Saturday, May 31, 2008

Caution About Video

I've had some private emails about my comments concerning Larry Johnson's posts about a video alleged to show Michelle Obama saying objectionable things about whites. (I hope everyone can follow that...) I want to take a brief moment to be clear about my position. It is only my position and everyone is free to disagree.
  1. I am not saying in any way shape or form that Larry Johnson is lying about the existence of some video of Michelle Obama. Please. Larry would not do that. A video of some kind exists.
  2. If you read his posts closely, Larry does not claim to have seen the video in question himself. I may have missed a post where he did state this, but in the posts I have read, he does not. He was very clear that he has spoken to at least two people who do not know each other, who he trusts completely, and who have attested to the existence of a video.
  3. I do not consider the fact that some whacko rightwing bazillionaire has offered $1 million for a copy of the video to be proof of anything. Why not? Because the *rumor* of a terrible, career destroying video is something you can dangle in front of people for a long time and which can't be countered except by exasperated assertions that it doesn't exist. After all, the total lack of evidence is the surest sign that the conspiracy is succeeding. The offer of a bounty, absent something more substantive, has all the hallmarks of a classic Republican ratfucking operation. Thus, I want to know more.
  4. If Larry says he has something for us to see by 9:00 AM on Monday, then the man will deliver.
  5. Larry has not promised a video for Monday. He just promised something big. I am very interested to see what he has in hand.
  6. Given the doctored clip from The War Room, putting slurs into Mickey Kantor's mouth, I think it is strongly in everyone's interests to approach any video with a big heap of healthy scepticism. While I trust Larry not to knowingly pass on anything that did not check out, I also know that there are a lot of people out there who would like nothing more than for Democrats generally and Hillary supporters in particular, to be led into a trap. Thus, I advise caution and critical evaluation of anything that purports to be explosive (video or something else), and to look carefully for signs that Larry may not have caught. The credibility you save will be your own.
  7. Two words: Dan Rather. Something can be true and yet still be a trap.

So, my caution is based on past examples from this campaign and from others of how something purporting to be true turns out to be a hoax or a trap. Don't let eagerness to hurt a political opponent make you gullible.

I also say that whether or not I like Michelle Obama, there's a shitload of sexism and, yes, racism (not to mention foul language and plain old bad manners) aimed at her that is not acceptable under any circumstances. I don't care if she's been a jerk. I don't like sexism aimed at Hillary and I don't like it aimed at any other female public figure, even those who tick me off. I fully expect that somewhere there is a video showing Michelle behind the pulpit at TUCC and saying things that I might find objectionable. Why? She's a long standing member of that church, she's a woman who bluntly speaks her mind, and things I find objectionable appear to be acceptable at TUCC. But thinking that there is some video that shows this person saying something so shocking that it will change the course of the campaign? Not unless I actually see a video that several disinterested professional video analysts attest has not been modified or altered and I decide that what she says is actually something I find objectionable. Further, even if I find her words objectionable, that doesn't mean I'll find them politically relevant. What others make of it is another thing entirely.

On Monday, I'll examine the evidence and draw my own conclusions.


Decisions, Decisions

The spousal unit is off getting the ingredients for mojitos at the moment, and I'm reflecting on the events of the day. We followed the live blog of the meeting via TalkLeft (which appears to be crashing under server load at the moment - give it some time) plus Marc Ambinder's blogging of it. There are a lot of tea leaves at the bottom of the cup.

The 50% solution for Florida was disappointing, but not the worst that could happen. They still get added into the total votes needed, Hillary is able to formally count the popular vote there as part of her total, Floridians will support her in the fall and will punish Obama.

The solution for Michigan is thoroughly bad news for Obama. The state's popular vote is legitmated, allowing Hillary to claim it, the 50% penalty removes "teh rulz!" as a talking point weapon (as it does with Florida) (note to FITH Obama trolls - the rulz have officially changed so you can stfu now), and the squabble over a mere 4 pledged delegates indicates that they are worried about the delegate count, enough so that they would reassign votes to try to force their way through.

Speaking with my political scientist hat on, penalizing the states' delegations by reducing the impact of their votes may vex Clinton supporters, but it is within the powers of the DNC to do so. The reasons for the penalty (to tilt the win in favor of one candidate) and the context of the penalty (failing to penalize other states who committed similar infractions) and in the case of Florida, refusing to take into account the extentuating circumstances of Republican interference with the timing of the vote are elements that will provide grist for dozens if not hundreds of Poli. Sci. PhD dissertations in the years to come, but the power itself is within the charter of the organization and the appropriate committee(s).

Taking away delegates from Hillary and handing them to Obama, however, is not within their purview, and this will come back to bite them in the ass. First, as I said above, it indicates that the internal count of the Obama delegates is weaker than they claim. Four delegates should not make that big a difference, yet they obviously do even with the count reduced by the 50% rule. There is no other rational reason to force this misallocation for such a small number of delegates, given the blowback that will occur. Of course, given what we have seen of the Obama campaign, stupidity, arrogance and an inability to resist trying to humiliate an opponent are hallmarks of their operation. Whether or not Hillary can capitalize on this for the convention, rest assured that the Republicans will do so for the general election, even if Hillary is the nominee. The Party has deliberately reapportioned the outcome of an official and certified election. They may have had the power to deny seats to the resulting delegation at all, allow seats but no votes, allow votes but reduced by a percentage, or seat them with 100% voting privileges, but they do not have the power to modify the allocation of delegates within the delegation.

Doffing the poli sci hat, the joint announcement of the decsion of the RBC and of Obama's resignation from TUCC says put a fork in him, he's done. The question for me was whether he hoped the attention on the committee would keep people from noticing the church announcement (if yes, it failed), or whether the church announcement was a distraction from the committee announcement, which sounds more likely to me. Better a focus on the scandal which the campaign will try to spin as a strength, than on the committee hearings, which exposed to the full light of day the manipulation of delegates to favor a candidate in decline.

Blanchard was phenomenal in the hearings, and very clearly made the case that Obama had maneuvered himself out of delegate support in Michigan. Brazille looked and sounded like a mean-spirited jerk through the entire thing, Wexler was a buffoon, and someone must have gotten to the Obama contingent at lunch and told them how bad it looked for them. I hazard a guess that is why the meeting did not reconvene on time, though that is also when the TUCC announcement was made, so there are more explanations than outcomes.

The reason I am concerned about the battle over the four Michigan delegate votes is because there is no valid procedure for that reallocation, and alleged Democrat "vote fixing" is one of the Republicans' standard arguments against the Democrats. It is used to push through restrictive voter ID and onerous voter registration rules, and it is used as an excuse to purge voter rolls and install thugs at voting palces to "discourage voter fraud". It is used deliberately to undermine minority voting in Democratic districts, and the Republicans will gleefully seize on this one very egregious act of disenfranchisement to serve up a toxic mix of racism - see what happens when "those people" (i.e., non-whites, in this case AAs, but also applied to Hispanics and Asians) start calling the voting shots? They just rearrange things to promote one of "their own kind."

Why is this a really bad thing in the current election cycle? Because the new issue on the Republicans' radar is Affirmative Action. (Gee, I wonder why they picked that theme?) There will be state measures on the ballot in Colorado, Nebraska and Missouri, just to name a few states where Obama is allegedly competitive. Add this crude and blatent vote manipulation to the mix, and the Republicans now have a big campaign issue handed to them on a silver platter.

As for the TUCC decision, this is another example of Obama's bad judgment, wanting to have his cake and eat it, too. He wants to be considered a unifying figure, yet hang out with trash-talking divisive people who scorn the people whose votes will decide the election. When he finally has it shoved in his face that he can't have both, he jettisons the friends in a public way that does not resolve the issues that association raised in the first place. I'm not as incensed about the bullshit spewed by the various preachers at TUCC as other people are. I'm really not into beating people up for personal associations. The political deals cut with Rezko bother me far more. However, what matters here is the stupidity of thinking that these associations would not be made into political issues, and the lack of preparation in creating distance between himself and TUCC, Rezko or Ayers/Dohrn when it should have been done. Cynical? Sure, but accurate. It's the same way I look at Bill Clinton's affair with Lewinsky; that he had an affair is not my business, that he had one when he was under scrutiny and it damaged both him and the party sure as hell is my business.

The Obamacan faction of the party has made its decision today: it is more important to claim the nomination than to win in November. That is where their priorities lie. Hillary may or may not be able to convince enough super delegates to give her the nomination, but it is clear what the decision before the party is.

Do we retreat and allow the coup to roll on, or do we fight back for the future of the party?


Friday, May 30, 2008

It Takes a Village

Once in a while, a comment thread is far, far more interesting than the original post.

That happened yesterday on TalkLeft when BTD posted "Document the Atrocities," a short snark at Atrios/Duncan Black (Eschaton) specifically and the Blogger Boyz generally, about the way they no longer challenge the MSM, and giving props to the Incomparable Bob Somerby for always calling the media (major and minor) on their lies, smears, bullshit, and general mendacity.

Bob Somerby of Daily Howler should be a daily must-read for anyone who calls herself a liberal, so be sure to read his latest offering now. I'll be waiting when you get back.

OK, now that you've just seen an example of how media criticism should be done, go and read the comment thread for the TalkLeft post. In particular, look for a poster called Seymour Glass and another (down the thread a ways) called Donald from Hawaii. Glass is a powerhouse in this thread, talking about Bob Somerby, Al Gore, the media whores and the Blogger Boyz. Here for me is the key post. It came in response to someone lamenting that Somerby doesn't get invited to the right cocktail parties and has no influence on the media:

Bob could have gone to those Parties

(but he never ever would . (I tried to take him)

unlike Josh Marshall or Atrios or Kos or everyone else - Bob doesnt take or solicit money for his daily grind and howl.

But he does bite those who suck up to our enemies - and BOY - do they HATE that.

All the JR Big bloggers like the Ezra and the Atlantic Boys...

theyre all just dreaming of jobs at the wash post or the ny times and hell, they wet themselves when they get invited over to do hardball or any other cdable stupid fest.

Our lefty world was getting better at understanding JUST how bad our media was - but when the Obama campaign picked up the medias scripts and ran with them
- I knew then - that a Obama win would guarantee the dominance of this bad media for at least another decade.

the ONLY really good thing about the "netroots' was its effect on the media - and now that obama has merged his campaign with it and 95% of the "prog Dem blogs....

forgetabout it....

This is the achilles heel of the blogosphere, not so much being bought out as being seduced, having your ego stroked, being invited inside the magic circle where the sheer force of your intellect and the brilliance of your insight will get the big talking heads on TV or the colunists and editors from the Big Papers to frown, deep in thought, and then grudgingly admit that you are right, by golly. See, see, look, I'm having an impact on the MSM! Look how important I am! Look how powerful I am!

While I'm sure there is a good dose of careerism at work, ego has carried them to their current extreme. I don't even want to call them Media Whores because a good whore knows that this is a cash transaction, not a courtship. They are just giving it away, so caught up in the adreneline rush that accompanies their power trip.

This was the dynamic I saw back with Atrios and Hamsher (and not just them) over Ned Lamont. The combination of the intensely personal hatred of Joe Lieberman and their non-stop pimping of Lamont, complete in miniature with all of the disdain, arrogance and contempt we now see on a much wider scale throughout the blogosphere. *We* are going to pick the winner. *We* are the ones calling the shots. *They* (everyone they disliked in the Democratic Party, which was everyone who had some connection to the Cintons, including at that time Obama) were going to learn a lesson about the all powerful Internets. *We* netroots are the new core of the Party and *they* will have to reckon with us. Instead, they promoted a milquetoast candidate in an ineffectual campaign, sucked the air and money out of truly competitive contests (like the one here in San Diego between Francine Busby and Brian Bilbray) that would have added to Democratic power in Congress, and set up the battle lines for the divisions we see today.

There may be some politicians who were afraid of the bloggers after that fiasco, but not many. The power brokers instantly saw that they could get free 27/7/365 attacks on Hillary out of the Boyz and planned accordingly. I could see the writing on the wall even then.

What has taken even me by surprise is the degree to which the Blogger Boyz have rushed to coordinate thier "Kill Hill" campaign with their alleged foes, the major media outlets and figures. They are so focused on this one objective that they have completely lost sight of the real issues in not just the Democratic campaign, but in the Republican one. For example, who will McCain pick as his VP? What can that tell us about how he will position himself in the general? What does it mean that the Republicans are rolling out a new issue in the state initiatives, where are they being rolled out and why are they chosing this particular issue, given events of the last two years?

They have assisted the MSM is conducting non-stop character assassinations, setting a tone for the GE that they will not be able to call back. The over-the-top defense of their own candidate in their hysteria to defeat the "Monster" has only left Obama exposed, allowing the Right to use fairly mild attacks to do some effective work. They have willingly allowed themselves to be manipulated by both a political campaign and by the self-interested MSM, and have lost most of their credibility in the doing.

Crashing the gates? Not so much. More like getting invited to the big soiree in the Village country club.


Libertarian Paternalism

One of the arguments put forward by relatively sane Obama supporters (yes, there are a few) for why Hillary supporters should vote for him should he be the nominee is that there really isn't any significant differences between them. This is a different argument than that offered by people like Paul Krugman, who thinks there is plenty of difference on economic issues, almst all in Hillary's favor, but that it is more important to throw out the Republicans.

Simply on health insurance, it is clear that there are substantive and pivotal differences that refute claims that these candidates are "just alike", but an argument can be offered that they are simply demarcating points along a spectrum of acceptable policy outcomes. In fact, it was something I myself discussed in general terms late last summer when I was speaking about the Democratic field as a whole in comparison to the batshit insane Republican field as a whole. Democratic policy papers offered a range of broadly similar stances towards general issues.

The strange refusal on Obama's part to make health care universal, something out of step with the rest of the candidates, was what made me go "Hmm?" and start looking more closely into his economic policies and advisors. It's been an interesting look, but one that is difficult to sum up. The problems ran deeper than the specific proposals, which individually seemed more like shortfalls or things that were incomplete, and I was not really able to bring into focus the undercurrent that bothered me.

The most recent edition of The New York Review of Books has an article by John Cassidy titled "Economics: Which Way for Obama?" that has captured what leaves me unsatisfied about Obama's approach to economics and economic programs, and makes a powerful case that one of these candidates is very much not like the other Democrats.

Cassidy reviews a book, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness,
by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein in which he lays out the argument. I encoruage anyone interested in economic theory to read the article, as it is interesting, sympathetic to the authors, and accessible, even to us low information voters. He uses the book as a jumping off point for talking about the economic theories and proposals of Obama's advisors and their particular approach to economics, behavioral economics, which is expressed in policy as "liberatarian paternalism." From the book, in the authors' own words:

Libertarian paternalism is a relatively weak, soft, and nonintrusive type of paternalism because choices are not blocked, fenced off, or significantly burdened. If people want to smoke cigarettes, to eat a lot of candy, to choose an unsuitable health care plan, or to fail to save for retirement, libertarian paternalists will not force them to do otherwise—or even make things hard for them. Still, the approach we recommend does count as paternalistic, because private and public choice architects are not merely trying to track or to implement people's anticipated choices. Rather, they are self-consciously attempting to move people in directions that will make their lives better. They nudge.

A nudge, as we will use the term, is any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people's behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.

Many of the policies we recommend can and have been implemented by the private sector (with or without a nudge from the government).... In areas involving health care and retirement plans, we think that employers can give employees some helpful nudges. Private companies that want to make money, and to do good, can even benefit from environmental nudges, helping to reduce air pollution (and the emission of greenhouse gases). But as we shall show, the same points that justify libertarian paternalism on the part of private institutions apply to government as well.

Cassidy evaluates this claim (Note - I have edited out a specific argument about the sub-prime loan crisis. It is fascinating, but doesn't make much sense outside of the article. I strongly encourage you to read the entire article):

...libertarian paternalism has some fundamental problems, beginning with the fact that it sounds suspiciously like an oxymoron.

Once you concentrate on the reality that people often make poor choices, and that their actions can harm others as well as themselves, the obvious thing to do is restrict their set of choices and prohibit destructive behavior. Thaler and Sunstein, showing off their roots in the Chicago School, rule out this option a priori: "We libertarian paternalists do not favor bans," they state blankly. During a discussion of environmental regulations, they criticize the Clean Air Acts that banned some sources of air pollution and helped to make the air more breathable in many cities. "The air is much cleaner than it was in 1970," they concede, "Philosophically, however, such limitations look uncomfortably similar to Soviet-style five-year plans, in which bureaucrats in Washington announce that millions of people have to change their conduct in the next five years."

If you start out with the preconceptions about free choice of John Stuart Mill or Friedrich Hayek, it is difficult to get very far in the direction of endorsing active government. (This is precisely the problem that the New Liberals of the late nineteenth century, men like L.T. Hobhouse and T.H. Green, faced.) ...

... A refusal to accept that individual freedoms sometimes have to be curtailed for the general good is an extreme position even for a neoclassical economist to take, and it is alien to the traditions of the Democratic Party. (My emphasis)

And this is where I went "Ah-ha!" The aspect of Obama's economic approach that had always bothered me was a curious absence of any philosophy of the state as a constructive force, coupled with a stance that focused on "choice" for the isolated and abstract individual of classic economic theory. In short, there is no theory of power.

Why does this matter? If your focus is on the abstract individual and structuring choices for the individual, then you are not addressing the larger environment in which the structuring takes place. To use an example from the article Cassidy uses to illustrate behavioral economics, if people are not saving enough money for retirement, then one way to struture their choices to encourage savings is to make a company 401(k) an opt-out rather than an opt-in, much like the way employer based health insurance is structured. The employer automatically enrolls the employee in a 401(k) and deposits pre-tax dollars from the employee's paycheck, but the employee is free to tell HR to stop the ocntributions and disenroll him from the plan. Since most people intend to start a 401(k) but forget to sign up or can't quite bring themselves to put aside that much of their paycheck, reversing the usual structure of the choice will by defualt result in a higher savings rate.

This "choice" ignores the environment in which retirement savings occur. The concentration on the individual does not offer an opportunity to interrrogate the conditions of retirement now, the effect of longer life spans on the need for economic support, the evisceration of traditional pension plans, the assaults on Social Security, the way in which "right to work" laws discourage unionization, living wages, and having enough money *to* save, the gendered face of poverty and how women are disproportionately harmed by poor benefits, lousy pay, and having to work the "second shift" at home, etc. Demanding that people deposit money in a savings account is avoidance of taking on these difficult tangled issues, not a solution to them.

There is, if only in the negative, a theory of government in this approach, which is that there really isn't a role for it in people's lives if it results in a requirement rather than an option for individuals. From a liberal democratic viewpoint, the purpose of government is to regulate realtions of power such that those who are disadvantaged in society are not simply exploited by those who are. Our civil rights are the foundation of this regulation, but it reaches into things like workplace safety, disease control and environmental protection. Individual choice is meaningful only if the individual has some say in how those choices are structured, enabled and defended.

Cassidy notes:

As it happens, there is a coherent and well-developed economic philosophy that was explicitly designed to deal with the law of unintended consequences, and it is regulatory Keynesianism of the sort practiced in the United States and Britain from the end of World War II until the 1980s, a period, not coincidentally, in which working people saw their living standard improve at an unprecedented clip. With respect to the national economy, Keynesians worry that unfettered capitalism is subject to ruinous boom-bust cycles, so they advocate management of demand through interest rates or government programs that create jobs. On the micro-level, they believe that some economic activities have harmful effects that the price mechanism fails to capture, so they support taxation and regulation. Behavioral economics, by demonstrating how people often fall victim to confusion, myopia, and trend following, provides another convincing rationale for Keynesian policies, but you wouldn't realize that from reading Thaler and Sunstein.

Choice requires context, and it is the context that is wrong in Obama's economic proposals. As in health care, he appars more concerned with maintaining the illusion of choice than addressing the environment in which acceptable choices about insurance can occur. Cassidy asks a question I have asked myself in several ways: "But for what policy purposes are the masses to be mobilized?" Just what is the vision for the society and the nation that Obama intends to put into practice? There isn't one; it is fractured into small buckets of choices here and there, with neither a philosophy of governance nor a coherent plan for transforming the steaming pile left behind by the Republicans into a strong, liberal government.

The Democratic candidates' foundation of political economy is in Keynsianism for the simple reason that it works far better than any other approach when the overall wellbeing of the society is the central concern of government. That the libertarian paternalists equate the Clean Air Act with totalitarian government is telling. They cannot accept that government is needed to counteract concentration of power to the detriment of the citizenry, and their conceit that they will be among the winners in an unregulated society is not a hypothesis the rest of us really want to test.

This is why, for all the specific proposals, Obama's economic policies simply do not convince anyone who actually wants things to change.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Eating Your Own Dogfood

I'm not sure when I'll be blogging next as I have a family member in the hospital (immediate danger appears past, home by the weekend if all continues to go well), so I am simply going to point you at the Incomparable Bob Somerby's latest post, Who Sent the Dogs Out!

First, he calls out Harold Meyerson's deeply mendacious words about the Michigan ballot and why Obama's name wasn't on it:

Can Meyerson possibly be this dumb? Trashing Clinton’s vile ways up in Michigan, he misstates elementary fact not once, but twice, in this groaning passage:

MEYERSON (5/28/08): Had Florida and Michigan conducted their primaries the way the other 48 states conducted their own primaries and caucuses that is, in accord with the very clear calendar laid down by the DNC well before the primaries began—then Clinton's marchers would be utterly justified in their claims. But when the two states flouted those rules by moving their primaries outside the prescribed time frame, the DNC, which gave neither state a waiver to do so, decreed that their primaries would not count and enjoined all presidential candidates from campaigning in those states. Obama and John Edwards complied with the DNC's dictates by removing their names from the Michigan ballot. Clinton did not.

Seating Michigan in full would mean the party validates the kind of one-candidate election (well, 1.03, to give Dennis Kucinich, Chris Dodd and Mike Gravel, who also remained on the ballot, their due) that is more common in autocracies than democracies. It would mean rewarding the one serious candidate who didn't remove her name from the ballot when all her rivals, in deference to the national party rules, did just that.

You live in a deeply disordered society, as Meyerson has shown in the past.

Sorry, but even Meyerson surely knows that there was no “DNC dictate”—no “national party rule”—requiring Obama, Edwards, Biden andRichardson to remove their names from the Michigan ballot. Duh! They did so voluntarily, at the last minute (as was their right); that’s why Clinton, Dodd, Kucinich and Gravel were free to leave their names there. The candidates’ decisions were voluntary; indeed, all the requests were made on October 9, the day of the ballot deadline, to considerable uproar in Michigan. (The DNC had condemned the state’s primary at least four weeks earlier.) Indeed, in the October 10 Detroit News, party honcho Debbie Dingell said that Obama’s campaign “had assured her last week that he would remain on the ballot.” We have no idea if that’s accurate, but no challenge to her statement was ever published—and it only made sense because there was no requirement that names be removed from the ballot. All the uproar, surprise and confusion occurred because there were no “rules” or “dictates” requiring names to be removed.

Request to Meyerson: What was the “dictate” to which you refer? Any chance you could quote it for us?

How should candidates have handled Michigan? That is a matter of judgment. But Meyerson seems to be working double-hard to convince Post readers of something that’s baldly untrue. Clinton, Dodd, Kucinich and Gravel all stayed on the ballot. And they broke no “dictates” or “party rules” when they decided to do so.

Meyerson is the person who falsely accused Clinton of making racist phone calls in Los Angeles dutring the California primaries, if you will recall. He appears to be getting his talking points directly from Obama headquarters, first promoting the bullshit claim that Hillary is stirring up racial tensions (no, only Obama is doing that) and now spewing sheer lies about the conditions for the Michigan primary.

Then, Somerby does something I didn't think I'd see - he goes after Obama. In the earlier months, Somerby has been scrupulously careful to keep his criticisms of the campaign focused on the behavior of the press and bloggers (we owe him for the coinage of the Guy Who Kidnapped Josh Marshall) and to not so much as hint at bad behavior by either campaign. As recently as Friday, he was exonerating Obama from involvement in the biased bahavior of the press corps: "Members of the media recoiled and threw their support to Obama? Again, this wasn’t Obama’s doing. But let’s ask ourselves how “reporting” looks when journalists engage in such recoil."

With today's post, Somerby has stopped protecting Obama. The RFK assassination smear was simply too much, going too far. It was the Bradley trashing of Gore cubed. His eloquent fury deserves to be quoted in full.


PART 2—WHO SENT THE DOGS OUT: The screaming mimis keened and wailed when it was deemed that Clinton had vilely offended. Robinson, Olbermann, Herbert, and Dowd (sounds like a firm of ambulance chasers!) realized how vile the vile woman had been—and they began to tear their hair wildly. And it wasn’t just these hounds of hell—hounds who howl for the mainstream press corps. Many hacks on the “liberal web” have taken to reciting this latest grim nonsense. Once Drudge had said that Clinton was vile, these pseudo-libs rushed to affirm it.
Can our society function this way? More on that question this Friday.

At any rate, Robinson, Olbermann, Herbert and Dowd took turns barking and howling their outrage. Which takes us back to the early days of March—to the hounds which failed to bark.

By last Friday night, everyone knew it: Clinton’s statement to the editorial board in Sioux Falls was one of the vilest things ever said. But uh-oh! As it turned out, Clinton had said the exact same thing to Time’s Rick Stengel in March! When Joe Klein played the fool (again) this weekend, he cited her earlier statement:

STENGEL (3/6/08): Can you envision a point at which—if the race stays this close—Democratic Party elders would step in and say, “This is now hurting the party and whoever will be the nominee in the fall?”

CLINTON: No, I really can't. I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn't wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual.

Yep! Last Friday, all the mimis screamed and yelled at Clinton’s deeply vile statement. But Clinton had said the same thing in March! And to show you how fake this week’s outrage was: Not one damn thing happened back then!

There was no madness back in March. Before considering Robinson, Olbermann, Herbert and Dowd, let’s make sure we understand the chronology of Clinton’s March statement:

  • Clinton’s interview with Stengel was held on March 5. The full transcript was posted on-line, on March 6.
  • As you can clearly see from the transcript, Stengel said nothing—nothing at all—when Clinton made her statement about Robert Kennedy. This was no sign—no sign at all—that he was troubled, in any way, by what the vile person had said.
  • On March 10 or thereabouts, Time’s hard-copy edition hit the street (dated March 17). The cover stories—about Obama and Clinton—included two Q-and-A’s from the Stengel interview. And yes: This did include the Q-and-A in which Clinton cited Kennedy’s death. But even then, after several days had passed, there was no reference to Clinton’s statement in Time’s cover-story reporting. There was still no sign that anyone at Time was troubled by what Clinton had said.
  • *In its next edition (dated March 24), Time published several letters about the Obama/Clinton cover stories. None of the letters mentioned Clinton’s reference to Kennedy’s assassination—and no such letters appeared in subsequent editions. In short, there was still no sign that anyone had found a problem with Clinton’s remark.
  • That brings us around to our hounds from hell—to Olbermann, Robinson, Herbert and Dowd. Olbermann, Robinson, Herbert and Dowd wrote many columns—appeared on many cable programs—during the first few weeks in March. And guess what? Not one of them said the first f*cking thing about the outrage Clinton committed. Olbermann and Robinson kept their traps shut. Joe Klein didn’t say one word either.
In fact, no mainstream pundit (no one; nobody) said a word about Clinton’s statement in March—a statement which was published in Time, and on-line at the magazine’s web site. No one at Time said a word; no one in the wider press corps. And yet, this past weekend, everyone keened and wailed and tore their hair when Clinton so vilely said the same thing! Olbermann, “The Worst Con Man in the World,” offered a heartsick restrospective in which he blamed himself:

OLBERMANN (5/23/08): She said, in an off-camera interview with Time on March 6, "Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn`t wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June, also in California. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual. We will see how it unfolds as we go forward over the next three to four months."

In retrospect, we failed her when we did not call her out, for that remark, dry and only disturbing, inside the pages of a magazine.

Readers, if you’re dumb enough to buy that sh*t, you’re as dumb as this big fraud thinks you are. For the record, that was in Olbermann’s “Special Comment.” In it, the man who suggested, just last month, that someone should “take [Clinton] in a room and only he comes out”—that delicate poodle barked deep outrage about what Vile Clinton had said.

Except, she had said the same thing back in March—and this hound from hell hadn’t barked at all! In fact, nobody barked back in March. And everyone barked this past weekend.

But readers, you may understand why this happened—because we’ve all seen this movie before. Let’s explain what happened this weekend. Let’s explain why Robinson, Olbermann, Herbert/Dowd/Matthews all sat up and started to bark.

How did the chronology go down this time? As usual, it all came down to a famous old question: At present, who is scripting your “press corps?”

In fact, a familiar old pattern reappeared in the wake of Clinton’s remark in Sioux Falls. As John Harris explained at Politico, the Associated Press filed an initial report about Clinton’s session with the editorial board—and the AP didn’t mention her remark about Robert Kennedy’s death! At the AP, it was March in May; no one seemed to be troubled by Clinton’s outrageous comment (link to story below). But then, the people who script your “press corps” got busy! As Katherine Seelye reported on Monday, the brilliant minds at the New York Post got the nasty episode started. Then, your press corps’ current masters told the dogs to bark:

SEELYE (5/26/08): Shortly after Mrs. Clinton spoke on Friday, the Obama campaign jumped on the story, sending an e-mail message to reporters saying her comment had no place in a presidential campaign. It linked to a online report in The New York Post that said Mrs. Clinton was ''making an odd comparison between the dead candidate and Robert Kennedy—a phrase the newspaper later dropped.

So there you see the sad chronology of Friday’s nasty, vile nonsense. The AP treated Clinton’s remark as inconsequential—just as Robinson, Olbermann, Herbert and Dowd had done back in March. But off in the dumbest regions of Gotham, the creepy crawlers of Rupert Murdoch’s dumbest newspaper made a claim so stupid that they later retracted—and just like that, the Obama campaign threw the Post’s dog food to all the dogs! And presto! Just like that! Every shill in America’s “press corps” knew what their current trick had to be. They repeated the New York Post’s stupid and ugly claim—a claim so stupid that the Post even dropped it!—and soon, they were trying to top one another. They competed to see who could bark loudest about the vile thing Clinton said.

Back in March, she had said the same thing—and Olbermann didn’t say one word about it. Neither did Robinson; neither did Herbert; neither did Klein, or Matthews, or Dowd. Neither did anyone at Time—and oh yes, neither did anyone in the “liberal” web! Go ahead! Ask the screaming mimis of the liberal web, the children who are so outraged today. Ask them to show you a single word anyone wrote back in March!

In fact, we’ve all seen this stupid story before, back when the RNC was still scripting the “press corps” (details tomorrow). But is it really so different today? Last Friday, it was Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post which first put out this rancid dog food—offering an interpretation so deeply stupid that even they later retracted it! But so what? If you want to know how your “press corps” works, you have to know who they take their scripts from. And last Friday, they took their script from Obama’s campaign—from the campaign John Judis tells us is “history.” But then, that campaign recently pimped out bullsh*t from “Mister Drudge” too! Should we really be surprised when it feeds on the New York Post!

Last Friday, Obama’s campaign told the “press corps” to jump. The “press corps” barked and then wondered: How high? But then, we’ve written this story for more than ten years: When the dogs were told to bark, Robinson, Olbermann, Herbert and Dowd all commenced barking and howling.

TOMORROW—PART 3: Same pattern, from back when the RNC ruled. And: Back in March, Olbermann mused about “assassinating Hillary Clinton”—on two separate programs! And:

What happened in June—of 1992—in the words of the Washington Post.

THE AP DIDN’T BARK: Here’s Friday’s original AP story, as it appeared on-line at the Boston Herald. The story didn’t mention Clinton’s comment about Kennedy—just as no one in the press corps had mentioned her comment in March. The AP didn’t file a report about Clinton’s vile remark until more than another hour had passed. By then, of course, current masters of the hounds of hell were scripting the bullsh*t you’re handed.


Your press corps' current master - the Obama campaign. There was nothing in the statement, nothing that was wrong or objectionable in the slightest. It had nothing to do with assassination and there is not a single thought in there that a rational human being can interpret that way. Only the irrational and increasingly panicked Obama campaign. They pushed this story to the MSM and the Blogger Boyz and continued to do so through the weekend, as George Stephanopolous exposed when interviewing Axelrod.

All Obama has now is a tenuous hold on a portion of the delegates, and a growing, furious opposition within the party itself. He has nothing of himself to offer - no substance, no honesty, no vision, no voters, and I'm beginning to think he's not got much money left, either. It's coming in, but he is spending like a drunken sailor. All he can do is scream for the MSM to come save The Precious from the evil Hillary Mommy Monster who wants to destroy him. That Olbermann himself was advocating Hillary's murder last month in straightforward language doesn't seem to register with the Obamacans. They are projecting onto her the murderous impulses they harbor towards her.

Help yourself to your own rancid dogfood, Obamacans. The rest of us aren't biting.


The Democrat for Democracy

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Anti-Democratic Caucuses

Run, do not walk, to Jeralyn's incredible post about the anti-democratic effects that caucuses have had on the delegate selection process.

Caucuses vs. Primaries : A Report

Whatever the outcome of the nomination process, what is shockingly clear is that Hillary Clinton is the preference of the majority of voters in the states that will win the Democrats the White House in the fall. Further, it is clear that Obama is not nearly as popular as his sycophants would have you believe. He simply does not have the votes. Further, if exit polls and polls by major polling agencies are to be believed, far more of his supporters will vote for her than the other way around. In short, the top draw for the average voter is Hillary, not Obama.

This report demonstrates the basic proposition I have been saying for the last two months:

Nominee = Hillary = White House
Nominee = Obama = Loss


Monday, May 26, 2008

Not So Precious

Among Obama supporter's many claims is that he will energize and bring out new voters, and that the more they see him, the more they will flock to him. This argument is usually twinned with some argument that Hillary either cannot turn out the vote or else she may get usual voters, but she can't bring in new voters. No one wants to see her.

Here are a few facts to dash cold water on these unproven claims.

First, ARG has analyzed the election turnouts and has come to a rather starteling conclusion - Obama wins where turn out is low. I got the link to ARG via Suburban Guerilla, Unconventional Wisdom:

Conventional wisdom has it that Barack Obama’s primary victories are based on his ability to increase turnout.

A look at what happens when voter turnout increases in the primaries proves that this notion is wrong. In fact, Obama has had his greatest primary (and caucus) victories when turnouts have been low.

This comes as exactly zero surprise to those of us who actually follow the election, of course. It has been clear from the start that Obama's lead in delegates has come through low-turn out, unrepresentative caucuses where Obama's core constituency is overrepresented. When some of those same states also held primaries (Texas, Nebraska, Washington), he ended up losing the popular vote (TX), being only a bare 2% ahead (NB), or having his lead cut in half (WA). In short, the higher the participation level, the worse he does. His own constituents may have a higher percentage of new participants, but he is not energizing the base and bringing out long time supporters the way Hillary is.

Next I reference Paul Lukasiak's exhaustive analysis of voting preferences in the primaries since mid-February, Buyer's Remorse. The detailed analysis, with amazing charts and graphs, deserves a thorugh read. Even so, I think that Paul's findings can be summed up in a single sentence:

Obama peaked in February, and he is on a long downward slide.

By almost every measure in every category, Obama is failing to make the same level of gains as Hillary in in a number of key categories, and is actually falling behind in others. Which others? You'll just have to skeddadle over to the original post and find out. Even without Paul's amazing and detailed statistics, it is clear that Obama has failed to capture the support of voters in the swing states the Democrats must take and hold to win in November.

Which leads to some reflection on swing states themselves. As I have pointed out in recent posts, the reason why swing states decide elections is because they are evenly divided between parties and can be won when a candidate has enough pull to swing the undecided voters to her side, as well as to bring out her own supproters and keep defections to a minimum. Hillary is very competitive in the most crucial swing states, as the always insightful Jeralyn of TalkLeft documents in this post, Number Crunching With Past Five Elections as a Guide. Long story short, Hillary won four of the five swing states (Arkansas, Nevada, Ohio, Tennessee) that have always gone with the eventual Presidential winner, and was in a statistical tie in the fifth (Missouri). She remains strong in four of the five (AR, OH, MO, TN), all of which have larger EC vote totals than the fifth one, NV. Jeralyn also points out that 41% of Obama's wins are in states that have not gone Democratic in the last five contests.

Finally, I toss in my matter-of-fact observation that if he's doing all this new registration, GOTV, and bringing in new people, why is he not cleaning up in the elections? Ohio should have been a walk if he was so darn appealing. If he is a darling out "West", as BTD keeps bleating, then why didn't he take California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas by landslides? He won in Oregon and it seems by a good margin. Let's take a look at that.

His vote count was 366,421, 42% of all registered Democrats. Sounds good until you realize that Kerry won 39.7% of all Democrats in 2004, a primary that had no challengers and no national attention. Gore won 41.6% in 2000, while Bill Clinton won 46% in 1996, where he was the incumbent and there was no serious challenge. In short, Obama did not increase support in any statistically significant way, even when there was a competitive race, with national media attention and against an allegedly reviled opponent. Moreover, the total number of registered Democrats had increased by almost 140,000 new voters from the previous election cycle, yet he drew only 16,550 more voters than Bill Clinton had done 12 years before. So, where is the phenomenal turn out? Where were all these energized young and hip urban voters? The overall turn out was almost 74%, yet his share of Democratic voters was about the same as Gore's. If he got a lot of new voters, then they were balanced by the number of existing voters who preferred someone else to him. The increased turnout went to Hillary.

My argument here is not that he lacks delegates, but that he has nowhere near the popular support that is claimed. He has lost big states and swing states decisively, with margins getting worse as the campaign goes on. There is no need to reference his increasingly embarrassing poor showing against John McCain as he falls short of majority support within his own party.

Face it, Precious, they're just not that into you anymore, if indeed they ever were.


Missed the Bus

I've been taking time out from the blogosphere the last few days to attend to ordinary things, like replacing my printer and doing some spring cleaning, and I come back to find out I'm really not one of the Important Bloggers of Left Blogistan. It seems that bloggers who are Important have been contacted by People Who Know and have been seriously informed that It Is Over and just accept that Obama will be the nominee. The Important people are now telling us peons to get on the Unity Bus before it leaves the station (I guess the Unity Pony is a bit spavined by now) and we are Left Behind. BTD has even announced that he will despise us if we don't all get on board.

I don't know whether to giggle or roll my eyes. I can do both, I suppose, but mostly I'll keep posting my crabby opinions just like I always have. I've said before I think that the point at which most bloggers have gone off the rails is in their desire to belong and "build community". Comments (and praise) are addictive and I'd be a bullshitter beyond belief to claim that seeing my visitation stats go from a handful of clicks a day to thousands hasn't affected what I write, or that my ego doesn't go pitter-pat when someone in the comments says how wonderful I am. There's safety in numbers, after all. I've watched too many otherwise reasonable people become raving morons on their blogs, and the common thread to all of it appears to be CDS. It's something that gets you instant praise from hundreds of commenters, it makes you seem very hip and anti-establishment to sneer at the failings of the Clintons, and it puts you in a very chummy circle. It's a lazy way to look radical without actually doing anything, kind of like hanging out with opportunistic bullshit artists in an exclusive little enclave in Chicago and think you're doing something daring. The great irony, of course, is that the leading lights of Left Blogistan whose great moral claim is that they stand in opposition to the media whores of the MSM have done little for the last six months except regurgitate the central anti-Democratic meme promulgated by the MSM, that we must band together to destroy the evil Clintons. It would be amusing were it not so self-defeating.

Krugman encapsulates the entire phenomemon in the dry opening sentence of his most recent column:
It is, in a way, almost appropriate that the final days of the struggle for the Democratic nomination have been marked by yet another fake Clinton scandal — the latest in a long line that goes all the way back to Whitewater.
All the way back to Whitewater. I'm not sure the Republicans understood at the time what paydirt they had hit with the demonization of the Clintons and the way in which the fake scandals churned out by the Rightwing Noise Machine would explode right along the fault lines in the Democratic Party, but they certainly do now. History, race and class have combined to split the party into two almost equally balanced constituencies, one of them dominating the party offices, the other possessing the votes to swing an election one way or the other.

Some pro-Hillary bloggers are dismayed that Krugman seems certain that Obama will be the nominee, but I think that's actually the problem he is addressing - the foolish grounds of that certainty. What he is diagnosing is not so much the horserace but the intra-party split and the way in which the present campaign does nothing to address the ways in which the Democrats' political agenda has been first derailed and then rigidly defined by the Republicans, namely, to spend their power and resources excizing a part of the party instead of reimagining it. Krugman gets to the heart of the matter:

Why does all this matter? Not for the nomination: Mr. Obama will be the Democratic nominee. But he has a problem: many grass-roots Clinton supporters feel that she has received unfair, even grotesque treatment. And the lingering bitterness from the primary campaign could cost Mr. Obama the White House. ...

The point is that Mr. Obama may need those disgruntled Clinton supporters, lest he manage to lose in what ought to be a banner Democratic year.

So what should Mr. Obama and his supporters do?

Most immediately, they should realize that the continuing demonization of Mrs. Clinton serves nobody except Mr. McCain. One more trumped-up scandal won’t persuade the millions of voters who stuck with Mrs. Clinton despite incessant attacks on her character that she really was evil all along. But it might incline a few more of them to stay home in November.

Nor should Obama supporters dismiss Mrs. Clinton’s strength as a purely Appalachian phenomenon, with the implication that Clinton voters are just a bunch of hicks.

The problem is not that Obama is the nominee. On this point, I'm actually in agreement with Krugman. That single fact, in and of itself, even allowing for the weakness of Obama's stated policy positions, is not the problem. Hillary herself will tell you that when you enter an electoral contest, you risk loss. The problem lies in the manner of the "win". One that leads to defeat in November cannot be considered successful, which is Hillary's own argument.

I'm pretty sure that a number of people in Left Blogistan are heaving a sigh of relief that Paul Krugman is finally "on board" and "accepting the inevitable" (discounting those going into apoplectic seizures at his advocation of Hillary as the VP choice), but they are not reading carefully. There is nothing in the tone or the topic of this column that "accepts" the outcome of the campaign. Instead, Krugman very succinctly lays out the electoral problem: the incessant assaults upon the Clinton legacy are a losing bet for the Democratic Party, one that will doom yet another White House run. He states clearly that the fault does not lie on the Clinton side of the divide:

Mrs. Clinton needs to do her part: she needs to be careful not to act as a spoiler during what’s left of the primary, she needs to bow out gracefully if, as seems almost certain, Mr. Obama receives the nod, and she needs to campaign strongly for the nominee once the convention is over. She has said she’ll do that, and there’s no reason to believe that she doesn’t mean it.

(My emphasis) In short, the Obama faction cannot blame their failures on Hillary because she is doing and saying exactly what she should. If the nomination goes to Obama, she is perfectly positioned to go into campaign mode for the party. The resentment and division does not reside with her. Part of my deep respect and awe for this woman is the way in which she will not allow the Republicans or the anti-Clinton Democrats goad her into doing anything that is not in the interests of the party, and thus of the people who need what the party could offer, such as UHC. Kruman then says:

But mainly it’s up to Mr. Obama to deliver the unity he has always promised — starting with his own party.

One thing to do would be to make a gesture of respect for Democrats who voted in good faith by recognizing Florida’s primary votes — which at this point wouldn’t change the outcome of the nomination fight.

The only reason I can see for Obama supporters to oppose seating Florida is that it might let Mrs. Clinton claim that she received a majority of the popular vote. But which is more important — denying Mrs. Clinton bragging rights, or possibly forfeiting the general election?

What about offering Mrs. Clinton the vice presidency? If I were Mr. Obama, I’d do it. Adding Mrs. Clinton to the ticket — or at least making the offer — might help heal the wounds of an ugly primary fight.

Again, I recognize that this statement may be too much for the pro-Hillary wing to accept, but there is a lot loaded into these seemingly simple words. He's put forward two actions that are anathema to the anti-Clinton Left.

Seating Florida as is means acknowledging the legitimacy of Hillary's support. That is an article of faith among the Obamacans, that she is nothing but a monster, that no one really supports her, that she is so wildly unpopular that she can't win. Except, of course, to any rational person, she's a great public servant, millions of people adore her, she commands the unswerving loyalty of a significant part of the American public, and she's kicking the boys' collective butt in actual elections. Krugman makes clear that whether or not the delegate count will go in her favor, it is political suicide to refuse to acknowledge her popular support. More deeply, the opposition of the anti-Clinton faction in the party is what is preventing the party from capitalizing on the Republican failures from Bush I forward.

To acknowledge the legitimacy of the Democratic constituency that supports Hillary would mean relinquishing the prejudices of the Stevensonian wing against the Jacksonian, something I have been discussing for the last two months. First and foremost, it means rejecting the argument that this part of our party is nothing more than bigots and racists slavering for the chance to betray us to the Republicans. It means dropping the code of "hicks" and "Applachian problems", and taking seriously the need to defend the economic interests of this constituency. (Something Hillary does with her discussion of growing a green technology sector, for example) It would mean accepting that "The South" is part of Democratic politics and is a challenge to be embraced, not an impediment to be cast aside.

Finally, I reiterate a point I've made before: Winning by denying your opponent fairly won votes rather than taking the risk of defeat to reinforce the legitimacy of your own support is a surefire way to forfeit the general election. It makes you look weak and afraid because, well, you are weak and afraid.

The second point, offering Hillary the VP slot, is a bigger step because it would mean extending power to a rival who represents what you most detest, complicated by the fact that your detestation is not even rational. Looking at the collective psychotic fantasy of Hillary as would-be assassin that is welling up from the Obamacan faction, it is equally fascinating and repellant as an image of the structure of their collective demonology. The crime that is latent within their own hearts is ascribed to another. It speaks about the way in which they see themselves and their political opponents, innocent and vulnerable victims on the one side and rapacious, murderous monsters on the other. The problem with "unity" in this campaign has always been the structure of the psychosis of the anti-Clinton faction. Their unity is grounded in a fantasy of defeating something thast simply does not exist. This is why, at base, the obsessions of this faction makes those of us more firmly based in reality (whether or not we support Hillary) look askance at the Obamacans; if their current political opponent is an "enemy", a deeply distorted projection of their own inner fears, then what boundaries can there be on their relations with other who may disagree with their opinions, goals and objectives?

To sincerely (no matter how reluctantly) offer the position of VP to the person who is equally supported by just as large a portion of the party as you are is the only way to begin bringing people back to the party rather than driving them away because they scare you. If offered, I think Hillary would take it. Why? Because she has done the long-term math and knows that she can power the ticket to victory, sweeping in an overwhelming Democratic majority in both houses, and that she would have done this for the sake of the party and her constituents. Obama can try to bottle her up in the VP office but I don't see him being very effective on that count. And that, of course, is why the offer is unlikely to be made. It would make his victory dependent on her presence and it would further legitimize her part of the party, which is the diametric opposite of what the anti-Clinton wing wants to do. They would be forever in her debt.

But, we're looking at a lady or tiger situation here, or rather a co-dependent win with the lady and a crushing defeat you will never recover from tiger. Fail to seat Hillary's supporters while their votes still count and you lose in November. Seat them and you risk losing the delegate lead and get relegated to VP. (And, yes, Hillary will make Obama her VP without batting an eye.) If you still somehow managed to squeak out the delegate count, you instantly make her VP, thereby legitimizing your biggest political opponent, or you lose in November. There's no recovery from that. Failing to give respect and power where it is due only strengthens your opponent for the next round.

The actual political battle being fought this electoral year is whether or not the Democratic Party is willing to abandon its elitist politics of resentment against its own working class core and take that part of the population back from the Republicans. That means abandoning fantasies of Whole Foods Nation and living in archipelagos of urbanity where you can be ironically detached from the events of the dirty world beyond your redoubt. It means rejecting "unity" predicated upon a purge of what frustrates you in the party coalition. It means relinquishing your dearly held fantasies of the evil demons out to get you, and accepting that you will have to compromise with others to get things done.

Obamacans need to grow the fuck up and jettison their juvenile paranoid conspiracy theories about Hillary Clinton, who has done nothing except run a tough campaign. As Krugman conlcudes:

the nightmare Mr. Obama and his supporters should fear is that in an election year in which everything favors the Democrats, he will nonetheless manage to lose.

If the anti-Clinton wing persists in the politics of demonization to the detriment of the party, they will be the ones left at the station as the Republicans drive off with the majority of the voters.


One Year

We got the keys to the house exactly one year ago today.

Since then, just about everything in th place has been fixed, replaced, updated, cleaned, painted, polished and/or changed. And we still aren't done!


Saturday, May 24, 2008

I Will Derive

Sometimes, when life gets too serious, weird is exactly what you need.

I Will Derive!

Extra points for setting Leibnitz to disco.


If you've sent me a private note recently

I found out the mail server has not been sending the emails, so I have a backlog of messages to wade through. Sorry for the delay.


PS - I have found messages from 12 people dating back to 5/12. If you sent me a messge in that time period and have not heard from me, I am not ignoring you. I simply didn't get your email.

PPS - The source of the delivery error has been found and corrected. Again, my apologies for not catching this sooner.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Statement from Robert Kennedy, Jr.

"It is clear from the context that Hillary was invoking a familiar political circumstance in order to support her decision to stay in the race through June. I have heard her make this reference before, also citing her husband's 1992 race, both of which were hard fought through June. I understand how highly charged the atmosphere is, but I think it is a mistake for people to take offense."



I'm reading the reports on the mendacious attacks the Bogger Boyz are making on Hillary by completely perverting her comments about RFK.

Rather than weigh in on the current idiocy (which is being handled very nicely by Riverdaughter & Co. over on the Confluence. If you have not read that blog, stop, go there, read and bookmark. I'll be here when you're done.) what I've done is go back in time, to the summer of 2006, when Obama was not such a darling to Left Blogistan. The blow up occurred right around the time of Yearly Kos. Here are a few links:
  • Entitlement and the Deserving Middle Class - June 29. The fury of the netroots over Obama's was making itself known. I prefaced a longer article about Edwards' economic arguments with reference to the spew.
  • Adopting the Frames of the Right - June 30. This is my initial commentary on the brutal attacks launched at Obama for a speech he gave about the role of religious belief in politics.
  • Battle for the Entrenched Power Broker Positions - July 04. While not directly about Obama, it is a commentary on just what game the netroots movers and shakers were playing.
  • Reimagining the Beloved Community - July 05. My commentary on the commentary of Kevin Drum and Ed Kilgore on the attacks upon Obama by the blogosphere.
  • Over the Edge They Go - July 06. Why I gave up reading Digby a long time ago. This assault on Boxer was, for me, a defining moment in understanding the real intent of the Blogger Boyz (and, yes, Digby is one of the "Boyz"), which was to destroy any politician who, in their eyes, was connected to "the DLC", which is their shorthand for the Clintons.
  • The Curious Case of Obama Bashing - July 15. A short note on the optics of what the netroots was continuing to do to Obama, fully two weeks after his original speech.

What is my point here? Namely, that the Left Blogosphere has always behaved like this, they have always swarmed and spewed at their favorite target of hate, the Clintons, and that their embrace of Obama is purely instrumental. They don't give a damn if he can win the general. They are obsessed with preventing the Clintons from returning to power. If he can do that, then they'll be back to bashing him since he will have served his useful purpose.

My other point is to make very deliberate note of the straightforwardly racist sneers aimed at Obama. He was called "Lieberman's boy" (Hell-lo? WTF?!? Racist and gay bashing in one insult?), a demonstration of the failure of affirmative action, accused of "sucking up to massa", and a whole host of other hideous insults in the same blogs where he is now lauded as some kind of demi-god. This was also the election season where Jane Hamsher of FDL posted and refused to take down a photoshopped image of Joe Lieberman in black face standing next to Bill Clinton. The willingness of these bloggers who are so offended by Hillary's "racism" to shovel it out without apology is beyond hypocrisy.

They are jackals.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Legitimacy, Not Unity

The continued calls for "unity" in this campaign have bothered me for some time. As I alluded to in an earlier post, unity means something very different in politics than being in agreement. It would mean that contestation for the resources and social goods of the nation had been set aside. Rousseau and Machiavelli were both vital to helping Madison develop his theory of countervailing power in a system of institutions. Machiavelli, quite in contrast to his popular image, was a man who very firmly believed in laws, independent institutions to counter the power of princes, and humane rule. The result of any political excess would be chaos and death unless power was used to check power. Rousseau was the first theorist of "the general will" and thought that perfect unity is the absence of legitimacy because there is no possibility of dissent. He was always uncomfortable with the formation of the general will due to its tendency to consolidate power to depotic levels, yet feared social dissolution almost as much.

In a democratic political system, the consent of the minority to the majority's power is the measure of legitimacy. The majority, after all, has what it wants. How dissenters are treated and the degree to which they assent to the majority's possession of power while retaining the ability to dissent from the majority's policies and objectives shows how much the majority is trusted, respected, and considered within the bounds of acceptable political behavior. One of the markers of the Bush regime is the degree to which it has no legitimacy with most of the citizens. They are still trammeled by the institutions of government, but have continuously sought to dissolve these boundaries and rule through sheer force.

The increasing rejection of Obama by voters is a measure of his declining legitimacy. People who once thought they would gladly vote for him, like me, are now implacably opposed to him. He is no longer legitimate in our eyes. He has not sought legitimacy, which would mean facing up to oposition and allowing himself to be challenged, questioned, and probably be found wanting by some people, but has opted to pursue power at any price. Participating in and profiting from the media hatred of the Clintons, throwing out accusations of racism to try to forestall criticism and inflate AA vote counts, encouraging people to be "Obamacans" not Democrats, the "Democrat for a Day" strategy, engaging in intimidation and threats to extract caucus votes, aggressively trying to monopolize money specifically to silence alternative voices, and treating voters who do not choose him first with contempt.

Lack of legitimacy means relying on force to win. If you have to bully people to make them be quiet, you have lost legitimacy. If you have to remove votes from the contest in order to win, you have lost legitimacy. The objection Hillary supporters have to "teh Rulz" to exclude Michigan and Florida is how nakedly they are used to force the numbers themselves into submission. The rules, as Hillary made clear in her incredible speech today, have a legitimacy problem just like Obama himself because of their instrumental use for the benefit of a particular candidate, not just to the detriment of a competitor, but to the detriment of democracy itself. Insisting on unity as a substitute for legitimacy corrodes the institutions meant to defend democracy. Insisting on unity in order to avoid dealing with dissent is self defeating.

Take a moment to read comments by CMike, documenting the highly contested election of 1972, and Esmense, relating a personal memory of that election, and the ways in which the Democrats have fought over these questions of contestation and legitimacy before.

BTD on TalkLeft has spent many inches of blog posts trying to talk the Obamacans down from their rarified atmosphere and get serious about this Unity stuff, but the part of the puzzle he misses (or has missed in the past, as his recent posts have been of much sharper caliber) is the failure of the Obam camp to establish the conditions for legitimacy, starting first and foremost with seating Michigan and Florida as is. Failure to create the conditions under which vast majority of the party will have no doubts that he will serve the interests of the party and be protective of those who dissent from him will leave not just Obama but the party itself in dire straits in the months to come. Riverdaughter has a brilliant post up on The Confluence. You need to go read it all beause it is good in every regard, but these two paragraphs get to the heart of the matter:

Who is giving them permission to set aside their ethics and shuffle off the standards of acceptable behavior? Who is running the party that allows for the brutal suppression of one half by the unleashed id of the other half? I put the blame at the top of the party and Obama himself.

There is a price to be paid for such aggressive and insensitive behavior. People do have free will. The party belongs to the people who believe in its principles. Those principles of social justice, equality and shared responsibility can not be discarded for Change! without the party suffering some severe blows to its foundation. Going forward, the party becomes a fragile shell, easily blown to bits by outside forces because its foundations of support have been carelessly undermined.

Tuesday: Bird Brains

You gain legitimacy by being willing to risk power. This is the root cause of Obama's failure to be a unifying figure even as he preaches Unity. Obama would have lost some power in relation to Clinton early on by being willing to seat Florida and revote Michigan (I have said before that had he agreed to an immediate MI revote he would have won that state), but he would have gained an immeasurable amount of legitimacy with the voters, which would be paying off now. Clinging to a formal numbers count and defending that as the measure of victory rather than leaping for the chance to be affirmed by the voters is may garner a party nomination, but it makes Obama look like a beleagured dictator bleating about how he won an election that everyone knows was dirty and compromised.

Unity is power to quell dissent, legitimacy is power under conditions of dissent.


Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Equivocal Oregon Win

I am watching Obama's margin steadily erode. I grew up in Washington and have family and many friends in Oregon. The voting patterns do not surprise me.

Portland is in Multnomah county and is a solid urban area. It is going for Obama, as expected by more than 60%. Hood River county which is a beautiful county right on the Columbia Gorge and rather ritzy has margins at or above 60%. Eugene and Benton counties, home to UO and OSU respectively, are over 60. Washington county which really part of Portland is hovering at 59%.

Th rest of the state is much closer, with Obama in low 50s and Hillary in high 40s in most counties, and many rural counties still to report in. Somewhat surprising to me are Yamhill, Marion (home to state capital Salem), and Clackamas counties, all with much lower margins for Obama than Iwould have expected given that they are part of the larger Portland metropolitan area. They all have significant argricultural portions. The eastern Oregon counties that have not yet reported in should go to Hillary, but their populations are very small. The suburban counties are giving Obama a bare 6% lead.

The other interesting thing is the voter breakdown on my 100,00 base scale. If Hillary were the nominee, she would get 84% of the Democratic vote, which is actually higher than her percentage in Kentucky. So, it appears she is not that weak in the Northwest. When factored out, the numbers look like this:


Out of 100,000 Democratic voters, Clinton would enjoy strong support from most voters regardless of initial affiliation. When the nominee is changed, the results are slightly, but significantly, different:


Yes, that's right, Obama would get fewer number of voters per 100,000 based on the exit poll data than Hillary. There is an attrition of 2,000 votes, 1,000 of which would go to McCain. The numbers can't quite account fo the extra 1,000, but that would probably go to abstain. What I get from this is that fewer Obama supporters would sit out or vote McCain if Hillary was the nominee than would Hillary supporters should Obama be the nominee.

What this says to me is that Hillary's supporters are less likely to transfer their affiliations than are Obama supporters. This is a relative amount, of course, but a double digit defection in a majority Democratic state (which is what affects both candidates according to the exit poll) is not a good sign.

I suspect the margin between them will decrease a bit more over the evening. This is a blow to Obama as he is the presumptive nominee with massive support form the media, the party leadership and the donors, yet he cannot replicate his early caucus margins in a western state with a primary. In the west, Hillary has won:

Nevada - caucus
New Mexico - modified caucus

One of these is a blue state, two are swing states and the fourth might be a swing state were it not for McCain being from there. Obama has won:

Alaska - caucus
Hawaii - caucus, native son
Washington - caucus
Idaho - caucus
Wyoming - caucus
Colorado - caucus
Oregon (I don't see the results changing)

Colorado is the only possible swing state in this group - unless Washington goes red, which it has been known to do. Montana is the only western state left outstanding, and it votes June 3rd in a primary. BTD keeps insisting that Obama has some secret strength in the West, yet he owes his wins to low turn outs in undemocratic caucuses. Washington state's follow up primary was much closer to Oregon's primary than to its own caucus. I suspect Colorado would have shown much the same pattern. Should the ratios hold true, Obama may have difficulties in Oregon due to internal defections. Washington state would be similar.

The longer the campaign goes on, the weaker Obama looks for the General Election.


Crushing Victory for Clinton

Clinton scores another crushing victory over Obama tonight, giving her four of the last five contests. Her popular vote margin in Kentucky is 249, 374, which is 39,603 votes more than Obama's total vote count. Think about that - the margin between them was bigger than his vote total. Her win over him was larger than the difference between them in North Carolina.

I'm returning to my extrapolation of the percentages of who woul/wouldn't vote for which nominee in November by comparing them to a 100,000 baseline.


Out of 100,000 Democratic voters, 77,000 would vote for Hillary were she the nominee. 21,560 of those voters are currently supporting Obama. 16,000 would vote McCain, a smaller number than all the Obama voters who would support her, and numerically sshe would lose more votes from her own supporter's defections than from Obama's supporters, oddly enough. This means just l;ess than 9% of Clinton voters would go McCain, not quite 4.5% of Obama supporters and just shy of 2% of undecideds.


If Obama were the nominee, he would get approximately half of the Democratic votes, and would get almost as many votes from Clinton supporters as she would get from his supporters. His own supporters would not give him that much more in terms of raw vote. Almost as many Clinton supporters would vote against him and for McCain as his own supporters would vote for him. The big number is the high level of abstentions, which could go either way for returning to Obama or defecting to McCain.

The other interstiong question of the evening was should the nominee pick the other person as their VP? When asked if Obama should pick Clinton, there was a definite majority who said Yes:


Many more Clinton supporters liked the idea than Obama supporters. However, more Clinton voters than Obama supporters as a proportion of Democrats said he should not pick her. When the tables were turned, the pattern intensified:


Most people did not want Obama on the ticket with Hillary, with Obama supporters more eager for him to be picked by Hilalry than for Hillary to be picked by him. Hillary supporters really don't want anything to do with Obama. I look at these numbers and see a much stronger resistence to Obama from Hilalry supporters than to Hilalry from Obama supporters, which also indicates that there is a greater chance for Hillary to win back disaffected Obama supporters than for him to get her supporters. Not that this is any great surprise to anyone following the polls.

I also think this indicates that Clinton would make McCain have to contest Kentucky, wasting resources and time there, while Obama would be an instant loss.

I'm off to have dinner while the Oregon results come in. So far, Obama's big counties are the ones reporting in and he's not as far ahead as he should be, given the hype and the money.


Teddy Kennedy

I had been sitting in a programming training class most of the day when I opened up the NY Times to check news while on a break. The lead was Teddy.

The news of the possible stroke over the weekend was troubling, but I am devasted by this. The tumor he is suffering from is the same thing that killed my beloved father-in-law just over two years ago. I pray that they caught the thing in time because they grow quickly and kill horribly.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unifying the Party

I've tried to come up with some sophisticated, nuanced, theoretically meaningful way to say this but nothing is working, so I'll just say it plainly.

I don't see the Hillary campaign saying a bad word about the voters, even those who vote for her opponents. I don't see the campaign explaining away their losses because of some flaw or failing in the voters. Even the group of Obama voters most vociferous and adamant in their objections to her do not get criticized or condemned. To the contrary, she defended MoveOn from politically motivated attacks. She went to Yearly Kos and spoke without rancor or defensiveness to a deeply hostile group.

When she says she is impervious to attacks from the right-wing noise machine, the MSM and political opponents, it shows up in the way she will not be badgered and baited. She can look Richard Scaife in the eye and tell him exactly what she intends to do as President without belligerance and without apology. Their cruelty and crudeness cannot disrupt her calm civility, though she may poke some sly fun at them.

This is not someone who has burned bridges on the Democratic side. In a hard-fought campaign, she has been firm that there will be nothing from her side to prevent resolution and reconciliation within the party. She pulls no punches on issues, but has not stooped to personal attacks of the kind leveled at her by her opponents and even by some party leaders. When somone on her campaign has behaved dishonorably, they are told to leave at once.

Unity is not obedience or falling into line. It is being able to strongly and persuasively present yourself and your objectives and be victorious, but do so in a way that does not demand the humiliation, denegration or destruction of your opponents. It is to treat others as valued colleagues to be won over, not as enemies to be obliterated.

In short, when people speak about the need for party unity, the person who most perfectly embodies this stance is Hillary. These qualities as much as her specific policies, are what make Hillary a compelling candidate for me. No one person, no matter how talented, can achieve the goals of the party. All must be done in concert. All must be done under conditions of cooperation, not coersion.

I do not find any qualities in Obama that indicate he is capable of bringing about this cooperation. I see arrogance, imperiousness, inflexibility, and contempt for those who do not hand him what he wants. He does not appear to want unity, only capitulation.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the person who is best suited to unify the Democratic Party.


Note to Obamacans

Starting now, you get one (at most) post per 24 hour period. That is for the entire blog, not per comment thread, btw. My blog is not a forum for your lies and intimidation tactics. If your post is just more of the same BS, you don't even get that.

If this is unacceptable to you, the "Back" button is in the upper left hand corner of your browser. Feel free to leave anytime.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Electoral Map Trumps the Party Math

I have been talking about the Electoral College and the way in which the primary wins for Obama simply do not add up to victory for a few months:

Hillary's campaign and most of the major blogs are reinforcing the argument that she is a stronger candidate in the general because she has stronger support than Obama in states that A) the Democrats have a real chance of winning in November and B) have a high enough Electoral College vote count that it will add up to 270.

I have already made the formal arguments for this position in the above articles. Below, I simply list the reasons why the general election and its electoral map trump the party delegate math:

  • The general election (Electoral College) is winner take all based on a simple majority of votes in that elector’s state. They are all secret ballot elections. All voters are eligible.
  • No candidate can win in November by gaming caucuses or manipulating delegate counts. The majority vote that day is all that counts. If you don’t win the state outright, McCain gets it.
  • All 50 states are counted, including the places that didn’t vote for a candidate in the primaries and including the states the Democratic Party is currently refusing to allow to vote on the eventual nominee.
  • A candidate can manipulate their way into a high delegate count, but if they have failed to be the winner of primaries in the must-win states, they are at an electoral disadvantage in November.
  • Obama has his pledged delegate majority by leveraging unrepresentative caucus votes in Republican dominated states and by blocking attempts to revote Florida and Michigan. He does not have the support of the majority of Democrats who voted. He is at a disadvantage in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Michigan, and the party needs three of those four in our column to win November.

Long story short: The ability to manipulate the primary race to eke out a whisker thin majority of pledged delegates is irrelevant in the general election because it does not reflect the way in which the Electoral College votes are awarded. Our current contenders are both able to get the necessary 2209 party convention delegates, but only one of them is also able to win the necessary number of Electors – 270.

Hillary can deliver the White House. Obama can’t.


Yes, I was on the conference call with Hillary yesterday, just like every other pro-Hillary blogger. If you weren't on the call, Taylor Marsh recorded it for everyone. Take a few minutes to listen to it, and give Taylor a donation while you're there for having the foresight to record it and the generosity to provide the bandwidth so it's generally available.

My impressions: Hillary herself was great, but the combination of her hoarseness, which made it difficult for her to speak, and the short duration of the call, which limited the amount of questions that could be asked, left me wanting something a little more substantial. I was impressed that the entire conversation was on the record and that no one was pre-screened for questions. She was ready to handle anything we could (quickly) throw at her.

The opening remarks started a little slow because of her voice, which made her sound flat and slightly disengaged. I winced a few times in sympathy. Things picked up when she talked about the Oregon Townhall she was doing that night. Humor and energy showed through - she obviously loves that kind of event. We moved to some talking points where she said they were ahead in the popular vote and that she is devoted to making MI and FL count because enfranchisement cannot be subordinate to punative rules. She wrapped up by talking about viability in the general election and that she is a stronger candidate than Obama. I had to chuckle a bit at the "the map not the math" meme, as I've been talking about the importance of the general election and how it is a simultaneous 50 state vote, not a national election per se, since last February.

Then she spoke about her treatment by the media, Obama, the Blogger Boyz, and the rest of her detractors, and I cheered on my end of the line. Hillary stated something that is just as important as the Electoral College calculation: I am impervious to the attacks.

Why does this matter? First, she's not running around making excuses for why she didn't do so well here or there and blaming others for being mean to her. Compare this to Scan's post on Taylor Marsh of Obama making excuses for why why he won't do well in Kentucky, and on how mean (!!!) the press is being to him. What. A. Whiner.

It also means that she is not going to be distracted from her goals because of the hubbub around her. This should be reassuring to voters who want someone who can concentrate in the middle of crisis. No "My Pet Goat" moment or watching a major US city drown for days before taking action.

Finally, and this is crucial for the general election, she is not going to let the screamers on the TV or in the blogosphere make her quit. She flatly said she was not leaving the contest, no matter how much bloviators like Timmeh, Tweety, the New York Times and WKJM rant and rave. She will not be swiftboated, intimidated, or backed down. She is not ready to make nice so that an unvetted opponent can waltz off with the nomination, and she would never allow herself to be bullied into conceding an election before every last vote had been counted. Considering that Gore and Kerry both conceded rather than be termed sore losers, I'm behind the candidate who will take it to the mat.

Hillary also wryly noted that the vitriol spewed at her was a perverse form of flattery. This is also true. You don't attack people who are not a threat. They must pay attention to who she is and what she does, even if it is only to try to tear her down. Well, it's been years now and they haven't succeeded.

Listen to the audio for the five questioners. I have lost a good deal of respect for Armando/BTD due to his cluelessly insulting opening statement. Everyone else was cool and I got a giggle over the backstory on Lambert's rather strange call noise.

While the campaign may want to get out the message about the general election map, the impression that came through to me is that Hillary is in this to ensure the Democrats win in November. This is someone who wants a win for herself, but understands the larger political picture. She is in this for the party and the country.