Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Goat Herders' Kids Know About Foxes. Hillary, Not So Much.

UPDATE, SUPER TUESDAY, FEB. 5 2008: Hillary Clinton -- who attended Fox News' tenth anniversary party, for whom Rupert Murdoch threw a campaign fundraiser, and who's the only leading Democratic Presidential candidate violating the informal boycott of Fox News' slanted talking head shows -- now is challenging Obama to debate her -- on, surprise, surprise, Fox News. (Hat tip: Kos.)

Take money from the man who helped smear your husband and urged his impeachment; give aid and comfort to neoconservatives' main propaganda outlet by appearing on it, helping it appear "fair and balanced"; and now challenge your more progressive opponent to a debate moderated by conservatives who secretly have reasons to support you, on the ultimate conservative home ground. That's really helpful to the party, Hillary. You're really standing on principle. I'm so glad to hear you say that you're a progressive who will challenge the Washington establishment and how this campaign is all about ideas, not your greed for power. Murdoch bought a hell of a lot of Senator -- and maybe President -- for his money!


One recurring theme on media- oriented liberal blogs (and some Air America shows) is the need for Democrats to simply decline to appear on Fox News' talking head shows. Fox slants these supposedly "fair and balanced" discussions against the Democrat in everything from the questions posed, to interrupting and playing "gotcha" with Democrats more than with Republicans, to the time the hosts and producers allow each guest to speak, to the post-discussion post-mortem.

You can't win in that setup -- so the best remedy is to go on strike, ie, for ALL Democrats to simply refuse Fox's invitations. Fox can't even pretend to be "balanced" if the left scale is empty, can it? All there'd be is some conservative bloviating into empty air, which the network knows drives viewers away in droves. Imagine "Hannity and Colmes" without that milquetoast Colmes pretending to represent the best the left can offer, and you see what I mean.

Now, middle-rank Dems fighting for their political lives are likely to seize any opportunity to get airtime, so the boycott isn't likely to be absolute -- but the front-ranking ones, at least, should be able to muster the backbone to "just say no", right?


Fox's flagship Sunday-morning talking heads show is Chris Wallace's "Fox News Sunday." For some indication of how conservative that show is, recall that before Wallace, Tony Snow anchored it -- before leaving to become Bush's press secretary.

Of the three leading Democratic Presidential candidates, two have declined to appear on "Fox News Sunday" -- but the third accepted.

Any guesses who's who? Might it, perhaps, be the candidate who attended Fox News' anniversary party and (separately) been thrown a fundraiser by Rupert Murdoch? You know, the one who voted for the Iraq war and still has never recanted, who started her (oops - gender-based spoiler alert!) campaign already "running to the middle"? (And by "started her campaign" I'm referring to the day after this candidate's husband passed his expiration date -- I mean, was elected to his final term -- and she began planning her own ascension to the throne.)

You guessed it: Hillary Clinton has appeared on "Fox News Sunday." Barack Obama and John Edwards, to their credit, haven't, and poor Chris is all upset about it:

“I think the Democrats are damn fools [for] not coming on Fox News,” Wallace said. “And my guess is that once you get a nominee, they probably will come on, because they know that we get a lot of voters they are going to need if they are going to win the election.”

o far, Wallace has interviewed Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson; both Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. Edwards have declined.

I will admit -- being fair and balanced and all -- that Hillary whupped Wallace's butt in that interview. But still, the fact that she even appeared gave Wallace a chance to put up biased graphics about the cost of health care and to underscore the "Democrats always raise taxes" meme etc., and, again, allowed the network to promulgate the false perception that it delivers serious news rather than propaganda.

So isn't "who appeared on Fox" a trivial thing? Sure. But one that nicely illustrates what the candidates stand for, as well.

P.S. to Lucretia, per her comment to an earlier post: I was a Deaniac, too. I'm not head over heels in love with Obama: there are plenty of posts here like this one wishing he hadn't supported Lieberman over Ned Lamont in the Connecticut primary, or meddled in other Democratic primaries. And I like Edwards in many ways, especially his consistent support for working stiffs. But I believe that Democrats, given the option to nominate a woman or a minority for the first time, probably won't nominate another Southern white male, which makes Obama the only person positioned to block Hillary. And my bottom-line position -- which I came to reluctantly, because I think she's more just self-serving than a true Vichy -- is simply ABC: Anyone But Clinton. If it's Edwards rather than Obama, great -- just so long as Edwards and Obama don't split the anti-Hillary vote and hand the nomination to her.


Friday, November 30, 2007

Zogby: Hillary Would Lose

Update Feb. 4, 2008: Please read this post, but there's also more up-to-date polling info -- showing a tighter race now but with Obama still definitely more electable vs. McCain than Clinton is -- in the top few posts at the top o' the blog here.


Here's a question: what do you most want in a Democratic Presidential candidate?

a) A progressive.
b) For the first time in our history, a black man or a woman.
c) Someone who can actually beat the Republican.
d) All of the above.

Personally, I'll go with "d." Which, according to a Zogby poll, means -- NOT HILLARY:

"General election match-ups show the New York Senator would lose against every top Republican

UTICA, New York – A new Zogby Interactive survey shows Democrat Hillary Clinton of New York would lose to every one of the top five Republican presidential contenders, representing a reversal of fortune for the national Democratic front–runner who had led against all prospective GOP opponents earlier this year. Meanwhile, fellow Democrats Barack Obama of Illinois and John Edwards of North Carolina would defeat or tie every one of the Republicans, this latest survey shows."

Yeah, but that survey's unreliable, right? Right. (What, you thought Hillary was above hypocrisy?)

If either Obama or Edwards is more electable than Hillary in the general election, how would an Obama-Edwards ticket do? I'll tell you: it would be choice (d), above: progressive, diverse, and electable.

Even if you prefer Hillary to either of those two, you have to remember that we don't live in a perfect world. We don't want to mirror the Republicans' mistake, when they ran Bob Dole because it was "his turn." We don't want to nominate a Michael Dukakis, someone we like but who is unelectable. We want to WIN, dammit. And besides, ideological purity and Rovian pragmatism actually coincide for a change: Obama-Edwards would be both more progressive and more electable than Clinton: Q.E.D.

Even from a purely feminist perspective, this poll -- and the direction of this poll, showing Hillary on a downward trend against all her Republican doppelgangers -- should nudge people out of Hillary's camp. Here's why: Justice Stevens (a Ford appointee who considers himself a "moderate conservative" but nevertheless is pro-choice) is 87 years old; Justice Ginsburg (one of only two Democrats on the Court) is 74 and a cancer survivor. SEVEN of the current justices were appointed by Democrats; the other seven are Republican. So what's better for women: running Hillary and having a Republican nominate the next one or two justices and putting a stake in the heart of Roe v Wade, or electing Obama and allowing young progressive judges to take their places, preserving Roe, and maybe even gaining a third seat on the Court if one of the Republican justices dies or needs to retire in the near future?

But if we want to win the Presidency in '08, we can't wait until after Iowa and New Hampshire, let alone all the big media-market states that have moved their primaries forward in order to favor the front-runners, to stop Clinton. The other Dems have to stop pretending they're electable and put their support behind a unified anti-Clinton progressive coalition NOW, or it'll be a waste of time.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bad Dogs.

Vichys, DINOs, Blue Dogs: different species, same genus, and it's about time to start explicating the role the Congressional Blue Dog Coalition plays in the social economy of Vichyism. The immediate impetus for this post is this good essay (in HuffPo) by Representative Major Owens (D-NY) (in turn inspired by this WaPo editorial) on how the Blue Dogs (note: specifically the Blue Dogs, not merely "conservative Democrats") are pushing porkbarrel spending that helps agribusiness, not family farmers.

My rule of thumb on farm legislation: if it doesn't help Wendell Berry's neighbors in Port Royal, KY, it's not really a farm bill. But both articles are worth reading, even if you don't care about esoterica like farm bills, because they help explain how the Blue Dogs can block truly helpful policies from taking hold (and Vichys hold on to power).

Here's a clip from Owens' essay:

Who are these Blue Dogs? Why are they the most powerful caucus in the Congress? Be advised that two of their Democratic founders were so conservative that they voted even for the impeachment of President Clinton. They are so clever that, despite their long-term demonization of the poor and Civil Rights, they now have four members of the Congressional Black Caucus in their ranks. This is the body that sponsored Harold Ford III's challenge to Nancy Pelosi when she ran for Minority Leader. So many members have been clamoring to get in that the Blue Dogs now operate like an Ivy League fraternity. You must be sponsored by five members and you must write an essay to achieve membership.

In other words, the horror of the facts of the farm program waste can never be understood without examining the power of the agricultural industrial complex which has its center of command in the Blue Dog Coalition....

Now, I'm not against Democrats moving right to gain election in conservative districts. That's politics, and while it smacks of triangulation when a faux-progressive national candidate like Hillary Clinton does it, it's actually a good thing in the House of Representatives. It's small-d democratic and "representative" (as in, we want Congresspeople generally to represent their constituents' interests, if not always their media-influenced views).

What's more, I'm ecstatic to have anyone oppose the Democratic Leadership Council's neoliberal policy on free (but not fair) international trade. I'm glad the "Blue Dogs" were able to help the Dem party make electoral gains in the South. I'm aware that if the Blue Dogs all shifted allegiance to the Republican Party, as many of their forebears did in the 50s and 60s when the Democratic Party started embracing civil rights legislation and as the founders of that coalition did just a few years back, then we wouldn't have majorities in both houses. But, as I've asked before, what good does it do to gain the majority, and then weep and cry and wring our hands about winning in the South and holding together the "Big Tent" instead of actually taking action to end the war, rescue Afghanistan, start rebalancing the budget, help homeowners avoid foreclosure, and stave off the pending recession (depression?)? If the Blue Dogs and other Vichys helped us gain the majority but now are stopping us from accomplishing any of the things voters expect Democrats to accomplish, then what the hell's the point? It's just more lukewarm spit (scroll down to point 2.5), and it just confirms voters' impression that Democrats are gutless on everything from domestic policy to the war on terror. And gutlessness wins neither hearts, nor minds, nor elections.

Here's the point that Democratic "centrists" can't seem to get: one can be a fiscally responsible, socially moderate, troop-supporting, pro-agriculture, slow-progress (as distinguished from no-progress), relatively protectionist Southern or Midwestern Democrat without opposing the election of anti-war Democrats, opposing mortgage foreclosure relief legislation, making it harder for working folks to declare bankruptcy when job loss or medical bills create catastrophic debt, or supporting the more racist forms of immigration reform -- let alone voting to impeach Bill Clinton or even flipping to the Republican Party (all of which Blue Dogs are currently doing or have done recently).

And what the hell are the Blue Dogs -- whose one legitimate policy stance is "to promote what they see as fiscally responsible budget reforms and accountability for taxpayer dollars" (Wikipedia) -- doing supporting a fiscally disastrous war, or lining the pockets of big agribusiness at the expense of real farmers? Maybe the Blue Dogs need saving from their own devolution into crony conservatism as much as the overall Democratic Party does...

(Image credit: copyright George Rodrigue. Mr. Rodrigue is not associated in any way with the Blue Dog Democrat Coalition. The founders of that coalition happened to meet in offices decorated with Mr. Rodrigue's wonderful "Blue Dog" paintings, and misappropriated the "Blue Dog" name without his permission.)


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hillary's "Feminism" and Hillary's Friends

(Photo: Maureen Dowd, NYT)

Hillary's "Feminism":
(or jump to "Hillary's Friends")

Over at Atrios' place a while back, I took a lot of flack from another poster who accused me of misogyny because I expressed doubts about Hillary's values and effectiveness, as if anyone who opposes the potential first female President must be doing so because they're an antifeminist. I countered that a true feminist would expect a female candidate to be evaluated without regard to gender. After all, most of us didn't like Reagan's BFF Margaret Thatcher, right? Was that misogyny? And was it anti-feminist to celebrate when liberal Labor's Tony Blair took over 10 Downing Street (back before he became Bush's lap puppet in Iraq, of course)?

So it's nice to read this in Maureen Dowd's column (note: she's a feminist!) in today's NY Times:

[In a speech in Iowa, Hillary said] that “there is one job we can’t afford on-the-job training for — that’s the job of our next president.” Her aides confirmed that she was referring to Obama.

Pressed to respond, Obama offered a zinger feathered with amused disdain: “My understanding was that she wasn’t Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, so I don’t know exactly what experiences she’s claiming.”

Everybody laughed, including Obama.

It took him nine months, but he finally found the perfect pitch to make a trenchant point.

Her Democratic rivals had meekly gone along, accepting her self-portrait as a former co-president who gets to take credit for everything important Bill Clinton did in the ’90s. But she was not elected or appointed.... And the part of the Clinton administration that worked best — the economy, stupid — was run by Robert Rubin. Hillary did not show good judgment in her areas of influence — the legal fiefdom, health care and running oppo-campaigns against Bill’s galpals.

She went on some first lady jaunts and made a good speech at a U.N. women’s conference in Beijing. But she was certainly not, as her top Iowa supporter, former governor Tom Vilsack claimed yesterday on MSNBC, “the face of the administration in foreign affairs.”

She was a top adviser who had a Nixonian bent for secrecy and a knack for hard-core politicking....

Obama’s one-liner evoked something that rubs some people the wrong way about Hillary. Getting ahead through connections is common in life. But Hillary cloaks her nepotism in feminism.

“She hasn’t accomplished anything on her own since getting admitted to Yale Law,” wrote Joan Di Cola, a Boston lawyer, in a letter to The Wall Street Journal this week, adding: “She isn’t Dianne Feinstein, who spent years as mayor of San Francisco before becoming a senator, or Nancy Pelosi, who became Madam Speaker on the strength of her political abilities. All Hillary is, is Mrs. Clinton. She became a partner at the Rose Law Firm because of that, senator of New York because of that, and (heaven help us) she could become president because of that.”

UPDATE, FEB. 9, 2008: Pauline Park at The Visible Vote has similar thoughts on this topic, in a good essay entitled Gloria Steinem & the Faux Feminism of Hillary Clinton. Her whole post is worth reading, but here's a teaser (emphasis mine):

[T]he single act that has arguably had the most impact on the lives of women — and African American women in particular — over the last decade is the so-called Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, which Bill Clinton championed and signed into law. It is no coincidence that the welfare ‘reform’ act had the full support of Newt Gingrich and the right-wing Republicans to whom Bill and Hillary Clinton handed control of Congress in 1994, because the welfare ‘deform’ law (as many progressive activists call it) was straight out of the Republican playbook. The Clintons played into the discourse of poor women of color as ‘welfare queens’ and the Clinton administration’s policies not only did nothing to help them, Clinton policies deepened poverty among poor women of color and their children. The PRWORA had and still has the full support of Hillary Clinton, which tells one all one needs to know about Hillary’s politics. And yet, this is the kind of politics that Gloria Steinem apparently considers feminist and progressive — which demonstrates clearly that neither Gloria Steinem nor Hillary Clinton are either feminist or progressive.

Hillary Clinton also served on the board of Wal-Mart while the corporation engaged in massive and systematic discrimination against women and people of color — something else that, in my view, fails to qualify Hillary as a feminist or a progressive. *** [Note from Thersites: article about HRC's boosterism of WalMart here.]

The false feminism that Clinton and Steinem articulate is one in which the mere election of a women to elective office is held to be an intrinsically transformative moment. But having lived for two years under Margaret Thatcher’s iron-handed rule, I can assure you that Thatcher was no feminist and her election represented no victory for women, let alone for feminism. It is no coincidence that Ronald Reagan called her “the best man in England.” ... Maggie ... wielded power just like a man, and if anything, was tougher and more ruthless than any of her male predecessors — which is, of course, precisely how she rose to the premiership and how Hillary will seize the Democratic nomination this year if she does succeed in capturing it.


Hillary's Friends:

A good way to judge a person's character is by the enemies they make and the friends they embrace. Cicero said, "A friend is, as it were, a second self." So who are Hillary's "second selves," those whose support she has not rejected and who therefore give us insight into who her true "self" is?

- Fox News owner and arch-conservative Rupert Murdoch, who threw a fundraiser for her Senate re-election (which really was a fundraiser for her Presidential run, since she already had plenty of money and her re-election was secure). Every other Democratic candidate would have told Murdoch to go to hell.

- Henry Cuellar, "D"-TX, who's so conservative that he sat on the R side of the aisle during the State of the Union and enthusiastically hugged Bush afterward with the stupidest look of glee on his face.

- Jane Harman, "D"-CA, who knew about the administration's warrantless wiretapping program for years, supports it, and berated the NY Times for daring to tell the American people that their government is spying on hundreds of thousands of them in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

And we can now add both George and Laura to the chorus of bad people supporting Hillary, which sure suggests they know either (a) she's the most beatable in the general election, or (b) she's as pro-corporate as they are, and won't seriously rock the boat in ways that matter most to the brokers whom most of Washington serves (I favor this second interpretation). Dowd again:

President Bush is not so enamored of Obama’s foreign policy judgment. He gave a plug to Hillary on ABC News last night, calling her a “formidable candidate,” even under pressure, who “understands the klieg lights.” ... Laura Bush also gave Hillary a sisterly — and dynastic — plug when she told the anchor that living in the White House and meeting people everywhere would be “very helpful” to a first lady trading up.

I've had my doubts about Obama, but if George Bush thinks Obama's foreign policy is bad, it must be great. And if George and Laura, Henry Cuellar, Jane Harman, and even Rupert Murdoch support Hillary -- and she accepts their support! -- then there's something really wrong with her, and it's probably wise to run away. Fast.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

White Chocolate City

(Photo: Bush "visits" New Orleans at 2,000' after Katrina)

OK, so for some reason I woke up thinking about New Orleans, sad that such a beautiful and iconic city has been devastated and trying to imagine how difficult every Thanksgiving must be for all those people who've lost everything. Then I got to thinking about the fact that the Bush administration has so comprehensively screwed up every possible opportunity to make things better that I might even think it was intentional, if I were one of those unprofessional, dishonest, untrained-in-journalism "bloggers" I keep hearing about in the MSM (thank God I'm not one of those! They sound icky). And then I saw today's headlines, and vaguely remembered someone saying something about this some time ago...

Today's news: whites take a majority of the New Orleans City Council for the first time in decades; whites have returned to the city in much larger numbers than minorities; whites voted in much higher numbers than minorities; minorities seem to have given up on the city; this is seen as the biggest shift in New Orleans' political demographics since Reconstruction; and it's a predictor of how New Orleans, and Louisiana, are likely to vote in future Congressional and Presidential elections (ie, Republican).

And that vague memory of "someone" (ahem) predicting this? From VichyDems, February 23, 2006: "I really don't have a position on New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's "Chocolate City" comment, other than t note that (a) it was politically unskilful, (b) New Orleans should be rebuilt and repopulated to be as close as possible to what it was before, which incidentally means majority people of color, (c) the efforts to rebuild the city so far have been criminally inept, and (d) I'm shocked, shocked to realize that those failures may result in the transformation of a Democratic stronghold in the South into just another Red commercial center."

April 24, 2006: Operation Sherman's March is Going Swimmingly: Here's the problem: a 'chocolate city'... Democratic stronghold in the land ... that God, in the Year of our Lord 1964, promised to the Republicans, otherwise known as Dixie... Hey, here's an idea! Don't upgrade the dikes and levees that protect the city .... When a world-class hurricane is announced, allow the middle-class and wealthy white people to leave early on clear roads, but do nothing to evacuate the poor who don't own cars (and who are afraid to leave their homes in high-crime neighborhoods). After the storm, respond clumsily, inconsistently, and late. Concentrate the survivors into camps ... and ... stadiums with little food, no health care, and no security. Then, when they're sick to their souls of the whole damned clusterfuck, give each of them just enough money to move away -- but not to move back...."

And Mary Landrieu , former D (now V for Vichy; or is it S for Stupid?)-LA, actually voted against filibustering Alito in exchange for the White House's promise to speed up aid to Katrina-stricken New Orleans. Stupid suckers who can't see the big picture don't deserve to represent us in high office, so Landrieu is high on the list for replacement in the next Democratic primaries. At least most of New Orleans' white population won't be voting in those...

Anyway, here's Parliament's "Chocolate City" for your listening pleasure. It's all New Orleans' African-American community has left: a dream, in an old song that only Ray Nagin remembers.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Late Catch, But... A "Who's Who" of Vichy DINOs Is Backing Hillary

This article's from last September -- and, Lord, I hate sending you to Fox News' site, but I can't find the article on AP -- but it's still timely. Not only does Fox News' Rupert Murdoch support Hillary, but so do some of the worst anti-Progressive "Democrats" the party has, including the hated Henry Cuellar (who sat on the R side of the aisle during the last State of the Union and hugged Bush ecstatically) and Jane Harman (who knew years earlier about the NSA wiretapping program and yet disclosed nothing -- then criticized the NYTimes for running the story when it found out about it -- and who Robert Dreyfuss lumps with Hillary (buncha links in that one post), Joe Lieberman (don't need links; see VichyDems' mission statement, above), and Rahm Emanuel as "weighing down" the Dem Party so much that it's "utterly incapable of anything like bold new thinking on national security").

These are not good people. Edwards would have told any of these people where to stick their endorsements, and even Obama -- with whom I've got my problems -- wouldn't truck with Murdoch, for God's sake. (Imagine what the Republican base would do to a R candidate who attended a fundraiser thrown by George Soros or even Barbra Streisand, and you'll see how ridiculous it is for Dems to tolerate Hillary taking money from Murdoch.)

So I say again: it can't be Hillary. It's not just this tiny White House Papers brouhaha -- hell, that's a red herring compared to her true antiprogressive credentials. And while I have my concerns with Barack, he's the ONLY one with the potential to beat her now, given that the big states have moved their primaries forward (which means that, no matter how much lip service we pay to democratic principles, only the two richest primary candidates have any shot at landing the nomination, because only they can afford huge TV ad buys this early in the campaign).

And the only way for Barack to beat Hillary is for him to form an Obama-Edwards ticket NOW, and for all the other Dems to drop out and put their support behind that ticket. Then we could have Obama for two terms, with Edwards in a good position to take the two terms behind that. Isn't that a much better option than Bush I - Clinton I - Bush II - Clinton II?


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Just What I Was Afraid Of

OK, so the Democrats took control of Congress -- and immediately Nancy Pelosi ruled out any possibility of impeachment, they reauthorized funding of the war, and they even passed a resolution written by uber-Vichy Joe Lieberman to call Iran a sponsor of terrorism, learning nothing from being burned by Bush in Iraq.

Dianne Feinstein and Chuck Schumer vote to support Bush's new AG nominee, even though he won't admit waterboarding is torture.

And Hillary Clinton -- who is backed by Rupert Murdoch and Fox News (seriously!), who voted both for the Iraq war and now for the Iran terrorism resolution, who supports the (now-disproven) DLC position on free trade (ie, free trade without insisting on fair trade, killing the American worker), etc. -- is the front runner in the Presidential race even though most Democrats would prefer someone else and many Americans have strong feelings against her, putting our otherwise-guaranteed win in the '08 Presidential race at risk.

Good article/poll results on where Hillary really stands here.

I predicted this a year ago, dammit. And I'm tired of seeing our party wimp out and consistently either (a) sell out to corporate interests vs. real Americans, and/or (b) pander to an imaginary conservative/moderate center. So I haven't been posting to VichyDems; why bother? We had a great opportunity to really lead the nation, and we're blowing it yet again.

Here's what I'd love to see -- what would energize me: for all the Democratic Presidential candidates besides Hillary to huddle together and make a bold, outside-the-box move: decide that the best ticket would be Obama-Edwards, based just on current standings. Have Obama commit that every other candidate including Hillary will be offered a meaningful post in his administration. Then have every other candidate bow out of the primary race and urge their supporters to fully back Obama, consolidating the anti-Hillary position behind one candidate instead of allowing it to splinter (as, predictably, it will if they don't do something bold like this).

Doing so wouldn't reduce voter choice; it would increase it, by allowing voters a meaningful opportunity to choose a real progressive instead of a pro-corporate candidate who triangulates so much that she makes Richard Nixon look like a political naif.


Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Strange Bedfellows

The last time I reported on politics making strange bedfellows was when I noted that Fox News was sponsoring a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton's Senate re-election campaign -- a surreal occurrence that's never been adequately aired in either MSM or even Democratic Party circles, let alone explained.

Now here's another one, from the recent NY Times story about Barack Obama's (apparently innocent) investment in risky stocks also boosted by some of his largest donors.

I honestly don't care about what stocks Obama invested in. What caught my eye was this nugget, buried in the second half of the story:

[T]he stock purchases raise questions about how he could unwittingly come to invest in two relatively obscure companies, whose backers happen to include generous contributors to his political committees. Among those donors was Jared Abbruzzese, a New York businessman now at the center of an F.B.I. inquiry into public corruption in Albany, who had also contributed to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group that sought to undermine John Kerry’s Democratic presidential campaign in 2004.

I try to keep discourse on a reasonably high and erudite level here, so let me calmly and politely ask: WHAT THE HOLY HELL IS A SWIFTBOATER DOING GIVING SIGNIFICANT $ TO OBAMA, AND WHAT'S OBAMA DOING TAKING HIS MONEY?

This isn't an attack on Obama -- despite some misgivings I still like him a hell of a lot better than I like Hillary, and I'm glad he's giving her a run for her money, hopefully turning the nomination into a real horserace in which the candidates will actually have to listen to Democratic voters -- but these questions needs answering. Fox raises money for Hillary? Swiftboaters give money to Obama? Yet no one seems to be asking the obvious followup questions.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

"You Are Not Free, And You Are Not Safe"

In 1900, the United States was a creditor nation: we loaned money to others, and invested both at home and overseas. We exported far more than we imported, in both raw and finished commodities. And we were on our way to becoming the most powerful nation on earth -- economically, militarily, and morally.

Fast forward 100 years. We are the world's largest debtor nation. We import far more than we export, with China being our largest source of overseas imports. And our entire economy is based on borrowing from other nations, with China being our second largest foreign creditor.

If you'd like to lie awake tonight, ask yourself: what would happen if China declined to buy any U.S. bonds whatsoever at the next bond auction, effectively declining to continue refinancing the national debt? Answer: our economy would collapse, Great Depression-style.

Or, for a less extreme example, ask yourself: what would happen if China unilaterally decided to discourage investment in its own stock market, depressing Chinese stock prices? It would be pretty to think that a slide in the internal stock market of a nominally insular, Communist country would be largely irrelevant to the capitalist West. But the truth is harsher, as demonstrated by today's worldwide slide in stock prices. China's government makes a decision about its own stock market, and our stock market takes a slide. Tomorrow, things will either continue to deteriorate, or China will take steps to reassure Western investors -- but which way things go will mainly be up to China, not to us.

Essayist and poet Wendell Berry, in his excellent collection of essays Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community, wrote this: "If you are dependent on people who do not know you, who control the value of your necessities, you are not free, and you are not safe." Until we can become self-reliant again -- not isolationist, but self-reliant, capable of controlling our own destiny as a nation -- we will remain unfree, and we will remain fundamentally unsafe, no matter how many nukes we possess. And that, in large part, is why free-trade, DLC Democrats are nearly as dangerous to America's well-being as the free-trade, corporatist Republicans they are copying.

UPDATE, MARCH 3: Next-day rise in US indexes notwithstanding, it's not over yet....

UPDATE, MARCH 4: Still not over... Others are acknowledging that China's woes are the world's woes (so is it "protectionist" to want to loosen that connection?)... And as Treasury yields decline, there'll be less incentive for people to buy them (i.e. to finance the continual expansion of the national debt), which means the face yield of G-bonds will need to increase, which will increase the national debt even more (just like your credit card balance will go up if the interest rate rises but you keep just paying minimums), and pressure will increase on our policymakers to eventually allow higher inflation to artificially reduce our debt load in real dollars. You can't take away just one card from a house of cards...

Friday, February 9, 2007

Tim Russert and the Fall of the Fourth Estate

Okay, I'm cribbing a title from a 2005 post at my calmer blog, NeoProgBlog, where I pointed out that the Washington media rely on access to power, rather than investigation of it, to get their stories. Then, Exhibit A were "reporters" Bob Woodward and Judith Miller. Yesterday, it was NBC Washington bureau chief Tim Russert, who admitted at the Scooter Libby trial that his conversations with politicians are presumptively off the record rather than on it (as the law and journalistic custom provide). Dan Froomkin does a good job blasting this. Props to Atrios for spreading the word. It remains to bloggers to be the outsiders digging for the uncomfortable truths; that isn't right, but it's true, and it remains our responsibility.

On that topic, by the way, the best reporting on the Libby trial is (surprise, surprise) being done by a blogger, Jane Hamsher at FireDogLake, who has been credentialed and is in the courtroom every day. It's well worth following.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

So IS Hillary Inevitable? Maybe Yes...

UPDATE, SUPER TUESDAY, FEB. 15 2008: In the original post, I argued that Hillary Clinton's nomination was inevitable UNLESS people "recognize her campaign for what it is, and fight for fair primary elections as hard as they're fighting for fair general elections." Back then, I thought the biggest danger was moving the large states' primaries early in the primary season, which would give a huge boost to the candidate with the most money to buy TV advertising. (Small states, and states with caucuses, are won with local activists and grassroots work; large states and states with primary elections are won with big advertising buys.) Back then, HRC had the most money, by far.

I didn't foresee that Barack Obama would raise enough money -- largely, no matter what Hillary says, from grassroots donations -- to compete with her financially, turning it into the two-candidate race I hoped for. But I was correct that Clinton still may get the nomination because the primary process is unfair. The unfairness, it turns out, is in the Superdelegate system and in Hillary's switch from supporting the disqualification of Michigan and Florida, to stealth-campaigning in those states, to now pushing to have them seated (guaranteeing her the APPEARANCE of having won the popular vote).

If you'd like to read more -- and see the evidence; I always cite my sources -- about this, either visit VichyDems' home page and surf from there, or follow these links:

--On Superdelegates, and the Michigan/Florida problem: Feb 14, Feb. 14 again, CNN, and USA Today (but y'all open those last two in new tabs and come back here, OK?)
-- On HRC's History of Trying to Rig the Election Before it Even Began: March 8-9 '06, March 11 '06
--On why Obama is the more progressive candidate, including the overworked "but Lieberman is his mentor!" meme that even I fell for, a year ago: April 3, Updated Feb 10;
--On electability, and why electability really matters this time around (think: McCain appointing two more Republicans to the Supreme Court, making it 100% Republican for the next 20-30-40 years?): Feb. 9 , Feb. 4, Feb. 11, Feb. 12, and the Wall Street Journal today
--General lists of links on these topics: Feb. 5, Feb. 2

Hope this helps. Thanks!

Matthew Yglesias has a good, but incomplete, analysis of the Hillary juggernaut on his site. His conclusion is that her receiving the Dem nomination is not inevitable. Mine is that it IS inevitable unless people recognize her campaign for what it is, and fight for fair primary elections as hard as they're fighting for fair general elections. And, as I explain in a comment I left on Matthew's site, the current front line in the battle to make Hillary Just Another Candidate (which is my only goal, not to take her down completely), is the movement to move California, New York and Illinois to the front of the primary schedule.

Yglesias writes:

There's been a slightly weird "speaking truth to non-power" moment recently in the blogosphere where MYDD's Chris Bowers has been joining Team HRC in trying to convince us all that Hillary Clinton has a daunting advantage in the upcoming primary race. I'm not buying it and neither is Jonathan Chait who notes correctly that her polling isn't nearly as good in the early primary states as it is in big, vague national polls...

I responded:

You're forgetting the recent move, which I can't but be suspicious about, to advance big-market states like NY, CA and IL in the primary calendar. On its face, this sounds small-d democratic, letting states with large percentages of the nation's population help make the decision. But actually, it's the Iowa caucuses that are most democratic, because they let real people get down with the candidates as people, one-on-one. The only way a candidate can deliver a message to meaningful numbers of people in large markets is through large media buys, which cost more money than most candidates have early in the primary season.

The real impact of making the large states important, early, is that it will favor candidates with early money. Edwards can't compete in California's expensive media market the way Clinton can. In fact, no one can compete, financially, with Clinton. Which is why I am suspicious of the early-big-state-primary movement: it smells like an attempt by insiders to stack the decks in favor of HRC. Which, if true, would be just another instance of her un-small-d-democratic tactics to secure the nomination as by right, as opposed to by fair election.

If you're in one of the big states that's vying for an early primary, please contact your state representatives and explain why that's a bad idea for democrats and Democrats alike. If the Democratic Party can't let the small guys have a fair chance, rather than just the wealthy and well-connected, then what the hell are we really about?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union

Just one simple observation, followed by one simple question, about the State of the Union:

The observation is: When Republicans are down in the polls, and want to appeal to the American people, they start talking like Democrats, pretending to care about things like universal health coverage, education, alternative energy, and even (this made me gag) people's right to make health care decisions privately, consulting with their doctors and without the government interfering (Roe v. Wade? Terri Schiavo?). The best example of this was Colin Powell's speech at the 2000 Republican Convention, which could have been delivered to a standing ovation at the Democratic Convention without changing a word -- and none of which had anything to do with the actual Republican platform.

The question is: Why haven't more Democrats realized the same thing: that talking like a Democrat APPEALS to We the People, and talking like a Republican (supporting the war, introducing flag burning amendments) merely adopts the Republicans' weak points? (Note: Virginia's Webb was on the right side of this equation in his response last night, calling Bush to task for everything from the war to the economy and demanding that he lead or be led.)


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Lanny Davis in the WaPo: Yet Another Lousy Idea

Here's yet another idea from a former Bill Clintonite that, like welfare reform and free trade, looks appealingly moderate on its face, but would be disastrous in reality: Lanny Davis' suggestion that whoever wins the Presidency in 2008 appoint an opposite-party Vice-President, preferably the losing nominee of the other party (and, to top it off, appoint a 50-50 bipartisan cabinet).

What a fascinating idea! What ingenuity! What great election strategy! What typically impractical Dem-centrist garbage!

There are at least seven reasons why this is a God-awful idea:

1. Unless Hillary wins the nomination (which admittedly is a real if unfortunate possibility that would make the race more of a toss-up), the Dems have the better chance of winning the Presidency in 2008 than the Republicans do. I base that prediction on the example of the 2006 midterms, public dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq, and increasing public awareness of and sympathy for Democratic core issues like health care, climate change and "Main Street" (as opposed to Wall Street) economics. So what Davis is suggesting is for our party, once again, to reach across the aisle and hand the opposition a big, unearned gift when there's not a snowball's chance in hell any Republican would do the same. We need to stop giving freebies (or even lip service) to the Republicans and start acting like a party again -- i.e., to start acting just a little bit partisan, to take our victories and run with them to advance OUR agenda, which the country so desperately needs. (Nancy Pelosi's "hundred hour" strategy, which forcibly blocked Republicans from adding "poison pills" to important Democratic legislative initiatives, was a great example of this kind of muscular Democratic politics that the entire party would do well to emulate.)

2. I said above that a Republican President-elect wouldn't ever name a Democratic Vice-President. Actually, that's only technically true. A Republican President-elect might well select as Vice President an independent who nevertheless is deeply associated in the public mind with the Democratic Party: Joe Lieberman, whom Davis praises in his piece. McCain-Lieberman: now that's a scary, albeit possibly winning, proposition. Lieberman is an aberration, a Republican in Democrats' clothing; his run as an independent after losing the Democratic nomination to a better man was not an act of courage but one of egotism and partisan disloyalty. We should not open the door to a Lieberman Vice-Presidency that could lead to a serious Lieberman shot at the Presidency in 8 years (or sooner if the Republican President croaked).

3. Presidents frequently die or resign. Nine, count 'em, nine Vice Presidents have become President through the death or resignation of the President. That's 9/43, or 21% of ALL U.S. PRESIDENTS. More than one in five. Do Democrats believe so little in their own ideas that they're willing to take a 1:5 chance of those ideas being jettisoned by a Vice President who believes in none of them?

4. Underscoring point 3, above: Davis points to Abraham Lincoln's selection of Andrew Johnson, a highly partisan Southern Democrat, as his Vice-Presidential running mate in the 1864 election. He notes in passing that this experiment was "tragically cut short when he was assassinated six weeks after his 1865 inauguration." What he doesn't point out is that Johnson failed miserably at overseeing Lincoln's plan for Southern Reconstruction, especially when it came to civil rights: under him, Black Freedmen were denied many civil rights, and he vetoed implementation of a government agency to help the Freedmen or to grant them civil rights. He also lobbied vigorously against passage of the Fourteenth Amendment and succeeded in delaying its enactment.

By doing so, Johnson betrayed Lincoln's legacy, handed the next Presidency to the Radical Republicans (forebears of today's Republican Party), and set the stage for a century of discrimination, disempowerment and betrayal of African-Americans and, indirectly, prolonged the North-South divide that was profitably manipulated by Nixon's "Southern Strategy," kept the Vietnam War going longer than it should have, was copied (successfully) by Reagan (who launched modern neoconservatism and made the Bush II Presidency and the Iraq War possible), and still informs the red state-blue state political map today. That's a lot of blame to heap on one man's head, but it's true -- yet the man I really blame isn't Johnson, who in many ways WAS a moderate (for his times), but Lincoln, for abandoning his party in favor of a speculative "Unity" government that proved disastrous in ways that haunt us even today. Let's not make the same mistake.

5. The Senate is only narrowly in Democratic hands right now. One Democratic senator is still hospitalized and may not be able to return; if he resigns, he will be replaced by a Republican appointed by the Republican governor of his state. And while Joe Lieberman is, for now, caucusing with the Democrats, he won't continue doing so if his best interests -- for instance, if a shot at the Vice Presidency is dangled before him -- make it more advantageous for him to switch caucuses. If he does so, we lose the Senate, committee chairmanships, control of the agenda, and possibly the ability to reject poor Republican judicial nominees (remember, 7/9 of the Supreme Court was appointed by Republican Presidents, and Justice Stevens is getting very, very old). And, of course, if the Senate deadlocks, the Vice President casts the deciding vote. Do we really want to give a Republican that power?

6. Davis pretends that bipartisan cooperation is the only way to find a solution to the Iraq quagmire or to enacting sensible budgets. Bushwah. A Democratic House, a Democratic Senate and a Democratic President and Vice President can enact any legislation they want; the Republicans' only tool to stop them will be the filibuster, a maneuver they've so thoroughly discredited that many Republicans would consistently vote to override filibusters even by their own party. In other words, if we ignore Davis' advice, we can resolve Iraq and balance the budget again on our own terms. The only reason for seeking Republican advice or cooperation on these issues are (a) because we don't believe our ideas are as good as theirs, and need their advice, or (b) because we can't control our own Vichys and Blue Dogs, and need crossover Republicans to consistently pass legislation. I don't think either proposition is true, and even if they are, they're problems that we need to resolve ourselves, within our own party.

7. Sitting Vice Presidents have an automatic boost if they wish to later run for the Presidency. Why would either party's President want to confer that advantage on a member of the opposing party? Better to give that name recognition to one of our own.

If the past six years have proved anything, it's the depth of Republican ineptitude, especially on Iraq and the budget. Put shortly: we don't need them. By and large, today's Democrats have better ethics, ideas and sense of responsibility than today's Republicans. Our nation needs us, and needs us undiluted by the bad ideas of a party that's rightly on the decline. Let's not sell America short: if we can win the Presidency in 2008, let's govern with vigor and a sense that our ideas are right, not immediately compromise them with harmful and ultimately illusory nods towards "bipartisanship."

UPDATE, 2:03 PM PACIFIC: The Kenosha Kid over at Atrios' pad had a nice comment explaining Lanny-boy's connection to Bush (and showing what little wipes many of the Clintonites are). Not sure what his source is, but I like the info From U.S.

Everything you need to know about Lanny Davis!

"Three letters explain how former Clinton attack dog Lanny Davis scored an Air Force One ride to Washington after President Bush's recent Yale University commencement speech: DKE (Delta Kappa Epsilon), the fraternity Davis and Bush joined as Yale undergrads. The duo chatted for a long time on the ride home, mostly about the old days, like the time Bush hazed DKE recruit Davis. The lawyer tells us that he faced the normal five-hour hazing, ending with him standing beside a DKE brand shoved in a vat of hot coals. At this point, Bush and the others blindfolded Davis and asked him to lift his shirt. He did. Then Davis felt it: the hot sizzle of skin. But it was only a cigarette. "They really psyched me out," he says."