Thursday, March 27, 2008

Breaking News: Clinton Clearly Promises to Produce Full Tax Returns Next Week

In a lengthy and wide-ranging telephone press conference today called by Hillary Clinton Communications Director Howard Wolfson, Deputy Communications Director Phil Singer, and Policy Director Neera Tanden, I asked the following question:

I’ve seen reports that Senator Clinton will be producing some kind of financial information next week, but the details have been a little vague. Will Senator Clinton be producing her complete 2000 through 2006 tax returns, including all schedules, next week?

Wolfson responded:

Sen Clinton said ... that she would be producing her tax returns within the week, and we are endeavoring to do just that. And as to – I’m not fully conversant enough to know what the distinction is between schedules and other tax information, so I don’t want to give you an answer that is incorrect, but I am quite confident that all of the information that the public needs and that reporters need to make very, very informed judgments about their finances will be made available.... [O]f course they have filed annual financial disclosure forms while Senator Clinton was in the Senate that details [sic] the sources of their income, and obviously tax returns will provide additional information, and I am confident that you and others will have ample opportunity to look at them and if you have followup questions of course we’ll be available to answer them, but I am quite confident that all information that is necessary to make very good judgments about their finances will be made available.

I asked a followup:

Scanning and posting tax returns is a fairly simple process. Why is there any delay at all in making her returns available?

Wolfson responded:

You know, why was there delay in Senator Obama’s making his returns available....? You know, we’ll have them within the week, you’ll have an opportunity to look at them, you can turn a skeptical eye to them as you may care to and if you have followup questions about them we’ll be happy to answer them, but they’ll be available online.... and people will be able to take a look at them.

I admit it: I’m a cynic. I saw no news reports or press releases in which Clinton herself promised to produce tax returns next week – but maybe it just wasn’t publicized. I still don’t understand why it takes more than 24 hours to have a staffer scan and post tax returns; some bloggers and commentors have articulated fears that the Clintons are using this time to have their returns doctored, and while I don’t share those fears, posting the returns immediately after Obama did would have snuffed out any such speculation. It also strikes me as a little funny that someone as well-informed and sophisticated as Wolfson doesn’t know what tax schedules are – they’re simply the attachments that go with the Form 1040 whenever a taxpayer itemizes his or her deductions or has investment income, as the Clintons (and Wolfson) certainly do. And the length and repetitiveness of his answer makes me mindful of the Queen’s comment in Hamlet: “the lady doth protest too much, methinks.” As one person has exegised the line, “[s]omeone who is telling the truth [usually does so] ... rather plainly and shortly. Someone who is assuring too much is usually lying either to herself or to the audience”– ie, it implies that “the lady” “will break her word.”

But I’m tired of being cynical, and I’m going to trust that the lady’s word is good. I’m looking forward to next week, when we’ll all know exactly how good it is.

To those who encouraged Clinton to do the right thing by participating in the “Tax Fax” grassroots campaign (outlined on both The Huffington Post and VichyDems) by faxing copies of their own tax returns, with personal info deleted, to Clinton’s campaign offices – you can stand down. THANK YOU, and GOOD WORK!

Hillary Clinton's Plan for the Economy Isn't for Us; It's For the Superdelegates

(Update, April 3: More economic plans, no new news.)

SOME POLITICAL CANDIDATES come up with new ideas and new initiatives because they really want to help people. Yes, we've all become cynical -- but there are still some of that good kind.

Then there's the more pedestrian, and plentiful, kind of candidate, the one who will say things and present new initiatives not so much to help people (though that's a nice side effect), but to make him- or herself look good -- to give the impression that they're problem-solving go-getters instead of poll-tracking, focus-group-reading, self-seeking hacks.

Hillary Clinton claims Barack Obama is the second kind: all words, no substance. She's not just wrong; she even knows she's wrong, and is making those accusations just to win, but a lot of people still don't see it. I've been paying a lot of attention to this specific issue -- substance vs. posing -- even, unlike more casual bloggers, listening in and sometimes asking questions during both candidates' regular press conference conference calls and reading all their campaign press releases. I even initially had some reservations about Obama (feel free to search this blog for my older posts about Obama), but the more I see of him, the more I see that he is the real thing. And "the real thing," in politics, is so rare that sometimes we can't even remember what it looks like. And as the campaign drags on, I also see more and more proof that Clinton is the second kind of politician: one who only does things if they'll help her, who wants to win more than she wants to do good. But, as I said, that's hard to show.

But sometimes we get lucky:

Today both candidates are giving major economic addresses. But last Thursday, in an effort to counter Obama's excellent speech that morning about how the Iraq War is dragging down the economy, her campaign emailed me (and 8,600 or so other media outlets) a preview that demonstrates how Hillary Clinton really looks at things -- and how little she actually cares about the real people trapped by the foreclosure crisis.

The Clinton press release is titled, "Must Read: Business Week: Hillary Targets the Credit Crisis. She's stepping up with measures aimed at voters' pocketbook woes." And at first I thought, wow, that's pretty powerful! A major business magazine sees her as the candidate who's taking the lead to really help people facing hard times in a tough economy! But then I actually read it.

Clinton's press release consisted entirely of excerpts from an article in Business Week. Not the whole article, understand -- just the parts that the Clinton campaign thought it was must important for reporters to read -- the "must read" parts, in Clinton's terms. And I was brought back to the sad reality that all Clinton really cares about is the election.

Boiling it down, here are the two things the Clinton campaign people really, really wanted journalists to take note of (bold emphases are mine):

1. Clinton Is Only Helping Citizens In Order To Win Votes -- Of Superdelegates:

"Clinton plans to discuss the details of her stimulus plan in a speech on the economy set for Mar. 24. Further initiatives are likely in coming weeks. The idea, of course, is to show voters exactly what Clinton would do to head off the crisis if she were in the White House. ...

"With Clinton's emphasis on pragmatic plans and pocketbook issues, analysts say she could get a bump up if she can convince voters she's better prepared to handle the economy's deepening problems. With the next big primary set for Apr. 22 in Pennsylvania, 'she's got five weeks to show she can really dominate this issue,' says Daniel Clifton, a political analyst at investment firm Strategas Research Partners. 'This could be a huge opportunity for her to rack up big margins.'...

"The fight over Pennsylvania, which has a struggling industrial base, a large population of blue-collar workers, and rising foreclosures, will be critical. Even if Clinton tallies big victories in Pennsylvania or other remaining states, she will probably not emerge with a delegate lead. Yet by nurturing the perception that she's the one to save voters' jobs and homes, she could sway the critical superdelegates to her side. 'Her only case is: I've got the lunch-bucket votes, and we can't win in November without them,' says pollster John Zogby."

2. She's Not Doing Anything For the Economy That Obama's Not Doing, Too: As if to underscore the fact that Clinton's initiatives are just for show, the excerpts that Clinton chose to distribute make clear that there's no substantive difference between the candidates, who both are carefully watching the "Main Street" economy and supporting legislation to help unemployed people, homeowners, and local communities:

"Obama's advisers say that he, too, is studying further plans to address the economy's problems, including measures to extend unemployment benefits and aid communities that have suffered a loss of tax revenues through foreclosures. Like Clinton, he backs congressional plans to refinance homeowners who need cheaper mortgages. 'If conditions remain bad or worse, those are the things we'll push,' says Heather Higginbottom, Obama's policy director."

There's an important nuance here. The Clinton folks didn't write the Business Week article. But they did choose which parts of it they wanted to emphasize -- and they intentionally chose the parts that showed Clinton as a shrewd political operator (that unelected Superdelegates hopefully will think is a good match for John McCain), ignoring the parts that might have showed her as being a true stateswoman working for the common good.

Why would they choose to emphasize the "she's a manipulative politician playing the angles" parts? Because that's actually what her campaign wants the press to hint at -- that she's trickier than Obama. Why? So that despite the mathematical reality that it's statistically impossible for her to catch up with Obama in the popular vote, and despite the polls that confirm more Democrats want Obama to be the nominee than Clinton (polls she's working hard to change by slamming Obama at every opportunity), she can still snag the nomination in August by getting the Supers to ignore the voters and select her -- just like the Supreme Court ignored the will of the voters and selected Bush President in 2000.

I dislike the fact that Hillary Clinton is a manipulative, win-at-any-cost, last-generation, faux-progressive, pro-corporate pol whose chief campaign strategist is a pollster and who is jeopardizing the whole Democratic Party's chances of winning the White House by taking her husband's advice last December to "attack" Obama -- even if doing so means making false allegations; even if doing so means McCain will win in November.

But even more than that, I dislike the fact that she's not only not trying to hide her true nature, she's actually subtly bragging about it in order to win the over a small but critical subset of Superdelegates -- those who aren't just party activists, but party insiders who are so circumscribed by their Inside-the-Beltway worldview and so beholden to the Clinton machine's favors that they would actually ignore the popular will and broker the convention instead.

The first fact merely shows what she is; the second fact shows that she doesn't even have the decency to show some shame about it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A Judge Makes an Irrelevant Ruling on a Minor Part of Michigan's Primary Law -- and Clinton Starts Spinning

Let's just dispose of this quickly, and move on:

A federal judge in Michigan has just ruled that a minor part of Michigan’s primary law is unconstitutional. That ruling says that either everyone is entitled to see voter records (not just the two major parties), or no one is. It’s a correct ruling, but totally irrelevant to the question of whether, and how, Michigan’s and Florida’s delegates should be seated at the National Convention. (Background here; more reports on the ruling here, here; blogs sane and otherwise here, here, here, here, here.)

Yet within minutes, the Clinton campaign issued a press release calling again for Michigan’s current delegates to be seated (even though Obama’s name wasn’t even on the ballot), or for a revote (which, with the Michigan Legislature on recess, is now an impossibility).

Let’s be clear: it bites that Michigan and Florida moved their primaries up. It bites that the Democratic National Committee – including fervent Clinton supporter and advisor Harold Ickes – decided unanimously to disenfranchise their voters as a result. But none of that is Barack Obama’s fault.

Now may we all please go back to copying and faxing Sen. Clinton copies of our (redacted) tax returns, to encourage her to make her own 2000 through 2006 returns public the way Obama has?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Activism You Can Do: Help Clinton Produce Her Tax Returns By Sending a “Tax Fax”

UPDATE, 3/27: STAND DOWN! In a Clinton press conference today, I asked her Communications Director, Howard Wolfson, whether Clinton would produce all her returns next week. He promised she would. I take him at his word. Stop faxing (unless you want to send a one-pager saying "Thank you!") -- and check back here next week when we'll see what exactly shows up. GREAT WORK, AND THANK YOU!!

UPDATE, 3/26: No additional fax numbers yet. Thanks!

Hillary Clinton, who claims to be “the most transparent” politician in America, isn’t. There’s a long history of her withholding documents relating to her personal history, her days as First Lady, and her financial records (for instance, why did she wait until after the important primary in NAFTA-hating Ohio to release her daily schedules as First Lady, which show all the work she did to help NAFTA pass?) (For those who are interested, I'll add more detail about Barack Obama’s unusual frankness and transparency, and Clinton’s lack of it, at the bottom of this post as soon as I can.)

Today the issue is tax returns. It’s become customary for Presidential candidates to release copies of their returns so voters can see how they’ve made their money -- and who they might owe favors to.

Barack Obama released his tax returns to the media a year ago. Today he went even further and posted all his returns from 2000 forward on his campaign website. You can get .pdfs of them here.

But Hillary Clinton – who is rich enough that she’s personally loaned at least $5 million to her own campaign to keep it afloat – hasn’t produced any tax returns since her husband left office. That’s seven years during which she and Bill went from being civil servants to becoming incredibly wealthy – yet she won’t tell the public where her newly-acquired millions came from. (At first, she ignored the issue. Then, she said she wouldn't produce them until she actually received the nomination. Next, she said she would produce them sometime "around" April 15. Now, she's agreed to produce something tax-wise, but not until 3 days before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22 -- nearly a month away, and not leaving Pennsylvania voters much time to really thing about any issues her returns might raise -- and won't say exactly what she'll provide: for instance, will it be just the 1040s, or also the schedules and attachments that contain the actual details?)

A more cynical person than me might suspect those tax returns contain something Clinton would rather hide -- but Senator Clinton has a simpler explanation.

Why hasn’t she done what every other candidate has done, and made copies of her tax returns available early enough to make a difference? Because, she claims, "I'm a little busy right now" – as if she personally needs to rummage through her filing cabinet, run to Kinko’s, and look up the fax number for the Associated Press.

Personally, I think it's easier to photocopy a tax return than Clinton thinks. In fact, since 2007's returns are due in less than a month, everyone in America has just finished, or soon will be, filling out, copying (for their own files), and sending off a tax return. In other words, we’re all doing exactly what Clinton claims she “doesn’t have time” to do!


1. Grab this year’s tax return, and some past years’ returns too if they’re handy, and copy them.

2. Take a Sharpie and black out any personal information like your name, social security number, etc. – we don’t want any identity theft!

3. Scribble a brief note, maybe in huge Sharpie letters on the first page of your return, saying something like: “Hey, Hil: if I can do this, so can you. Please produce your 2000-2006 returns NOW.”

4. Fax to one of Clinton’s campaign offices.
(I say fax, not mail, because all mail to Senators has to be screened for anthrax before it’s opened.)

That’s it! Grassroots activism at its best (and simplest!). Again: photocopy, Sharpie, note, fax – and you’re a “netboots” activist (informed by the Internet, but taking action, "boots on the ground"). Feel good? It should!

Here are three important guidelines to make sure you’re just sending a message, not harassing or interfering with her campaign:

1. Please keep your cover note polite and to the point.

2. Don’t send faxes to Clinton’s official Senate offices
(either in D.C. or in New York); those numbers are for her real work, and we don’t want to interfere with that in any way.

3. Do your best to fax a local campaign office, not the national one. That way, the load will be spread among many fax machines, rather than jamming up a few important ones and making them unusable for campaign business. Again: we’re sending a message, not doing a dirty trick by jamming her lines.

Contact information for Clinton’s various campaign offices can be found on her website’s “States” page. If her local campaign office shows a telephone number but not a fax number, give them a call and ask politely what their fax number is (and please share that info in the comments section of this post so others in your area can use it). If her website doesn’t give any local information for your state (e.g., she has lots of info for Pennsylvania, where she expects to win, and none for North Carolina, where she doesn’t), then you don’t have much choice, and need to use one of her other numbers. Only for those who don’t have a local office to telephone or fax to, here are some fax numbers you can try:

National Campaign Headquarters (Virginia): 703-962-8600
Pennsylvania Headquarters: 215-625-0379
New York Headquarters: 212-213-3041

If I can get more fax numbers to spread things out, I’ll post them here -- so please check back if the numbers above get too busy.

Thanks for playing “help the candidates be transparent!” – and let us know how it goes!
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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Chinese Government Bans Tibet Catholic Easter Service

(Photo: nave of the Catholic church in Cizhong, China, where Easter services are being curtailed by the Chinese government.)

It isn't just Buddhists whose religious freedom is being curtailed by the People's Republic of China. Chinese of all faiths, from Buddhists to Taoists to Falun Gong to Christians and others, face the same kind of government "editing" of their faith that Tibetan Buddhists do -- and now, there's news that China has even ordered many Tibetan area Catholics not to celebrate Easter today.

First, a quick background: When it seized power in 1949, China's Communist government, consistent with its atheistic philosophy, originally tried to extinguish religion altogether. However, it recognized fairly quickly that religion can't be completely suppressed -- and cleverly, if not wisely or laudably, shifted to a "co-opting" strategy instead. Probably the earliest example is Chairman Mao's famous "Little Red Book" of Communist aphorisms and rules for living: much of the book is nothing more than traditional Confucian proverbs, twisted to fit Mao's agenda. Sayings that Chinese grandparents had been repeating for hundreds of years suddenly seemed, to a new generation of Chinese, to support the Communist doctrine they were learning at school and elsewhere, helping Mao become as venerated, in the new State, as Confucius was in the old.

Similarly, the Chinese government co-opts all other forms of religion as well. Buddhist monks must disown the Dalai Lama and swear allegiance to the State over their religion before being allowed to study in monasteries. When the Dalai Lama, as is traditional, designated the successor to the Panchen Lama, Chinese authorities whisked the boy away, never to be seen again, and named their own "Panchen Lama." In a show of cynicism so transparent that it would be funny if it weren't so sad, a group of official "Living Buddhas" have even issued a statement supporting the government and condemning the protests in Tibet as the actions of drunk monks.

But such meddling isn't limited to Buddhists. On Easter, it is meet and proper to recall the plight of China's Christians, too. The Catholic Church is a prime example. In the 1950s -- at the same time as Maoists were clamping down in Tibet -- the Chinese government abolished the Catholic Church and replaced it with a "Patriotic Catholic Association," whose bishops are all state-appointed and which teaches loyalty to the State above loyalty to the Pope.

China's interference with Catholic worship is alive and well this Easter day, as well, in Rome as well as China. Pope Benedict, who has been trying to open dialogue with China over Catholic religious freedoms, instructed that the illustrations for the Way of the Cross procession in Rome today be done in Chinese style. He also apparently instructed the archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, to tone down the written meditations he wrote to accompany those illustrations, to omit any direct criticism of the Chinese government.

And now China -- newly-removed from the Bush Administration's list of human rights violators, awarded the right to host the Olympics this summer, which George Bush will visit soon no matter how it abuses its power in Tibet, and handled with kid gloves by the Catholic Church -- has ordered some Tibetan Catholics not to celebrate Easter this year:

CIZHONG, China (AFP) — The Tibetan Catholic Church in Cizhong, a Christian enclave on the threshold of the Himalayas, has seen its Easter services curbed after anti-Chinese riots in Lhasa caused the region's deadliest tensions in two decades.

As a result, this tiny community of less than 1,000 souls located in amid picturesque mountains in an overwhelmingly Buddhist area has been affected by the recent unrest where it matters the most for them -- religion. ***

This Easter has been especially important as Father Yao Fei, a short bespectacled ethnic Mongolian in his late 30s, only arrived in Cizhong in February.

This made him the first permanent priest to live here since French clergymen were expelled shortly after communist China was established in 1949.

Since then, Catholic priests were only periodically dispatched to Cizhong for special occasions such as Christmas and Easter....

However, following the deadly March 14 riots in Lhasa, police from Diqing Tibetan prefecture, in the northwest of Yunnan province, told church officials to restrict Easter services to fewer than 100 people.

They did not say why ....

"We are only expecting about 80 followers from (Cizhong) village to attend Easter services as the worshippers from other villages will not be allowed to come," Yao told AFP on Good Friday.

Understand: no protests have occurred in Cizhong. Cizhong isn't even located inside Tibet. The unrest in Tibet is directly related to China's interference with Tibetan Buddhism and has nothing to do with Catholicism or any other religion (though the Chinese government is now even accusing the Dalai Lama of "collaborating" with Muslims). There's no reason to fear this small village on the Mekong River, or its neighbors. And yet, a paranoid government that fears all religion uses unrest in Tibet as an excuse to bar Cizhong's first priest in 59 years from celebrating his first Easter service with the majority his parishioners. He is Risen, Indeed -- but not this year, for the faithful around Cizhong -- or so China hopes. (Of course, adherents of all faiths, and even those who adhere to no faith but who stand in awe of the human spirit, know otherwise.)

So why should Christian or Jewish or Unitarian or Muslim or atheist Americans care about persecution of Buddhist monks and nuns in Tibet? Because we have the imagination and compassion to care about people who are not like us -- but also, in case anyone needs a more practical reason, because persecution never stops at "the other"; it always creeps, cancer-like, to infect "us" as well. China is not only persecuting Buddhists and Christians and Muslims; ridiculously, it's even afraid of the Boy Scouts. John Donne famously, and accurately, wrote in Meditation XVII:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were; any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Finally, a political note, because politics is where ideals and action should intersect: it's hard to find anyone showing moral leadership on this issue. Sen. Dianne Feinstein wants us to go easier on China. All three Presidential candidates have issued written statements decrying events in Tibet and asking China to show restraint -- McCain's and Obama's fairly strongly worded, Clinton's weaker and talking more about herself than about the problem -- but all are "just words", not very different from the similar statement issued by President Bush, whose actions -- having China removed from the list of human rights violators, affirming he will travel to the Olympics no matter what happens in Tibet -- show his true level of concern.

I also asked Clinton's representatives directly, during a press conference, whether they would advocate returning China to the human rights violators list; they won't. She's far more interested in talking about her disputed role in the Northern Ireland peace talks -- which her campaign frankly admitted, in a press conference, is largely an effort to curry favor with Pennsylvania's large Irish Catholic community -- than she is in actually taking action for peace for Tibet's Buddhists -- or China's Catholics. I find that hypocritical, since Clinton has bragged so much about her commitment to peace processes and has criticized Obama so soundly for spouting "mere words" when that's all she appears willing to do with regard to China's suppression of religious freedom. (I've also written to the Obama campaign, asking about their position, and haven't received a reply.) So far the strongest position of any American politician has been taken by Nancy Pelosi, who is asking for an international investigation into the protests in Tibet.

It's reasonable to call all the candidates' local campaign offices and ask them to take a firmer stand -- to move beyond mere words. And it's also reasonable to contact China's embassy and consulate, and China's Olympic officials, to protest the treatment of Tibet's Buddhist, Cizhong's Catholics, and everyone else whose freedom to practice their faith is constrained by a paranoid and brutal regime. That contact information can be found here. Other information on Cizhong can be found here and here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Privacy Act of 1974, Criminal Penalties, Verbatim

UPDATE, MARCH 25: The Justice Department, quite properly, gets involved.

ORIGINAL POST: On three separate occasions, dating back to January, employees of contractors working for the State Department accessed -- and did God knows what with -- presidential candidate Barack Obama's passport records, which ordinarily include not only information on a person's international travels but also a good deal of private personal information. It could be relatively innocent; it could be a Nixonian effort to find dirt on Obama. Yet the State Department's Inspector General, who is responsible for looking into such things, was not notified until today -- and before he was notified, and therefore before he had a chance to investigate what really happened and why, lower-level State Department employees made the determination that the employees had not violated the Privacy Act of 1974, and therefore that the matter did not need to be referred to the Attorney General's office.

That's not the sort of decision that's normally made at such a low level, especially when the person whose privacy was violated is prominent -- for instance, a sitting Senator and Presidential nominee like Obama. The cover-up, and the regularity with which it happened, and the fact that Obama's office was not told about any of the incidents until today, all suggest that it's possible -- of course not probable, nor likely, but in a town like D.C., definitely possible -- that some skulduggery is behind this.

The statute that almost certainly was violated (whether the State Department thinks so or not) is the federal Privacy Act of 1974, passed in the aftermath of Watergate, the relevant provision of which (5 United States Code section 552a(i)(1)) reads as follows:

Criminal Penalties. (1) Any officer or employee of an agency [note: also includes agency contractors and their employees], who by virtue of his employment or official position, has possession of, or access to, agency records which contain individually identifiable information the disclosure of which is prohibited by this section or by rules or regulations established thereunder, and who knowing that disclosure of the specific material is so prohibited, willfully discloses the material in any manner to any person or agency not entitled to receive it, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined not more than $5,000. ...

(3) Any person who knowingly and willfully requests or obtains any record concerning an individual from an agency under false pretenses shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined not more than $5,000.

Why is it so important to pursue a criminal investigation, if there is any suggestion that a violation occurred? Because, in the course of that investigation, the poor, low-level saps who actually did the deeds almost certainly will tell everything they know -- which probably is that they were merely satisfying their own prurient curiosity, but which might be that they passed the information on to someone who would much rather remain anonymous. And both Obama and the American people have the right to know definitively which one it is.
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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

China May Talk With Dalai Lama About Tibet Protests, Future

British officials are reporting that the Chinese government may be willing to engage in talks with the Dalai Lama, the exiled leader of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists worldwide. (Dalai Lama's official website.) This announcement comes in the middle of a Tibetan Uprising movement that is moving past its epicenter, the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, to cover the entire Tibetan Plateau with peaceful protests, occasional violence, and both overt and covert retribution by Chinese police and military forces. (Pressure on China to act deliberately is, of course, undercut by Bush's repeated assurances that he will attend the Olympics -- which he considers merely a sporting event -- regardless of how China abuses human rights.)

News from Tibet is being suppressed by government officials, but some still leaks out, including this video from a tourist.
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Contact information for all Chinese embassies and consulates in the U.S., and Chinese officials responsible for next summer's Olympic Games in Beijing, can be found here. It's a critical time to keep the pressure on China, so please make some polite calls to say, "the world is watching."

Previous VichyDems posts about the situation in Tibet: 1) Background and description of initial events; 2) Hillary Clinton's refusal to object to Administration removing China from annual list of human rights violators.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Clinton Campaign Ducks a Simple Question About Tibet

Today the Clinton campaign took advantage of the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day holiday to hold a press call discussing Hillary Clinton’s disputed role in the nearly decade-old Northern Ireland peace talks and her intention to work to “bring peace to different parts of the world.”

During the Q&A following that call, however, Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Lee Feinstein, ducked my question about the Bush Administration’s decision last week to remove China from its list of human rights violators – a decision made right in the middle of escalating tensions in Tibet that have culminated in riots in Lhasa, a military crackdown on protests and media nationwide, and according to some reports, upwards of 100 deaths.

I asked Feinstein a simple, direct question: whether, in light of events in Tibet, Mrs. Clinton would call on the Bush Administration to re-list China as a human rights violator. He didn’t answer the question, referring instead to a statement Clinton issued on the events in Tibet and saying that she has a long history on the issue and has talked with the Dalai Lama in the past.

I asked again, directly, whether in addition to whatever she says in that statement, Clinton would call to restore China’s name to the Administration’s list of human rights violators; Feinstein answered that he had nothing to add to Clinton’s prepared statement (which, incidentally, hasn’t been issued to the press yet and which isn’t in any obvious place on her campaign website).

Three facts may factor into her waffling:

1. Biographical note: Clinton formerly served on the Board of Directors of Wal-Mart, the largest U.S. importer of goods from China.

2. Calendar note: this summer, China will host the Olympics in Beijing.

3. Economic note: the Chinese government is a significant creditor of the U.S., effectively financing our ongoing deficit spending (including the war in Iraq) by purchasing U.S. government securities – and it could destabilize our economy simply by ceasing to purchase those securities.

So it’s a complicated issue, calling for nuance – but while Mrs. Clinton boasts about disputable and decade-old foreign policy accomplishments during her husband’s administration, why does her campaign lack the courage to take a direct and meaningful stand for human rights when they are being abused today, right now, as you read this? Is her "3 a.m." foreign policy expertise limited to events in the past (a questionable role in Northern Ireland, a speech she gave in China a decade ago) and about words (in a statement that apparently hasn’t even been issued yet) or is she willing to take a principled, effective stand on a religious and human rights conflict that’s actually happening today?

More simply: is Hillary Clinton only committed to talking about human rights in the past tense, or does she actually have a vision and a commitment that extends to the present -- and the future?

More on events on Tibet -- and contact information for China's embassy, consulates and Olympic organizers, so you can voice your concerns -- can be found here at VichyDems.

Friday, March 14, 2008

CALL FOR ACTION: Deaths in Tibet; Chinese Embassy Contact Info

UPDATED 3/15 with further news AND info on suppression of Tibetan protesters in other countries around the world:

Also, a favor: if you do call, fax or email the Chinese government or Olympic organizers to express your concern, using the contact info below, will you please let me know in a comment or by email? Thanks!

Background: For hundreds of years, Tibet -- a nation located north of India and west of China -- was an independent nation. Protected by the almost-unpassable Himalaya mountains to the south and its sheer distance from other major cultural centers, it developed a culture and religious tradition unlike any other in the world, remaining largely immune from modernization. Its most famous son is Tenzin Gyatso, the current Dalai Lama ("Ocean of Wisdom"), who is considered by Tibetan Buddhists to be the earthly embodiment of compassion (a belief borne out by the Nobel Peace Prize awarded him in 1989). (UPDATE, MARCH 18: The Dalai Lama is threatening to resign his political (but not spiritual) role in the Tibetan government-in-exile if protests continue, which raises complex issues of generational politics and puts significant pressure on the Chinese government, if they're wise enough to see it, to cut a deal with a moderate and peace-loving leader instead of having violent resistance grow in his absence.)

Maoist China, hateful of any beliefs that contradict its own sense of cultural and ideological superiority and needing room to house an expanding population, claimed that Tibet was actually part of China (as Hitler claimed Austria and Poland were properly part of Germany), and throughout the 1950s asserted increasing control over Tibet, culminating in a violent 1959 invasion of the almost defenseless Buddhist country. The Dalai Lama fled to northern India, and the Chinese government has done everything it can to dilute and destroy traditional Tibetan religion and culture. (The movies Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet are beautiful overviews of pre-Chinese Tibetan culture, Chinese arrogance, and the destruction of a unique and ancient culture.) And the violence has not ended, as proof of Chinese violence has leaked out from time to time (such as this video of Chinese soldiers shooting Tibetan refugees near Mt. Everest in 2006).

Current Events: Today, there's news Friday, reports began to appear that people in Tibet -- including both monks and laypeople -- have taken to the streets to protest, on the 49th anniversary of the Chinese invasion. (Why 49? Because Tibetans believe that the zero at the end of round numbers like "50" make them less "punchy" than good, solid, zero-less numbers like 49 -- just another wonderful nuance of a unique culture.) The protest started peacefully; the Chinese Army tried to shut it down with force; hundreds of people hit the streets in response; and now the "roof of the world" appears to be on fire.

The Chinese are responding as they always respond to such challenges: with overwhelming force, and while communications were shut down two minutes after the protests began, it appears that Chinese riot police and Army troops are out in force, with automatic weapons, and that at least two Tibetans have been shot and killed in the crackdown. UPDATE, 3/15: Chinese authorities now say 10 Han (ie, ethnic) Chinese also have died in the violence -- which (they don't report) started when the police forcibly stopped a nonviolent protest by Tibetan monks, apparently killing 2. Many ethnic Tibetans are angry at Han settlers, who are viewed in something like the same way Native Americans viewed Anglo settlers or Palestinians view Israeli settlers -- though it's the Chinese government that's trying to dilute Tibetan culture and even ethnic identity out of existence in a sort of slow genocide; the Han settlers the government subsidizes generally are just looking for good lives, albeit in a place they're not welcome.

The links above are to various news stories providing good detail. CNN also has several good stories: on immediate events (and a video report), a timeline of recent protests, an overview of tensions in Tibet, video on parallel protests in India and the dilemma this presents for India.I'll post more here as events develop. UPDATE: also good articles from the Washington Post here and here. UPDATE, 3/15: Good photo gallery (some of which also are below) here.

(Update, 3/21: And Bush, damn his black soul, says the Olympics are just a sporting event, and plans to attend no matter what happens in Tibet.)

Take Action: We can't force China to leave Tibet. We can, however, tell China that the world is watching, and that the world cares about what happens in Tibet. And China will care about that, because it is hosting the upcoming Beijing Olympics and is desperate to cultivate an image as a safe, free, humane country that tourists should support with tourism dollars. China needs Westerners to like it right now -- so let's tell China that actually, no, we don't, and we want it to leave Tibet alone.

Here's contact info for key Chinese embassies and consulates -- and I'll be adding more, so please check back; there's no reason why one person can't make more than one call, each to a different office. BE POLITE -- NO OBSCENITY OR SHOUTING!! -- BUT FIRM ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU'RE PAYING ATTENTION AND WANT CHINA TO ALLOW TIBETAN CULTURAL FREEDOM, IF NOT TRUE INDEPENDENCE:

Chinese Embassy, Washington D.C.:
Telephone 202-328-2500

Chinese Consulate, New York:
Telephone 212-244-9392 or 212-244-9456

Chinese Consulate, Chicago:
Telephone 312-803-0095
Fax: 312-803-0110

Chinese Consulate, San Francisco:
Overseas Affairs Office Telephone: 415-674-2917
Cultural Affairs Office Telephone: 415-674-2961
Public Affairs Office Telephone: 415-674-2946

Chinese Consulate, Los Angeles:
Telephone 213-807-8088
Fax 213-807-8091

Chinese Consulate, Houston:
Telephone 713-520-1462
Fax 713-521-3064

Contact info for people running this summer's Beijing Olympics here!

UPDATE 2: Tibetan exiles are protesting worldwide -- good Washington Post overview here -- and their adoptive governments are suppressing their protests instead of assisting them. Sometimes the governmental opposition is nonviolent but gutless, as in Hamburg, Germany, where Tibetans were forbidden to raise Tibetan flags during a soccer match against China, to Dharamsala, where the Indian government is trying to stop Tibetan protesters from publicly marching back to Tibet and reportedly has arrested 100 to stop them; to Nepal, where a government fearful of China's military and economic power (and of China-backed Maoist insurgents) is using violence against Tibetan protestors. AND IN THE MIDDLE OF ALL THIS, THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION HAS DELISTED CHINA FROM ITS LIST OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATORS! It's a travesty of justice and simple ethics, and shows China's power and the dominance of economic interests over moral ones. New pictures tell the tale. Top two: New Delhi; New Delhi again. Next two: Kathmandu, Nepal; Kathmandu again. Bottom: Mt. Olympus, Greece, where the Olympic flame will shortly begin its journey to Beijing.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Will Clinton Debate in North Carolina, or Just Pennsylvania?

Update: she will debate in NC, too.

Original post:

20 debates weren't enough; they're about to make it 21 or 22.

Earlier today, Clinton issued a press release accepting ABC's offer to host a debate in Philadelphia: "Hillary Clinton Accepts ABC's Invitation to Debate Sen. Obama in the Keystone State." That's mildly gutsy, given that pro-Clinton Democratic leaders in Pennsylvania have said that Pennsylvanians are racist (something Obama's likely to challenge her -- and Pennsylvanians -- on), but overall Pennsylvania is friendly territory for her.

Interestingly, though, she didn't mention that CBS also offered to host a debate -- in North Carolina.

Why wouldn't Clinton want to mention, let alone accept, a debate in North Carolina, a state that's understandably proud of how well it's moving past the racism of the past and that has a high percentage of African-Americans in its workforce, elected office -- and voter rolls? Maybe it has something to do with the fact that Clinton supporter Geraldine Ferraro unrepentantly keeps insisting Obama is just an "affirmative action" candidate who's only the frontrunner because he's black -- probably because Obama kicked Clinton's rump in those famously African-American strongolds of Utah, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Washington State, etc. Or maybe Clinton's regretting her admission, just in the last day or two, that she won't waste time trying to win the Carolinas in the general election. No: North Carolina won't be a receptive audience, and all of Clinton's (and her proxies' -- hey, good for the gander, good for the goose) missteps will give Obama great talking points.

But Obama's not letting her leave it at Pennsylvania, a state dominated by her pseudo-Democratic, inwardly Vichy supporters. He's happy to debate in North Carolina, and he's not afraid to debate in Pennsylvania. Here's an Obama press release received just a couple minutes ago:


CHICAGO -- Today, Barack Obama accepted invitations to nationally televised debates with Senator Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia on April 16th and in North Carolina on April 19th. ***

“Senator Obama welcomes the opportunity to openly debate Senator Clinton on the issues important to Americans in North Carolina and Pennsylvania and hopes that she will accept these invitations as well,” said Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton.

Whether Clinton cowardly agrees to debate only in PA or has the courage to do so in both states, these should make the earlier debates look like Girl Scout raffles. Then, the candidates were playing nice; Hillary even said how proud she was to be on stage with Obama and how much they really like each other (immediately before starting her "kitchen sink" -- her campaign's phrase -- negative campaign against him). Now, though, there's no way for her to pretend the gloves aren't off -- not that she won't try. I'll expect Clinton to be all over the map (nice-no, mean-OK, I'll be nice), and Obama to be consistent, tough and statesmanlike. With all the cards on the table, it should be fun.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Clinton: "My Eight Years of Experience" in White House Led Her to Vote for War

"My eight years of experience at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue" led Clinton to decide to vote -- "with conviction" -- to go to war in Iraq. I guess Obama's right: good judgment trumps some people's mere "experience."

From a nicely edited, short YouTube video.

Relevant foreign policy current news stories here, here; Ferraro's latest nitwittery here; WaPo on the Dems' endgame; and for no relevant reason at all, why one pundit thinks Spitzer hurts Hillary (from his lips to God's ear...)

It's 1:44 pm. Do you know where your towel's at?

A necessary break from obsession about politics: Happy Douglas Adams' BD!

Here's the story of how he came to create the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, from today's "Writer's Almanac" (I particularly like the bit about deadlines):

"It's the birthday of writer Douglas Adams, born in Cambridge, England (1952), best known for his five-book "trilogy" The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a series of comic science fiction novels that sold more than 14 million copies during his lifetime and inspired a cult-like following.
"The idea for the first book came to Adams when he was 19 years old and backpacking through Europe. After a day of wandering through the Austrian countryside carrying the Hitch-hiker's Guide to Europe, Adams lay drunk in a field in Innsbruck with the book, ruing his inability to communicate with residents and gazing up at the stars. He said it occurred to him right then that somebody ought to write a hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy.

"At age 24, he felt frustrated by his lack of success as a writer and was on the verge of pursuing a different career when the BBC accepted his outline of the Hitchhiker story, about an Englishman named Arthur Dent and his alien friend Ford Prefect who hitch a ride from Earth on a passing starship before the planet is destroyed by a band of bureaucratic aliens. He wrote a 12-part radio series, which was broadcast for the first time in March 1978. A publisher approached Adams about turning the series into a novel, and the next year The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy appeared in print.

"It was followed by The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980) and then Life, the Universe, and Everything (1982), each popular and best-selling, and then a fourth book, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (1984).

"He was a notoriously unpunctual writer and said, 'I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.'"

Adams passed away at age 49 which running on the treadmill at the local gym. Moral: don't waste time.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

"We're a Group That Wants Change": Casey Knowles BEFORE the 3 AM Ad

I was going to live my real life today instead of blogging, but this is too good to pass up, both because it's funnier than heck and because it is, in a nutshell, a perfect summary of what Obama's campaign is about.

FIRST, THE BACKGROUND THAT MAKES THE STORY ACTUALLY MEAN SOMETHING: Before I repeat the story that's starting to make the news and the blogs, I'd like to start with an angle that the other media haven't caught onto yet, but that puts it into perfect perspective.

Last summer, Bonney Lake (WA) High School's student government representatives held a retreat to plan for the year, reported in the Puyallup (WA) Herald. In that article, one student leader summarized the hope that those young, bright, engaged future leaders wanted to bring, not to American politics, but just to their own high school's new school year:

Public Relations Officer Casey Knowles, another senior, said she has high hopes for this year’s student government.

“We’re a group that wants change,” Knowles said.

OK, so now you know a tiny nugget about who one Casey Knowles is: a high school senior, involved in student government, willing to invest some time over the summer in trying to make her school a better place -- and summarizing her classmates', and her generation's, ideal: "We're a group that wants change."

That's awesome! We love kids like her, who care about making the world better instead of getting a high score on Wii! But why's it news, and why today?

NOW THE STORY THAT'S STARTING TO MAKE THE ROUNDS TODAY: Casey Knowles turns out to be one of the children used in Clinton's "3 AM" ad (here, along with all its Republican "be afraid. be very afraid" antecedents), which used stock film footage from several years ago. And Casey Knowles, who had no idea her image was being used in Clinton's ad, is now not only a high school student government leader, but also a Democratic precinct captain and -- consistent with her hope for change -- a fervent Obama supporter.

So: Obama has actually earned the real-life support of a really cool, smart, involved, active young person. Clinton has merely reached back years for film footage of that cool, smart, involved, active young person when she was a child, to make an ad that the cool, smart, involved, active young person strongly disagrees with.

The future vs. the past; reality vs. images; Obama vs. Clinton. Now, ain't this the whole primary campaign in a nutshell?

News and blog stories on this can be found on the Huffington Post, the Minneapolis/St. Paul City Pages, TPM, and Washington State local TV. Other campaign stories here and here.

And here's the original Casey Knowles story (from an Obama press release -- see, they're NOT helpless and silent naifs when confronted with dishonest, Republican-style smear attacks):

Subject: The New Argument: Child in Clinton's 3 am Phone Ad Supports Obama
To: ***
BREAKING NEWS: Child in Clinton’s “3am Phone Ad” supports Obama
By Evan Miller • Mar 7th, 2008 • Category: Campaign '08

Casey Knowles, a High School Senior in Washington state, recently discovered she was one of the sleeping children in Clinton’s controversial “Children” ad appearing prior to the Texas primaries.

Knowles, a supporter of Barack Obama was shocked that she had contributed to the national security message of a candidate that she passionately opposes.

When asked by The New Argument, this is what Knowles had to say about her appearance in Clinton’s ad:

“While I love Hillary, I would much rather hear Barack Obama’s voice at the other end of the phone at 3am. Its hilarious and ironic that the child in Hillary’s ad is now of voting age and not her supporter. I’ve been campaigning for Barack since October and was a caucus precinct captain. I’ve been a very avid advocate of his and recruited a lot of folks to caucus for him in January. He’s inspired and mobilized so many already, he’s refreshing and quite simply the best option for people who want to change this country.”

King 5 News interviewed Casey Knowles and her family at their home after we broke the story. You may have to login to view the video, so here is the written story…

BONNEY LAKE, Wash. – The political ad that sparked nationwide controversy turns out to have a surprising local connection.

One of the actors in the Hillary Clinton ad was shocked to see herself, especially because she’s a fierce supporter of Barack Obama.

The so-called “red-phone ad” played a big role in Clinton’s win in Texas, suggesting Barack Obama is too inexperienced to handle a national crisis.

But the young girl starring in the ad will actually be voting age next month and says she’s no fan of Hillary Clinton.

Thursday night, the Knowles family of Bonney Lake, Wash., watched the John Stewart Show and saw the ad for the first time.

“I looked and saw a girl that looked like my sister and we rewound it and sure enough it was my sister,” said Brady Knowles.

The first girl in the ad is young Casey Knowles. It’s stock footage from 8 years ago when she worked as a TV extra - footage owned now by Getty Images and used by the Clinton campaign.

The dangers of stock footage

But they couldn’t have picked a more unwilling star.

“It’s really sort of ironic that my image would be used to advocate for Hillary when I myself do not,” said Casey.

She may only be 17, but Casey has some very strong political opinions. She turns 18 - legal voting age - in April, in plenty of time before the general election.

“It’s perfect timing because I have a candidate that I really identify with,” she said.

“I’ve been campaigning for Barack Obama for a few months now,” she said. “I was actually a precinct captain at the caucuses a few months ago. I attended his rally a few months ago and I’m a very, very avid supporter.”

The Knowles family admit they have no control over how the footage is used. And while they see the humor of it all, they are mildly annoyed.

“I think it would be really wonderful if me and Barack Obama could get together and make a nice counter ad,” she laughed.

Despite all of this, Casey Knowles admits if Clinton wins the party’s nomination, she will vote for her.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It's Not "Still Up In The Air", It's Just Strung Out...

UPDATE, MARCH 24: While Clinton campaigns in Pennsylvania and Obama takes a well-earned rest day, both of their campaigns continue to trade press releases keeping the heat on each other -- and John McCain campaigns in California, a state Democrats should be able to win in November, without a clear Democratic frontrunner to contest him and ensure that those indispensable 55 electoral votes stay in the Democratic column. It's agonizing: individual ego may well cost Democrats the White House -- and enable a Republican to replace at least one or two of the three remaining Democrats on the Supreme Court with Republicans, making the Court 7-2 or even 8-1 Republican. Women supporting Hillary Clinton should think hard about the impact her extending her losing campaign all the way to August may have on women's rights, because it's not just the White House that's at stake.

UPDATE, MARCH 20: No matter how well Hillary Clinton does in Pennsylvania, it's increasingly clear that she can't mathematically win the popular vote, and will need to rely on "Superdelegates" overriding the will of the voters. Not good for the Party or the country, as discussed below...

ORIGINAL POST: It's not "still up in the air", as a CNN piece says; it's just strung out now, probably all the way to August, to the party's detriment and McCain's gain. In the past, Clinton's campaign itself has said repeatedly that it's not about the number of states, it's about the number of delegates -- and given how close the margins were yesterday, plus the fact that Obama may actually have WON Texas when the primary and caucus votes are combined (!), Clinton probably gained only four net delegates, not enough to cut deeply into Obama's roughly 100-delegate lead.

So the math hasn't changed, just the P.R. spin. And the only way the nomination is "up in the air", mathematically, is that there still is a possibility that Clinton will be able to broker the convention and receive the nomination even though Obama will win both the popular vote and the majority of "pledged" delegates chosen by the popular vote. (In a press conference today, Clinton's campaign manager said flat out that that's fine by him -- the popular vote doesn't matter and if they can get the Michigan and Florida delegations seated, or sway the "superdelegates" whose votes are equivalent to roughly 10,000 real voters', they'll consider that fair. Do you agree?)

UPDATE, MARCH 13: Readers shouldn't be fooled by Clinton's current pretense that all she wants is Florida and Michigan's voters to be heard. That isn't what she's said in the past, it isn't what she's said in her press releases or press briefings, and it isn't even what she's saying now, if you read carefully enough. What I wrote above, and immediately below, still hold true: Obama wants either the rules followed as-is or a real re-election held, and Clinton only wants those options that give her an unfair edge -- which is why she still calls the Michigan election "fair" even though Obama's name wasn't even on the ballot. And don't trust the MainStream Media (MSM) to tell the whole truth -- they can't fit nuance into soundbites!

Clinton's campaign has repeatedly said that there's no need for Florida or Michigan -- which were disqualified by the Democratic Party by the DNC, with Clinton's assent, in which the candidates all pledged not to campaign, and in which, in one case (Michigan), Obama's name didn't even appear on the ballot -- to hold valid votes or caucuses. No -- Clinton wants those two states' delegations (even Michigan's) seated at the national convention WITHOUT fair votes. Why? Because those states' skewed primaries resulted in Clinton racking up big "wins" (of course -- how hard can it be, for instance, when your opponent's name isn't even on the ballot?). I've listened in on the press conferences, and they're not even trying to hide it. FURTHER UPDATE: Just one example of Clinton campaign's about-face here.

What everyone (but Clinton) wants, of course, is for both states to hold legitimate primaries or caucuses, decide for real which candidate they prefer, and take their rightful place at the national convention. One job of true patriots is to fight for this to happen, against those who would rather benefit from a rigged system than actually abide by the will of the people. There is, happily, some hope -- far from certain, but hope, according to a CNN piece -- of the establishment "machine" losing and the right thing actually being done. I'll have an action plan (including contact info for the Democratic National Committee Rules Committee members and other power brokers who will make the final decision) up here in a few days, so please bookmark and check back. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Breaking News: Clinton Claiming Widespread Fraud By Obama, Ramping Up Legal War To String Out Primary

UPDATE/REQUEST: If you participated in a caucus -- in Texas or anywhere else -- would you please email me at vichy at Please do so whoever you supported, and whether your experience was good or bad; I just want to learn more about what's been happening on the ground. Thanks! TDS.
I'll flesh this out later, but this is big news: the Clinton camp just called a press conference, which I attended telephonically, to accuse the Obama Texas campaign of "statewide systemic" abuses of the caucus process. They've "lawyered up" -- had a lawyer on the call -- and are expressly keeping open the possibility of legally contesting the Texas caucuses long into the future. Among other things, they claim that Obama supporters have stolen caucus materials and chairs needed by Clinton supporters, "taking control" of caucus sites, and locking out "long lines" of Clinton supporters to ensure the caucuses go Obama's way. They also confirmed that they will press their delegates to insist that the Florida and Michigan delegations be seated at the DNC convention in August, WITHOUT the revotes that everyone besides the Clintonites are urging as a fair way to honor those voters without being unfair to candidates (Obama's name didn't even appear on the Michigan ballot, but Clinton wants those delegates).

It was just a few hours ago, but I did predict this exact scenario unfolding before all these claims of scurrilous behavior slammed into the media machine like the Galveston Hurricane of 1900:

The Clinton camp seems intent on building a "record" of supposed campaign violations in Texas, which is critical to them and which they're very afraid they'll lose, so that they can file a lawsuit challenging the results and then use that as an excuse to stay in the race even though it hurts the party ("we can't drop out now, we don't even know how the courts will rule in Texas").

Why do I think they're intentionally manufacturing a lawsuit? Easy: they've pretty much said so. They had their surrogate -- a teacher's union strongly backing Clinton -- file a frivolous lawsuit, quickly dismissed, in Nevada. They've threatened to file suit to seat the Florida delegation that Hillary herself previously said shouldn't be seated. (The Wall Street Journal foresees that one going to the Supreme Court -- an even more conservative Supreme Court than the one that selected Bush President in 2000.) And they "lawyered up" long ago in Texas, though they tried to deny it once word got out.

If real evidence comes to light, I'm willing to change my mind, but at this point I'm not buying Clinton's claims of widespread terrorism by Obama supporters, for several reasons. These include:

1) Obama's done outstandingly well in almost all caucus states so far this election, and was on track to do similarly well in Texas tonight. His campaign has no reason to cheat to win the caucus portion of the Texas nomination process.

2) Unlike earlier contests, the Clinton camp had large numbers of lawyers lined up in Texas far ahead of tonight's "emergency" press conference. Texas was their "firewall" state, they "lawyered up" to protect it just like Bush did in Florida in 2000, and all they needed was a claim -- real or fake -- for those lawyers to go to work on.

3) Pressure has been building on Hillary to withdraw gracefully if she lost EITHER Texas or Ohio. Bill Clinton said she needed to win both; Chelsea Clinton said she needed to win both; James Carville said she needed to win both; and the delegate math clearly shows that she needs, not just to win both states, but to win them by 5- to 8-point margins to make any significant inroads into Obama's delegate count. Contesting one or both states' elections tonight (and I do mean both -- legal action in Ohio is the other shoe I'm waiting to drop) is a good way for her to stall while she continues to run the (increasingly effective) negative campaign she's been running against Obama for the past few weeks, and to try again for a big win in another large state, like Pennsylvania -- or even as an excuse to string things out all the way to the Convention in August, when she'll try to leverage superdelegates and the Michigan/Ohio contingents into a brokered victory that upsets the popular vote.

The big thing to remember: this isn't just a press conference about some election irregularities; it isn't more negative campaigning against Obama; it's the first salvo of all-out war, and I'm absolutely sure it's Step One of a full-fledged plan to stall Obama's clearly winning the nomination at least until the Pennsylvania primary and probably until the Democratic National Convention in Denver in August, where Clinton intends to manipulate superdelegates and the Michigan and Florida delegations into a nomination victory that overrides the popular vote. I only hope the mainstream media understands the big picture, or at least has a glimmer of good old fashioned journalistic cynicism, instead of doing Clinton the unearned favor of reporting it at face value.

Update: early media reports coming in. In no particular order: The Oregonian; Wall Street Journal; Slate (conference call transcript); MSNBC; Washington Post (Obama's representative was very reasonable on the conference call, by the way -- not like it sounds); Update 3/5: CNN (election results, laudably NOT biting on Clinton's presser yesterday). Question remains: since it IS about the delegate count, and Clinton's "comeback" yesterday didn't really eat into Obama's delegate lead, will she still go on the warpath over the TX caucuses? Even if she decides to sit pat for now, we're going to see repeats of the lawyers-guns-and-money approach to every close contest from here on out, and to the Convention -- which means a drawn-out primary season, more negative campaigning from her side, more boosts to McCain as the Dems tear themselves apart, and very possibly a Republican victory in November.

As I said, I'll flesh this out, but wanted to put the news out there a.s.a.p.