Friday, February 29, 2008

It Will Say Great Things About the State of the Nation . . .

... if the voters of Texas and Ohio soundly reject the old-fashioned twentieth-century politics of fear embodied in this most recent television ad from an increasingly desperate Hillary Clinton campaign when they go to the polls next Tuesday.

"It's 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. But there's a phone in the White House and it's ringing. Something's happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call."

Very Rovian, isn't it? So, we have a ringing telephone. VERY SCARY. But who's on the other end of the line? Someone announcing that Saddam Hussein has risen from the dead with his well-hidden stash of chemical weapons, or that a resurrected Soviet Union has moved missiles into Communist Venezuela?
I want someone answering the phone who has shown the ability to think outside conventional boxes, not someone with knee-jerk military reactions honed half-a-century ago during the Cold War, or someone else with a propensity for "looking strong" over clear thinking.
Rent Thirteen Days and try to imagine Bush II, McCain, Clinton II, and President Obama filling JFK's shoes during the Cuban Missle Crisis -- the closest thing that our country has had to a "red phone moment" outside of Dr. Strangelove. Which of those men and women would have mindlessly listened to the military and intelligence "experts," and which one of those men and women would have, like President Kennedy, taken the time to talk rather than fry portions of the earth into radioactive dead zones?
My vote, and my money, is with President Obama.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

One Million People putting their money where their hearts are

Or should I be more cynical about reaching this milestone today? I haven't felt so uncynical about a presidential candidate since June 6, 1968.
If you feel the same, then think about adding your $25 to the campaign.
Here's the appropriate quotation for the day:

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope... and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance. - Robert F. Kennedy

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

How did we let the left(ies) take over America?

In January 2009, we'll inaugurate another left-handed President, either John McCain or Barack Obama. This will be the latest in a list of recent lefty Chief Executives that includes Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan (according to some accounts he was a "natural" lefty who was converted at a young age), George Bush the First, and Bill Clinton. If the 2000 election had been determined by the popular vote (or by a closer examination of Florida's hanging chads), then lefty Al Gore would have continued a rule of the lefty minority over the rest of us extending back to 1974 (with only a short break for Jimmy Carter).

What (if anything) is the significance of this string of sinister Commanders in Chief? Does Ned Flanders have anything to do with it?

This Would Be Hilarious if It Weren't True

Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early
If you can't see video on your computer, imagine the reporters of ONN (Onion News Network) realistically reporting on the following story: "Diebold Accidentally Leaks Results Of 2008 Election Early".
(Hint: the winner was neither a woman nor a person of color.)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Average Fictional Americans Chime in on the Bursting of America's Useless-Crap Bubble

The usual men-and-women-on-the-street over at The Onion* have spoken today about the Sharper Image bankruptcy as an early warning sign of the impending messy bursting of the useless-crap bubble upon which our entire economy floats.

"Never in a million years did I think the American consumer would lose its hunger for expensive, useless products."

--Jack Dimsdale, Systems Analyst

We may have to go back to floating the entire economy on expensive, useless weapons systems instead, though that task may be harder to accomplish if we replace a traditional fear presidency with a hope presidency.

*Though masquerading as mere "jokesters," please remember that everything in The Onion eventually comes to pass, as proved by this masterpiece of divination published on January 17, 2001.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Are they saying "I Told You So" from the pulpits in Texas?

After today's hint of a minor bimbo eruption on the front page of The New York Times, are the evangelical churches on both sides of the Bible Belt trumpeting this "I told you so" to the Republican primary voters who have handed the nomination of God's Own Party to a sinner? Are plastic letters and LEDs being changed to proclamations of their candidate's holiness or clever skewers of the faux-conservative McCain? Are the blessed wondering if they have nominated their own Bill Clinton? Are the interns safe?

The story of the friendship between John McCain & Vicki Iseman in today's paper of record is actually less interesting than the reminders of John McCain as the sole survivor of the Keating Five Scandal. The whole article is definitely worth reading for the picture it paints of the closeness between money and power. The corporate jet rides (with their reminder of Dubya riding around on Kenny Boy Lay's Enron plane) are more annoying than the hints of possible romance.

Will McCain lose any of the remaining Republican primaries? Or will he continue to win them with thinner majorities than Obama's (keeping in mind that Obama has had a real opponent during his current string of 10 straight decisive wins)?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Forget the Dot.Com Bubble and the Housing Bubble, this is really serious

This just in:
Two Gift Retailers File for Bankruptcy

Published: February 20, 2008
Filed at 12:21 p.m. ET

NEW YORK (AP) -- A weak holiday season and a struggling economy led retailers Sharper Image Corp. and Lillian Vernon Corp. to file for bankruptcy this week, and analysts predict others could soon follow them as consumer spending worsens. [. . .]

If the USELESS-CRAP BUBBLE ever bursts, there won't be any US (or Chinese) economy! Only you can buy an Stretching Robotic Massage Recliner or Faux Chocolate Easter Bunny to save us from financial disaster!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Where were you five years ago today?

Were you with us in New York City on that 20-degree day?
Were you in London?
Or were you sitting back, a first-term Senator from New York, thinking how great your pro-war vote would make you look to middle America when you ran for President in five years?

How many "Executive Privileges" will be voluntarily relinquished by the next President?

An Editorial, "Show Us the Money," in the New York Times today takes both John McCain and Hillary Clinton to task for not releasing their tax returns as Barack Obama has done (keep in mind that the Times endorsed both McCain and Clinton for their parties' nominations just before the Florida primary). Both are attacked for an amount of financial secrecy that is unusual in the post-Watergate era.

This is a wider question about secrecy in the Presidency, especially in this era following Dick Cheney's power grabs. Here are just a few of the many specifics about reversing these anti-sunshine efforts of the Executive Branch in the detailed Ethics section on Barack Obama's website:
  • Make White House Communications Public: Obama will amend executive orders to ensure that communications about regulatory policymaking between persons outside government and all White House staff are disclosed to the public.
  • Conduct Regulatory Agency Business in Public: Obama will require his appointees who lead the executive branch departments and rulemaking agencies to conduct the significant business of the agency in public, so that any citizen can see in person or watch on the Internet these debates.
  • Release Presidential Records: Obama will nullify the Bush attempts to make the timely release of presidential records more difficult. [emphasis added]

There's much less specificity on the "substantive" Hillary Clinton's issue page about government reform. I could be wrong, but I looked and I didn't see any indication that the second Clinton administration is promising to give back any of the Presidential powers that were appropriated over the last eight years by Cheney and Rumsfeld and friends.

Today's Times editorial talks about more than just tax returns in regard to both Clintons' finances:

In the same spirit, the Clintons are obliged to make prompt disclosure of the major donors who have been backing the former president’s library and foundation. It is not even clear whether Mr. Clinton would disclose his library’s donors if his wife won the White House.

Hillary Clinton, with her self-proclaimed aura of specificity, should be at least a specific as Barack Obama about her plans for openness and restoring some balance between the three branches of government during the second Clinton administration (including openness about her spouse's finances and business ties).

Thursday, February 14, 2008

"Experience in the old ways is irrelevant experience. " -- Gary Hart, 13 Feb 2008

This very short, very spirited defense of Barack Obama on The Huffington Post, "Politics As Transcendence," is interesting in light of my last post because it's written by Gary Hart, the man derailed by Walter Mondale's superdelegates in 1984 (Hillary's dream for 2008), and the man who might have saved the party from Mike Dukakis (and the nation from Bush I) in 1988 if it weren't for a little monkey business aboard the Monkey Business.

In an age of great transformation, experience of the past is worthless because it is a barrier to the breakthrough gesture, the instant response in crisis, the instinctive bold decision in the face of totally new circumstances.

Some see Barack Obama as the long awaited champion finally come to slay the awful dragon of race. And they are right. Some see him as a new start for the Democratic Party and national politics. And they are right. Some see him as the walking embodiment of internationalism, ready to restore an honorable and respected place for America in the world. And they are right.
These are the kind of non-wonky statements that drive the traditional (i.e., losing) Democrats absolutely crazy. Just look at the comments below "Politics as Transcendence" to see the raw nerves it touches.

The Democratic Cult of No Personality

20 years ago, the man to your right, the ultimate policy wonk in a party of wonks, the man who proudly read books about Swedish land use on vacation and never read novels, represented the Democrats in their unsuccessful run against George Bush I. He was not an anomaly in the years since the Democrats' Camelot came crashing down.

Mondale, Carter, Gore, Kerry, Dukakis, Bradley, Clinton I (circa 1988 when he put people to sleep with his overlong convention intro of The Duke), and Clinton II, have all proved themselves capable of losing big blocs of votes with every extra paragraph of exposition that leaves their mouths.

"People say to me all the time, 'You're so specific. You talk about all these things you want to do. Why don't you just come and, you know, really just give us one of those great rhetorical flourishes and then, you know, get everybody all whooped up?' "

--Hillary Clinton, Virginia, February 10, 2008

Why do some in the Democratic Party (a minority at this point in the primary process, but still a powerful minority) fear the one person in the race who does have a personality and a natural ability to get people "all whooped up" in addition to having clear specific positions on every major issue that you can find articulated in great detail here? There is (to paraphrase Walter Mondale's infamous meaningless paraphrase of a Wendy's commercial) beef here! Is their fear of Barack Obama a simple fear of change? A fear of hope? A fear of enthusiasm? A sneaking suspicion that "optimism" is a code word that was somehow copyrighted by the Reagan Republicans?

As long as this cult of no personality -- this cult of wonkishness as proof of seriousness -- survives among the Democrats, they will continue to lose national elections, even to short-armed septugenarians pushing the failed foreign policies of 1950's America.

You really have to be aware of your font, letterspacing, and use of all CAPS when you're printing the name FLICK.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hope & Fear

The polls are still open in the "Potomac Primaries" of MD, DC, & VA as I write this and the question being asked everywhere is "what does it mean to Clinton if Obama (as expected) sweeps?" It occurs to me that Obama was almost left for dead by the media after losing by a couple of points in New Hampshire. If Clinton had won Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana, and Maine by 2 to 1 last weekend (as Obama did), the media would not be waiting for tonight's results; the punditocracy would be screaming for his withdrawal in the name of party unity. I don't expect anyone to be making that call of the losing candidate tonight. She still has her Giulianiesque reliance on the primaries of March 4th.
But that's not the point of my writing.

I wanted to write about Hope and Fear. I'm reading the Herbert Lottman biography of Albert Camus at the moment, and the mentions there of "Neither Victims Nor Executioners" ("Ni Victimes ni Bourreaux") were very intriguing to me, and the discussions seemed very contemporary in this age of Guantanamo's military tribunals. I found an English version of Camus' essay online this morning and was shocked by the first paragraph:

The seventeenth century was the century of mathematics, the eighteenth that of the physical sciences, and the nineteenth that of biology. Our twentieth century is the century of fear. I will be told that fear is not a science. But science must be somewhat involved since its latest theoretical advances have brought it to the point of negating itself while its perfected technology threatens the globe itself with destruction. Moreover, although fear itself cannot be considered a science, it is certainly a technique. (tr. Dwight Macdonald)

George W. Bush was the last President elected in Camus' century of fear (which technically ended on 1/1/01). Could the first new president elected in the 21st century actually triumph using something other than that most tried and true marketing tool??

The biggest fear-monger in this primary season, Rudy "Noun,Verb,9/11" Giuliani was quickly rejected for more than just his bad Florida strategy, though he had been the media-anointed front runner only six months ago. Really, they reasoned, how could such pure fearmongering without experience fail to excite the Republican, if not the American, electorate?

A quick Google search for the phrase "Hope and Fear" led me to this very interesting article by Andrew Sullivan in the December 30, 2007 issue of The Sunday Times (London): "America has a clear-cut choice: the candidates of hope or fear". It turns out that he identified only two candidates of hope in his review of the field (before the winnowing started in Iowa on January 3rd):
After following this race for an almost interminable preamble, all I can say is that I can’t imagine a more constructive race than one between Obama and McCain. The odds are still against it. But it is more imaginable now than at any time in the past year.
I may not totally agree with Andrew Sullivan's idea of John McCain as the candidate of hope (though his lack of anti-immigrant fearmongering and his principled attack on torture do put him head and shoulders above his fellow Republicans), but how hopeful is it that these two have now beaten the long odds (even if the candidate of fear among the Democrats will hold out at least until her campaign reaches the Alamo on March 4th)?

Friday, February 01, 2008

MoveOn.Org Members Have Voted

Click Here to read the details of the organization's endorsement of Barack Obama.

Ann Coulter will campaign for Hillary over McCain

I had another conservative woman say to me yesterday that Republican women will vote for Hillary in droves, but I thought she was joking until I saw this clip from last night's "Hannity & Colmes":

Is this the ugliest set and screen design that you've ever seen? I don't have cable (and if I did I probably wouldn't watch Fox), so maybe it's become the norm, but what is all that animated crap at the bottom of the screen??

Ann Coulter campaigning for Hillary?
Yesterday it was the New York Post endorsing Obama on its front page. What's up?

Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies. Rivers and seas boiling.
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness. Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together - mass hysteria.

--Ghostbusters (1984)