Saturday, February 09, 2008

Democrats: Where Do Things Stand?

Okay, we know pretty much as a given now that John McCain will be the Republican nominee (with Huckabee a likely VP nom). And we know that this is bad because he is to Bush's right on the war he does not meet Sean Hannity's standards of insanity.

But where do things stand with the Democrats moving forward?

Here is their primary schedule for the next few weeks-
Feb. 9 -- Louisiana primary, Washington and Nebraska caucuses
Feb. 10 -- Maine caucuses
Feb. 12 -- Primaries in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Feb. 19 -- Wisconsin primaries; Hawaii caucus
March 4 -- Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas and Vermont primaries
March 8 -- Wyoming caucus
March 11 -- Mississippi primary
April 22 -- Pennsylvania primary
May 6 -- North Carolina and Indiana primaries
May 13 -- West Virginia primary
May 20 -- Kentucky and Oregon primaries
June 3 -- North Dakota and Montana primaries
June 8 -- Puerto Rico

There are a lot of delegates at stake, so folks living in these states... your votes count!

But what of the superdelegates? Is this a good situation or no? On MSNBC the other day, Dan Abrams and others debated this issue before the discussion devolved into a shouting match. Ultimately, it doesn't seem they understand how this works any better than I do.

(Happy note, though? Joe Lieberman has been stripped of his superdelegate status)

For what it's worth, DNC Chairman Howard Dean doesn't think things will get this complicated. He says he expects we'll "have a nominee sometime in the middle of March or April." And if we don't? "[T]hen we’re going to have to get the candidates together and make some kind of an arrangement." Huh? Shit, now I'm more confused than ever.

[Related reading: TIME Poll: Clinton More Beatable than Obama]

The No-Shit (Iraq) Headlines of the Day

AP: War demands strain US military readiness

AP: AP Poll: Stimulus check welcome, but to really help economy better pull out of Iraq

Friday, February 08, 2008

How Far We've Come

I think I've written about this before, but-- in light of all this schadenfreude over the conservative crackup-- I wanted to remark what an improvement the Democratic side of things is over our 2004 situation.

That year, the party selected John Kerry because they believed he was the most 'electable', stripped him of any beliefs or principles he had, and marketed him as a cautious centrist war hero. He was the best Not Bush we could find. He couldn't win lose. But what did he stand for, other than as alternative to the worst President ever (good enough for me, but that was a low bar)?

What was Sen. Kerry's health-care plan? His stance on trade and globalization? His proposals for dealing with climate change? His precise exit strategy for Iraq? His views on direct diplomacy with unpopular leaders? Etc. I am sure he had positions on these issues, but I can only vaguely remember reading about them, and I am a political junkie. Suffice to say, whatever agenda he had was overly cautious and not very well-publicized.

This time around, however, we have candidates (including those who have left the race) not afraid to buck the conventional wisdom on many issues. They have policies on issues like health-care and foreign affairs and they want you know about them! The overall agenda is not as progressive/liberal as I would like (single-payer, anyone?), but compared to where we were in 2004, it definitely is. And with likely gains in the House and Senate again, we actually stand a chance of even seeing some of this stuff passed. It's a long way to November, but I like where we are right now.

Modern Conservatism: A Mad-Libs Movement

As I noted in my post yesterday, Mitt Romney's exit speech-- given at the annual conservative CPAC event-- was a window into the heart of the GOP base, as Romney's entire campaign consisted of regurgitating back to them whatever they wanted to hear. It also likely (as with the President Bush statement from my previous entry) gives us a preview of the general election strategy against the Democrats... a sad rehash of old conservative standbys that do not acknowledge or reflect the reality of the past 8 years.

Finally, another interesting note from CPAC... based on the reactions to Sen. McCain's speech, it appears that the great conservative rebellion against him is (slowly) wimping out, as they prepare to do battle against the evils of terrorism Liberalism. They have declared victory-- despite getting the candidate they hated-- and are ready to take their orders. Said the National Review's Kathryn Jean Lopez of the event, "This McCain speech would not have been given today, if it weren’t for folks like Mark Levin, Rush Limbaugh, Andy McCarthy, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham. Can I thank them on behalf of America?" Yes, please do, and also put them in every McCain campaign commercial, I assure you we'd appreciate it.

This morning she adds, "My friends, we have a war to win. Join me on my no surrender campaign." War forever!

Peace and Prosperity

"Eight years of peace and prosperity
Scandal in the White House
An election is what we need
From coast-to-coast to Washington."
--John Mellencamp, 'To Washington' (2003)

With the GOP nomination all sewn up, that party is jumping right into general election mode. The President himself (remember that guy?) has even entered the fray-
President Bush, rallying conservatives for a battle against Democratic presidential hopefuls Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, says "prosperity and peace" are at stake in the upcoming election for his successor...

I agree those issues are at stake. And that's why I'm voting for the Democratic candidate.

(To really nail this point home, I'm just gonna crib from Will Bunch)

God knows what a disaster it would be if the peace...


and prosperity...


...of the George W. Bush years were to somehow be reversed.

More Odds and Ends

I've got a lot of stuff I wanna write about later, but first a few more news snippets...

With the focus here in America on our upcoming election, The Washington Note's Steve Clemons has a good look beyond our borders at some upcoming elections overseas that has relevance to current U.S. policy... in Pakistan, Iran, Cuba, and Russia. Well worth reading.

Speaking of Pakistan: "British detectives said Friday that Benazir Bhutto was killed by the force of a suicide bomb and not gunfire, backing the Pakistani government's controversial account of how the opposition leader died." This is certainly an unexpected finding.

Moving to the Middle East, a Daily Kos blogger has a good post on the failure of the surge to achieve the real progress-- security and political-- promised. But hey, it achieved its real goal... putting the GOP back on offense on the issue. One report she links to notes our soldiers are "tired, worn thin ... and unlikely to come home in large numbers anytime soon." Mission Permanent occupation accomplished!

And here's an old story reminding us that Iraq was just one more free market to manipulate.

Finally, economic sign of the times: "Euros Accepted" signs pop up in New York City

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Odds and Ends

Here's some news that I missed while obsessing over Monster Tuesday...

In addition to be said monster day, Tuesday was also the 5th anniversary of the day Colin Powell lied, I mean gave a serious presentation, okay, lied to the UN Security Council about the evidence against Iraq. And we all lived happily ever after.

The Senate Republicans blocked the stimulus package (I don't really care, but who knows what their logic was). All 100 Senators voted, except for.... John McCain. Whatta maverick!

(UPDATE: It appears now that a revised bill was just passed.)

Speaking of McCain, would conservative politicians please stop using the music of folks like John Mellencamp or Bruce Springsteen. Songs have lyrics, listen to them. The subtlety of musical commentary is obviously lost on you.

Psssttt... we do torture. Pass it on.

On a related note, the President continues to insist that Congress passing an updated FISA law is the most important thing ever, and will prevent the obviously imminent attacks that will murder us all very soon. Unless, of course, Congress passes a bill not 100% to his liking, in which case he'll veto that shit like nobody's business.

Just as the economic uprooting of Detroit two decades ago sentenced it to years of crimes, so too did Katrina leave crime waves in its wake in New Orleans. They were going to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, but someone stole them while they decontaminating their FEMA trailer.

Finally, think our democracy is weird? Just be glad you don't live in Italy.

Mitt Romney, We Hardly Knew Ye

It's now official... Mitt Romney is dropping out of the race.

Please send my deepest condolences to the folks at the National Review. Who will double Guantanamo now?

With Giuliani and Romney both out, there is no Republican left to engage in fearmongering hyperbole defeat the jihadist hordes preparing our doom. It must be a scary time to a conservative hawk. I mean, all they have left is that well-known dove and opponent of the war, John McCain. Better allocate a few more billions to Homeland Security, just to be safe.

[UPDATE: Holy shit, his exit speech was all kinds of crazy. It must be noted in closing that this flip-flopper was an empty vessel who allowed himself to be whatever the party base needed. And if you want a look into their psyche, you need only read his remarks.]

Schadenfreude (Pt. III)

On Super Tuesday, Ann Coulter-- Reagan Republican and Fox all-star-- seemed to backing down from her promise to actively campaign for Hillary Clinton if Sen. McCain becomes the GOP nominee. But the overall insanity remains as strong as ever-

Sen. McCain insists that his critics "calm down a litle bit". Yea, good luck with that, John.

NY Times op-ed columnist Gail Collins sums all this up-
"Meanwhile, the Republican far right has fallen into a remarkable snit over John McCain’s march to the nomination. Rush Limbaugh is virtually gnawing his own ankle in rage. By co-authoring legislation with Democrats, Limbaugh ranted, McCain was working with 'threats to the American way of life as we’ve always known it.' James Dobson says he won’t vote if McCain is the nominee because of infractions ranging from failure to back a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage to 'foul and obscene language.' Ann Coulter claims she’d support Clinton 'because she’s more conservative than he is.'

Once again, the reason for everything terrible about American politics for the last 20 years becomes clear. These people are nuts."

That's just wrong. These conservatives are very, very serious people.

[Related reading: The Most Meaningless Word In The English Language (Balloon Juice)]


Boys, I have fantastic news... the Rev. Ted Haggard is still gay. I know what I'm doing for Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

And The Race Goes On... (Pt. II)

I promise this is my last Super Tuesday post. TPM's Josh Marshall explains the delegate math-

More on delegates from Steve Benen and TPM on what a brokered convention means.

And The Race Goes On...

It's time for bed, with all but New Mexico called. Sen. Obama did win more states, but delegates are what matters, and those numbers are still being tallied. CBS News has a decent tracker, CNN's is good also, though MSNBC's is more confusing. This is far from over.

For those of you in the later primary/caucus states, feel happy... your vote matters.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

MONSTER TUESDAY~!1!!: The Reckoning

I'll be updating this every so often, but here's where we stand on the Democratic side (I'm ignoring the GOP side for now, though McCain's getting some help in thwarting Romney there with some solid Huckabee victories)...

For Sen. Obama: Georgia, Illinois, Delaware, Alabama, Kansas, North Dakota, Connecticut, Minnesota, Utah, Idaho, Colorado, Missouri, Alaska

For Sen. Clinton: Oklahoma, Tennessee, Arkansas, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Arizona, California

For the record, I'm watching MSNBC and refreshing Talking Points Memo every few minutes.

Voting: Still A Confusing Mess

I was reading the NY Times blog about scattered voting problems in NYC, when I read some alarming comments-
"The Cooper Union polling station was a disaster. The voting rules were not clearly printed anywhere, that you were only supposed to choose 1 candidate and 5 delegates. Obama and Clinton had more than 5 delegates listed. If you chose more than 5 delegates than you over-voted and apparently that disqualifies your vote."

I was starting to freak out, but further down, there was this other person-
"Also, to correct any earlier post of misinformation, you are allowed to vote for SIX delagates and ONE alternate. Clinton, Edwards, and Obama all had FULL SLATES OF DELEGATES. So if you voted for all the delegates, you’re FINE. #1, you were misinformed if you were told otherwise, and on behalf of those of us poll workers who know what the heck they’re doing, I apologize!!!"

And another adds to that-
"OK, someone called me from the Board of Elections NY- they said the machine wouldn’t allow you to vote for more delegates - the machine wouldn’t work if you did."

Obviously I was concerned-- the ancient woman working my station this morning didn't mention any of this-- so I just called the Board of Elections myself. The woman I spoke with told me the latter two people were correct... you would be fine if you selected all delegates under the candidate's name. She assured me my vote was counted, and there was no problem here. So that's good.

Still, it's discouraging that in 2008-- almost 8 years since the Florida debacle that left us with The Decider-- voting is still this confusing for so many people. The old machines are too hard to work. But new electronic machines are too easy to hack. Etc. We really can do better than this, but (like everthing else) we keep putting it off.



I voted first thing this morning. Turnout seemed pretty good for a primary. At 6:30am.

I'll be blogging later tonight as the results come in, but I'm already dreading the silly cable news coverage. The polls on the west coast don't close until 8pm (which is 11pm here), so really we won't know anything definitive until very late into the night... though the pundits will of course start analyzing how everything went with, like, 15% of precincts reporting. So brew up some coffee and proceed with caution. Oh, and vote too.

[Christian Science Monitor: How to untangle the politics of Super Tuesday primaries]

Standing Our Ground

The 'Yes, We Can' music video made by Black Eyed Peas frontman is the Obama video making the rounds going into today's primary. And while I acknowledge it's powerful, it's not the video to me that best sells his candidacy. The video that does is one his campaign made a year ago... chronicling his opposition to the Iraq war, from 2002 to now.

I was passing along that video to another interested party yesterday (and rewatching it in the process), when a line in it stood out to me. In a public television interview in 2004, after his election to the Senate, he said-
"This raises a broader issue of the Democratic party. I think it's important for us to stand our ground, and take our licks, rather than what sometimes is our habit, which is to cave, and then whine about it afterwards. Which makes us not only look weak, but also petty."

And Dr. Obama there correctly diagnosed what has been the party's biggest problem in recent years (caving-- out of fear-- and then complaining later that they didn't get their agenda through). The Democrats are now more trusted than the Republicans on every single issue-- including national security-- and it's time they started acting like it. Such spine would particularly be helpful in the ongoing battle over the revisions to the FISA law.

One question Democrats must ask themselves as they go to vote today (or in a later primary if you're not a Super Tuesday state) is which candidate has a better record of standing their ground... and who's more likely to cave all together, or to 'compromise' away the backbone of their progressive agenda. Whose presence on the ballot in November better helps gain the extra Senators and congressmen we need to get past GOP obstruction? Whose record is overall stronger on standing up for core progressive values? Etc.

While wonks like Paul Krugman and others are getting lost in the minutiae of the debates over issues like health-care (important, natch), realists must understand that these differences mean nothing if the next President lacks the broad appeal, political skills, and spine to see these fights through. I'll leave it up to you-- with a wink and a nod-- to decide which one of our two remaining choices that is.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Fiscal Conservatism

My my, look at the fucking mess the President is planning to dump on the next crew-
President Bush unveiled a $3.1 trillion budget proposal on Monday that supports a sizable increase in military spending to fight the war on terrorism and protects his signature tax cuts.

Bush called the document "a good, solid budget,"
but Democrats, and even a top Republican, attacked the plan for using budgetary gimmicks to project a budget surplus in four years...

Boy, you'd think that seeing the largest budget proposal in American history would mean that we're getting universal health-care, a major public works project, or some other big program. But no. It just means Bush is protecting that mom-and-pop operation known as the Pentagon and hoping to protect his poor, beleaguered tax cuts. You know, top priorities for the future of America.

What's even more disturbing, though, is that this record high budget includes numerous cuts in many programs. Don't worry, it's all just stuff people won't miss. Let's take a look-
[I]t forces the rest of government to pinch pennies. It seeks $196 billion in savings over five years in the government's giant health care programs — Medicare and Medicaid... Those savings are achieved by freezing payments to hospitals and other health care providers.

And more-
To achieve such a small boost, Bush would hold hundreds of programs well below what is needed to keep up with inflation. He also seeks to eliminate or sharply slash 151 programs he considers unnecessary...

...This year, the largest number of program terminations — 47 — are in education including elimination of programs to encourage arts in schools, bring low-income students on trips to Washington and provide mental health services.

You know, useless pork like that.

If you can propose cuts to/reigning in spending on some of the most popular and competent government programs around and still come up with the most ridiculously bloated budget in U.S. history, then you must be almost be gunning for that worst president ever prize.

Finally, a little GOP honesty. "Let's face it. This budget is done with the understanding that nobody's going to be taking a long, hard look at it," said Sen. Gregg (R-NH). Indeed. Now where's my damn stimulus check, I have shopping to do.

"We need God in our governments."

The guys at Talking Points Memo have their own YouTube channel-- Veracifier-- which is one of the few I subscribe to. One cool thing they do is let people submit their own video reports to them, and they select the best ones and put them up on the account (they totally stole this idea from Al Gore, by the way!).

This video went up today. Here is the description: "These Christian fundamentalists in Lynchburg, Tennessee explain why they're supporting Mike Huckabee for president, their misguided ideas about Barack Obama and the Koran, the Iraq War, President Bush, and of course the ever-popular End Times."

Truly a reminder that one of the scarier things about democracy sometimes is the voters. I post it also because if you wanna know how the GOP will attack Obama if he's the nominee, it will be appealing to the fears that the women in this video have. Save us, Jeebus!

Project For A Newly Humbled Superpower

Time's Joe Klein has this take (following the 'Waving Goodbye to Hegemony' piece in the NY Times magazine) on the "new American century" that the neocons worked so hard to create-
"You watch McCain talking about the world and it very quickly becomes apparent that he is talking about a place that existed maybe 15 or 20 years ago, a globe where the U.S. is hegemon and where the challenges are always binary and manichean. It's us v. the Soviets...or now, us against radical Islamic extremism, a threat that he gins up into the one of the Greatest Ever, the 'transcendent threat of the 21st Century.' Maybe so. Maybe Osama and the Cave-dwellers will be able to produce a 9/11, or worse, every decade or so ... maybe we'll have to continue to spend $200 billion a year to fight that threat.

But probably not. It is at least equally likely that the global threat to American hegemony will be softer--a three-way competition for markets and resources with Europe and China, as the Times piece suggests; or even more diffuse than that. Maybe the Chinese way of gaining influence--offering to build huge public projects like dams and pipelines and power plants, while making absolutely no ideological demands--will prove more successful in winning second-world hearts and minds than our own naive, noisome bang-bang has been. Maybe a good part of that $200 billion could be more profitably spent elsewhere, in other ways...

...It would be nice if, at least once in this campaign, we had a serious conversation about this among the Presidential candidates."

Or, to put it more succintly, Atrios says, "I do think it's been quite obvious for some time that the neocons who dreamt of American hegemony have basically destroyed it."

I'd add that I agree that this should be discussed by the candidates... it is an issue the average American thinks about. But the problem is the Joe Kleins of the world. Our major media figures obviously do care about these issues and write articles for them in their publications. But it's all just talking into the wind; it never becomes a serious national discussion (unlike the Clintons/Obama feud). When the candidates are interviewed by, say, Tim Russert, it's about horserace and strategy. If media figures are wondering why we've not had a serious discussion about this during the campaign, they need only look in the mirror.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Final Countdown


This image was the headline at the Huffington Post on Wednesday morning. It does sink in. One of these four people will be the next President, will be the person who determines what kind of country we are moving forward for the next four (eight?) years. That is what is at stake on Tuesday, and in the months leading up to November. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the silliness of modern politics, it's important to remember the stakes.

Who do you want sitting in that Oval Office starting next January? Are you voting Tuesday?

My choice has held steady for a few months now... Senator Obama. He was right on all the big issues, particularly Iraq (as he said, it's not good enough to criticize the execution of the war; we must defeat the mentality that got us into it to begin with). I believe his policy proposals are also more realistic-- if seemingly similar to Clinton's on some issues-- in their implementation (notice how Clinton dodged the question of how she would enforce her health-care mandates). Moreover, all the high-profile red-state Democrats endorsing him shows that they know which candidate will be better off for the down-ticket candidates in those areas of the country whose Republican leanings are nowhere near as solid as four years ago. That's important, because without a much larger congressional majority than we have now-- particularly in the Senate-- the next President will see their agenda filibustered to death by bitter Republicans. Sen. Clinton simply has too much baggage for my tastes (not her personal history, but her voting record), and a return to the politics of the 1990s, while vastly preferable to another Republican term, would be walking backwards on that bridge to the 21st century Bill Clinton spoke of in his 1996 reelection campaign.

For a more detailed argument in favor of the Big O, read Christopher Hayes in The Nation.

Finally, a general look at where things stand. Talking Points Memo has state-by-state analysis for both Democrats and Republicans. And Reason's Dave Weigel looks at the issue of winner-take-all contests versus shared delegate wins makes analyzing the two parties much different. Now go watch some football or whatever.


I got into a political/economic debate this past week on the Current Events forum on Hanson's official website... an incredibly odd place for such a discussion, I know.

Explaining my objection to the simplistic approach the folks in DC are taking to economic 'stimulus', I wrote a post ending with this-
"I loathe the idea that the strength of our economy is now based on consumer spending, rather than on job growth and general prosperity."

The first response I got was the following-
"HAHAHA! I don't mean to be unkind, but you might as well say, 'I loathe the idea our diet is based on bread, rather than on flour and baking powder.'

General Prosperity? Job growth? Without consuming and spending there would be no jobs, all jobs find their use in meeting consumers needs and desires. And general prosperity? What is general prosperity other than the ability to spend and consume?

Someone needs to take Economics 101."

This was followed by another user who agreed, adding-
"I'm guessing he thinks the government should just give everyone jobs.

It is a chain reaction. The more money being spent allows for more jobs, epescially in the retail/sales, and service sectors. If people aren't going on vacations, buying TVs or cars, then those sectors are hurt and jobs are lost."

My first thought was that both of these people must be young (not that I'm exactly old myself, but I'm at least aware of history prior to 1990). My second thought was how well years of conservative talking points had become conventional wisdom to so many. I responded-
"I'm not saying the government should give people jobs... I love how for conservatives, if someone opposes these current policies, they must be advocating socialism or something similar.

The fact is that our economy did not used to be so entirely consumer spending-based. We used to manufacture goods, but now we mostly import them from the countries where those jobs were outsourced to. During the New Deal era, the government also made keeping up (and improving and expanding) our nation's infrastructure a priority (not just physical infrastructure, but programs like education which are the backbone of our society) which created countless jobs for many Americans who then reached the middle class for the first time. Something we might consider again, as we've seen so many stories in recent years about the crumbling and ancient infrastructure we have now. Stuff like that. These changes away from this approach didn't happen randomly; they happened because of bad policy.

I want a leader who's not happy with merely fixing the status quo, but realizes that our country needs serious changes. And if it requires some small bit of sacrifice, well then John Edwards is right... it's time people were patriotic about something other than war.

As for general prosperity... again, I will say it's disturbing to me that our idea of 'prosperity' now = how much consumer crap we have. That is not an indicator of prosperity. For instance, I could be poor as dirt, but get a high-limit credit card and buy countless luxury items (TVs, vacations, etc), but that is misleading and does not indicate my prosperity. It's all illusionary.

Prosperity to me means that someone has a good job, one that pays well and in which they are not in danger of being outsourced or downsized. It means they can afford a nice place to live, without needing one of those subprime scams that the unregulated market made possible. It means having health-care coverage they can count on (ie. not having to worry about going broke just because you might get really sick someday). It means a generally good quality of life. Etc.

And that used to be the definition that this country had too. But around 25-30 years ago, that started changing, and that is what I object to."

I post all this rambling because I wanted to clarify how I judge economic strength.

I believe that we have defined down the idea of economic strength so far that the only one we display it now is by creating bubbles-- the dotcom one in the late '90s, the housing one in this decade, etc-- rather than doing the hard work of enacting policies and programs to foster long-term sustainability. And we have so many ways to fake prosperity now-- credit cards, cheaper consumer goods-- that we neither notice nor care. And until we undertake the hard, unpleasant task of addressing those problems, we will keep just getting by as a nation until the bill(s) finally come due.