someone who is in the old boy network of Washington, many of whom have gotten us into this ditch to start with, then that's fine. But I think America is crying out for change. And she represents the kind of change that we need.
And finally, the conversation got around to Bill Ayers. As you'll see, Letterman becomes (so far as I'm aware) the first member of the "media" to ask Sen. McCain about McCain's "association" with G. Gordon Liddy. Unfortunately, Letterman let Sen. McCain off easy and didn't keep pushing.

LETTERMAN: Now she's [Gov. Palin] also, she's the one, I think who says that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists. Has she in fact said that at rallies?

McCAIN: I don't…yes. And he did. And refused to acknowledge the fact.

LETTERMAN: Who did he pal around with?

McCAIN: William Ayers who said on 9/11 that he wished that he'd bombed more. OK? His wife was on the Top 10 of FBI's Most Wanted.

LETTERMAN: But this all took place…when he was active, Barack Obama was eight years old.

McCAIN: Eight years old. And Mr. Ayers in 2001, September 11, 2001, said, “I wished I had bombed more.” It's an unrep—

LETTERMAN: But what is that relationship?

McCAIN: It's all we need to know. Senator Clinton said, “We need to know about the relationship.” First he said he was just a guy in the neighborhood. And so it's a matter of trusting the word of someone.

LETTERMAN: I know. I know.

McCAIN: That's all.

LETTERMAN: But you will also admit that we cannot really control who we interact with in our lives 100%.

McCAIN: How long we interact with them and how we interact with them…But the point in this campaign is the economy, the economy and the economy.

LETTERMAN: But did you not have a relationship with Gordon Liddy?

McCAIN: I met him, you know, I mean…

LETTERMAN: Didn't you attend a fund raiser at his house?

McCAIN: Gordon Liddy's?

*** commercial break ***

LETTERMAN: How about that Tina Fey?

McCAIN: I know Gordon Liddy. He paid his debt. He went to prison, he paid his debt, as people do. I'm not in any way embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy. And his son, who is also a good friend and supporter of mine.

LETTERMAN: But you understand that the same case could be made of your relationship with him as being made with William Ayers.

McCAIN: Everything about any relationship that I've had I will make completely open and give a complete accounting of. Senator Obama said that he was a guy who lived in the neighborhood. OK, it was more than that.

LETTERMAN: They served on a committee at one point.

McCAIN: Yes, that gave $230,000 to ACORN which is now involved in what may be one of the great voter frauds in history. It could be. We need to know.

LETTERMAN: Are they double dating? Are they going to dinner? What are they doing? Are they driving cross country?

McCAIN: Maybe going to Denny's. Who knows? The Grand Slam…

LETTERMAN: Now she said “pals around with terrorists.” OK, so alright. Let's say we give her William Ayers. He was eight and William Ayers was 29. But they palled around.

McCAIN: There's millions of word said in the campaign. Come on!

LETTERMAN: But that's where we live. In politics, isn't it?

McCAIN: Millions of words. Yes indeed.

A few points that I take away from this entire interview (and wouldn't it be refreshing if more of the media would actually ask follow up questions the way Letterman did?):

First, even on Letterman's show, the Straight Talk Express still can't tell the truth. Example #1: McCain claims that Gov. Palin was his first choice, yet there were plenty of reports prior to his naming Gov. Palin that indicated that Sen. McCain wanted to name either Sen. Lieberman or Gov. Ridge, but that he was receiving opposition from some in his campaign who thought those selections would alienate the right wing of the party. Example #2: Speaking of phrases like "kill him" and "off with his head" and "terrorist" being shouted at McCain-Palin rallies, Sen. McCain claims that "I have always repudiated those remarks, Dave. Every time there has been one" and says that Gov. Palin "doesn't countenance that kind of thing". Yet there is not a single example to be found (other than Sen. McCain telling people not to fear Sen. Obama and reassuring a crowd that Sen. Obama is not an Arab) of either Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin telling their supporters to stop the violent rhetoric that has become commonplace at Republican rallies. Example #3: Sen. McCain continues to suggest that similar things are being yelled at Obama-Biden rallies. Yet once again, no evidence of any such violent rhetoric being shouted at an Obama-Biden rally has been found.

Second, Sen. McCain continues to focus on the Bill Ayers issue even though Sen. Obama gave a full explanation of the "association" during the debate. It almost appears as if Sen. McCain wants Sen. Obama to simply make something up, just to have more to talk about.

Third, Sen. McCain acknowledges that Liddy is "paid his debt" and that Sen. McCain is "not in any way embarrassed to know Gordon Liddy". Liddy paid his debt for the Watergate break in, but not for plotting to kill journalists or for telling listeners how to kill federal agents. Oh, and don't forget that Liddy has also spoken positively about Hitler, too. If Sen. McCain is "not in any way embarrassed to know" a man who uses the public airwaves to tell people how to kill federal agents and to brag about his own past plans to assassinate journalists, then Sen. McCain really needs to do some soul-searching.

Finally, despite Sen. Obama's clear repudiation during the debate of the worst reading of Rep. John Lewis' letter vilifying Sen. McCain and his campaign for the divisive rhetoric prevalent in the campaign, Sen. McCain still wants more. Again, though, it is interesting to hear Sen. McCain continue to push on this issue (and falsely, too, I believe, as I discussed yesterday) while completely ignoring and failing to repudiate such comments as those from the chair of the Virginia GOP telling supporters to compare Sen. Obama to Osama Bin Ladin. Sometimes, I wonder if Sen. McCain even recognizes or understands what he says anymore.


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Keith Olbermann Fact Checks (and Body Slams) McCain

Last night on MSNBC, Keith Olbermann fact checked Sen. McCain's statements from third Presidential debate. Ouch:

And remember what Sen. McCain said of his campaign during the debate: "we will run a truthful campaign". Um, no so much.


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Palin Visiting Indiana Today

Late this afternoon, Gov. Palin will be holding a rally in the Indianapolis metropolitan area (Noblesville, to be precise). I want to comment on several aspects of this visit.

First, the fact that the McCain campaign is paying any attention whatsoever to Indiana is practically beyond belief. Not only has Indiana not voted for a Democrat for President since 1964 (before I was born), but come election night, the TV networks are usually able to project that the Republican candidate has won Indiana about 12 seconds after Indiana's polls close. I'm not sure that the big maps that the networks use even have blue pixels for Indiana. But this year, the McCain campaign has had to abandon true "battleground" states (like Michigan and Wisconsin) just to try to hold states that are usually solid red. Hence, Gov. Palin's visit to Indiana.

But that isn't the end of the unbelievable part of the story. We also have to look at where in Indiana Gov. Palin will be speaking. Noblesville is one of the suburbs on the far northside of Indianapolis (separated from Indianapolis by Carmel and Fishers). Noblesville is also in the middle of Indiana's 5th Congressional District. The 5th District, which is represented by Dan Burton, is one of the most conservative Congressional districts in the entire country. According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, only 8 Congressional districts are more solidly Republican than Indiana's 5th District (and it is worth noting that of those 8, 2 are in Utah, 2 are in Texas, and 2 more are in the South; Indiana is the most solidly Republican district north of the Mason-Dixon line and east of the Mississippi). Dan Burton is safe on November 4 (as much as I'd love to see him go, I don't think that Mary Etta Ruley has a chance). Yet other Indiana Republicans are in trouble. Incumbent Rep. Mark Souder (3rd District) and Rep. Steve Buyer (4th District) are both facing tough challenges (from Mike Montagano and Nels Ackerson, respectively) and former Rep. Mike Sodrel's efforts to reclaim his seat in the 9th District from Rep. Baron Hill appears to be in trouble. Yet Gov. Palin isn't visiting any of those districts.

So why in the world would the McCain campaign spend resources or time sending Gov. Palin to give a rally in Indiana's 5th District? I wonder if it has anything do with the reason that people in the 5th District feel the need to steal Obama campaign signs or with the fact that Sen. Obama has numerous offices in the 5th District (he just opened a new office in Carmel this week to go with his office in Fishers). Could it be that the McCain campaign is truly worried about carrying Indiana and needs to rally its base in the reddest districts that it can find? If that's the situation, then Democrats should be additionally motivated to show up and vote on November 4.

There are some other aspects about Gov. Palin's visit that are worth mentioning. This year, Indiana is also holding a gubernatorial election. Incumbent Gov. Mitch Daniels is working to hold off an underfunded challenge by former Rep. Jill Long Thompson. Most of the polls show Gov. Daniels with a sizable lead. But guess who won't be appearing at Gov. Palin's rally? That's right, Gov. Daniels will be attending some kind of ribbon cutting event instead. Thompson was front and center at Sen. Obama's rally last week; could it be that Gov. Daniels wants to separate himself from the McCain-Palin campaign? If the number of houses with Daniels and Obama yard signs that I've seen is any indication, then that could be exactly what Gov. Daniels is trying to do.

Also, whoever scheduled the time and venue for the Gov. Palin's event is either (a) an idiot or (b) doesn't want a large crowd. The rally will be held at the Verizon Music Center (formerly [and forever in my mind] Deer Creek), a terrific outdoor concert facility. The problem is that getting to Verizon can be very difficult with large traffic jams common (you should see how the far northeast side of the city and suburbs jam up when Jimmy Buffet comes to town). Combine that with the fact that the rally is scheduled for a Friday afternoon and gridlock could be an understatement. But, hey, it's not my problem.

And why, exactly, does a prospective voter need a ticket to attend a Republican rally? Sen. Obama's rally was open to anyone who showed up. Sure we had to fill out a "ticket" at the event (which was never collected), but if I'd wanted to give false information I could have. But to gain admission to see Gov. Palin, you have to get a ticket from a Republican party headquarters office. Is the goal to be sure that only the party faithful show up?

Finally, I would be curious to know how Gov. Palin categorizes central Indiana. Does she think that we're one of the "pro-America" parts of the country or are we in the, apparently unpatriotic part? Don't know what I'm talking about? According to The Washington Post, yesterday, in North Carolina, Gov. Palin told the crowd that she loved to visit the "pro-America" areas of the country which, by implication, suggests that she views other areas of the country as "anti-America". I'd be curious to get a list of precisely which areas are anti-America. Maybe it's just areas where Democrats live. Or maybe it's Alaska where Todd Palin and his pals want independence from America. If Gov. Palin talked to the "liberal media" (instead of just doing infomercials with Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh), we might be able to ask her these questions, but as it stands right now, Joe the Plumber has given more press conferences than Gov. Palin.

And no, I won't be going to hear Gov. Palin speak.


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Another Yard Sign Stolen

Back in April, in the week leading up to Indiana's primary, I reported about my yard sign being stolen. Well, it happened again. When I went out to get the paper this morning, I discovered that our Obama - Biden sign was missing. More troubling was my discovery, as I drove through the neighborhood on my way to work, that virtually all of the Obama yard signs in our neighborhood were missing (and, as of just a few days ago, there were quite a few Obama signs in our neighborhood). Not surprisingly, none of the McCain signs appeared to have been stolen.

I went ahead and made a police report. I did so just to make my point, not because I think that the police will thoroughly investigate the theft or find the culprit. But when the officer spoke to my wife, he did tell her that lots and lots of Obama signs are being stolen throughout Carmel.

So my question is this: What does the City of Carmel intend to do to protect the political and free speech rights of those espousing a minority viewpoint? And what do those of us with that minority political viewpoint intend to do? For one thing, I plan to get another Obama sign and put it right back where the old one was. Every sign that I'm forced to "buy" will just put a few more dollars in Sen. Obama's campaign bank account...

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

What Did John Lewis Say and How the Candidates Responded

In Wednesday's debate, Sen. McCain said that he took great offense to the statement by Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia). In the debate, Sen. McCain said that Lewis:
made allegations that Sarah Palin and I were somehow associated with the worst chapter in American history, segregation, deaths of children in church bombings, George Wallace. That, to me, was so hurtful. And, Senator Obama, you didn't repudiate those remarks. Every time there's been an out-of-bounds remark made by a Republican, no matter where they are, I have repudiated them. I hope that Senator Obama will repudiate those remarks that were made by Congressman John Lewis, very unfair and totally inappropriate. So I want to tell you, we will run a truthful campaign.

So, let's take a look at who really said what. First, here is Rep. Lewis' actual statement:
As one who was a victim of violence and hate during the height of the Civil Rights Movement, I am deeply disturbed by the negative tone of the McCain-Palin campaign. What I am seeing today reminds me too much of another destructive period in American history. Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are sowing the seeds of hatred and division, and there is no need for this hostility in our political discourse.

During another period, in the not too distant past, there was a governor of the state of Alabama named George Wallace who also became a presidential candidate. George Wallace never threw a bomb. He never fired a gun, but he created the climate and the conditions that encouraged vicious attacks against innocent Americans who only desired to exercise their constitutional rights. Because of this atmosphere of hate, four little girls were killed one Sunday morning when a church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama.

As public figures with the power to influence and persuade, Sen. McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire, and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all. They are playing a very dangerous game that disregards the value of the political process and cheapens our entire democracy. We can do better. The American people deserve better.

A few hours later, Sen. McCain issued a response:
Congressman John Lewis' comments represent a character attack against Governor Sarah Palin and me that is shocking and beyond the pale. The notion that legitimate criticism of Senator Obama's record and positions could be compared to Governor George Wallace, his segregationist policies and the violence he provoked is unacceptable and has no place in this campaign. I am saddened that John Lewis, a man I've always admired, would make such a brazen and baseless attack on my character and the character of the thousands of hardworking Americans who come to our events to cheer for the kind of reform that will put America on the right track.

I call on Senator Obama to immediately and personally repudiate these outrageous and divisive comments that are so clearly designed to shut down debate 24 days before the election. Our country must return to the important debate about the path forward for America.

And shortly after that, Sen. Obama's campaign issued a statement:

Sen. Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies.

But John Lewis was right to condemn some of the hateful rhetoric that John McCain himself personally rebuked just last night, as well as the baseless and profoundly irresponsible charges from his own running mate that the Democratic nominee for president of the United States ‘pals around with terrorists.’ As Barack Obama has said himself, the last thing we need from either party is the kind of angry, divisive rhetoric that tears us apart at a time of crisis when we desperately need to come together. That is the kind of campaign Sen. Obama will continue to run in the weeks ahead.

And the next day, Rep. Lewis issued a further clarifying statement:
A careful review of my earlier statement would reveal that I did not compare Sen. John McCain or Gov. Sarah Palin to George Wallace. It was not my intention or desire to do so. My statement was a reminder to all Americans that toxic language can lead to destructive behavior. I am glad that Sen. McCain has taken some steps to correct divisive speech at his rallies. I believe we need to return to civil discourse in this election about the pressing economic issues that are affecting our nation.

I will admit that when I first read Rep. Lewis' original statement, I was initially shocked as I too thought that Rep. Lewis was comparing Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin to George Wallace. But then I, apparently unlike Sen. McCain or his campaign, took the time to go back and read Rep. Lewis' statement again, this time more carefully. Did Rep. Lewis really compare Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin to George Wallack or compare their actions to "segregation, deaths of children in church bombings" as Sen. McCain claimed in the debate? No, he did not. What Rep. Lewis actually did was to compare the results of hate speech and divisive rhetoric in political campaigns.

Remember that over the last week or two, McCain-Palin rallies have been punctuated with cries of "terrorist", "kill him", and "traitor" to name a few. And the hate speech has spilled over. At a Georgia debate, someone yelled out "Bomb Obama". During a canvassing training session in Virginia, the chair of Virginia's Republican party told volunteers to emphasize the comparison of Sen. Obama and Osama Bin Ladin, saying: "Both have friends that bombed the Pentagon". Those are the words that Rev. Lewis is talking about. When politicians use hate and division as tools, some supporters will take their speech at face value. And when politicians don't listen to what their supporters are saying, they can't help either control those supporters or try to keep a lid on the actions those supporters may take. And should Sen. Obama win the election, then one can only wonder what disaffected McCain supporters will do, especially those supporters who have felt emboldened to shout "kill him" or "Bomb Obama". It is precisely that worry that Rep. Lewis was discussing.

Also during the debate, Sen. McCain said: "Senator Obama, you didn't repudiate those remarks". But isn't that precisely what Sen. Obama's statement did? "Sen. Obama does not believe that John McCain or his policy criticism is in any way comparable to George Wallace or his segregationist policies." In other words, once again, Sen. McCain simply lied. Fortunately, Sen. Obama was on the stage with Sen. McCain and was able to correct Sen. McCain's lie:
[I]f we want to talk about Congressman Lewis, who is an American hero, he, unprompted by my campaign, without my campaign's awareness, made a statement that he was troubled with what he was hearing at some of the rallies that your running mate was holding, in which all the Republican reports indicated were shouting, when my name came up, things like "terrorist" and "kill him," and that you're running mate didn't mention, didn't stop, didn't say "Hold on a second, that's kind of out of line." And I think Congressman Lewis' point was that we have to be careful about how we deal with our supporters.


I do think that he inappropriately drew a comparison between what was happening there and what had happened during the civil rights movement, and we immediately put out a statement saying that we don't think that comparison is appropriate. And, in fact, afterwards, Congressman Lewis put out a similar statement, saying that he had probably gone over the line.

To repeat: Sen. McCain claimed that Sen. Obama didn't repudiate the statement and Sen. Obama pointed out, correctly, that he had done precisely that.

And just in case one lie wasn't enough, Sen. McCain followed it quickly with two more lies:
Every time there's been an out-of-bounds remark made by a Republican, no matter where they are, I have repudiated them.... we will run a truthful campaign.

I have not yet heard Sen. McCain repudiate the remarks of supporters yelling "kill him" or "Bomb Obama" or "terrorist". I have not heard Sen. McCain repudiate the remarks of the Virginia GOP chair comparing Sen. Obama to Osama Bin Ladin. It wouldn't be hard for Sen. McCain and Gov. The closest that Sen. McCain has come is to tell a voter that Sen. Obama is not an Arab and to tell voters that he wants to run a respectful campaign. By contrast, when Sen. Obama's supporters simply boo Sen. McCain, Sen. Obama tells them not to boo, just to vote.

The other lie? Yesterday, the McCain campaign started using a robocall (automated phone calls) that claims that Sen. Obama "has worked closely with [a] domestic terrorist...". Another new McCain campaign robocall says that Sen. Obama "Barack opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after surviving attempted abortions". Of course, that robocall completely ignores the fact that Sen. Obama, in Wednesday's debate, demonstrated, clearly and simply, that the claim is completely false. And PolitiFact examined this claim back in September and also found it to be completely false. Remember Sen. McCain's claim that he would be running a "truthful campaign"? Yet the day after making this statement, his campaign is sending automated lies to voters in numerous states.

The Straight Talk Express went off the rails weeks ago. Lately, it has had to resort to incitement ("pals around with terrorists") and divisive speech while ignoring the violent rhetoric of its own supporters. And when that seemed to just drive more independent voters away, the Straight Talk Express went right back to what it does best: Lies.

Rep. Lewis was worried about the results of the way that Sen. McCain has conducted his campaign. Given the fact that a report appeared this afternoon that two Obama supporters were beaten up at a Palin rally, it appears that, perhaps, just perhaps, Rep. Lewis' concerns are justified.


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News Roundup (October 16, 2008)

As we get closer and closer to the election, there is just too much going on to try to say something -- especially something particularly witty or eloquent -- about each issue, each new speech or sound bite, or each new controversy. So, once again, I'll have to make do with a brief roundup of news and videos.

First is a terrific commentary from MSNBC's Keith Olbermann. I had intended to include this video yesterday, but ran out of time. Please take a moment and watch and listen to Olbermann (and remember that this commentary aired the night before the debate):

Now think about what Sen. McCain said (or didn't say last night). For the record (and I still want to write in more detail on this issue later), I have yet to see video or hear audio of any supporter of Sen. Obama threatening violence against Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin. Sure people may make crude jokes or offer insults; that's politics. But when the rhetoric becomes violent ("terrorist", "kill him", "bomb Obama"), then we've left the realm of politics and entered the realm of government by fear that isn't much different from the third world countries where political violence is the norm rather than the rare exception. Moreover, despite Sen. McCain's claims last night, I have yet to hear either Sen. McCain or Gov. Palin say or do anything to directly dissuade their supporters from using violent rhetoric.

Next comes what could be one of the most effective political ads that I've ever seen. Apparently it has only run in a limited number of places a limited number of times. I suspect that if the race were closer, we might have see more of this ad:

Next, please take a moment and go see what a Palin presidency might look like. Click everywhere. How many surprises can you find?

Here's an interesting little story. Remember Sen. McCain the reformer who stays away from lobbyists? According to The Washington Post, both AT&T and Verizon have furnished mobile cell towers to the McCain ranch in Arizona free of charge. Why is this a problem (other than the fact that Sen. McCain gets a free mobile cell tower and you don't?). Maybe it could have something to do with the fact that Sen. McCain is a "senior member of the Senate commerce committee, which oversees the Federal Communications Commission and the telecommunications industry. He has been a leading advocate for industry-backed legislation, fighting regulations and taxes on telecommunication services." Or maybe it could be this:
Five campaign officials, including manager Rick Davis, have worked as lobbyists for Verizon. Former McCain staff member Robert Fisher is an in-house lobbyist for Verizon and is volunteering for the campaign. Fisher, Verizon chief executive Ivan G. Seidenberg and company lobbyists have raised more than $1.3 million for McCain's presidential effort, and Verizon employees are among the top 20 corporate donors over McCain's political career, giving his campaigns more than $155,000.
McCain's Senate chief of staff Mark Buse, senior strategist Charles R. Black Jr. and several other campaign staff members have registered as AT&T lobbyists in the past. AT&T Executive Vice President Timothy McKone and AT&T lobbyists have raised more than $2.3 million for McCain. AT&T employees have donated more than $325,000 to the Republican's campaigns, putting the company in the No. 3 spot for career donations to McCain, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Next, I came across this in the article "Undecideds Laughing At, Not With, McCain" from Time:

In politics it is generally not considered a good sign when voters are laughing at you, not with you. And by the end of the third and last presidential debate, the undecided voters who had gathered in Denver for Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg’s focus group were “audibly snickering” at John McCain’s grimaces, eye-bulging, and repeated references to “Joe the Plumber.”

The group of 50 uncommitted voters should have at least been receptive to McCain—Republicans and Independents outnumbered Democrats in the group by almost 4 to 1, and they started the evening with much warmer responses to McCain than to his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama. But by the time it was all over, so few of them had declared their support for McCain that there weren’t enough for Greenberg to separate them into a post-debate focus group. Meanwhile, the Obama supporters had to assemble in two different rooms to keep their discussion groups manageable.

One thing that had me worried for a little while was an article that I saw posted on a right-leaning blog about an interview that Michelle Obama gave to "Africa Press International". According to the article, some of the things that Michelle Obama is claimed to have said could have been damaging to Sen. Obama. But hold on; the alleged interview never happened and the article was a fake. Even the National Review Online took the time to post a notice that the article was a fake (probably so that the right wing blogs wouldn't degenerate into an uncontrollable frothing mob at the prospect of derailing Sen. Obama's candidacy).

Finally, I want to take a look at a few moments from last night's final debate and associated coverage. First, is one of the best moments of the debate, but only if you were watching the split screen. Don't watch Sen. Obama; instead, just watch Sen. McCain. Seven seconds into the video, watch Sen. McCain's face as he realizes that he has just lost the election.

I think the message even got through to Fox News. You know those little focus groups of undecided voters that each of the networks gather to watch the debates? Well, watch the recap of what Fox's focus group thought about the debate:

"This is a good night for Barack Obama" is not exactly the message that Fox or its viewers were hoping for.

Three of the most important parts of the debate involved abortion rights, voter fraud, and the McCain's campaign ignoring the violent rhetoric coming from McCain-Palin supporters and at McCain-Palin rallies. Each of these are very important issues that I'm hoping to devote more time to soon. But, for anyone who didn't watch the debate, I think that it is worth listening and watching as Sen. McCain ridicules the notion that abortion laws should consider the health of the mother:

Yup, He actually puts "health" in cute little finger quotes.
Attention women who supported Hillary Clinton: Forget Gov. Palin for a moment and just listen to and watch Sen. McCain. Are you still thinking about voting for the Republican ticket? Remember that the next President will likely have the opportunity to appoint at least two, if not more, justices to the Supreme Court.
One of the apparent strategies of the McCain campaign has been to make voters afraid of Sen. Obama; however, based on recent comments it doesn't look like Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin are on the same page as to whether this is the campaign's actual strategy and viewpoint. For example, in an interview with Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday, Gov. Palin said (according to a report in The New York Times [I don't listen to Limbaugh...]) that voters do need to fear an Obama presidency:

“You seem to understand the stark choice we have and the real danger the country faces in the future if the Obama-Biden ticket is elected. And I’d just like to know, do you see it that way?”

“I do,” she responded.

But just last Friday, the man at the top of the ticket told voters:
He is a decent person, and a person that you do not have to be scared of as President of the United States.
So which is it? Do we believe Gov. Palin that we face "real danger" if Sen. Obama is elected or do we believe Sen. McCain's statement that we "do not have not have to be scared of"?
One item that many people may have missed was the recent endorsement of Barack Obama by conservative columnist and writer Christopher Buckley (son of William F. Buckley). A few portions of Buckley's column are worth repeating:
John McCain has changed. He said, famously, apropos the Republican debacle post-1994, “We came to Washington to change it, and Washington changed us.” This campaign has changed John McCain. It has made him inauthentic. A once-first class temperament has become irascible and snarly; his positions change, and lack coherence; he makes unrealistic promises, such as balancing the federal budget “by the end of my first term.” Who, really, believes that? Then there was the self-dramatizing and feckless suspension of his campaign over the financial crisis. His ninth-inning attack ads are mean-spirited and pointless. And finally, not to belabor it, there was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?
Obama has in him—I think, despite his sometimes airy-fairy “We are the people we have been waiting for” silly rhetoric—the potential to be a good, perhaps even great leader. He is, it seems clear enough, what the historical moment seems to be calling for.
Buckley published his column at The Daily Beast because he didn't want the kind of mail that Kathleen Parker received when she criticized Sen. McCain. Unfortunately, for Buckley, things didn't work out too well:

Within hours of my endorsement appearing in The Daily Beast it became clear that National Review had a serious problem on its hands. So the next morning, I thought the only decent thing to do would be to offer to resign my column there. This offer was accepted—rather briskly!—by Rich Lowry, NR’s editor, and its publisher, the superb and able and fine Jack Fowler.


So, I have been effectively fatwahed (is that how you spell it?) by the conservative movement, and the magazine that my father founded must now distance itself from me. But then, conservatives have always had a bit of trouble with the concept of diversity. The GOP likes to say it’s a big-tent. Looks more like a yurt to me.

While I regret this development, I am not in mourning, for I no longer have any clear idea what, exactly, the modern conservative movement stands for. Eight years of “conservative” government has brought us a doubled national debt, ruinous expansion of entitlement programs, bridges to nowhere, poster boy Jack Abramoff and an ill-premised, ill-waged war conducted by politicians of breathtaking arrogance. As a sideshow, it brought us a truly obscene attempt at federal intervention in the Terry Schiavo case.

So, to paraphrase a real conservative, Ronald Reagan: I haven’t left the Republican Party. It left me.

And just to finish on a lighter note, Daily Kos is running a caption contest for each of the following moments from last night's debate:


Well, I'm sure that I've forgotten some things that I wanted to include, but I guess that this post is long enough already...


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Joe the Plumber

As anyone who watched last night's final Presidential debate knows (or, even if you only read about it, I'm sure you've heard by now) that the real star of the evening was "Joe the Plumber" a/k/a Joe Wurzelbacher from Ohio. Now, I have no fight to pick with Joe, but given that his was the back upon which so much of Sen. McCain's last ditch effort rested, I felt that it was at least worth noting a few interesting things about Joe. Fifteen minutes of fame isn't all it's cracked up to be.

First, take this from ABC News:

Wurzelbacher conceded today that he is not in danger of being hit with the higher tax rate. He acknowledged that he wants to buy a plumbing company for $250,000 to $280,000. That wouldn't be how much profit he would make from the firm.

He would make much less, he said.

That would seem to indicate that Wurzelbacher would not be subject to Obama's proposed tax increase from 36 percent to 39 percent for those making more than $250,000 per family. Instead, he would be eligible for a tax cut that Obama is proposing.

In an telephone interview with Katie Couric this morning (Joe is far more articulate that Gov. Palin...), Joe said that he "wasn't swayed" by the debate, but that he did have an idea who he was going to vote for. So was he an undecided voter or not?

It turns out that it may not matter whether Joe decides who he wants to vote for because his voter registration may be one of hundreds of thousands that Ohio Republicans want to purge. According to Toledo Blade Joe may be registered to vote (as a Republican), but his voter registration has his name spelled as "Worzelbacher" (replacing the "u" with an "o"). Right now, the United States Supreme Court is considering an emergency appeal of a voting rights/voter registration case from Ohio (decided by an appellate court yesterday) that could involve purging the voter registrations of people when there are discrepancies between voter registrations and other state information. I wonder if Joe is the kind of voter that Republicans were hoping to disenfranchise?

It appears that Joe's tax concerns are more general than specific to Sen. Obama's tax plans. Also from that ABC News story:
"Not that I don't want to be taxed," Wurzelbacher told "GMA." "You have to be taxed. Just because you work a little harder to have a little bit more money taken from you, I mean, that's scary. I worked hard for it. Why should I be taxed more than other people?"
Apparently, Joe is a fan of flat taxes. According to Toledo Blade: Mr. Wurzelbacher said he disagrees with the idea of people being taxed at a higher rate because they earn more. Furthermore, it appears that Joe takes his anti-tax views pretty seriously. How seriously? He doesn't always pay his taxes and presently has a nearly $1,200 tax lien from the State of Ohio.

But it isn't just income taxes that Joe has a problem with. He doesn't like Social Security either and think that it is a "joke":

And, we might also want to stop calling Joe "the Plumber". Why? Because he isn't licensed to be a plumber. Again, according to Toledo Blade:
A check of state and local licensing agencies in Ohio and Michigan shows no plumbing licenses under Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher’s name, or even misspellings of his name.


He is also not registered to operate as a plumber in Ohio, which means he’s not a plumber.

Seriously, you can't make this stuff up. My guess is that Joe is probably ready for his fifteen minutes to be over.


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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Video Roundup (October 15, 2008)

I'm still low on time, so once again, I'm going to offer a few interesting videos that I've come across. First, there is this chilling video from Gov. Palin's rally in Ohio yesterday that aired on Al-Jazeera (yes, that Al-Jazeera):

Is that really the country that we live in? That's the impression that the Arab and Muslim world have of us (and probably much of the broader Third World, as well).

On a much, much lighter note, I submit the following:

Finally, there is a very interesting essay in The New York Times. In "Bulls, Bears, Donkeys and Elephants", Tommy McCall examines how the market has performed under Democrat and Republican presidents. His analysis is summed up in a series of graphs:

Interesting, no?


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Are We Still Playing Guilt By Association?

Given that Sen. McCain has all but said that he intends to raise the issue of Bill Ayers during tonight's final Presidential debate, it seems appropriate to take one more brief look at Sen. McCain's associations.

First, it is worth noting that both CNN and MSNBC have finally began to look into the Alaska Independence Party and Gov. Palin's relationship (hint, hint: she shares a bed with a former member) to that secessionist organization (and why do I doubt that FOX will have much to say...?). I'm short on time again today (I get to go see Beverly Hills Chihuahua with my kids this afternoon to celebrate their 9th birthday; I'm so excited, I can barely stand it [dripping sarcasm for those unsure]) so I'll just post the videos:

(The CNN clip ends before the segment ends; below is another version of the same segment that includes the ending:)

More information about some of the people and the story and be found in the article "Meet Sarah Palin's radical right-wing pals" on Salon. The strange (frightening?) thing about the CNN video is that it appears that neither the video nor the story is still available on CNN. If you watch the video, you will hear the CNN anchor talk about efforts to have the McCain campaign appear on the program to discuss the issue, but no McCain representative ever appears. Instead, the campaign simply issues a statement attacking the media for investigating the AIP.

Next, please read the article "McCain Transition Chief Aided Saddam In Lobbying Effort". Go ahead. I'll wait.... Back? OK. Yes, that's right, the lobbyist that Sen. McCain has chosen to lead his transition team (should he be elected) has ties to lobbying efforts for Saddam Hussein. I guess that I'm more troubled by the links to Saddam than I am to the fact that the head of the transition team is also a lobbyist, but in any event, if Sen. McCain really wants to play guilt by association, his side of the ledger keeps getting longer and longer and longer. But then I guess that the liberal media and left wing bloggers (like me?) forced him to create those associations and trash his own honor, right?

Oh, one more thing, but I'll make this a bit of a game. You've undoubtedly heard a lot of talk about voter fraud and ACORN lately (and, if I have time, I have a lot to say on that issue; here's a hint: ACORN is the victim of the fraud and it won't impact the election nearly to the extent that Republican voter suppression efforts might). Well, if you search around online you just might find that Sen. McCain hasn't always said such bad things about ACORN...


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Obama is to X as McCain is to Y

Yesterday, I suggested that it might be fun to have a contest to design graphics comparing Sen. Obama (and Sen. Biden) to Sen. McCain (and Gov. Palin). I decided to take up my own challenge:

Let me know what you think. Better yet, send me your version!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Video Roundup (October 14, 2008)

I just want to point readers to a few interesting videos that I've come across in the last day or three.

First, we have CNN's Campbell Brown asking pondering when "Arab and Muslim bec[a]me dirty words; the equivalent of dishonorable or radical?":

Next, we have a video from BraveNewFilms recounting some of the hate mongering that has become endemic with Sen. McCain's supporters:

And this one doesn't really need a description. Just watch Sen. McCain's facial expressions and gestures as you listen to his words. Kinda makes you wonder if this is what Disney does with broken animatronic figures that were supposed to go into the Hall of Presidents.

Here's another fun video taking a shot at Sen. McCain. I think the suggestion is that Sen. McCain and his 7 houses (or however many he has) is a bit out of touch with the middle class (note strong language at the end of the video):

I'm not generally a big fan of Latin music, but this song from musican Jose Conde has a great vibe and an even better message:

Next, we have a very interesting photo. Well, not a photo actually. It's a screenshot from the computer game Burnout Paradise. Apparently, a number of new Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 games allow for advertising to be inserted into the virtual game worlds and these ads are updated live rather than being static product placements included when the game is written. Take a look at what has been popping up on the streets of the virtual world in Burnout Paradise:

I believe that the McCain campaign is looking for ways to insert a McCain campaign ad into Pong. I think the following images help capture some of the idea (I know that you've probably seen them before, but they're funny enough to post again):

or if you prefer:

It might be fun to have a contest to design more of these comparison graphics.


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Monday, October 13, 2008

McCain to End Sarah Palin's Abuses of Power? Don't Get Your Hopes Up

A story on Talking Points Memo's Election Central caught my eye and made me chuckle (even if the subject matter is so serious that we shouldn't be laughing at it). Apparently in a speech at a political rally today, Gov. Palin said:
See, as a senator, John has confronted the corrupt ways of Washington and the wasteful spending and the abuses of power. As president, he's gonna end those once and for all.
That's a terrific sentiment and, if he should somehow be elected, I would love to see Sen. McCain end abuses of power. Of course, it is a bit odd for Gov. Palin to be talking about abuses of power. Here is the first paragraph of the Findings portion of the Branchflower report on Troopergate issued on Friday:
For the reasons explained in section IV of this report, I find that Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.110(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.
Does Gov. Palin really want to be talking about abuses of power? Talk about living in a glass house...


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Analysis of a Malicious Lie

Over the last week or two, Sen. McCain's campaign has been continuing the attacks against Sen. Obama based on an alleged "association" with Vietnam-era radical Bill Ayers. In this blog, I've endeavored to help set the record straight and to suggest that Sen. McCain needs to take a long, hard look at his own "associations" before he plays the game of "guilt by association". As the Ayers allegations are aired more and more by the McCain campaign, more and more mainstream media outlets are both covering the allegations and, more importantly, examining their veracity. (Unfortunately, not much attention is being paid to the associations of Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin...)

Now,, a joint project of the St. Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, has conducted an analysis of Sen. McCain's allegations concerning Bill Ayers (in particular one of Sen. McCain's web ads). The conclusion of the analysis: "This attack is false, but it's more than that – it's malicious". The entire article:

"(Bill) Ayers and Obama ran a radical education foundation together."

John McCain on Thursday, October 9th, 2008 in a Web ad

Not a radical group, and Ayers didn't run it

For most of the election, Sen. John McCain's campaign has been somewhat subtle about trying to tie Sen. Barack Obama to the former '60s radical William Ayers.

No longer. A 90-second Web ad [URL deleted] released Oct. 8, 2008, features sinister music, side-by-side photographs of Obama and Ayers, and a series of dubious allegations about their past connections, including this one:

"Ayers and Obama ran a radical education foundation

Ayers was a founding member of the militant Vietnam-era anti-war group the Weathermen. He was investigated for his role in a series of domestic bombings, but the charges were dropped in 1974 due to prosecutorial misconduct. He is now an education professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and actively engaged in the city's civic life.

The McCain campaign said the "radical education foundation" to which they were referring is the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a charity endowed by publishing magnate Walter Annenberg that funded public-school programs in Chicago from 1995 to 2001.

We'll look at whether the foundation was radical. But first we have to grapple with whether Obama and Ayers ran it.

Obama served on the foundation's volunteer board from its inception in 1995 through its dissolution in 2001, and was chair for the first four years. So an argument can be made that he ran it, though an executive director handled day-to-day operations.

Ayers, who received his doctorate in education from Columbia University in 1987 and is now a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was active in getting the foundation up and running. He and two other activists led the effort to secure the grant from Annenberg, and he worked without pay in the early months of 1995, prior to the board's hiring of an executive director, to help the foundation get incorporated and formulate its bylaws, said Ken Rolling, who was the foundation's only executive director. Ayers went on to become a member of the "collaborative," an advisory group that advised the board of directors and the staff.

However, Ayers "was never on the board of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge," and he "never made a decision programmatically or had a vote," Rolling said.

"He (Ayers) was at board meetings — which, by the way, were open — as a guest," Rolling said. "That is not anything near Bill Ayers and Barack Obama running the Chicago Annenberg Challenge."

Now, was the foundation radical?

The McCain campaign cited several pieces of evidence for that allegation, including a 1995 invitation from the foundation for applications from schools "that want to make radical changes in the way teachers teach and students learn." The campaign appears to have confused two different definitions of the word "radical." Clearly the invitation referred to "a considerable departure from the usual or traditional," rather than "advocating extreme measures to retain or restore a political state of affairs."

The campaign also cited two projects the foundation funded, one having to do with a United Nations-themed Peace School and another that focused on African-American studies.

"That is radical in the eye of this campaign and we imagine in the eyes of most Americans," said Michael Goldfarb, a spokesman for McCain. "It is a subjective thing, and there are going to be people in Berkeley and Chicago who think that is totally legitimate."

Teaching about the United Nations and African-American studies may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's hardly "radical" in the same way Ayers' Vietnam-era activities were. Moreover, most of the projects the foundation funded (more on that below) were not remotely controversial.

The McCain campaign also cited an opinion piece by conservative commentator Stanley Kurtz in the Sept. 23, 2008, Wall Street Journal as evidence of the foundation's radicalism. Kurtz wrote that Ayers was the "guiding spirit" of the foundation, and it "translated Mr. Ayers's radicalism into practice."

But Ayers' views on education, though certainly reform-oriented and left-of-center, are not considered anywhere near as radical as his Vietnam-era views on war. And even if they were, there was a long list of individuals involved with the Chicago Annenberg Challenge whose positions provided them far more authority over its direction than Ayers' advisory role gave him.

Let's look at a few, starting with the funder. Annenberg was a lifelong Republican and former ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Richard Nixon. His widow, Leonore, has endorsed McCain. Kurtz might just as plausibly have accused Obama and the foundation of "translating Annenberg's conservatism into practice."

Among the other board members who served with Obama were: Stanley Ikenberry, former president of the University of Illinois; Arnold Weber, former president of Northwestern University and assistant secretary of labor in the Nixon administration; Scott Smith, then publisher of the Chicago Tribune; venture capitalist Edward Bottum; John McCarter, president of the Field Museum; Patricia Albjerg Graham, former dean of the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and a host of other mainstream folks.

"The whole idea of it being radical when it was this tie of blue-chip, white-collar, CEOs and civic leaders is just ridiculous," said the foundation's former development director, Marianne Philbin.

The foundation gave money to groups of public schools – usually three to 10 – who partnered with some sort of outside organization to improve their students' achievement.

In his opinion piece, Kurtz puts a sinister spin on this: "Instead of funding schools directly, it required schools to affiliate with 'external partners,' which actually got the money...CAC disbursed money through various far-left community organizers, such as the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (or ACORN)."

Rollings said the foundation tried to fund the schools directly, but doing so proved to be a "bureaucratic nightmare." But any external group that received money had to have created a program in partnership with a network of public schools.

And though ACORN is considered a liberal organization, the vast majority of the foundation's external partners were not remotely controversial. Here are a few examples: the Chicago Symphony, the University of Chicago, Loyola University, Northwestern University, the Chicago Children's Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Commercial Club of Chicago, the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association.

Had Kurtz chosen to accuse Obama of carrying water for the conservative Annenberg, he might have written: "CAC disbursed money to various business-friendly entities, such as the Museum of Science and Industry and the Commercial Club of Chicago."

See how easy it is?

The programs the foundation funded were designed to allow individuals from the "external partners" – whether the musicians in the symphony or the business leaders in the commercial club – to help improve student achievement. They were along the lines of mentoring by artists, literacy instruction, professional development for teachers and administrators, and training for parents in everything from computer skills to helping their children with homework to advocating for their children at school.

This last activity – something suburban parents practice with zeal – is also suspect in Kurtz's view: "CAC records show that board member Arnold Weber was concerned that parents 'organized' by community groups might be viewed by school principals 'as a political threat.'" That is typical of Kurtz's essay – relatively innocuous facts cast in the worst possible light. That's appropriate for an opinion piece, perhaps, but hardly grounds for a purportedly factual political ad accusing the group of radicalism.

We could go on and on with evidence that the Chicago Annenberg Challenge was a rather vanilla charitable group. For example, under the deal with Annenberg every dollar from him had to be matched by two from elsewhere. The co-funders were a host of respected, mainstream institutions, such as the National Science Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the Chicago Public Schools.

In short, this was a mainstream foundation funded by a mainstream, Republican business leader and led by an overwhelmingly mainstream, civic-minded group of individuals. Ayers' involvement in its inception and on an advisory committee do not make it radical – nor does the funding of programs involving the United Nations and African-American studies.

This attack is false, but it's more than that – it's malicious. It unfairly tars not just Obama, but all the other prominent, well-respected Chicagoans who also volunteered their time to the foundation. They came from all walks of life and all political backgrounds, and there's ample evidence their mission was nothing more than improving ailing public schools in Chicago. Yet in the heat of a political campaign they have been accused of financing radicalism. That's Pants on Fire wrong.

There is another brief point that is worth noting. The PolitiFact analysis, like most other examinations of Bill Ayers' past, notes that the charges against him were dropped due to "prosecutorial misconduct". Yet, in a letter to the editor of The New York Times published on October 9, 2008, William C. Ibershof, who was the lead prosecutor of the Weatherman in the 1970s stated:

I do take issue with the statement in your news article that the Weathermen indictment was dismissed because of “prosecutorial misconduct.” It was dismissed because of illegal activities, including wiretaps, break-ins and mail interceptions, initiated by John N. Mitchell, attorney general at that time, and W. Mark Felt, an F.B.I. assistant director.

Moreover and more importantly, Mr. Ibershof also takes issue with the attempts to link Sen. Obama to Ayers:

I am amazed and outraged that Senator Barack Obama is being linked to William Ayers’s terrorist activities 40 years ago when Mr. Obama was, as he has noted, just a child.

Although I dearly wanted to obtain convictions against all the Weathermen, including Bill Ayers, I am very pleased to learn that he has become a responsible citizen.

Because Senator Obama recently served on a board of a charitable organization with Mr. Ayers cannot possibly link the senator to acts perpetrated by Mr. Ayers so many years ago.

"Amazed and outraged"! Can we please put the issue of guilt by association to rest and get back to, oh, I don't know, maybe, the issues? Oh, wait. I forgot. Sen. Obama has been discussing the issues. It is just Sen. McCain who realizes that he's lost if we talk about the issues (remember, his campaign said as much) that has gone the route of personal attacks.


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

This Year's Election Captured in a Moment

Late this afternoon, I ran out to the neighborhood grocery to buy some burgers and hot dogs. I wore my brand new Obama Biden 2008 t-shirt (purchased at this week's rally). Now, for those who don't know me, what you need to understand is that I live in one of the most conservative districts in the country. If Indiana is red, Carmel is deepest, darkest red, maybe even blood red. While I walked through the grocery, a number of people gave me what I can only describe as "interesting" glances. But one moment captured the entire character of this election.

A woman and a girl were walking by me in the frozen foods section. I would guess that the woman was in her late 40s or early 50s. She was well dressed, especially for a Saturday afternoon. The girl was, I would guess, somewhere between 16 and 20 (I've given up trying to guess too closely). She was wearing a Carmel High School t-shirt. Anyway, as they walked by me the woman (who, I presume, was the mother of the girl), very clearly looked at my shirt and then shot me a "glare of death" (sorry, it didn't work). I just smiled. But then, as the woman walked by, the girl turned around and, using her body to shield her action from her mother, she shot me a big grin and a thumbs up.

The dichotomy between the mother's scorn and the daughter's smile seems to be a near perfect illustration of one of the key characteristics of this election cycle.


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Friday, October 10, 2008

More on Guilt by Association

Another interesting item that I've come across in the last few days relates back to my post "Low Blows & Lies: What to Talk About When You're Losing on the Issues". In that post, I mentioned Sen. McCain's ties to the U.S. Council for World Freedom a right-wing extremist group. Over the last few days, we keep hearing the McCain campaign jabbering on about Sen. Obama's associations with William Ayers. Sometimes the complaint being leveled against Sen. Obama seems to be that there is relationship at all with Ayers; other times the complaint is more nuanced and seems to be limited to suggesting that Sen. Obama hasn't been truthful about the nature of that relationship. You know what's coming, don't you? You betcha! According to the article "McCain didn’t report ties to Contra group" by Kenneth P. Vogel in Politico:

As a freshman congressman in the early 1980s, John McCain did not disclose his connections to a controversial group that was implicated in a secretive plot to supply arms to Nicaraguan militia groups during the Iran-Contra affair.

McCain did not list his service on the board of the U.S. Council for World Freedom on mandatory congressional disclosure forms asking about positions he held outside government.

Moreover, Vogel writes in "Dems hope Singlaub is McCain’s Ayers" that Sen. McCain wrote to the U.S. Council for World Freedom in 1984 to resign from the organization, but allowed his name to remain on the letterhead in 1985 and attended the group's 1985 award ceremony.

So, if the real concern is Sen. Obama's "lack of truthfulness", then perhaps Sen. McCain is throwing stones at his own glass house (did I just mangle that cliche?). On the other hand, if the real concern is Sen. Obama's "relationship" with William Ayers, then I guess that we should be sure that nobody else -- especially nobody tied to Sen. McCain -- has an "association" with Ayers. I know that I can't surprise you anymore... (and, in light of the amount of information and the lack of time that I have right now, pardon me for simply quoting the Daily Kos diary entry "The Annenberg Foundation - Terrorist Financers " by Jimmy Crackcorn nearly in its entirety [spelling errors in original]):

In 1968 William Ayers was leader of the Weatherman, a well known domestic terrorist organisation.

In 1993 William Ayers, Anne Hallett, and Warren Chapman decided to apply for a grant from the Annenberg Foundation for $49.2 Million to improve and reform Chicago's public schools.

In 1994 Ayers, Hallett and Chapman gathered a 73-member Chicago School Reform Collaborative Working Group from organizations involved in school reform to help them draft a proposal which was submitted to Vartan Gregorian, president of Brown University, for review and approval. Adele Smith Simmons, Deborah Leff, and Patricia Albjerg Graham helped negotiate its approval by Gregorian.

In 1995, the Chicago Annenberg Challenge was awarded the $49.2 millon grant by the Annenberg Foundation.

Who are these scary people that showed such poor judgement that they were willing to fund and work with a known domestic terrorist?

The following is a list of people who found William Ayers acceptable to work with. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats, some have endorsed John McCain in 2008 and some even currently work on John McCain's 2008 campaign. Most are well respected people but apparently they all loves them some terrorists.

Someone should make an ad calling the Annenberg Foundation a terrorist financer and see how many republicans freak out in response to this garbage:

[video of McCain campaign attack ad omitted]

Walter Hubert Annenberg, Terrorist Financer Provided William Ayers with a $49.2 Million grant.

During his lifetime, it is estimated that Annenberg donated over US$2 billion. "Education...", he once said, "holds civilization together"[8]. Many school buildings, libraries, theaters, hospitals, and museums across the United States now bear his name. His collection of French impressionist art was valued at approximately US$1 billion in 1991 and was donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City upon his passing in 2002. In 1990, he donated $50 million to the United Negro College Fund which was the largest amount ever contributed to the organization

Walter's widow, Leonore has endorsed John McCain in 2008

Vartan Gregorian, Terrorist Sympathizer Pro Bono education advisor to Annenberg Foundation who approved $49.2 million grant to William Ayers.

President of Brown University (1989–1987); president of the Carnegie Corporation (1997– ); former president of the New York Public Library; former professor of Southwest Asian history, dean, and provost of the University of Pennsylvania

Ted Sizer, Terrorist Sympathizer Pro Bono education advisor to Annenberg Foundation who approved $49.2 million grant to William Ayers.

Founding chairman of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) (1984–1997); professor of education at Brown University (1983–1997); former headmaster of Phillips Andover (1972–1981); former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (1964–1972)

David Kearns, Terrorist Sympathizer Pro Bono education advisor to Annenberg Foundation who approved $49.2 million grant to William Ayers.

Chairman of the Alexandria-based New American Schools Development Corporation (NASDC)—a 1991 school reform initiative of President George H. W. Bush; former Deputy Secretary of Education (1991–1993) under Secretary of Education Lamar Alexander in the George H. W. Bush administration; former president, CEO and chairman of Xerox

Kearns worked for John McCain's 2000 campaign and works current for his 2008 campaign.

Warren Chapman, Terrorist Sympathizer Worked directly with William Ayers on grant proposal.

Senior program officer for education at the Joyce Foundation; former state coordinator at the Illinois State Board of Education for the Illinois Alliance of Essential Schools—a regional center of the Coalition of Essential Schools (1986–1992)

Anne Hallett, Terrorist Sympathizer Worked directly with William Ayers on grant proposal.

Executive director and founder of the Cross-City Campaign for Urban School Reform; former executive director of the Wieboldt Foundation (1986–1993); former executive director of the Citizens Education Center in Seattle (1983–1986); former executive director and founder of the Chicago Panel on School Policy (1982–1983); former chair, founder, and chief lobbyist for Citizens for Fair School Funding in Seattle (1976–1982)

Adele Smith Simmons, Terrorist Sympathizer Negotiated on behalf of William Ayers for grant proposal.

President of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation (1989–1999); vice chair and senior executive of Chicago Metropolis 2020—a project of the Commercial Club of Chicago (1999– ); senior associate at the Center for International Studies at the University of Chicago (1999–2005); former president of Hampshire College (1977–1989); former assistant professor of East African history at Princeton University (1972–1977) and Tufts University (1969–1972); former dean of students at Princeton University (1972–1977); former dean of Jackson College for Women of Tufts University (1970–1972); Ph.D. 1969, University of Oxford; B.A. 1963, Radcliffe College

Deborah Leff, Terrorist Sympathizer Negotiated on behalf of William Ayers for grant proposal.

President of the Joyce Foundation (1992–1999); president and CEO of America's Second Harvest (1999–2001); director of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library (2001–2006); president of Public Welfare Foundation (2006– ); former senior producer at ABC News (1983–1989); former producer at WLS-TV ABC 7 News in Chicago (1981–1983); former director of public affairs at the Federal Trade Commission (1980–1981); former civil rights attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice (1977–1979); J.D. 1977, University of Chicago Law School; A.B. 1973, Princeton University

Patricia Albjerg Graham, Terrorist Sympathizer Negotiated on behalf of William Ayers for grant proposal.

President of the Spencer Foundation (1991–2000); professor of the history of education (1977–2006) and former dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education (1982–1991); former dean of the Radcliffe Institute (1974–1977) and vice president of Radcliffe College (1976–1977); former assistant professor (1965–1968), associate professor (1968–1972), professor (1972–1974) of the history of education at Barnard College and Teachers College, Columbia University; former assistant professor of the history of education at Indiana University (1964–1966); former high school teacher, Norfolk, Viriginia (1955–1956, 1957–1958), New York City (1958–1960); Ph.D. 1964, Columbia University; B.S. 1955, M.S. 1957, Purdue University

Arnold R. Weber, Terrorist Pal Served on founding Board of Directors of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge.

President of the Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago (1995–1999); member of the board of directors of the Arie and Ida Crown Memorial and the Tribune Company; former president of Northwestern University (1985-1994) and the University of Colorado (1980–1985); professor of labor economics and friend and colleague of George P. Shultz at MIT, the University of Chicago, and in the Nixon administration

Weber has donated money to John McCain's 2008 Campaign.

To repeat, one of the people "associated" with Ayers contributed to Sen. McCain's campaign, the estate of another has endorsed Sen. McCain, and a third works for Sen. McCain's campaign. And, while it is impossible to tell whether the others are Republicans or Democrats, it certainly cannot be denied that the group has, overall, a very impressive resume.

I'll be waiting for Sen. McCain to (a) attack all of these people (and the Annenberg Foundation) for their associations with Ayers, (b) give back the money that he received from Arnold Weber, (c) reject the endorsement from Leonore Annenberg, and (d) fire David Kearns. After all, they each had an "association" with Ayers that, it could be argued, was much more involved that Sen. Obama's association.

And, as long as I'm on the subject of associations, we may as well take one more look at the Alaska Independence Party that Gov. Palin's husband Todd was a member of for seven years and which Gov. Palin spoke highly of when she addressed their recent convention ("Keep up the the good work," she told the AIP). I know that I've written about this subject somewhat extensively, but I came across an interesting article in Salon ("The Palins’ un-American activities") with yet more information on the AIP and its founder.

Before getting to the amazing bit of new information, it is worth taking a moment to consider a few things that the founder of the AIP, Joe Vogler, has been quoted as saying. For example, we have this gem: "My government is my worst enemy. I’m going to fight them with any means at hand." And this:
When the [federal] bureaucrats come after me, I suggest they wear red coats. They make better targets. In the federal government are the biggest liars in the United States, and I hate them with a passion. They think they own [Alaska]. There comes a time when people will choose to die with honor rather than live with dishonor. That time may be coming here. Our goal is ultimate independence by peaceful means under a minimal government fully responsive to the people. I hope we don’t have to take human life, but if they go on tramping on our property rights, look out, we're ready to die.
But the item in the Salon article that caught my attention was this:

Vogler's greatest moment of glory was to be his 1993 appearance before the United Nations to denounce United States "tyranny" before the entire world and to demand Alaska’s freedom. The Alaska secessionist had persuaded the government of Iran to sponsor his anti-American harangue.

That's right … Iran. The Islamic dictatorship. The taker of American hostages. The rogue nation that McCain and Palin have excoriated Obama for suggesting we diplomatically engage. That Iran.

AIP leaders allege that Vogler, who was murdered that year by a fellow secessionist, was taken out by powerful forces in the U.S. before he could reach his U.N. platform. "The United States government would have been deeply embarrassed," by Vogler’s U.N. speech, darkly suggests [Lynette] Clark [AIP chairwoman]. "And we can’t have that, can we?"

So back to the comparisons: A Vietnam-era domestic terrorist who has since become a major figure in charitable organizations seeking to advance educational opportunities for low-income children and who has worked with well-known and influential people of all political persuasions vs. a candidate who attended conventions of and praised (and whose husband was a member of) a right-wing secessionist political party whose leader advocated violence against the United States and who sought to use Iran as a proxy to denounce the United States before the United Nations. I don't know about you, but it's an easy call for me.

As I asked before: Does Sen. McCain really want to play the game of guilt by association?


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Election Miscellany (October 10, 2008)

So much has been happening in this campaign over the last few days, that I've been having a hard time keeping up with my own reading, let alone writing. Add to that such other little things as family, work, and the holidays, and I'm lucky to be keeping my head above water. With that in mind, I wanted to try to reference a few of the more interesting bits and pieces that I've come across in the last few days. With any luck, this weekend, I'll be able to spend a bit more time writing about the frightening turn that the campaign has taken in the last week or so.

First, I wanted to talk briefly about one discussion in Tuesday's Presidential Debate that, to me, demonstrates how Sen. McCain is willing to simply look America in the eye ... and lie (or at least make it up...):

OBAMA: But I do believe that we have to change our policies with Pakistan. We can't coddle, as we did, a dictator, give him billions of dollars and then he's making peace treaties with the Taliban and militants. What I've said is we're going to encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants. And if we have Osama bin Laden in our sights and the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to take them out, then I think that we have to act and we will take them out. We will kill bin Laden; we will crush Al Qaeda. That has to be our biggest national security priority.


McCAIN: Sen. Obama likes to talk loudly. In fact, he said he wants to announce that he's going to attack Pakistan. Remarkable. You know, if you are a country and you're trying to gain the support of another country, then you want to do everything you can that they would act in a cooperative fashion.


OBAMA: I want to be very clear about what I said. Nobody called for the invasion of Pakistan. Sen. McCain continues to repeat this. What I said was the same thing that the audience here today heard me say, which is, if Pakistan is unable or unwilling to hunt down bin Laden and take him out, then we should.

(Emphasis added.) What I found remarkable about this exchange is that Sen. McCain was willing to misquote Sen. Obama to his face. It is one thing to take your opponent's statements out of context in a stump speech or for an advertisement. But to simply make up a statement out of whole cloth with your opponent standing right next to you? That's just stupid. Worse yet, Sen. McCain tried to lie about Sen. Obama's position mere moments after Sen. Obama stated the position quite clearly. And, it is worth noting that when Sen. Obama reiterated his position, he did, indeed, echo the position as he originally stated it. Perhaps Sen. McCain does not understand the nuances of Sen. Obama's position (not that I find it to be a very nuanced position; if Pakistan won't kill Bin Ladin, we will...); or, perhaps, Sen. McCain just doesn't care about the truth and facts are anymore. Sen. McCain has to make Sen. Obama look dangerous, risky, and unpresidential, and if the only way to do that is to try to create a sound bite that completely misrepresents what his opponents said or stands for, then the truth be damned. The Republican base may like it, but I think other voters can easily see through this kind of cheap shenanigan for what it is and recognize the desperation (not to mention dishonor) in Sen. McCain's conduct.

Next, there is the article "Fatal Cancer" in The Atlantic (available by subscription, but relevant parts quoted at The Huffington Post in the article David Brooks: Sarah Palin "Represents A Fatal Cancer To The Republican Party") in which conservative commentator David Brooks is quoted as saying:

[Sarah Palin] represents a fatal cancer to the Republican party. When I first started in journalism, I worked at the National Review for Bill Buckley. And Buckley famously said he'd rather be ruled by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty. But he didn't think those were the only two options. He thought it was important to have people on the conservative side who celebrated ideas, who celebrated learning. And his whole life was based on that, and that was also true for a lot of the other conservatives in the Reagan era. Reagan had an immense faith in the power of ideas. But there has been a counter, more populist tradition, which is not only to scorn liberal ideas but to scorn ideas entirely. And I'm afraid that Sarah Palin has those prejudices. I think President Bush has those prejudices.
This echoes some of the concerns that I wrote about a few weeks ago in my essay "Elitism in Politics". It's nice to see that some on the right are growing concerned with the rights's disdain for intellectualism.

Next, I found this video to be rather interesting. It intersperses parts of a speech that Sen. Obama gave back in July 2008 with current statements and advertisements from the McCain campaign. It looks like Sen. Obama had a pretty good sense of the strategy that the McCain campaign intended.

Maybe the McCain campaign is using Sen. Obama's speech as their strategy guide? And on a similar note, I also liked this video that shows Sen. McCain repeating, in numerous settings, how he planned to run a respectful issue-based campaign, seemingly recognizing that the American public wasn't interested in the type of negative, attack-based ads that we've seen in the past. Of course, to contrast these statements, the video shows some of the vitriol that has become the sum and substance of the McCain campaign recently:

Finally, I wanted to add a few pictures from Sen. Obama's rally in Indianapolis on Wednesday. Unfortunately, my pictures weren't very good (the iPhone just isn't designed to take photos of politicians on a platform a hundred or so yards away) and my wife's pictures were a bit blurry. Luckily, my brother-in-law was down close to the stage (in the mud) and got some pretty good photos:

(Note Evan Bayh in the background.)

Attending a campaign rally is cool; attending a campaign rally for a Presidential candidate in the general election is really coo. Attending a campaign rally for a Presidential candidate in the general election the day after a debate in a state that could flip from red to blue for the first time in my lifetime. Priceless!


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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Why McCain Doesn't Want to Talk to Our Enemies

I think that I've finally figured out why Sen. McCain is so adamant that we shouldn't include negotiation in the toolkit of resources that we use to deal with our enemies like Iran, North Korea, Syria, Venezuela, and Spain (well, I only include Spain because Sen. McCain doesn't think we should talk to Spain; given that they're a NATO ally, I'm not sure why he puts them on the "no talk list"...). I reached my conclusion earlier today after thinking a bit about this week's debate and the first debate. Why doesn't Sen. McCain want to talk to our enemies? Because he doesn't know how to talk to "the enemy".

I know that's a bold statement, but I think that I can back it up. You see, Sen. McCain has recently provided the evidence to prove the point. Think back to the first debate. Sen. McCain never once looked at Sen. Obama. Not once. And, if I recall correctly, Sen. McCain would only refer to Sen. Obama as "Senator Obama" -- never simply "Barack" (and remember, that they are colleagues in the Senate). Then, jump forward to this week's debate. Again, the references were always to "Senator Obama" or "That One" (and by "That One" did Sen. McCain mean simply, "that guy over there" or was he talking to the racists in the country who are afraid to vote for a black man?). Finally, the point that confirmed my suspicion: At the end of the debate, when Sen. Obama reached out to shake Sen. McCain's hand, guess what? Cindy McCain was willing to shake Sen. Obama's hand, but Sen. McCain refused. Don't believe me? Watch:

Sen. McCain pats Sen. Obama on the shoulder, but then when Sen. Obama put out his hand to shake, Sen. McCain simply pointed to his wife, as if to say, "No, I'm not going to shake your hand; shake her hand instead." Weird, but no weirder than refusing to look at Sen. Obama in the first debate.

So, I look at it this way. If Sen. McCain can't bring himself to call his political opponent by his first name, can't bring himself to look at him during a debate, can't bring himself to shake the man's hand, what does that say about Sen. McCain's character? To me, it suggests that he simply doesn't know how to communicate with those that he views as his enemies. Given the torrent of lies and personal attacks coming from the McCain campaign (especially in the last few days), it would certainly appear that Sen. Obama is no longer a mere political opponent, but rather "the enemy". And, if a political rival is relegated to that sort of treatment, I can't imagine how Sen. McCain could possibly handle something as delicate as negotiating with an enemy. I don't think that Vladimir Putin or the Ayatollahs in Iran would take kindly to not being looked at or being ignored for a simple handshake (and I really doubt they'd take kindly to being called "That One"). Perhaps, then, we can understand why Sen. McCain doesn't want to talk to our enemies; he doesn't know how. He can't talk to a fellow Senator for whom he has obvious disdain (if not outright hostility), so how could he possibly talk to the real enemy?

And, as long as I'm on the subject of talking to our enemies, I want to make two more quick points. First, think back over the last 60 years or so. We talked to the Soviet Union; it is gone (and we never fought WWIII). We refuse to talk to Cuba and it remains a communist regime. We talked to China; it is still not a free democracy, but it is opening up to the outside world and becoming more of a free market economy. We didn't talk to Libya for years and they kept building weapons of mass destruction; finally, we talked to Libya and they agreed to suspend their weapons program. We haven't talked to Iran for years; in the meantime, their nuclear weapons program has advanced. We only want to talk to North Korea under certain (non-bilateral) circumstances; they've started rebuilding their nuclear reactor.

Negotiating doesn't mean capitulating; it doesn't even mean agreeing. It simply means talking. Sen. McCain likes to talk about how he works "across the aisle" in Congress; in other words, he brags about talking to his political opponents. But, during this campaign it appears that he is no longer able to do so or at least is unable to do so to a political opponent who has the upper hand or who is being treated as "enemy" rather than opponent (and the fact that the McCain campaign won't take a stand against their own supporters who shout out calls for political violence against Sen. Obama should be ample evidence that the McCain campaign views Sen. Obama as more [or would that be less?] than a mere political opponent). More importantly, it also appears that Sen. McCain doesn't understand that talking to your opponent is an important tool in a nation's arsenal. Sen. McCain would, apparently, strip from our arsenal a tool that we've used with success and which, when not used, has led to results that we haven't really liked. We don't take the military option off of the table; why should we talk diplomacy off of the table? Perhaps, Sen. Obama has the right idea...?

How many times in this campaign cycle have we heard Sen. McCain talk about his own American hero, Gen. David Patraeus. From the way that Sen. McCain keeps mentioning the General, you would almost think that Sen. McCain holds the Gen. Patraeus in a place of awe. In the two debates, Sen. McCain has mentioned Gen. Patraeus twelve times. In fact, just last night, in an interview, Sen. McCain was asked who he'd most like to have dinner with and he named Gen. Patraeus. Wouldn't it be interesting to know whether General Patraeus thinks we should talk to our enemies? Yes, you know what's coming... At around the same time that Sen. McCain was saying that he'd like to have dinner with Gen. Patraeus, the General was answering questions at the Heritage Foundation:

Yep, Sen. McCain's hero says "I do think you have to talk to enemies." So, unless I've got it wrong, the only one who doesn't want to talk to our enemies is Sen. McCain. Could it be that he is simply wrong?


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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

That One '08

One more quick post about last night's debate. Reading Daily Kos while waiting for Sen. Obama to speak, I saw the following and couldn't resist including it here:

As another blogger noted, soon Sen. McCain will have to refer to President That One.


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Obama Can Take 4 Weeks of Attacks But America Can't Take 4 Years of McCain Policies

I attended Sen. Obama's rally in Indianapolis this afternoon. It was an exciting event (much more so than Sen. Clinton's event last spring, but that is to be expected given that it is the general election). Sen. Bayh (who introduced Sen. Obama) reminded the crowd that Indiana hadn't voted for a Democrat for President since 1964 -- the year before I was born. Considering how miserable the weather was (on and off drizzle and cold wind), the fact that the grandstands at the State Fairgrounds were absolutely full was truly amazing to see. And I finally got a bumper sticker and a t-shirt!

Anyway, I'm low on time today, so I can't write about the debate or a number of other issues, but I did want to mention Sen. Obama's speech and my favorite sound byte:
Senator McCain's campaign announced last week that they plan to "turn the page" on the discussion about our economy and spend the final weeks of this election attacking me instead. His campaign actually said, and I quote, "if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose."Well I've got news for John McCain. This isn't about losing a campaign - this is about Americans who are losing their jobs, and their homes, and their life savings. I can take four more weeks of John McCain's attacks, but America can't take four more years of John McCain's George Bush policies.

(Emphasis added.)

The best part of that statement is that he manages to say it without seeming angry; in fact, his tone makes you think that Sen. Obama finds the McCain strategy almost humorous. So while Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin stand by and listen to their supporters call Sen. Obama a "terrorist" or a "traitor" or shout out "kill him", Sen. Obama just smiles and tells voters how he plans to make America a better country. The next 27 days should be very interesting.


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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

McCain's Lobbyist Connections

I've written before about Sen. McCain's connections to lobbyists, in particular Rick Davis, his campaign manager. Well, I just came across McCain's Lobbyists, an interesting website that has a graphical display of the lobbyists linked to Sen. McCain including the amount of money that they've been paid and the amount of money that they're clients have funneled to Sen. McCain. Take a look:

Is this what a McCain White House would look like?


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Monday, October 6, 2008

Celebrities Explain Why You Shouldn't Vote

Here's a great voter education video:


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Sarah Palin Thinks Katie Couric Was Unfair

Apparently in an interview on Friday with Fox (I don't know if it was a real interview or another Hannity-style infomercial; I've just read about it on CNN), Gov. Palin expressed frustration with Katie Couric's choice of topics:
"I did feel there were a lot of things she was missing in terms of an opportunity to ask what a VP candidate stands for, what the values are that are represented in our ticket," Palin said. "I guess I have to apologize for being a bit annoyed, but that’s also an indication about being outside that Washington elite, outside that media elite also, and just wanting to talk to Americans without the filter and let them know what we stand for."

Let's see. Couric asked her about Supreme Court decisions that she disagreed with, her thoughts on the economic bailout, her foreign policy experience, Sen. McCain's legislative record on regulatory issues, her thoughts on abortion and birth control, and what periodicals she read to help form her worldview.

According to Gov. Palin:
"Man, no matter what you say you are gonna get clobbered," Palin told Fox about her heavily-scrutinized performance. "You choose to answer you are going to get clobbered on the answer. If you choose to pivot and try to go onto another subject that you believe Americans want to hear about, you get clobbered for that too."

She just doesn't get it, does she? She didn't get clobbered because of her answer; she got clobbered because she couldn't answer. She didn't get clobbered for trying to "pivot" and go to another subject; she got clobbered because she couldn't string together an intelligible sentence about much of anything. I've come to the conclusion that Gov. Palin simply doesn't understand how unqualified she really is; in fact, I suspect that she actually thinks that she is qualified.


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More on McCain's Friends; Does He Really Want to Play Guilt By Association?

Yesterday, I wrote about the McCain campaign's decision to stop talking about issues and start trying to smear Sen. Obama by attacking Sen. Obama with guilt through association. Apparently, I'm not the only blogger out there who has recognized that this is not a fight Sen. McCain really wants to get into given his own associations. And, as I've been reading other blogs and articles today, I realized that I omitted several key "associates" of Sen. McCain who should have been included. So, picking up where I left off yesterday:

Sen. McCain has some really lovely people who have endorsed him. For example, Rev. John Hagee whose support Sen. McCain was "proud of" at least until it started to generate criticism. And why did Rev. Hagee's support cause criticism? Well, let's see. How 'bout Rev. Hagee's assertion that the Catholic Church is a "great whore" or that Nazis were acting as agents of God to drive Jews out of Europe to Palestine or that Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans because of the amount of sin in that city. Take a look at the this timeline of Sen. McCain's courtship of and relationship with Rev. Hagee.

Sen. McCain also actively sought the support of Rev. Ron Parsley. According to ABC News (relying in part of an article from Mother Jones), during a campaign event earlier this year, Sen. McCain introduced Rev. Parsley as "one of the truly great leaders in America, a moral compass, a spiritual guide." What does that moral compass have to say? Let's take a look:
  • "Islam is an anti-Christ religion that intends through violence to conquer the world"
  • "America was founded with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed"
  • Muhammad "received revelations from demons and not from the true God" and "Allah was a demon spirit"
  • He has has compared Planned Parenthood to Nazis
  • He has called for prosecution of people who commit adultery (oops, that would include Sen. McCain, wouldn't it...)

Of course, Rev. Hagee and Rev. Parsley will be immediately compared to Barack Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright. The difference is that Sen. Obama quickly came out and repudiated Rev. Wright's statements and, in an emotional speech, talked about his relationship with Rev. Wright while forcefully denouncing Rev. Wright's opinions.

Sen. McCain did not speak out against Rev. Parsley or seek to distance himself from Rev. Parlsey or his views for several months after accepting Rev. Parsley's endorsement. Only when ABC broadcast some of Rev. Parsley's sermons on Good Morning America did Sen. McCain finally back away. Similarly, Sen. McCain sought out Rev. Hagee's endorsement and didn't end the relationship until media scrutiny and pressure became intense.

So, Sen. Obama may have his Rev. Wright, but Sen. McCain has both Rev. Hagee and Rev. Parsley. Either one may cancel out Rev. Wright, but that still leaves Sen. McCain in the "plus column". Unfortunately for Sen. McCain, we're not done.

How about this headline from The Huffington Post: "McCain Backer's Firm Pleaded Guilty To Funding Terrorist Group In Colombia". Yep, you read that right.

The co-host of a recent top-dollar fundraiser for Sen. John McCain oversaw the payment of roughly $1.7 million to a Colombian paramilitary group that is today designated a terrorist organization by the United States.

Carl H. Lindner Jr., the billionaire Cincinnati businessman, was CEO of Chiquita Brands International from 1984 to 2001, and remained on the company's board of directors until May 2002. Beginning under his tenure, Chiquita executives paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (known by the Spanish acronym AUC), which is described by George Washington University's National Security Archive as an "illegal right-wing anti-guerrilla group tied to many of the country's most notorious civilian massacres."

Following a Justice Department indictment last year, Chiquita admitted to illegally funding the paramilitaries and agreed to pay a $25 million fine. Chiquita's payments to the AUC began in 1997 and lasted seven years; roughly half of the funds came after the group was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. State Department in 2001.

According to the Justice Department, the payments "were reviewed and approved by senior executives" of Chiquita, who knew by no later than September 2000 "that the AUC was a violent, paramilitary organization."

Late last week, Lindner co-hosted a $25,000-per-person fundraiser for McCain and the Republican Party in the wealthy Indian Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio. The event raised about $2 million; Lindner also serves on McCain's Ohio Victory Team.

Let's go back to the comparison method used yesterday: Vietnam-era domestic terrorist who planted small bombs in a few buildings and who now works for charitable foundations and who had a "meet and greet" for Sen. Obama in 1995 vs. the former CEO of a major transnational corporation that gave $1.7 million to a group identified as a terrorist group and who hosted a $2 million dollar fundraiser for Sen. McCain and serves on a McCain campaign committee.

Finally, in yesterday's post, I did mention Charles Keating and the Keating 5. Well, the Obama campaign has released a video documentary to remind people of what the entire scandal was about and Sen. McCain's role (interesting that the 13 minute documentary was released just one day after the McCain campaign attacked Sen. Obama with guilt by association; you don't suppose the Obama campaign had that documentary "in the can" and ready for release at the right moment do you?). Take a few minutes to watch "Keating Economics":

Sen. McCain has taken exception to this documentary and following its release has today started (for the first time) to claim that the ethics investigation into his involvement with Charles Keating and Lincoln Savings and Loan was political smear job. Never mind that in his autobiography, Sen. McCain stated that:

I made the worst mistake of my life by attending two meetings, the first with the chairman of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, the government agency charged with regulating the practices of the nation’s savings and loans, and a week later with four bank examiners based in San Francisco who were at that time investigating the investment and lending practices of Lincoln Savings and Loan of Irvine, California, owned by my good friend and generous supporter Charles Keating.

And ignore Sen. McCain's statement from last year:

I was judged eventually, after three years, of using, quote, poor judgment, and I agree with that assessment.

Interesting. He recognized it as the "worst mistake of his life" and agreed with the assessment that he used "poor judgment" but only until someone used that mistake and his judgment against him in a political campaign (and isn't this campaign supposed to be about judgment?). Then, and only then, it became a "smear job". I just love straight talk from Sen. McCain. And I really love the company that he keeps.

I'll repeat the question I asked yesterday: Does the McCain campaign really want to play the game of "guilt by association"?


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Palin Overstates Her Support for Darfur Divestment

In last week's Vice Presidential debate, one of the things that Gov. Palin spoke about that really caught my attention was her support for divestment from companies doing business in Sudan as a means of putting pressure on the Sudanese to stop the genocide in Darfur:

What I've done in my position to help, as the governor of a state that's pretty rich in natural resources, we have a $40 billion investment fund, a savings fund called the Alaska Permanent Fund.

When I and others in the legislature found out we had some millions of dollars in Sudan, we called for divestment through legislation of those dollars to make sure we weren't doing anything that would be seen as condoning the activities there in Darfur. That legislation hasn't passed yet but it needs to because all of us, as individuals, and as humanitarians and as elected officials should do all we can to end those atrocities in that region of the world.

Darfur is an issue that resonates with me. As I mentioned in a post back in February 2008, I've lobbied the Indiana General Assembly in favor of a bill that, when enacted into law, required Indiana's pension funds to divest from most companies doing business with Sudan (in particular, companies that do business with Sudanese oil interests). Thus, I was gratified to hear Gov. Palin speak so forcefully on this issue. It was one of the few points where I found myself to be in agreement with her during this election cycle.

Unfortunately, it turns out that her support for the divestiture movement was not so strong as she would like us to believe. According to Michael Dobbs, columnist for The Washington Post, in his column "The Fact Checker", Gov. Palin first opposed the divestment plan before deciding, after it had died in a legislative committee, to support the plan:

The Save Darfur Coaltion [sic] has been urging states to divest from companies that do business with Sudan for the last two years, arguing that the investments "help fund genocide." An Alaska saving fund, The Alaska Permanent Fund, has around $22 million invested in international trading companies such as China Petroleum and Alstom of France, that do business with Sudanese oil interests.

Alaska Permanent Fund officials made clear from the outset that they were opposed to any divestment effort. Executive director Mike Burns told a local Anchorage TV station, KTUU, on December 11 that they were looking for the "best return" on the investments, and never took into account "socially responsible investments ... whether it's tobacco or alcohol or hospitals that perform abortions or hospitals that don't perform abortions."

In January 2008, a bill known as HB 287 was introduced into the Alaska House of Representatives restricting investments in companies that do business with Sudan. During a committee hearing in February, a Palin administration representative, deputy revenue commissioner Brian Andrews, testified against the legislation on the grounds that it would do nothing to help "the afflicted in Sudan," and would add to the fund's administrative costs.

While acknowledging that the legislation was "well-intended" and "the desire to make a difference is noble," Andrews warned that "mixing moral and political agendas at the expense of our citizens' financial security is not a good combination."

A co-sponsor of the legislation, Anchorage Democrat Les Gara, said that Governor Palin apparently had a change of heart on the divestment issue in March. During a brief hallway conversation, she expressed sympathy for his bill. By that time, however, the bill had effectively died in committee.

The change in the Palin administration's position became official in early April when Revenue commissioner Pat Galvin announced that the administration supported a Senate bill on divestment, SB 227, as "a proactive action against genocide in Darfur ... The situation is an ongoing human tragedy and Alaska has an opportunity to take a stand against those activities." The Senate bill, like the House Bill, went nowhere as there was no time to take action on it before the legislature wrapped up its business in early April.


Sarah Palin is exaggerating her role in leading the Sudan divestment effort in Alaska. The legislative record shows that her administration was late in embracing the campaign to sell stock in companies that do business with Sudan, and initially opposed the divestment effort. The Alaska Permanent Fund still invests in companies blacklisted by the Save Darfur Coalition.

Thus, while applaud Gov. Palin's current support for divestiture from companies doing business with Sudan, I must take exception to her efforts to make voters think that she has been out in front of this issue pushing for its adoption. She could have told the truth; she could have said that at first she opposed the bill, but upon learning more about the situation, decided to support it. I would have been gratified with that kind of answer; in fact, I would have commended her for recognizing the importance of the issue and putting politics and finances aside. But, instead, she tried to take credit for something without even acknowledging that she had initially been opposed. I think that politicians don't give voters enough credit when it comes to changes in positions. Tell us that you changed your mind and explain why.

I know that there have been lots of instances very much like this throughout the campaign. I raise this issue, not specifically to criticize Gov. Palin; I wish all candidates would avoid these sorts of half-truths or claims of support that don't tell the full story. No, I raise this particular issue precisely because of the issue itself. Genocide is too important for mere politics. I don't really care who stops the genocide or which party they are affiliated with. I just want genocide stopped, wherever it is found and whomever it may be against.

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Sarah Palin's Debate Flowchart and Bafflegab

I found this terrific flow chart depicting Gov. Palin's debate response methodology:

And, just in case that weren't enough fun, I was also directed to a word that describes, quite well, her method of answering questions: Bafflegab. What is bafflegab, you ask? Well, I could describe it as the type of answers that we heard Gov. Palin give Katie Couric. Or I could give the true definition of the word:

Multiloquence characterized by consummate interfusion of circumlocution or periphrasis, inscrutability, and other familiar manifestations of abstruse expatiation commonly utilized for promulgations implementing Procrustean determinations by governmental bodies.

Next time you get confused listening to Gov. Palin, just think to yourself that you, unlike many others, can put a word to her speech patterns. How lucky.

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Sunday, October 5, 2008

Now We Know Why Palin Doesn't Think Paying Taxes Is Patriotic

In last week's Vice Presidential debate, Gov. Palin criticized Sen. Biden for the suggestion that paying taxes was patriotic:

Now you said recently that higher taxes or asking for higher taxes or paying higher taxes is patriotic. In the middle class of America which is where Todd and I have been all of our lives, that's not patriotic.
Unfortunately, America didn't quite know what Gov. Palin really meant by that statement. Well, now we've learned:

Sarah Palin makes $125,000 a year as Alaska governor. Plus, since she took the job in December 2006, she hasn't paid taxes on the more than $17,000 she received in controversial per diem payments for working out of the family's lakeside home in Wasilla -- some 575 miles from the capital of Juneau.


An Associated Press analysis of the returns released by the McCain campaign also reveals that the Palins underpaid their estimated taxes with an April extension and likely owe interest.
Not only does Gov. Palin not view paying taxes as being patriotic; she backs up her belief by not paying all of her taxes! And which taxes doesn't she pay? The taxes on controversial per diem payments that she receives from Alaska's taxpayers!


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Low Blows & Lies: What to Talk About When You're Losing on the Issues

Yesterday, Gov. Palin launched a series of attacks against Sen. Obama this weekend. The attacks are flawed, unfair, and tinged with more than a hint of racism. I guess that when you've lost an election on the issues, you may as well change the subject and talk about something else entirely; after all, that's all that Gov. Palin could do in Thursday's debate...

So what is she saying now and what are the implications of the guilt by association game that the McCain campaign has decided to play? Gov. Palin has raised Sen. Obama's past "association" (more on that in a minute) with William Ayers, a member of the Vietnam-era Weather Underground domestic terrorist organization. According to the Associated Press, at several rallies this weekend, Gov. Palin said:

Our opponent ... is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he's palling around with terrorists who would target their own country


This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America. We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.

First, anyone who has ever bothered to listen to Sen. Obama knows the sheer absurdity of Gov. Palin's charge that Sen. Obama is not a patriot. But let's take a brief moment (well, OK, not so brief) to consider the charge of guilt by association ("palling around with terrorists") being leveled at Sen. Obama. Second, it is critical to remember that Ayers' terrorist activities occurred during the Vietnam War, when Sen. Obama was still a child (the acts amounted to a series of bombings that did relatively minor damage to buildings and two other members of the Weather Underground died building a pipe bomb). Though none of that does excuses Ayers, it is important to remember when we decide whether to hold it against Sen. Obama.

So what is the association between Sen. Obama and Ayers? Ayers (now an education Professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago) and his wife (also a former member of the Weather Underground) hosted a meet and greet with voters for Sen. Obama in 1995, both Ayers and Obama both served on the board (along with numerous other board members) of the Woods Fund, a non-profit, anti-poverty organization, they both live in Hyde Park (along with tens of thousands of other people), and they both worked on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge which worked to raise matching funds for charitable grants for schools (it is worth noting that Ayers was involved in starting the Challenge). As CNN found when it examined the relationship:

Obama's Chicago home is in the same neighborhood where Ayers and Dohrn live. Beginning in 1995, Ayers and Obama worked with the non-profit Chicago Annenberg Challenge on a huge school improvement project. The Annenberg Challenge was for cities to compete for $50 million grants to improve public education. Ayers fought to bring the grant to Chicago, and Obama was recruited onto the board. Also from 1999 through 2001 both were board members on the Woods Fund, a charitable foundation that gave money to various causes, including the Trinity United Church that Obama attended and Northwestern University Law Schools' Children and Family Justice Center, where Dohrn worked.

CNN's review of project records found nothing to suggest anything inappropriate in the volunteer projects in which the two men were involved.

Other publications have also examined the relationship between Sen. Obama and Ayers. According to The New York Times:
A review of records of the schools project and interviews with a dozen people
who know both men, suggest that Mr. Obama, 47, has played down his contacts with
Mr. Ayers, 63. But the two men do not appear to have been close. Nor has Mr.
Obama ever expressed sympathy for the radical views and actions of Mr. Ayers,
whom he has called “somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I
was 8.”

And, as CNN reported:
Other publications, including the Washington Post, Time magazine, the Chicago Sun-Times, The New Yorker and The New Republic, have said that their reporting doesn't support the idea that Obama and Ayers had a close relationship.

And who are the plural "terrorists" that Gov. Palin is referring to? Perhaps, she's referring to Ayers' wife, Bernardine Dohrn, who is now Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law and the Director of Northwestern's Children and Family Justice Center. Yes, Ayers and Dohrn advocated and did bad things while Sen. Obama was still in elementary school, but should their service on non-profit anti-poverty and education charities be a stain against Sen. Obama?

And, before you answer that question, query whether you know the background, warts and all, of every single person that you have ever served with on an non-profit or charitable organization (or in your business or social life, for that matter). I like to think that I'm pretty knowledgeable on politics and American history, but I'd never heard of Ayers until this "controversy" first came to light during the primary season. When you meet someone new, do you conduct a background search on them? Do you know if your neighbor or business associate was a member of the Weather Underground or the SLA or a right-wing militia 40 years ago? Do you even ask? And, if that person is now a well-respected member of the community who spends time and effort trying to help improve education and raise money for charitable organizations, how much do you really care what that person did when you were a child? How many years of good deeds does it take to repent for bad acts? Remember: Sen. Obama is not accused of endorsing Ayers' views (either his views today, whatever they may be, or those he espoused during the Vietnam era); instead, Sen. Obama is accused of being unpatriotic because he "pals around with terrorists."

One more note, before I move on. Do you suppose that the reason that this charge keeps being raised against Sen. Obama (and the reason that Gov. Palin uses the generic term "terrorists") is because it is really designed to raise questions as to whether Sen. Obama is American enough? Is the charge designed to make people wonder if this black man with the weird name might really be a Muslim or be an enemy of America who has stealthily worked his way into a position of power? Those sorts of racist charges and undertones have been lurking around as long as Sen. Obama has been running for office. It is just sad to see the McCain campaign resorting to running a racist, xenophobic, smear campaign instead of an honest campaign focusing on a discussion of issues without resorting to lies. But then what else should we expect after what we've seen from Sen. McCain over the last month or so?

So, Gov. Palin (and Sen. McCain -- after all, he has to approve the message) want to play the game of guilt by association. Well, let's play that game for a moment.

We'll start with Gov. Palin. As has been widely reported and discussed (for example, see my September 3, 2008, post "Who Is Sarah Palin?"), Gov. Palin's husband, Todd, was a member of the Alaska Independence Party for years. That party includes in its platform the possibility of Alaska seceding from the United States and was founded by a man who refused to be buried in the United States because he hated our government so much. And, while Gov. Palin has tried to distance herself from the Alaska Independence Party, she has had to admit that she did attend at least one party convention and spoke at another one while a sitting governor for another party. As I asked in early September:
And why, as Governor of Alaska, did Gov. Palin feel it was necessary or even appropriate to send a welcome message to the AIP for their state convention? I'm not exactly convinced that this is just a matter of procedure. After all, I can't see Gov. Daniels sending a welcome message to Indiana's Libertarian Party convention (let alone the Democratic Party convention). I don't recall seeing President Bush welcoming the Democrats to their National Convention. I'd be curious to know if Gov. Palin sent a similar message to Alaska's Democratic Party when they held their state convention. Was her welcome message just a simple ministerial function of her office or did it indicate some degree of support for the views and goals of the AIP?

Let's compare: Serving on non-profit boards with a Vietnam-era terrorist turned professor of education involved in charitable fundraising vs. a husband who is a member of a secessionist anti-American party that the candidate has offered encouraging words to?

While we're talking about Gov. Palin, let's not forget some of her friends, like the witchhunter who claims that wicked "Israelites" store money for good Christian businessmen in the same blessing that he uses to help Gov. Palin escape from demons and evil spirits (and who may have been responsible for the deaths of "witches" in Africa), the executive director of Jews for Jesus who claims that the death of Israelis from terrorist bombs is God's "judgment of unbelief" while Gov. Palin politely listens, and the pastor who claims that Alaska will be a refuge in the coming "end of days" as Gov. Palin nods in enthusiastic agreement. Oh, don't forget now-indicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (presently on trial for accepting bribes). Then-Mayor Palin was a director of Ted Stevens Excellence in Public Service, Inc., a 527 group that could raise unlimited funds from corporate donors. And Stevens was a major supporter of Gov. Palin during her gubernatorial bid.

Let's compare: Vietnam era terrorist vs. Anti-Semitic witchhunter, the executive director of a group known for its acts of fraud in trying to convert Jews who espouses support for terrorists killing Israelis, the pastor who looks forward to the coming end of days, and the bribe-taking Senator who helped get Gov. Palin elected and with whom she worked on a not-for-profit political action committee seeking to raise political (not charitable) contributions.

Now, let's move on to the main show: Sen. McCain. How guilty is he from his associations?

Let's start with G. Gordon Liddy. Remember him from Watergate? He was convicted of planning the break in and served time in jail. He has also claimed to have planned the assassinations of Howard Hunt and journalist Jack Anderson. And, on his radio show, he told listeners how to kill agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Charming. And, if you read about Liddy, you'll find that these are only some lovely examples of his actions; there is more... Well, guess what. Apparently, Sen. McCain thinks quite highly of Liddy. According to Media Matters:
Liddy has donated $5,000 to McCain's campaigns since 1998, including $1,000 in February 2008. In addition, McCain has appeared on Liddy's radio show during the presidential campaign, including as recently as May. An online video labeled "John McCain On The G. Gordon Liddy Show 11/8/07" includes a discussion between Liddy and McCain, whom Liddy described as an "old friend." During the segment, McCain praised Liddy's "adherence to the principles and philosophies that keep our nation great," said he was "proud" of Liddy, and said that "it's always a pleasure for me to come on your program."

Additionally, in 1998, Liddy reportedly held a fundraiser at his home for McCain.

Sen. Obama makes clear that he does not endorse Ayers past actions or views; Sen. McCain recognizes Liddy as someone who adheres to the "principles and philosophies that keep our nation great". Gee, I didn't know that political crime, assassination, and planning to kill government agents were the principles and philosophies that kept America great. I must have become confused somewhere along the line thinking that those were bad things. How silly of me.

Sen. McCain also has problems with his own board memberships. According to Paul Bergala (as seen in this video):
John McCain sat on the board of a very right-wing organization, it was the U.S. Council for World Freedom, it was chaired by a guy named John Singlaub, who wound up involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. It was an ultra conservative, right-wing group. The Anti-Defamation League, in 1981 when McCain was on the board, said this about this organization. It was affiliated with the World Anti-Communist League -- the parent organization -- which ADL said “has increasingly become a gathering place, a forum, a point of contact for extremists, racists and anti-Semites.”

And, of course, we can't forget Sen. McCain's early political mentor and sponsor of his early political career: Charles Keating. Remember him and the Keating Five which included Sen. McCain? Keating served 5 years in jail for his role in the failure of Lincoln Savings and Loan Association through which he bilked investors of an estimated $1.1 billion and which cost the American taxpayer approximately $2 billion. And Sen. McCain? He got a slap on the wrist from the Senate for trying to help his friend in what Sen. McCain has acknowledged as the greatest mistake of his political life. Don't forget that the savings and loan crisis cost taxpayers upwards of $120 billion in the 1980's; I'm not sure how that compares to $700 billion in 2008 dollars...

So let's compare again: Vietnam-era terrorist vs. Watergate mastermind who brags about planning political assassinations, ultra-right-wing group with Anti-Semitic and racist viewpoints, and one of the biggest players in the last major banking crisis to face America (and in which Sen. McCain was intimately involved).

Does the McCain campaign really want to play the game of "guilt by association"?


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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Is This What Biden's Debate Prep Looked Like?

I just came across a hilarious slideshow speculating on what Sen. Biden's preparations for tonight's debate with Gov. Palin might have looked like. Take time for a few chuckles before tonight's spectacle.

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Helping Jewish Voters Feel More Comfortable With Obama

For reasons that I feel are mostly irrational (and which I have previously discussed at length), some Jewish voters -- particularly older Jewish voters -- are still having difficulty accepting Barack Obama. A few days ago I posted about Sarah Silverman and The Great Schlep. Here is another video that, I hope, will help Jews -- especially older Jews -- feel more comfortable with Sen. Obama:

Take a few minutes and play this video for your Bubbie or Zadie (or mom or dad or cousin or whomever...). Then show them the page on Sen. Obama's website aimed at Jewish voters, download the talking points from The Great Schlep and talk to them about the issues, then have them registser at JewsVote so that they can send emails to their friends.

This election is absolutely critical to our generation; it is even more critical for our children. Be sure that previous generations understand the importance of this election to us and ask them to do their part to help their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and our nation and planet.

We Jews believe in tikun olam (healing the world); this is our time to put this grand belief into action.


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Do You Think Sarah Palin Still Likes Katie Couric?

Another day and another set of clips from Katie Couric's seemingly endless interview with Gov. Palin raises yet more questions about Gov. Palin's qualifications ... no, strike that ... Gov. Palin's ability to serve as Vice President or President. I suspect that after tonight's debate, we may never hear Gov. Palin open her mouth again. And just for the record, I don't expect Gov. Palin to fall on her face or utter her usual mumbo jumbo gobbledygook answers tonight; after all, the formal format of the debate should work to her advantage, allowing her to memorize stock 90-second responses to questions that should not have any real follow-up. But it should still be interesting.

Anyway, on to the newest videos:

In advance of tonight's debate, it is worth comparing and contrasting both the content of what Sen. Biden and Gov. Palin have to say, but also their respective demeanor in response to the questions. To me, one candidate seemed very much at ease with the answers, very knowledgeable about the subject, and with firm basis for those views. The other candidate? Well, not so much.

I want to highlight part of what Gov. Palin says in this portion of the interview:

COURIC: Do you think there's an inherent right to privacy in the Constitution?

PALIN: I do. Yeah, I do.

COURIC: The cornerstone of Roe v Wade.

PALIN: I do. And I believe that --individual states can handle what the people within the different constituencies in the 50 states would like to see their will ushered in in an issue like that.

Now, I recognize that Gov. Palin is neither an attorney nor an expert on Constitutional law. However, it seems that most people who are passionately interested in the issue of abortion -- as Gov. Palin clearly is (remember, she has protested in front of clinics before) -- recognize that the principal underpinning of Roe v. Wade was a constitutional right to privacy (Griswald v. Connecticutt). So, in essence, Gov. Palin is acknowledging and agreeing that the cornerstone of Roe v. Wade is correct! I don't think that she will find much support for her position among her supporters or among the anti-abortion crowd who argue that the Supreme Court was off base in finding a right to privacy in the Constitution.

The part of this that really makes no sense, however, is her belief that this should simply be left up to the individual states. She recognizes a Constitutional right ... but thinks that the different states should be able to interpret that right differently? Blogger Paul Campos noted:
If the basis for opposing Roe is because you believe, as she says she does, that abortion involves the killing of an innocent human life, then its nonsensical to turn into a states' rights issue as she does. That's equivalent to saying you think slavery is a gross violation of human rights, but whether its legal ought to be left up to individual states. In effect she's saying "I think whether murder ought to be legal or not should be decided at the local level."
Of course, the real point is simply that Gov. Palin reverts back to her talking points and the closest talking points on this issue are "pro-life" and states' rights.

After this part of the discussion, Couric asks Gov. Palin to name a Supreme Court decision, other than Roe v. Wade with which she disagrees. Gov. Palin is unable (or unwilling) to do so. Now certainly, we shouldn't have expected her to be able to come up with any cases by name. But I would have thought that she'd be able to identify broad issues that the Court has addressed, whether in the area of death penalty, eminent domain, criminalization of homosexuality, prayer in schools, rights of defendants, or the right of prisoners at Guantanamo to apply for habeus corpus. These are all controversial issues that the Court has ruled on in recent years that you would think that someone with aspirations to national office would at least be vaguely familiar with. But no. All Gov. Palin can do is offer more of her patented broad gobbledygook answers (or, as Kagro X on DailyKos calls it "Word spray. Squid ink. Gibberish.") that don't really tell us anything about what she believes (other than states' rights):

PALIN: Well, let's see. There's --of course --in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings, there's never going to be absolute consensus by every American. And there are -- those issues, again, like Roe v Wade where I believe are best held on a state level and addressed there. So you know -- going through the history of America, there would be others but--"

COURIC: Can you think of any?

PALIN: Well, I could think of -- of any again, that could be best dealt with on a more local level. Maybe I would take issue with. But you know, as mayor, and then as governor and even as a Vice President, if I'm so privileged to serve, wouldn't be in a position of changing those things but in supporting the law of the land as it reads today.

It is also worth noting the very last bit of this answer, Gov. Palin notes that as Vice President she would not be in a position to change the rulings with which she disagreed but, rather, would be in a role "supporting the law of the land as it reads today." That is actually a critical statement, I believe, because, by that standard, she is telling us that she would not be advocating for a Constitutional amendment to ban abortion or to change state laws on the definition of marriage or to mandate (or even allow) prayer in schools. Why is it that I don't believe that is what Gov. Palin really means?

The other new interview clip that caught my attention comes from an even more recent interview in which Katie Couric interviewed Gov. Palin and Sen. McCain together:

This interview is striking for numerous reasons. First, I was stunned to see how angry Sen. McCain got about the "gotcha journalism" (his words) that led to the ironic situation of Gov. Palin agreeing with Sen. Obama's policy on Pakistan the night after the debate when Sen. McCain and Sen. Obama sparred over that very policy. The problem with Sen. McCain's anger is that it is: (a) totally misplaced and (b) a case of the wrongdoer complaining about the result of his own conduct. Let me elaborate.

The question that Gov. Palin answered came, not from the press, but from a voter who happened to be in the restaurant when Gov. Palin showed up for her photo op. This wasn't a journalist throwing a tough question at Gov. Palin; rather, it was a voter who wanted to know her stand on an issue. Um, pardon me, but isn't that what a political campaign is all about? Sen. McCain gets angry about the "gotcha journalism" because that goes back to the campaign's talking points about blaming the "liberal media" for alleged bias, for allegedly asking "unfair" questions of Gov. Palin, for demanding access to the candidates, and for virtually all other ills in modern society (I'm sure that if we wait long enough, we'll hear the McCain campaign blame the "liberal media" for the current financial crisis, too). Had the question come from a journalist, Sen. McCain's criticism might have had some legitimacy, but the question came from a voter, not a member of the press. (I don't know, is Temple University a "liberal" school? Maybe that was the problem...) And, when asked what lessons she learned from the experience, Gov. Palin responds: "That this is all about gotcha journalism, a lot of it is."

Second, and perhaps more importantly, Sen. McCain's anger is wrong because of the way his campaign has sought to shield Gov. Palin from the press. Why is that people are starved to hear what Gov. Palin has to say on real issues? Could it possibly be, oh, I don't know, just maybe, because in the month or so since being nominated she's given three interviews (well, I guess this new one makes it four)? Could it be because her answers in those interviews have been largely nonsensical? Could it be because she hasn't held any town hall meetings or stopped to actually talk to voters and answer their questions? Following the McCain-Obama debate, Sen. Biden made appearances on numerous news programs to talk about the debate and the issues. Gov. Palin went out for a cheesesteak. The McCain campaign has hidden Gov. Palin away, most likely because they recognize that her answers are "word spray" and/or that she is a loose cannon having little or no real and deep understanding of the issues. Thus, Sen. McCain is, if you think about it, expressing anger at the electorate for wanting to know what his running mate thinks and stands for. That's not "gotcha journalism"; no, that's democracy.

And what is with Sen. McCain's almost disdainful query to Gov. Palin (at about 0:50 in the video): "Was that a pizza place?" Look at the scowl on his face; almost saying how dare people who eat at a pizza place be actively involved or desirous of hearing a candidate's position. Talk about "elitism".

Sen. McCain also tries to excuse Gov. Palin's answer on the basis of her having not heard the question right or not having heard the "context" of the question. Sorry. The video is available; anybody watching can hear the question and one would assume that Gov. Palin who was, after all, much closer to the voter, could hear the question more clearly. Moreover, if she didn't hear the question, didn't understand the question, or didn't understand the "context" of the question she could have asked for it to be repeated. Or, she could have done as she's done throughout the campaign so far and simply smiled and not answered. But Gov. Palin elected to answer; indeed, she held what sounds like a running dialogue with the voter answering several questions on the subject of Pakistan.

It is also interesting to hear Sen. McClain compare questions over Gov. Palin's experience to questions raised about the experience of Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. Yes, questions were raised about those candidates. Without focusing too much on that issue, let's keep things in perspective (and I've omitted general business experience from this list):
  • Jimmy Carter: Attended Georgia Tech, Georgia Southwestern, and the US Naval Academy (the same as Sen. McCain...) where he graduated 59th out of 800+ (Sen. McCain graduated near the bottom...); served aboard submarines and took courses in nuclear engineering; served two terms in the Georgia Senate; elected Governor in 1970 and served the maximum allowed 1 term.
  • Ronald Reagan: Besides his movie career, he served as an officer in the US Army during World War II (attaining the rank of Captain); served as President of the Screen Actors Guild for 8 years (during the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings); served as Governor of California from 1967-1975; challenged Republican incumbent President Gerald Ford in 1976 primaries.
  • Bill Clinton: Attended Georgetown University, Oxford University (as a Rhodes Scholar), and Yale law school; professor at University of Arkansas; elected as Attorney General of Arkansas in 1976 and Governor in 1978 (population 2,000,000+), lost re-election in 1980, and was re-elected in 1982 (and held the office for 10 more years).
  • Sarah Palin: Attended a whole bunch of schools that you haven't heard of (except for the University of Idaho), worked briefly as a television sportscaster, served on a city council and as mayor of a city with 7,000 (give or take) people, and has served 20 months as governor of a state with fewer people than the largest city in both California (Reagan) and Georgia (Carter) and almost the same number of people as in the metropolitan area of the largest city in Arkansas (Clinton).

Does Sen. McCain really want us to make this comparison?

Whew. Deep breath. OK. So, I said more than I planned...


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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

McCain's Views on Palin

This morning, NPR host Steve Inskeep interviewed Sen. McCain. Much of the interview focused on the current economic crisis and proposed bailout. But after that discussion, Inskeep asked Sen. McCain about Gov. Palin:

INSKEEP: Senator, as you know, the vice presidential debate comes on Thursday — your running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, against Joe Biden. Gov. Palin has been asked about her foreign policy qualifications and cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as one reason she's qualified. I'd like to ask you, senator, what specifically do you believe that Alaska's proximity to Russia adds to Palin's foreign policy qualifications?

McCAIN: Well, I think the fact that they have had certain relationships, but that's not the major she has stated, and you know that. The major reason she has stated is because she has the knowledge and background on a broad variety of issues, including probably the major challenge of America, and that's energy independence. And she has been responsible, taken on the oil companies, and we now are going to have a $40 billion natural gas pipeline. She has oversighted the natural gas and oil and natural resources of the state of Alaska and, by the way, quit when she saw corruption there. She has the world view that I have. She is very highly qualified and very knowledgeable.

First, note that Sen. McCain never really says what he thinks about Gov. Palin's foreign policy credentials; he completely ducks that question and focuses, instead on her "knowledge and background on a broad variety of issues" and then says that she is "highly qualified and very knowledgeable." Given what we've seen and heard from Gov. Palin recently, does Sen. McCain really believe this? If so, I think that he's simply demonstrating that his judgment is now completely unreliable. Or, perhaps he is simply saying what he must to "stay on message" in which case it is a clear example that the "Straight Talk Express" has completely run off the rails.

After this exchange, Inskeep asks a series of follow-up questions:

INSKEEP: Given what you've said, senator, is there an occasion where you could imagine turning to Gov. Palin for advice in a foreign policy crisis?

McCAIN: I've turned to her advice many times in the past. I can't imagine turning to Sen. Obama or Sen. Biden, because they've been wrong. They were wrong about Iraq, they were wrong about Russia. Sen. Biden wanted to divide Iraq into three different countries. He voted against the first Gulf War. Sen. Obama has no experience whatsoever and has been wrong in the issues that he's been involved in.

INSKEEP: But would you turn to Gov. Palin?

McCAIN: I certainly wouldn't turn to them, and I already have turned to Gov. Palin, particularly on energy issues, and I've appreciated her background and knowledge on that and many other issues.

INSKEEP: Does her energy qualification extend to the international energy market?

McCAIN: Of course, that's what it's all about. It extends to a broad variety of issues, from her world view of the threats that we face of radical Islamic extremism, to specific areas of the world. I'm very proud of her, and proud of the knowledge and background that she has. She's also been a governor of a state, and she has been involved in running a bureaucracy, she has been in charge of running a state, and it's not an accident that she's the most popular governor in America. I remember, in all due respect, that some people, when Ronald Reagan came out of California, said he was totally unqualified. I remember an obscure governor of the state of Arkansas that people said he was totally unqualified. This kind of thing goes on, usually in Georgetown cocktail parties.

Let's parse this exchange for just a moment. First, Sen. McCain says that he's "turned to [Gov. Palin for] advice many times in the past". Really? When? Remember, before nominating her, he'd only met her once or twice. And since nominating her, I'm curious to know which issues he's asked her advice about other than "energy issues". Then, Sen. McCain turns the question to simply repeat his talking points that Sen. Obama (and Sen. Biden) have been wrong on Iraq and other foreign policy issues. Of course, he fails to mention that the very night of the first Presidential debate, Gov. Palin, when asked by a real live voter for her opinion on attacking Pakistan, responded with an answer that sounded very much like the answer Sen. Obama gave during the debate (and with which Sen. McCain disagreed). Then, when asked if Gov. Palin's energy qualifications extended to the international market, Sen. McCain somehow segued into Islamic extremism. Huh? When asked about her foreign policy credentials he talks about energy and when asked about energy he talks about Islamic extremism. Did he not understand the issues? His responses are starting to sound like Gov. Palin's... Maybe he is taking her advice.

Finally, Inskeep moved the interview to a discussion about honor and how the campaign was being conducted:

INSKEEP: Is it a struggle, though, sometimes? It's been a pretty brutal campaign.

McCAIN: No, it's not a struggle. I know what's right. I've been around for a long time. I know what's the right thing to do.

INSKEEP: Have you come back to your advisers at any point and said — for example, the ad that ran with your name on it saying that Barack Obama supported comprehensive sex education for primary school students, something that said was wrong. Have you ever gone to your staff and said, "Take that ad off. It's not right"?

McCAIN: It's factually correct. It's absolutely factually correct, and you can go on my Web site and you can see the exact language of the bill that Senator Obama sponsored. But the point is that if he had agreed to the town hall meetings that I asked him to do all around the country, like Jack Kennedy and Barry Goldwater had once agreed to do, the tenor of this campaign would be dramatically different. If we'd have gone around the country, and stood side-by-side before the American people and listened to their hopes and dreams and aspirations, the whole tenor of this campaign would be dramatically different. I'm proud of the campaign we are running, the ads are factually correct. And if someone named or anybody else doesn't agree with it, I respectfully disagree with their conclusions.

Let me recap that last paragraph (by leaving out the middle discussion about Kennedy and Goldwater and town hall meetings):
It's factually correct. It's absolutely factually correct, and you can go on my
Web site and you can see the exact language of the bill that Senator Obama
sponsored. ... I'm proud of the campaign we are running, the ads are factually
correct. And if someone named or anybody else doesn't agree with
it, I respectfully disagree with their conclusions.

In this few sentences, Sen. McCain manages to sum up his entire approach to this campaign: If Sen. McCain says something is a fact, it is; he is right and anyone else who disagrees, no matter what evidence they may have, is wrong. Funny, that sounds an awful lot like the Bush administration.

Inskeep challenges Sen. McCain on the claim that Sen. Obama supports "comprehensive sex education" for kindergartners and gives Sen. McCain a chance to back off of the claim, but Sen. McCain doesn't; instead he challenges's analysis, which includes the following:

The ad claims "Obama's one accomplishment" in the realm of education was "legislation to teach 'comprehensive sex education' to kindergarteners." It's true that the phrase "comprehensive sex education" appeared in the bill, but little else in McCain's claim is accurate. The ad refers to a bill Obama supported in the Illinois state Senate to update the sex education curriculum and make it "medically accurate." It would have lowered the age at which students would begin what the bill termed "comprehensive sex education" to include kindergarten. But it mandated the instruction be "age-appropriate" for kindergarteners when addressing topics such as sexually transmitted diseases. The bill also would have granted parents the opportunity to remove their children from the class without question....

The bill also called for all sex education course materials to include information that would help students recognize, among other activities, inappropriate touching, sexual assault and rape....

(For the record, the real dispute between the candidates is whether sex education should be medically accurate and age appropriate [as Sen. Obama prefers] or abstinence only [as Sen. McCain prefers]). Please, don't take my word for it: Go read the entire article on this issue (and take note of Sen. Obama's discussion of what age appropriate really means in this context) and then decide whether the Straight Talk Express is being truthful; and remember, according to Sen. McCain, his ad is "absolutely factually correct" (emphasis added) and he is "proud" of a campaign that makes the sort of statement that Inskeep challenged.

That Sen. McCain is either unable or unwilling to recognize the lie (he could have said, "Gee, that ad might have exaggerated the claim a wee bit..." and all would have likely been forgotten) is further evidence that Sen. McCain has lost the ability to tell right from wrong in his zeal to capture the White House. But Sen. McCain doesn't appear troubled by any of this: "No, it's not a struggle. I know what's right. ... I know what's the right thing to do."


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Sarah Palin Must Spend a Lot of Time Reading...

Another clip from Katie Couric's interview with Gov. Palin has appeared. In this portion of the interview, Couric asks Gov. Palin about the newspapers and magazines that helped shape Gov. Palin's worldview (transcript follows):

COURIC: And when it comes to establishing your world view, I was curious, what newspapers and magazines did you regularly read before you were tapped for this — to stay informed and to understand the world?
PALIN: I've read most of them again with a great appreciation for the press, for the media —
COURIC: But what ones specifically? I’m curious.
PALIN: Um, all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years.
COURIC: Can you name any of them?
PALIN: I have a vast variety of sources where we get our news. Alaska isn't a foreign country where it's kind of suggested it seems like wow how could you keep in touch with the rest of what Washington D.C. may be thinking and doing when you live up there in Alaska. Believe me, Alaska is like a microcosm of America.

I want to be sure that I got that (and I'm really glad that Couric decided to let Gov. Palin keep talking with that final bit of her answer instead of just repeating the initial question). Gov. Palin developed her world view by reading "most of them again ... all of them, any of them that have been in front of me" but couldn't actually name a single magazine or newspaper? And I'm not quite sure how reading Time or Newsweek or The Atlantic or The Economist or The Wall Street Journal or the Anchorage Daily News has anything to do with what "Washington D.C. may be thinking". Nobody has suggested that Gov. Palin isn't in touch with the rest of the U.S. because she lives in Alaska; no people have suggested that she's out of touch because of a lack of intellectual curiosity and because she simply hasn't paid any attention to what is going on outside of Alaska.

The scariest part of Gov. Palin's response is that the question was neither a difficult question nor a trick question nor a "gotcha" question. Couric simply wanted to know what newspapers or magazines Gov. Palin read so that voters could help understand Gov. Palin a little more and learn a bit more about how she came to form her worldview and understanding of certain issues. I think that we all recognize that someone who reads The Washington Post will have a different worldview than one who reads The Washington Times just as someone who reads The Economist will likely have a different worldview than one who reads Newsweek. We don't know if she reads The Wall Street Journal or Time or even Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, or People. Heck, we don't even know if she reads the Anchorage Daily News or Cosmopolitan.

But, we do know that in 1995, while a member of the Wasilla City Council, she read American Opinion, the magazine published by the John Birch Society:

(The article open in front of then-Council member Palin is "Con-Con Call" from the March 1995 issue of American Opinion.) If this is the type of magazine from which her worldview was derived, perhaps she was intentionally trying to duck Couric's question. Of course, knowing that one of the mottoes of the Alaska Independence Party is that the John Birch Society was too liberal, it might not be too surprising to see that magazine on her desk.

And, as long as I'm poking more fun (actually, that's wrong; none of this is funny...) at Gov. Palin, I couldn't help but give people their own chance to see how Gov. Palin might answer other questions. Take a look at InterviewPalin; you never know, you might get the answer to a debate question before she even steps on stage.

Finally, as long as I'm having a bit of unfun fun, I thought I'd post a video from "fair and balanced" Fox News in which a reporter in a Pennsylvania diner asks for a show of hands from the patrons. As you will see, he first asks who will be voting for Sen. McCain. One man holds a hand up before a woman (presumably his wife) pushes his hand down. Next the reporter asks who will be voting for Sen. Obama and every hand goes up (including the man who initially "voted" for Sen. McCain). In response, the "fair and balanced" reporter notes that the room was "split". Then, if you listen carefully, you can hear the patrons of the diner laughing at the reporter's characterization of the straw poll. I just love good objective journalism on display:

Fair and balanced. Right.


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