Wednesday, October 29, 2008

McCain mob threatens Obama counterdemonstrators.

I go to a lot of Democratic events. And at some of them there have been counterdemonstrators.

I remember going to listen to Bill Clinton speak at the University of New Mexico in 1992. And as it happened I ended up right in front of a group of pro-life demonstrators who were holding up a big sign calling Clinton a draft-dodger and a baby-killer. They were also quite vocal, although Clinton had a mike and they were some distance away so I doubt if anyone at the stage heard them, but I sure did.

I remember watching John Kerry when he made his whistle stop in Winslow in 2004. In the back of the crowd were two men holding up a 'Bush/Cheney' sign and who booed when Kerry was being introduced. Like everyone else, I chose to ignore them.

I remember also in 2004, Hillary Clinton was giving a speech at the Wild Horse resort near Chandler. On the way in, I passed a group of Bush supporters who were enthusiastically waving signs, and strategically placed to try and make people think that the right road to go down was one that led to the casino there (not the building where the speech was.)

But hey, that's America. We believe in freedom of speech, and as long as people don't actually try to disrupt a campaign event they are every bit as free to show their non-support of a candidate as others are to show their support.

Except, apparently at John McCain rallies like the one in Miami today. It seems like his supporters are willing to threaten violence and engage in mob mentality if anyone dares to show up and suggest that they are not for McCain.

From fivethirtyeight:

Tonight we'll be at the Obama-Clinton rally in Kissimmee, Florida, and we're breaking in from Miami, where John McCain just concluded his "Joe the Plumber" rally at Everglades Lumber.

After the rally, we witnessed a near-street riot involving the exiting McCain crowd and two Cuban-American Obama supporters. Tony Garcia, 63, and Raul Sorando, 31, were suddenly surrounded by an angry mob. There is a moment in a crowd when something goes from mere yelling to a feeling of danger, and that's what we witnessed. As photographers and police raced to the scene, the crowd elevated from stable to fast-moving scrum, and the two men were surrounded on all sides as we raced to the circle.

The event maybe lasted a minute, two at the most, before police competently managed to hustle the two away from the scene and out of the danger zone. Only FiveThirtyEight tracked the two men down for comment, a quarter mile down the street.

"People were screaming 'Terrorist!' 'Communist!' 'Socialist!'" Sorando said when we caught up with him. "I had a guy tell me he was gonna kill me."

Asked what had precipitated the event, "We were just chanting 'Obama!' and holding our signs. That was it. And the crowd suddenly got crazy."

Garcia told us that the man who originally had warned the two it was his property when they had first tried to attend the rally with Obama T-shirts was one of the agitators. Coming up just before the scene started getting out of hand, the man whispered in Garcia's ear, "I'm gonna beat you up the next time I see you." Garcia described him for us: "a big stocky man wearing a tweed jacket." He used hand motions to emphasize this was a large guy. We went back to look for the gentleman twenty minutes after the incident but didn't find him.

The two Obama supporters had attempted to attend the event with tickets printed from the McCain website. Both were clad in Obama T-shirts, Sorando in a blue "Obama '08" shirt, and Garcia in a white "Obama-Biden" shirt. They were told that the event was being held on private property and that wearing the shirts or carrying the signs they would be asked to either remove the shirts or not attend.

For an hour during the rally, the two had stood across the street from the lumberyard on public property holding yard signs. Some drivers honked in support, and others honked in disapproval. When the rally ended and the crowd spilled out, the disturbance began.

Note that they did obey the request to vacate the private property, and were situated on the street, which by law is public access (anyone can stand there and demonstrate in other words.)

Well, Tony had something else to say to the man who had threatened him:

Garcia had a message for his stocky, tweed-clad threatener. "You tell that guy he can find Tony Garcia down at the West Dade library every day from 7 to 7 helping people early vote. I'll be there from 1 to 5 on Saturday and Sunday. You tell him if he wants to kick my ass that's where he can find me. Come beat me up."

Not thirty seconds later, John McCain drove by in his SUV and waved at Garcia on the sidewalk, who was happily waving his Obama sign.

But this is something that the McCain supporters don't get. Maybe Tony Garcia got under their skin by using his Constitutional right to counterdemonstrate at a McCain rally. But what else is he going to do this weekend? Darn right, he's volunteering to help people vote.

There are millions of Tony Garcias in the country, people who want change and whether they are as outspoken as he is or not, are going to do their part to make it happen.

We are all Tony Garcia.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Obama health care plan is about getting people insured, not about running hospitals

In my last post, about health care, I got a critique in which the poster pointed out that the hospital that had kept an injured and uninsured woman waiting for nineteen hours was a county hospital, and then suggested that the Obama plan would put all hospitals under government control. I responded by pointing out that privately run hospitals have the same kinds of problems (I referenced, for example this post about a person who died after more than a day in the waiting room of a privately managed (though government owned) hospital.

However there is a far more fundamental misconception on the part of people who like to bash the Obama plan. The misconception is that it involves some kind of nationalization of the health care industry. It does not. There is nothing at all in the Obama plan about taking over the private hospitals and making them part of the government.

The Obama health care plan is about insurance. Right now, most hospital emergency rooms have a two tiered system for serving customers. Those who have insurance stand first in line. The uninsured are the equivalent of 'stand by,' being seen only when and if there are no insured customers waiting to be seen.

Given this reality, and the fact that there are around fifty million uninsured Americans (this is more than the population of California) the Obama health care plan is pretty basic-- it wants to make sure that everyone has access to insurance they can afford. The plan does achieve this goal by heavily subsidizing health insurance that is offered to people who might otherwise not be able to afford it-- be they too poor to be able to afford it, or be they cancer survivors or other people at high risk who might otherwise not be able to purchase insurance.

The program is voluntary for adults. It is mandatory that parents purchase insurance for their kids. There is precedent for this though-- we require drivers to purchase car insurance so they are covered against any damage they may inflict upon other drivers by their own negligence, so it is hardly irresponsible for us to require that they purchase insurance to cover their own kids (not doing so would indeed be negligent.) But under the Obama plan, if they insist they don't want any inurance, they don't have to buy any for themselves. Adults have every right to be stupid, and the Obama plan recognizes this. But they don't have the right to by their stupidity endanger other people (especially children, theirs or anyone else's.)

Incidentally, there is one other industrialized country-- Japan-- which has achieved universal coverage via private insurance with a partial government subsidy. And the Japanese have among the longest lifespans in the world, so it seems to work pretty well.

But to jump from Obama's plan to help people purchase insurance, to arguing that Senator Obama plans to take over and run private hospitals, is ridiculous and represents the kind of paranoid thinking that seems to have hijacked otherwise reasonable people on the right.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Woman gets a hospital bill-- for not being seen.

Amber Milbrodt broke a bone in her leg playing volleyball and made it to the emergency room at Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

She waited for nineteen hours to see a doctor and was never seen, and so she finally left in disgust and still in pain. She did finally get some attention from the hospital though: a bill for $162.

She spent all night and the next day in that position, waiting to see a doctor.

Finally, she gave up and hobbled out in disgust.

Two weeks after her Sept. 24 visit, she received a bill from Parkland for $162.

"It should have been more like them paying me for having to sit in the emergency room for 19 hours," she says. "That's just sad. It's not proper. It's almost not moral, what I went through."

Parkland officials, already on the defensive about wait times after a man died in the ER following a 19-hour wait last month, say the charge was appropriate because a nurse spent time assessing Ms. Milbrodt for triage.

I've never been to the ER and had a nurse take my vital signs that lasted more than a few minutes.

It is appalling that she would have to wait this long in pain and still not be seen, but it is even more appalling that they would have the gall to send her a bill for it.

And we wonder why people in most other developed countries live longer than we do (well, I don't wonder, but doctrinaire conservatives who continue to stick their fingers in their ears will continue to wonder or come up with torturous logic to try and explain it all away).

It's time for the Obama health care plan. Now.

rubber stamping some more changes to the endangered species act

The Bush administration is trying to rush through a change in the administration of the endangered species act, giving themselves 32 hours to go through over 200,000 comments they've received regarding their proposals to remove greenhouse gases from the list of harmful byproducts of any proposed new construction, and also to no longer accept input from federal biologists in making endangered species related decisions.

This means they intend to read, evaluate and process nearly two comments per second before making the changes (and they will make the changes, even having a comment period at all is only to comply with the letter of the law.)

One more way the Bushies can flip the rest of the world the proverbial finger before leaving office.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Rightist rhetoric makes a disturbing turn into their conscious thinking.

It's a funny way that those on the right define 'American.'

Last week, Sarah Palin made the comment that she thinks that some parts of the country are 'more American' than others. The exact quote, made in North Carolina last week is that she praised areas where she was as the, "pro-America areas of this great nation"

That sentiment is not confined to Palin however.

On MSNBC's hardball, Chris Matthews asked Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann about Palin's comments and about Senator Obama in particular. Not only did Bachmann agree and say that Obama may have 'anti-American views,' but she went farther, calling on the media to look at members of Congress to "find out, are they pro-America or anti-America."

Then Republican congressman Robin Hayes of North Carolina last week said that liberals hate real Americans that work and accomplish and achieve and believe in God. Hayes originally denied saying that until he was confronted by an audiotape of the speech.

It's even gone to the state level. McCain advisor Nancy Pfotenhauer said that Northern Virginia is 'not the real Virginia.' She said that "I can tell you that the Democrats have just come in from the District of Columbia and moved into northern Virginia....But the rest of the state, 'real Virginia,' if you will, I think will be very responsive to Senator McCain’s message "

This view shows the elitism of the right. After years of listening to cranks on the radio scream that anyone who disagrees with their narrow view of America is actually anti-American and trying to destroy, not change, America-- this view has permeated the minds of otherwise rational people. They actually believe (or why would this attitude come out four times within a week) that liberals or anyone else who has a vision for America that doesn't agree with their doctrinaire conservative view is actually anti-American, or at least not sufficiently pro-American.

To some degree this is nothing new. The GOP has regularly been questioning the patriotism of people who don't happen to agree with their schemes since at least the days of McCarthy and Nixon. But the offhanded and casual ways in which these comments have rolled off the tongue recently makes me think that this whole way of thinking (i.e., 'traitor out to destroy the country' replacing 'American with whom I have a disagreement') has reached the point of being taken for granted by people in positions of responsibility on the right, that they sound like Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage without even thinking about it.

Well, I have to tell you something, jerkfusses on the right.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see people in AMERICA be able to go to a doctor without being afraid of going broke if they get sick.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see a country where when people do have to go to the hospital the focus is on getting them well, not on whether they have insurance.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see our military ready to respond immediately to any challenge, not bogged down in a stupid war that we started years ago in a small country thousands of miles away.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see war-- as costly and ugly as it is-- considered only as a last, not as a first, resort to future international problem spots.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see a country where people feel safe from their own government, and don't have to worry that someone is listening in on their phone conversations.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see the land that we live on, the air that we breathe and the water that we drink preserved and kept clean for the next generation of AMERICANS.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I don't want to see any young person who is capable of going to college and earning a degree denied that opportunity because they are too poor to be able to afford it.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want working people in AMERICA to feel secure in their jobs.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see the degreed professionals that we hire to prepare our own kids to go to college, to earn enough to send their own kids to college.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see people staying in their homes, not moving into homeless shelters in record numbers because their homes are being foreclosed on and their credit is too poor to even qualify for a rental contract.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see my country respected-- not just feared but respected and trusted and listened to again in the world.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see us take the lead again in scientific research.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see us develop renewable sources of energy so that we don't need to use all that oil anymore (and therefore, not have to pay for it.)

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see us go back to the budget surplus we enjoyed a few years ago.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see other Americans, in Louisiana and Mississippi, get the help rebuilding their homes that was promised but more than three years later has still never been delivered.

Because I'm an AMERICAN, I want to see a country in which we quit trying to divide people against each other and start looking at how we can all work together for a better AMERICA.

Patriotism is not blindly following your leaders. It is questioning them and where necessary opposing them.

Memo to the right: there are more than 300 million Americans spread out all over the country. So quit trying to claim that only those who happen to support you are 'real Americans' or are 'pro-America. We are all Americans.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Does this photo reflect the way things are really going?

Someone snapped this photo as Obama and McCain were walking off stage from last night's debate.

It may be metaphorical, but it looks like McCain is desperately trying to get a grip on Obama and pull him back to where McCain is.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Spending so fast we can even bust the national debt clock ahead of schedule.

This week the national debt clock in New York exceeded the number of digits it was designed for (picture.) There is now a '1' reading in the place reserved for the dollar sign while someone has glued a handmade dollar sign next to the 1.

The sign is maintained by a private foundation and was originally put in place almost two decades ago when the national debt was around two trillion dollars. It is due to be replaced in 2009 with a new sign, presumably one in which the ten trillions place will be represented by a digit. During the late 1990's when the nation regularly ran a budget surplus, the clock was even turned off for a couple of years (I guess it's not programed to run backwards.)

When President Bush was inaugurated in 2001, the national debt was $5.8 trillion. So in his seven plus years he has nearly doubled it.

That's the price of 'fuzzy math' (as he accused Al Gore of.) He thinks he is being a 'fiscal conservative' because he can cut a million or two here and there for the national parks, but has had no problem with tossing around trillions like they were play money (a trillion in tax cuts, a trillion for Iraq and another trillion in corporate welfare for the pharmaceutical industry courtesy of the prescription drug 'benefit' that Bush and Congressional Republicans passed in 2003.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The only post of the campaign in which I defend John McCain

Today John Lewis (D-GA), a veteran of the civil rights struggle who marched with Dr. King and was beaten bloody by police during non-violent protests in the 1960's, attacked John McCain and compared his attacks on Barack Obama to 'playing with fire' and then went on compare McCain himself to George Wallace.

As much as I respect rep. Lewis and all that he has accomplished, I have to disagree with that. As I alluded to in my last post, McCain finally stepped in himself to try and end some of the more outrageous attacks and was booed by his own crowd for doing so.

That isn't to say that there aren't some obdurate racists among John McCain's supporters. There most certainly are.

And Lewis, in saying that McCain is 'playing with fire' was right to refer to the fact that the McCain campaign in order to gin up the Republican 'base' has sometimes failed to confront some of their more extremist supporters.

However, I do not personally believe that McCain is comparable to George Wallace, who was the face and the personification of segregation during the most turbulent days of the Civil Rights movement.

Obama is significantly ahead of McCain right now, and it has nothing to do with race and everything to do with the fact that McCain has nothing to offer but the worn-out and failed policies of George W. Bush. People already know that hasn't worked, so rather than keep at it for four more years they are looking to vote for something different. It's just that simple.

I don't blame McCain for trying to win the election (after all he too is running for President.) And I know that politics can get a little rough at times. But Lewis' statement should be repudiated because it's not true. McCain is not George Wallace. McCain is just wrong, that's all. Maybe comparing him to Herbert Hoover would be more apt.

Friday, October 10, 2008

McCain booed at McCain rally-- for calling Obama a 'decent person'

Today things got way out of hand for Senator McCain.

In recent weeks he's tried to stir up his crowd and get them enthused by leveling a variety of charges against Barack Obama. Of course he's had plenty of accomplices in stirring up the GOP faithful to intense feelings of animosity towards the junior Senator from Illinois-- everyone from hotheaded talk show hosts to shadowy 'independent' groups who have done their best to convince everyone that if Obama is elected then he will begin the jihad against Christian Americans as soon as he takes away everyone's guns so they can't defend themselves.

So today in a townhall meeting with supporters in Lakeville, Minnesota, some of them urged him to get more negative and personal in his attacks on Senator Obama. And then they booed their own candidate when he complemented his opponent.

"If you want a fight, we will fight," McCain said. "But we will be respectful. I admire Sen. Obama and his accomplishments." When people booed, he cut them off.

In a rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin,

He had drawn boos with his comment: "I have to tell you, he is a decent person and a person that you do not have to be scared of as president of the United States."

Things are falling apart for the GOP. I've never heard of a major party Presidential candidate getting booed by his own supporters, at his own rally.

I can understand their frustration. For years some GOP strategists have known they were on the wrong side of a demographic divide, with a new generation (which a few years ago was defined as people under 25, then as people under 30, now as people in their twenties and thirties) leaning heavily towards the Democrats. This has been crystallized by the Iraq war (it is this generation which has been asked to sacrifice, and many if not most know a friend or family member who has fought in Iraq or Afghanistan while the GOP President hasn't even bothered to raise taxes on other generations to pay for the war-- meaning that the debt so incurred will also be passed onto the younger generation-- and many are resentful of that fact; I know some who feel this way, that their generation has been used, personally.) Other issues such as college aid, jobs and GOP cultural intolerance have also helped drive many younger people towards the Democratic party. Also, a lot of 'millenials' really only remember only two Presidents-- Clinton and Bush. They remember that when Clinton was the President people had jobs and Republicans tried to impeach him for sexual indiscretion (yes, I know that there were other issues but in a nutshell that is how it is perceived by most young people.) They've watched Bush as President, with a compliant Congress for most of it, and watched him go to war in Iraq instead of keeping after Osama bin Laden (they most certainly do remember 9/11), they have seen nothing actually get done about Katrina and they've watched the economy tank. Maybe in some cases Democrats have warts out of all this but for people who have paid attention for say the past 15 or 20 years (in which case they may also remember another President Bush who went to war with Iraq and fumbled on the economy) Republican leadership has been a failure, period. In fact, the youngest voters this year were born during the first Bush administration and may not even remember Clinton all that well. But polls show that overwhelmingly they favor Obama and other Democrats because they've seen enough of George W. Bush that the large majority have figured out they don't like him.

Another case in which the Republicans have ended up on the wrong side of a demographic divide is immigration. The GOP's suicidal focus on bashing immigrants has not won them a single seat in Congress, the Senate or a Governorship. In 2006 though it probably cost them at least two seats in Congress (one or possibly two in Arizona and one in Texas) as Hispanics, a demographic that in 2004 went 40% for President Bush, reacted with revulsion to the immigrant bashing and went only 20% GOP for Congress in 2006. John McCain is probably the best candidate the Republicans could have nominated to appeal to Hispanics but the truth is they've driven away a lot of culturally conservative, Christian, patriotic, hardworking voters who they should have been able to appeal to. In many cases Hispanics have relatives on both sides of the border, so GOP ideas like a border fence and requiring a passport to enter and leave the U.S. from Mexico have soured many Hispanics on the GOP (and I'm not even getting into racial profiling here.) Republicans like to point to polls showing that a majority of Americans favor tighter controls on immigration. That may be true but for hardly any is it a defining issue in a campaign. In contrast, the number of Hispanics whose own lives or the lives of their family is directly affected by it is much larger and for many of them it is a defining issue.

At the same time the bitter fruits of GOP economic policy have helped drive many working people, even those who had supported Bush, back to the Democrats. The GOP tried to take some hope from the fact that most of them supported Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama during this year's primaries. True enough, but now that the party (including Hillary) is pulling together behind Obama the Republicans are finding that the majority of the working people are now backing him too. Any suggestion that they might stick with the GOP because of God, guns, gays or similar types of 'red-meat' issues that have sometimes helped the Republican candidate in the past evaporated on Sunday, Sept. 14 (that was the day that Lehman Brothers bank failed, setting off the current nonstop economic drubbing that is affecting or likely will soon affect everyone's life for the worse.) Remember we've had thirty years of tax cuts, so-called "trickle down" and deregulation-- so these voters are smart enough to know that the fruit we have today is the result of these policies.) Instructive in categorizing the votes of working people is a new poll out in West Virginia. In the heavily Democratic state, which Hillary Clinton won by an enormous margin over Barack Obama and which Obama tried to downplay during the primaries by only visiting once (and he's not been back since) the new poll shows Obama opening up an eight point margin over McCain. That's pretty good for a state that he almost seemed to not want, not visiting, not even talking about and a state which went by a significant margin for Bush in 2004. McCain may pick off the occasional Hillary fanatic who refuses to ever vote for Obama, but it is clear that by and large the white, working class voters (West Virginia is a state where they predominate) who supported Hillary are now supporting Obama.

The personal attacks and smears (usually a GOP specialty) aren't working very well this year either.

So I can understand Republicans' frustration. Given the growth in the numbers and power of the millenial generation (and some late Gen-X'ers who exhibit some millenial outlook) and the decline in Republican voters (both those who have left the party over the past several years and the fact that on average Republican voters tend to be members of older generations than Democratic voters and therefore-- to be brutally blunt but harshly accurate-- have been dying at a faster rate than Democrats) to the point where they are a clear minority of the electorate it now seems as though the 2004 model won't work for the GOP. Even if the base is energized (as Palin was supposed to and for the most part has done) there just aren't enough Republicans anymore.

After the last time the economy looked this bad the GOP was in the wilderness for a generation (and it might have lasted longer than that if Ike hadn't come out as a Republican and provided them with their first really popular candidate since Teddy Roosevelt). Given the history of the two-party system I have no doubt that the GOP will eventually re-tool and figure out a way to get ahead on some issues that will come up in the future. But they will have to re-tool. The old deregulatory, tax-cuts-will-fix-any-problem, free market culturally restrictive conservative party that keeps looking backwards to Reagan for answers represents the Republican model that no longer appeals to enough Americans to win very many elections.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Sarah Palin way to avoid trouble: investigate yourself and discover you are innocent

Sarah Palin seems to have figured out an all-new way to dodge any negative or damaging conclusions in a report due tomorrow: investigate yourself and then declare yourself exonerated.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Trying to head off a potentially embarrassing state ethics report on GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, campaign officials released their own report Thursday that clears her of any wrongdoing.

Sen. John McCain's running mate is the subject of a legislative investigation into whether she abused her power as governor by firing her public safety commissioner. The commissioner, Walter Monegan, says he was dismissed in July for resisting pressure from Palin's husband, Todd Palin, and numerous top aides to fire state trooper Mike Wooten, Palin's former brother-in-law.

The move came hours after the state Supreme Court refused to halt the ethics investigation.

Lawmakers were expected to release their own findings Friday. Campaign officials have yet to see that report — the result of an investigation that began before she was tapped as McCain's running mate — but said the investigation has falsely portrayed a legitimate policy dispute between a governor and her commissioner as something inappropriate.

Keep in mind that this probe, begun by a Republican-led legislature back in July when Monegan was fired, was originally supposed to be completed and a report due October 31. The date was actually moved ahead three weeks for the benefit of Palin and McCain-- so that it wouldn't be released four days before the Presidential election. In spite of this, Palin and officials in her administration, who had cooperated with the probe initially spent weeks refusing to cooperate after she was tabbed as John McCain's running mate.

So, apparently afraid of what the report might say tomorrow about whether Palin used the power of her elected office to try and settle a petty family squabble, Palin and the McCain campaign actually investigated this themselves and are now issuing a report clearing Palin.

What a novel concept! Maybe using this as a precedent, McCain will, if elected, allow people accused of crimes to conduct the investigation themselves. Using the Palin-McCain standard for investigations, O.J. Simpson should have been allowed to run the investigation into his Las Vegas hotel room holdup himself. He should have been allowed to collect his own evidence, interview his own witnesses and expect the court and the jury to accept his own report instead of the police report.

This so-called 'report' by the McCain-Palin campaign could be called a whitewash, but that would do a disservice to Tom Sawyer, Richard Nixon and anyone else who has ever been associated with the term, 'whitewash.' It is a fraud and a dupe.

Really, publishing a report you wrote yourself, hoping people will read your report instead of the official one. How stupid do they think we are?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Nothing new to tell me how John McCain's plan would be any different from what got us here

What really stuck out to me from last night's debate is that in the face of the global economic crisis, Senator McCain couldn't suggest anything other than tax cuts (mainly oriented towards the wealthy) and his stale old economic plan that looks almost indistiguishable from George Bush's economic plan.

If tax cuts were the secret to prosperity then you'd think after the $1.3 trillion Bush tax cut plan that was passed in March 2001, we'd all be flying high by now. I guess you can judge how high you are flying (AIG execs attending their taxpayer funded 'retreat' and others with golden parachutes excepted, of course.) We will be paying for the Bush tax cuts for generations to come.

But in fact, even during the most prosperous years of the Bush administration 200,000 jobs created in a month was considered 'good.' But that was less than the monthly average during the Clinton years. So let's get this straight-- the best that George Bush's economy could do anytime during his term was below Clinton's average.

And Senator Obama was right-- real incomes have gone down. He offers a different plan, one that is oriented towards making sure that ordinary people have what they need to survive, whether it is help with their mortgages or whether it is health insurance they can afford.

Some may call that socialism. So be it. Call it what you want, but it's obvious that after trying conservatism and massive tax cuts for eight years and seeing where that led us, maybe a dose of European-style socialism doesn't sound all that bad anymore. They are having the economic crisis in Europe like they are having it here (inevitable in a global economy) but at least in Europe nobody is afraid they might get sick and not be able to afford the doctor.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Here it comes

Remember a few weeks ago when a McCain campaign advisor said that this year's campaign would be about 'personalities, not issues?'

And it began to be, with a flurry of negative ads by the McCain campaign, and misleading and irrelevant attacks on Senator Obama (i.e. claiming that the timeworn phrase, 'lipstick on a pig' was actually a sexist attack on Sarah Palin.)

Then we've had two weeks of the worst economic news since the Depression, and the focus was forcibly ripped back onto issues.

Now that the rescue plan has passed though the McCain campaign has wasted no time in saying they will be going back to the negative ad campaign.

Specifically, having used up Jeremiah Wright and milked the 'muslim' theme for all it is worth they intend to concentrate on Obama's past associations with disgraced fundraiser Tony Rezko and former Weatherman Bill Ayres. Never mind that when Rezko knew Obama he had not been convicted of anything, nor that Obama's associations with Ayres are at best of the 'acquaintance' variety and mostly occurred years in the past before Obama had any reason to know anything about Ayers' past, they intend to Willie Hortonize the campaign (former GOP operative Lee Atwater once bragged that he would have Mike Dukakis 'married' to murderer Willie Horton by the end of the campaign, and at least in the political sense, he did.)

In fact, the GOP are masters of pesonal attacks and distortions (does the term, 'swift-boat' raise any flags?) So we knew this was coming.

But that doesn't mean their campaign tactics have to work. There are two reasons to think they won't.

The first is that the issues this year are just plain too big. In 2004 they were plenty big (and Kerry was leading in the polls throughout the summer) but with the help of the 'swifties' the Bush campaign was able to sufficiently polarize the electorate to help their man across the finish line. But this year, after four more years of Bush failures, the issues are fundamentally huge. Rescue package or no, another Great Depression is staring us right in the face. Our army is still dangerously overextended, still fighting two wars at once and we now face a resurgent Russia to add to the same challenges that we faced in 2004.

The second is that the Obama campaign appears to be ready to respond to this crap. That makes a huge difference. The common theme between the Dukakis and Kerry campaigns is that they chose not to respond until it was too late. In contrast, Bill Clinton (who the GOP didn't even have to look for questionable associations, they had plenty on the candidate himself) was the master of the counterattack, and when he was negatively attacked, his campaign was able to throw it back, and harder (generally within hours or even minutes of the attack so it got into the same news story.) Obama has already pointed out that McCain 'plans to turn the page away from the issues and towards negative attacks' even before the first ones hit the airwaves.

Make no mistake. The Republicans are desperate to win the Presidency this year. They know very well that the failure called neo-conservatism that manifested itself in the 2006 congressional elections may well prevent the party that just two years ago had total control of the government from regaining Congress for at least a generation. Democrats are poised to make huge gains in the Senate. There is even an outside chance they could get to the sixty votes needed to prevent the GOP from even using the filibuster but even if they don't it seems likely that the GOP will be effectively prevented from using that tactic unless they can convince moderate Republican Senators like Arlen Specter or Olympia Snowe to suddenly become such fierce partisans that they would go along with filibusters designed to do nothing other than derail the Democrats (unlikely IMO that they would do that very often.) Democrats will almost certainly increase, maybe even substantially increase their margin in the House, probably by enough so that they could even survive the defection of some 'blue dog' Democrats on key legislation and still push through a liberal agenda.

So there is only one path the GOP has to block what they would see as the ultimate doomsday scenario: having a Republican in the White House, who would use his veto pen to stifle a wholesale rush towards (for example) withdrawl from Iraq, universal health care and tax rates where the wealthy pay their fair share. They still haven't given up on gaining a consrvative majority on the Supreme Court but that certainly can only happen with a Republican President (even though he'd have to nominate someone who could get past a Democratic Senate.) Having even lame-duck Bush in the White House has stifled Democratic efforts to do a lot of things, ranging from ending the Iraq war to providing health care for children, so the GOP is now going to put all its resources behind getting John McCain there. And to do it they will smear, distort and engage in the politics of personal destruction against Barack Obama.

But don't despair. Those politics can be defeated (as Bill Clinton proved) and it's the only thing they have left anymore.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

God Bless, Joe

Joe Biden has abruptly cancelled his campaign appearances tonight and tomorrow to be with his wife and her mother.

Bonnie Jacobs, Biden's mother in law is in a hospice in Pennsylvania and is reported to be very ill. David Waid, a spokesman for Biden put out a statement advising that Biden has suspended campaigning to be with his wife, mother in law and the rest of his family at this time.

We are keeping Senator Biden and his family in our thoughts and prayers.

UPDATE: Apparently Bonnie Jacobs has passed away. Best thoughts and wishes for Jill Biden and the family.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Too cute by half

The first thing that Sarah Palin said at last night's debate was to Joe Biden, "Hey, can I call you Joe?"

Certainly that fit her 'folksy' outlook better than if she'd used 'Senator Biden,' though at a time when people are looking for knowlege and breadth of understanding about the myriad issues facing America today I'm not sure if 'folksy' is what they want. We've had eight years of 'folksy,' (remember that supporters of President Bush bragged about him being a 'C' student?) Where has it gotten us? Into a very, very tough spot, that's where.

But I was waiting for a specific 'Joe' line, and it came towards the end of the debate.

Palin responded to something Biden had said with, "Say it ain't so, Joe."

For all but the oldest of baseball fans, the zinger there was lost. But it's one of the most famous sayings to come out of an awful situation.

The 1919 Chicago White Sox, led by their star, "Shoeless Joe" Jackson (considered by many baseball historians to be the second greatest player of his day, after Ty Cobb) won the American league pennant and were favored to win the World Series. Gamblers bought off eight members of the team, including Jackson, paying them money to lose the series on purpose. And sure enough, they did lose. The next year the plot fell apart. As Jackson left the Federal Courthouse, the story is told that a young fan, who had always idolized Jackson and looked up to him as a role model, went up to the star with tears in his eyes and pleaded, "Say it ain't so, Joe." Of course the great Joe Jackson could only hang his head in shame as he knew he could not speak those three simple words.

Maybe in ninety years, Mark McGwire's "I'm not here to talk about the past," will be similarly enshrined in America's lexicon of phrases whose original meaning is slowly being lost, but somehow I doubt it. It's hard to imagine heartbreak in a Senate subcommittee the same way as it is to imagine it in a ten year old boy.

So what was Palin up to by alluding to baseball's most painful moment of the past century? And yes, even though it happened before virtually anyone alive today can remember I rank the 'Black Sox scandal' as a peculiarly painful moment in the history of baseball ahead of the tragic and untimely deaths of stars Lou Gehrig, Roberto Clemente and Thurman Munson, the ugly and horrible treatment that was accorded to Jackie Robinson all through the National League (and which came back to life though not so intensely and echoed again a quarter century later for Henry Aaron), the Dodgers leaving Brooklyn, the Pete Rose ban, the cancellation of the 1994 World Series and the recent 'roid rage' scandals. All painful moments for baseball, but none so painful as the Black Sox scandal. Apparently Palin wanted to suggest something deeper than just "I think you're wrong about that, Senator." Viscerally the pain from the first time that phrase was uttered still lingers, even among people who aren't quite sure why it should hurt-- but it does.

Not coincidentally, Barack Obama is from the south side of Chicago-- White Sox territory.
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