Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Final Four

Today I hear that John Edwards is dropping out of the Democratic race, following the withdrawl of Rudy Giuliani from the Republican race yesterday. Apparently Edwards was hoping that in a meaningless primary in Florida (no Democratic delegates will be seated) that voters would feel free to vote for him. Maybe they did, but clearly not enough of them did.

Edwards has always been a tireless advocate for the poor and the disenfranchised. It is significant that he will make his withdrawl speech in New Orleans, which has never received the kind of help from the Federal Government that President Bush promised right after Katrina.

So the candidates who remain are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side and John McCain and Mitt Romney for the Republicans Yeah, I know that there are still other Republicans running, but they won't win. Huckabee's shoe-string campaign couldn't afford even a narrow loss last week in South Carolina, but that's what they got. Ron Paul is only still running because he has the opposite problem from Huckabee-- a lot of money to spend and no sizeable base of support within the GOP. After millions of people gave him a ton of money a few weeks ago, Paul pretty much has to keep running because otherwise those Paul supporters would be furious with him for wasting their donations, and something tells me they're not the most forgiving type. It's conceivable though that he could still run in the General as a Libertarian.

Being a Democrat, I'm going to focus on our side. I may put up a post on the Republicans later this week.

I do feel that on the Democratic side, we are left with on balance two candidates who I could support. Right now I am for Obama (I was for Richardson but he quit), but while I've been critical of Hillary in the past I won't have any problem supporting her if she does win the nomination. Obama's commitment to get us out of Iraq is much more believable, and if there is one good thing about his meteoric rise from just being a community activist in Chicago, it's that he's not all that far removed from ordinary life as lived by ordinary people (and if he doesn't remember what that was like you can be sure that Michelle Obama will yank him back to reality in a hurry.) Beyond that, he's right when he talks about moving beyond 'red' states and 'blue' states and remember that we live in the United States. Both the Clinton and Bush administrations have been marked by hyper-partisanship which has resulted in one party being shut out of the process when one side has complete control, and gridlock when that is not the case. I personally think that all began with Newt Gingrich and his politics of slash-and-burn campaigning, but regardless of how it started, there is no question that things are more charged than they have been in the past. The atmosphere in Washington today, far from being an honest debate on the issues with the idea of reaching a solution to the problems facing the country and its people, is now about playing a game of 'one-upsmanship' and 'gotcha' against the other side. To be blunt, I believe that President Barack Obama could change that while President Hillary Clinton could not.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Immigration Frankenstein has cost the GOP a lot, and gained them little.

In mid to late 2005, we read a number of stories about how immigration would become the main issue in the 2006 election. The suddenness with which these stories all showed up, followed by how quickly the 'anti-illegal immigrant' crew got in gear, seemed to suggest that the decision to make it a focal point of the election was made somewhere in Washington, D.C., not throughout the length and breadth of America.

No matter. Either way, it certainly did become a major issue in 2006, and remains one today. If it was hatched up in some pollster's office during the desperate search for an issue the GOP could run on last year, it is now a monster that the GOP cannot control.

And it's eating them alive.

The right likes to cite polls that suggest that a large majority of Americans want the border secure, while ignoring the simultaneous polls that suggest that far less than a majority favor mass deportation or other action taken against people who are already here doing nothing more than working for a living.

But the issue here isn't how many Americans favor what. It has to do with how many Americans are being pursuaded to vote for the GOP based on their immigrant bashing, versus how many are being pursuaded to vote for Democrats instead.

The basic flaw is that the anti-immigrant strategy was being used as a 'get out the base' strategy, and it hasn't worked for that, as well as not working for broadening their base.

For a few people, being anti-immigrant is almost like a religion. I'm talking about the real nutcakes, the minutemen, the Tom Tancredo backers, and the like. They certainly would never vote for a Democrat. They might turn out to vote for an anti-immigrant hardliner like Tancredo or Randy Graf (or anti-immigrant converts like J.D. Hayworth) but the results of recent elections prove that there just aren't enough of them. Here in Arizona Graf and Hayworth went down to defeat (as did Congressman Henry Bonilla of Texas in another district close to the border) in 2006, and Tancredo's Presidential bid ended when he (like fellow immigration jockey Duncan Hunter) failed to attract more than one or two percent of the vote, and that was of fellow Republicans. Tancredo's most memorable line in the debates was aimed at fellow Republicans Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney for their hardline stances on immigration in which he said the pair were 'trying to out-Tancredo Tancredo.' Well, clearly Romney fell flat in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina (and only won his other real contest, Michigan, by pandering instead of discussing much about immigration.) Giuliani should be out of the race come Tuesday when he loses the state he bet all his marbles on, Florida (a state which has a whole lot of immigrants, and would still have a lot even if we didn't count the Cubans.) To put the icing on the cake, the candidate that Republican primary voters seem to favor, John McCain, was a co-sponsor of what the radio jocks teed off on as an 'amnesty bill,' the comprehensive immigration reform bill favored by President Bush which was scuttled by the Senate.

Last year, immigrant-bashing was supposed to be the key issue that would save the Virgnia state Senate for Republicans. It did not, as Democrats picked up four seats, and in a fifth, heavily Republican district the incumbent went on an immigrant-bashing campaign and clearly hurt himself as he hung on by only a few hundred votes in a race he should have won easily.

This year, immigration was supposed to be a huge issue in South Carolina. Not only did McCain win (and Mike Huckabee, who has only sporadically attacked immigrants finish second) but despite the competitive primary, only 445,000 Republicans voted there, which was the same number of Republicans who voted to renominate President George H.W. Bush in 1992 against minor opposition from anti-Semitic speechwriter Pat Buchanan and white supremecist David Duke. That was also the last time that Democrats turned out in the state in larger numbers than Republicans, until today-- when 530,000 people voted in the Democratic primary.

They may be right that a majority of Americans in polls favor some aspects of what they are saying. But they are dead wrong in supposing that is enough to win an election. Not only do some people (both Hispanics and a lot of non-Hispanics) get turned off by all the bashing and the bigotry, but what they've proven is that while there are certainly some zealous and loud anti-immigrant single-issue activists, there aren't enough of them! And worse for the GOP, it is splitting their base (giving conservatives one more reason to refuse to vote for John McCain if he is the nominee, but threatening to drive away a lot of the independents and moderates who supported him and who the GOP really needs if someone else is the Republican nominee.)

Yet some on the right just won't let go, believing that this issue is a 'sure-fire winner' next election, past results notwithstanding. And that's the beauty of conservatives. I remember when the President was refusing to budge on his support for more tax cuts despite the evidence that the tax cuts he had pushed were just not doing the job, and it mirrored his recalcitrance on foreign policy, someone said about conservatives that if they start digging a hole, they will keep on digging it deeper rather than acknowledge they aren't getting anywhere.

Well, Republicans, keep on digging then. You may find half a dozen more survivalists hiding out in an abandoned missile silo in Montana stocked full of all those Y2K rations who will flock to your cause.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Comparing Hillary Clinton to John McCain-- and the contrast is stark.

I've decided to swear off of criticizing Hillary Clinton. That's because of not only the glee I've heard from the right every time a Democrat (especially Barack Obama) says something negative about her, but also because I want to remind readers of this blog that while Hillary Clinton is my last choice (for reasons I've enumerated several times recently) I also wrote several months ago why I will support her if she is the nominee. I won't go into the points I made in that post here (though I thought I made them very well,) but would like to instead compare side by side Hillary Clinton's major positions on issues linked here on her website with the same issues as viewed by current GOP frontrunner John McCain from his website, linked here.

On Iraq (since this issue has formed the root of why so many Democrats who consider ourselves progressive like myself are disappointed with Hillary):

Hillary Clinton: America is ready for a leader who will end the war in Iraq. Hillary's roadmap out of Iraq, the Iraq Troop Protection and Reduction Act of 2007, is a plan to end the war before the next president takes the oath of office. But if the Bush administration won't end the war, as president and commander in chief, Hillary will.

John McCain: John McCain believes that we must not fail in Iraq. Succeeding in the cause of helping the Iraqi people build a stable, secure, representative state is essential to achieving an enduring peace in a region of the world central to American prosperity and national security.

McCain is using exactly the same words as George Bush has been using for five years in this quote, and recently said it would be fine with him if America stayed in Iraq for a hundred years.

Health Care:

Hillary Clinton: America is ready for universal health care. Hillary has the vision and the experience to make it a reality. This is a battle Hillary has fought before -- and she has the scars to prove it. She knows better than anyone how to fight and build the political support to get the job done.

John McCain: His initial blurb said nothing substantive so I had to click on the 'read more,' where he gives the standard GOP lines about promoting competition and choice (which as we know is a red herring because hospitals provide practically no information about their price structures, certainly not in time to allow anyone to make an informed decision no matter how much research they do), tort reform, and some other blather. He does suggest developing a protocol for re-importation of drugs, but that is about the only thing he said that I somewhat could support. On the other hand he plans to revise the tax structure in a way that would in effect phase out employer-provided health insurance (which would leave people on their own and leave the people with the most health issues stuck without anyone who would sell them insurance at an affordable rate-- ironic coming from a cancer survivor.)


Hillary has a plan to help people who need help right now. John McCain proposes corporate tax cuts.

Hillary: For freedom of reproductive choice, energy independence and improving public schools.

McCain: For slashing spending (he's been against 'pork' for years, even when it does a lot of good) and praises NCLB and school 'choice' (which is a term that is traditionally used by backers of vouchers for private school tuition). The only time he ever hinted that he might support the right to an abortion was when a reporter asked him during the 2000 campaign what he would do if his own daughter had an unwanted pregancy. But he has consistently been against the right to reproductive freedom for women he's not related to.

I began supporting Richardson, and since he dropped out I've been moving steadily towards supporting Obama. But these reasons make it clear that Hillary Clinton, despite being my last choice among Democrats, is far, far better than what we will have if John McCain is ever elected President.

And what if the GOP nominee is not John McCain? Well, it's hard to see how Rudy or Mike or Mitt would be any better.

Oh, and just in case you need one more reason why we have to come together behind the nominee, even if it is Hillary: Do you really want to gamble that Justice Stevens' fragile heart (though a noble heart it has been) will hold out for another four years?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Seven years of the Bush economy

Yesterday marked seven years since George W. Bush took office. And one year from today someone else will take over and inherit a far different country than the one that President Bush took over on January 20, 2001.

In Biblical times (and more recently as apprenticeships) seven years was the standard period of servitude, and after seven years it was long enough to assess whether someone had done a good job or a poor one.

I could do a very broad post, touching on everything from war to crime and academic performance, but I will limit this post to looking at that most basic of issue, the economy (which ultimately is what everything else sooner or later rides on).

The fact of the matter is that today, on the seventh anniversay of President Bush's inauguration, the Bush record on the economy is just not good. Some years have been better or worse but let's just look at the whole.

Taking a look at some numbers:

On January 20, 2001 the Dow stood at 10,587.60, so where it is today represents an average yearly growth rate of just over 2%. In other words, the average boring, conservative bond fund outperformed the market average.

Or better yet, invest in foreign funds:

On January 20, 2001 it cost $0.9400 to buy one euro. Today it costs $ 1.4482 to buy one euro.

George W. Bush has presided over the creation of a net eight million jobs in seven years. Which means he will have to create twelve million more just this year just to catch up with his predecessor. Put another way, if the economy adds 200,000 jobs in a month that is now considered good news, while it was considered a mediocre month during the Clinton years.

On January 20, 2001 the spot price for a barrel of crude was $25.98. That has practically quadrupled in seven years. And it is with the deepest irony that one remembers the response during the 2000 election season to criticism that George Bush and Dick Cheney were both oil men was that some on the right suggested that oil men would understand the industry and know how to keep down energy prices for the rest of us.

The national debt has increased from $5.8 trillion to almost nine trillion dollars.

It is true that Bush has one more year to serve. But that is not very promising, with the most optimistic outlook for this year being only that we avoid a recession.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

This could only be a guy whose ambition is to be the next Tom DeLay

Dean Hrbacek, a Republican who is the mayor of Sugar Land, Texas and is running for the GOP nomination to run against Congressman Nick Lampson in the district that was once represented by Tom DeLay, is wearing some egg on his face because he sent out a mailer in which his face was attached to a photograph of another man's body. A man in a suit and tie whose frame was considerably thinner than Hrbacek who is, shall we say, a stout man.

HOUSTON — A mailer from a congressional candidate's campaign contains a photo of his head attached to an image of a different body that makes him look thinner.

The photo is presented as a true image of Dean Hrbacek, a Republican former mayor of Sugar Land. In reality, it is a computerized composite of Hrbacek's face and someone else's slimmer figure, in suit and tie, from neck to knee.

Hrbacek, a tax lawyer and accountant, did not immediately return a call to his campaign headquarters Friday by The Associated Press. He is seeking the nomination to run against Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson.

Campaign manager Scott Broschart acknowledged to The Houston Chronicle that the image is a fake. Hrbacek has been so busy that he had no time to pose for a full-length photo for the mailing, Broschart said.

Hmmm. That excuse does not hold up on further inspection. How long does it take to snap a photo? Less than a minute, even if you are posing. Abd certainly far less effort and time than it took to go to all the trouble of clipping the two photos and melding them together using a computer program. Or here is a thought-- most candidates who have a weight problem don't go for the full length photo to begin with. Or an even better thought-- go with the real photo and admit that he's a few pounds on the heavy side. People don't expect Congressmen to compete in the Olympic decathlon anyway.

Well, in any case if Mr. Hrbacek does win, then he will be off to a good start in representing the district that DeLay once did, misrepresenting the 'facts.'

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Forget evolution. Pope doesn't even believe in Astronomy.

Pope Benedict XVI has cancelled plans to give a speech at La Sapienza University in Rome.

The pontiff cancelled plans amid protests of a speech he gave in 1993 in which he called the trial and conviction of Galileo in 1633 for heresy over his observation that the earth was not the center of the universe (contradicting the doctrine of the medieval church on the subject) "reasonable and just" and suggested that the church back in the early 1600's had more reason on its side than Galileo.

I guess I'll quit worrying so much about creationists who want to censor my biology book. Now I'll have to start worrying about real fanatics, led by the Holy Father himself, who want to burn my physics book.

What comes next? Defending the 'reasonableness' of the Inquisition? Come to think of it, with the willingness of the Bush administration to justify torture, maybe as a matter of fact that will come next.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Trying to 'fix' the game in Vegas

The Nevada State Education Association, some of whose top leaders have endorsed Hillary Clinton (though the teachers' union is officially as yet uncommitted), has filed a suit attempting to block a number of caucuses which are scheduled to be held in casinos. The last-minute lawsuit was not filed until the culinary workers union endorsed Barack Obama. Most of the people expected to attend the caucuses in the casinos are members of the culinary workers' union, and with 60,000 members in the state their support could very well make the difference in the state, though the caucuses are open to any shift worker, whether they are casino employees or union members or not.

"The Democratic Party of Nevada has violated the principle of 'one person, one vote' by creating at-large precincts for certain caucus participants, based solely on the employment of such participants," the suit alleges...

The state party quickly dismissed the lawsuit. Going back to last spring, every presidential campaign was involved in setting up the unusual casino caucus sites while state party officials and the Democratic National Committee ironed out the details. "This is a fair, legal and proper way to choose delegates under established law and legal precedent that has been reviewed by attorneys....The time for comment or complaint has passed," the party said in a statement.

The [culinary workers'] union was more blunt, contending the arguments are only a political effort to muddy the waters in case Clinton loses. "It's strange [the suit] is coming after our endorsement," said D. Taylor, the secretary-treasurer of the local labor group, told the Washington Post in an interview last night after an Obama rally in his union hall.

He's right about that. I have no problem with filing a suit challenging the rules if the teachers' union thinks they are unfair, but then do so when there is still time to resolve the differences, not five days before the election. It's a bit like a team that is up by seven points in a football game with the other team on the one yard line and ten seconds left, going to the referee and asking for a rule change that a touchdown in the last ten seconds will only be worth four points.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why so many Democrats are moving beyond Clinton.

Having your hard drive crash and having to send your computer out for repairs does have a way of letting one think a bit and oberve the news from a different perspective. We do have a Mac that is not connected to the internet but my wife decided that it would be a lot more trouble to take it over here, hook it up to the internet and then unhook it and take it back to the room it is in once the repairs were completed.

I've been watching a bit of an unfolding story in the Democratic party. Since Hillary Clinton bounced back and won the New Hampshire primary over Barack Obama, it is Obama who seems to be on a tear, having won a string of endorsements (from the culinary workers union, a big deal in Nevada, just the day after the New Hampshire primary, followed by 2004 nominee John Kerry and today by our own Governor and arguably the highest profile female Governor in the nation, Janet Napolitano (who got her big break when she was appointed as U.S. Attorney for Arizona by Bill Clinton and has since been a friend of Hillary Clinton, but called Hillary on Thursday to say that while she still respects her that Napolitano felt that Obama was the best choice for Arizona, the Democratic Party and the United States.)

The bigger story here is about the soul of the Democratic party.

It is not about ideology. It is true, as I wrote in the last post, that Clinton certainly opened the door for a strong challenge from the left by her hawkish pro-Bush administration stance on the war and other ares where she has tilted towards the right, but let's be honest-- Democrats, even liberal Democrats, have been willing to vote for centrists from within our own ranks. Janet Napolitano is a prime example of that. For that matter, it is also not even about ideology in terms of our opponents: polls have consistently shown that Hillary Clinton has far higher negatives than even the most liberal of Democrats-- Republicans, and what is more important, independents don't like her because of the hyperpartisanship that whether fairly or not the Clintons engender (and which we've seen more of with the Bush administration.) That also has nothing to do with ideology (for example Bill Clinton, a DLC endorsed Democrat, ran a much more conservative administration than most Democrats would like and agreed with Republicans on a wide range of things, going along on everything from missile defense to signing the welfare reform bill to NAFTA.)

What it is about, is that people want to see something different. It does not matter to me whether Barack Obama is right about one specific item (though on the issue that matters most to me, his pledge to work towards getting us out of Iraq carries much more credibility than anything that Hillary Clinton says after supporing the war for so long), what matters to me is that he is a 'big-picture' kind of guy, of a type we've not seen in this age of pollsters, focus groups and minute parsing of 'swing' voters by organizations mostly headquartered in Washington.

And right now that's something we can use, a visionary who can bring people together, not a myopic, detail-oriented candidate who just thinks in terms of what is printed out on some report.

Finally, there is the matter of that Iran vote and a subsequent incident in Iowa. Hillary Clinton did have a chance to prove earlier this year that she had learned about greasing the skids for war, and vote against an aggressive resolution aimed at creating tension with Iran. Now, I'm not going to rehash the fact that Clinton voted for the resolution, which many in the anti-war movement were using a test to see if she had really learned anything from Iraq. What I'm going to point out is how tone-deaf Clinton has become. Not only did she completely miss how focused the left was on that particular vote but also, as I wrote in this post: Does Hillary understand that this is a nation sick of war? she answered a voter's question by suggesting that he was a plant (someone told him to ask a question about the Iran vote). Of course this was ironically not that long before it did turn out that as a matter of fact Clinton did have some questioners who her own staff people told what to ask. But as I wrote back then,

Referring to her recent vote in the Senate supporting the Bush administration in its attempts to get us into a military confrontation with Iran, as well as her 2002 vote in favor of going to war in Iraq and her continued refusal to admit being wrong about that vote, the attendee, Randall Rolph asked,

"Why should I support your candidacy, if it appears that you haven't learned from your past mistakes?"

Sen. Clinton's response was particularly concerning to me as a Democratic voter:

After defending the vote, Clinton finished by saying about the question, "somebody obviously sent it to you."

Rolph responded, "I take exception. This is my own research. Nobody sent it to me. I am offended that you would suggest that."

"Let me finish," Clinton answered, "I apologize. I just have been asked the very same question in three other places."

What concerned me then and concerns me now was not the specifics of the question, and not even the fact that she thought a legitimate questioner was a plant. it was how after being asked the same question three times, she could still underestimate the importance of it and how passionately a lot of people felt about that.

Obama may not be right about a lot of things. But one thing I think he can do-- he can tell if people are really concerned about an issue and address it.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The reason why I'm not voting for Hillary Clinton in the primary.

Let me quote from a comment I just put up on a post on Althouse in response to a post she put up in which Bill Clinton is bemoaning the fact perception that people are voting for Obama because he is younger than Hillary Clinton.

I wrote,

She doesn't get it. Doesn't get it at all. Neither does he.

Age has nothing to do with why so many Democratic primary voters don't want her. Neither does gender.

As a typical Democratic primary voter, let me spell it out:

Seven years ago, I was excited that Hillary Clinton became a Senator. I'd read some of her books, and I felt that she would be a progressive voice for moving things forward in the United States Senate.

Then came her voting record. She voted a lot like Joe Lieberman. NCLB, Patriot I and Patriot II, the Bankruptcy bill, and most importantly the Iraq war resolution. Then this year, she had a chance she'd learned her lesson about voting for the Iraq war when a resolution came up that appears to grease the skids for a war with Iran. She also voted for that.

Now, I am left with two possibilities.

1. She believes in this stuff. In that case, she is too conservative for me, and maybe she should move to the Republican party (since she's voted with them when it mattered.)

2. She voted that way because she a) was looking at how to run to the center, thinking about the general election of 2008 all along, b) took primary voters like me for granted, thinking we'd all just vote for her automatically, and c) we can assume more of the same when she takes office, that she will keep placating the right so she can appear centrist for the election of 2012.

Either way, I want someone who will stand up and fight for the things I believe in. Now granted, Obama isn't perfectm for example Clinton is right when she attacks him for having shifted to supporting the Patriot II Act (for the record I started out supporting Bill Richardson, and having endorsed him will still vote and work for him unless he drops out before my state votes on Feb. 5) but I feel that Obama much more reflects my passionately felt positions that does Hillary Clinton.

Isn't that what a Democratic primary is for anyway? I assume that the Republicans will pick someone who reflects what they want, not just someone who some pollster or focus group tells them might pick off a few votes from indecisive Democrats.

In other words, my vote was Hillary's to lose. Seven years ago she's had it. But during the past seven years, she's lost it.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Do you think they TRIED to make it look like Pikachu?

It eats. It poops. It looks like a Pokemon.

Its name is Yuki-taro.

Pat Robertson predicts a stock market crash. That means it's time to buy.

Well, America's favorite New Year's prognosticator, Preacher Pat, is back at it again.

Let's recall last year's prediction of a terrorist attack, possibly involving a nuclear weapon that would cause 'mass killings' in the U.S.

That follows Preacher Pat's May 2006 prediction about a tsunami hitting the United States by the end of the year.

In the past, he's made some really stupid statements, including saying that Ariel Sharon's stroke was a punishment from God for the Israeli pullout from Gaza in 2005 or suggesting that God's wrath will be visited upon the town of Dover, Pennsylvania as punishment for the citizens of Dover voting a bunch of creationists off of the school board. Still waiting on that one.

Earlier this year, he broke with many of his cultural conservative brethren and endorsed then-frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, just about the same time that Giuliani started to tank.

So in other words, Robertson's record on 'predictions' is distressingly poor, especially for someone who claims to have an open line to God.

So today he said that in 2008 there will be a recession in the United States, with a major stock market crash by 2010.

I'm not going to guess one way or the other about the recession, because I'd call that even money about now. You could predict that there will or that there won't and have a decent chance of being right. But his prediction of a stock market crash, together with his past record on these kinds of predictions tells me that there is only one thing to do: BUY!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

More troubling questions about the Bhutto assassination

The Pakistani government is raising a lot more questions than it is providing answers in the wake of the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Bhutto herself sent an e-mail to be released in the event of her assassination that blames Pakistan's leader, Pervez Musharrif, who she believed was behind blocking a request to have the FBI and Scotland Yard investigate a bombing at one of her rallies on October 18, and subsequent moves to reduce her security when she had asked for more.

It does seem very likely that the bombing was carried out (as claimed) by radical Islamists, almost certainly associated with al-Qaeda. I don't buy into the theory that some in Pakistan and a few in the United States have claimed that Pakistani security were directly involved and tried to make it look like al-Qaeda because 1. that ascribes to them a level of competence and sophistication that frankly they don't have; 2. it is hard to imagine Pervez Musharrif inspiring a suicide bomber to give up his life for the regime; and 3. it would be illogical for the Musharrif regime to do so because there are enough real Islamicists in Pakistan who wanted Bhutto dead that they would only need to take a step back and let them kill her.

It is this last possibility, however, which seems at least distressingly close to the most likely scenario. Bhutto was widely disliked and distrusted both by the Musharrif dictatorship and by Islamic radicals within the army itself, and that has been widely reported. There is no reason why they would have blocked outside agencies from investigating the October 18 blast unless there were something to hide. And to reduce security when she asked that it be increased seems inexplicable unless they were actually hoping that it would fail. There are reports that even the security that was provided, mainly local police, abandoned their posts as the rally last Thursday droned on longer than expected.

Most damning however is the set of contradictory reports regarding the cause of her death. Within thirty-six hours it went from bullet wounds to shrapnel and then to a report that she had bashed her head against a lever on the sunroof of her minivan after the explosion.

This may not seem important, but it is in Pakistan. To be killed while standing for what you believe in is seen as a martyr's death and is much more inspirational than to be killed in an accident. Martyrs hold a special place in the Islamic world and are valued as inspirational leaders in a way which western culture has trouble understanding.

For this reason, some had tried to portray it as her fault that she 'just happened to clumsily bash her own head while ducking while she was coincidentally being shot at' in order to deny her a martyr's death. That seeems odd to me, reminding me of the case in Belen, New Mexico some years ago when I lived there when a 21 year old thug was charged with murder after he had jumped on the chest and head of an 89 year old woman, who was pronounced dead at a hospital. Originally the diagnosis was that he ahd caused her death by crushing her windpipe, but then it turned out that she had died from a massive heart attack, which she apparently suffered moments before he landed on her windpipe, while he was still jumping on her chest. So his lawyer tried to get them to throw out the murder charge, arguing that she had died from the heart attack, which she coincidentally just happened to have while this guy was jumping on her chest and the prosecution couldn't prove that the two events were related. I don't remember how that one turned out, in fact I think I left the state before they ruled on the motion. But common sense dictates that he was responsible for her death, regardless how it happened, and the same kind of common sense is that Bhutto was assassinated no matter what the immediate cause of death was.

However, a videotape made of the assassination shows clearly that she was shot and fell back into the vehicle before the attacker blew himself up. That makes a huge difference because not only does it prove that she did indeed die specifically of wounds suffered by the gunshots (as people who were in the vehicle have been saying) but that the story put out by the government is simply a fabrication. For them to have said something like that is stupid in 2007 (or 2008) when it is virtually certain that at a public event like that there would be hundreds of video cameras, cell phones and other video recording devices. Like I said before though, competence is not their strong suit.
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