Friday, March 7, 2008

The longer this goes on, the stronger we become

I've started avoiding certain blogs that I used to visit. Their appeal used to be that I could hear so many dissenting voices, and being an open-minded person I always felt I learned a lot from listening to those who hold views different from my own. But there's a certain element, and it is on both sides of the democratic race, that has just gotten downright childish. What do you say about a level of discourse that basically amounts to nothing more than namecalling ("Shillary" and "Barack HUSSEIN Obama" for example)?

Well, as annoying as they are, I think those folks are an extremely vocal minority. The rest of the democratic voters are watching this primary unfold with fascination, and it is making us as a stronger nation for our self-examination. As Ellen Goodman writes today in the Boston Globe:
For openers, it's the "embeds" - the traveling press who look as weary as the candidates - and the party honchos who want it over. Two-thirds of the polled Democrats think it should go on.

A good part of the energy and excitement of this campaign comes - still - from having a woman and an African-American on the ballot. So far, Clinton and Obama have brought more voters to the polls than any primary campaign in recent memory.

A full 59 percent of the Ohio voters were women this year, up seven points from 2004. In Texas they were 57 percent, up four points. Obama engages younger voters. In Ohio alone there was a 10 percent increase in the under-30 vote compared with 2000. If it's good for Ohio, why not Pennsylvania? Indiana?

We've put to rest the question of whether a woman is tough enough to be commander in chief. Clinton has been the tough guy in the race. Win, lose or draw, she has rewritten the common wisdom.

It's also put to rest the question of whether white Americans would vote for an African-American. In the whitest of states, such as Iowa and Vermont, Obama left the bias about bias in tatters.

So to any Democrat in high gloom over an extended fight, take a deep breath. Then watch a rerun of the designated opponent, John McCain, giving his joyless victory speech on Tuesday night. There are many things worse than an extended race between history or herstory. You could, for example, get a Rose Garden endorsement from George W. Bush.
If you can stay awake to watch "the maverick," have at it. I lost interest in this snooze fest fairly quickly in ...

Let's solve this in classic American style: Let's have a Do-Over!

We all remember the do-over from our playground days, right? The ball goes out of bounds because of some strange anomaly of the blacktop -- nobody's fault -- so you do it over. Why not apply it to the primaries of Florida and Michigan? After all, shouldn't the voters in those states have their votes count just as much as yours and mine? It's not their fault the primaries didn't count.

I hope that by now the state Democratic leaders in those two states are sufficiently embarrassed that their attempts to become one of the first primaries in the nation has caused such chaos. The irony is that these two states may end of as the last primaries held, and may actually be the most important ones. There are a total of 367 delegates up for grabs between these two states. Winning all of these delegates still wouldn't total the 2,025 delegates required to secure the nomination, but it would make either one of them awfully close ....

You say it's your birthday?

Big Jello birthday shout out to commenter Stella Artois, who's birthday is today! It's also Wanda Sykes's birthday, and since Stella is a big Wanda fan, let's enjoy a few minutes of her genius:

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dept. of Fuzzy Math

The Obama campaign has been helpfully doing the math for anyone who will listen, showing that Hillary Clinton cannot win enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. What they're not saying, though, is that neither can he. According to CNN, the current delegate tally stands at:

Obama: 1,520
Clinton: 1,424

Remember, it takes 2,025 delegates to win the Democratic nomination. Basically, at this point neither one can win the nomination without the super delegates. The role of the super delegates is to use their own best judgment to vote for a nominee. That is what makes the m different from the pledged delegates. I understand the emotion behind those who would argue that super delegates should follow "the will of the people," but that's not their mandate. That's the role of the pledged delegates. Maybe we should get rid of the super delegates in the future, but I don't think we should force them to change the basis of their vote in this election, not at this point.

And next up, folks, is the Electoral College! That's right. There's some mighty fuzzy math coming out of the Obama camp concerning this issue, as well. From RealClearPolitics:

Add up all the states he has won in his historic drive to become the nominee, including all of those small and deeply "red" Republican states where the Obama supporters boast of their candidate's transcendental appeal, and so far Obama has won in places representing 193 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. Add up Clinton's victories thus far and she has triumphed in states representing 263 electoral votes.

Of course, some states in Clinton's column -- Texas comes most readily to mind -- that have a large trove of Electoral College votes are highly unlikely to wind up Democratic in the fall. But the same holds true for Obama, whose strength in southern Democratic primaries has rested on the huge margins he has run up among African-American voters. African-Americans are a crucial constituency for Democrats, but their votes in recent contests haven't been enough to win such states as Alabama, South Carolina or Georgia.

So how has Obama fared in those states that are the crucial building blocks of a Democratic general election strategy? He's won his home state of Illinois, plus Wisconsin, Washington and Minnesota. Together, these states account for 51 electoral votes. Clinton has won her home state of New York, as well as California, New Jersey and Michigan, representing a total of 118 electoral votes. This sum deliberately leaves out Ohio and Florida, which will be hotly contested in the fall.

There is no papering over the depth of the problem Obama faced there. He won only five of the state's 88 counties, an inauspicious foundation for a general election campaign. Clinton trounced him among Catholic voters, 63 percent-36 percent, according to exit polls. She beat him among voters in every income category and bested him by 14 points among those making less than $50,000 annually.

This is why Pennsylvania, which is demographically similar to Ohio -- and a must-win state for Democrats in November -- is considered such fertile ground for Clinton on April 22.

The Democratic Party is indeed developing a general election problem, and it's only partly because Obama and Clinton will be sniping at one another for the next seven weeks. Obama, the leading candidate, still hasn't shown he has appeal in a large battleground state that will be pivotal in the fall. In this sense, Pennsylvania is where Obama's back, and not Clinton's, is up against the wall.

What are we doing for the women of Iraq?

Perhaps America could take a break from the discussions of super delegates and exit polls, and turn our attention to the dire situation for women in Iraq:
Since the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003, economic, social and political aftershocks have thrust the country into chaos. Present- day Iraq is plagued by insecurity, a lack of infrastructure and controversial leadership, transforming the situation for women from one of relative autonomy and security before the war into a national crisis.

Before Saddam Hussein came to power in the 1970s, women in Iraq did not suffer the same types of repression as many other women around the world. They were encouraged to attend school, they could own property, they were allowed to divorce. In urban areas women held professional positions in government, medicine, law and the arts. Two wars, authoritarian repression and UN sanctions left most of Iraq in crippling poverty, with people struggling to meet the most basic needs.

In March 2003, women’s rights and gender equity were mentioned as symbolic issues for Iraq’s new national agenda. However, as the overall situation in Iraq began to deteriorate after the invasion, the focus on women was lost in the problems and violence facing the country as a whole.

My dream ticket

Do you remember that board game from the sixties and seventies, Dream Date? I remember all my little friends loved that game, although it never really appealed to me, for reasons which later became obvious to me. Like when Happy Days first came on and they all had crushes on Fonzie but I liked Suzie Quatro ... but I digress:

I know it's wishful thinking, but if these two candidates were truly more interested in America than in the Presidency, wouldn't this make sense: Clinton as President, Obama, as V.P.? With this ticket, we would be assured, I believe, in 16 years of control of the White House! Sixteen years, people!

I realize both Clinton and Obama both have super-human sized egos, and for either of them to accept the V.P. slot when they are so close to the top of the ticket might just be impossible. But wouldn't that be best for the country? Clinton has hinted that she would be open to it, with a rather large caveat:
That may be where this is headed, but of course we have to decide who is on the top of the ticket.
But Obama isn't ready to discuss it yet:
Asked on the plane whether he and Mrs. Clinton might make a good ticket, he smiled. “It’s very premature,” he said, “to start talking about a joint ticket.”
So, I was just informed that correct name of the game was Mystery Date. Apparently I really wasn't paying close attention at the time. I had "other inclinations," as they say. Here's an image of the game from 1972, at which time I was 11. So, yeah, not so interested .... But it's available on eBay if you are.

Aussie brewery produces 'green' beer

From Raw Story:

Feeling green after drinking alcohol has taken on a new meaning in Australia with a brewer launching a beer that it says helps fight global warming.

All the greenhouse gases produced through the life of a Cascade Green, from the picking of the hops to the empty bottle landing in the recycling bin, have been offset, the company said.

This is done by purchasing certified carbon offsets from the government-accredited Hobart Landfill Flare Facility, which captures and recycles gases, in Tasmania, where the Fosters-owned Cascade brewery is based.

Aside from the fact that the name makes me think of dish washing detergent, it sounds great! Well, that and the price: $17.99 per six-pack.

Warrants? We don't need no stinkin' warrants!

Yesterday as Unnamed Partner and I were out doing errands, she saw a traffic camera and expressed her concern that our privacy and civil liberties are being infringed upon. I said that I don't actually mind the traffic cameras so much, because at least we can see them. Such as the one, for example, to which she had just flipped the bird. I'm more outraged at the many insidious, covert things the government is doing. I was referring, of course, to warrantless wiretapping. I didn't even know this was going on:
The US postal service approves more than 10,000 requests from US law enforcement each year to record names, addresses and other information from the outside of packages every year, according to information released through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The warrantless surveillance mail program -- as it is known -- requires only the approval of the US Postal Inspection Service Director, and not a judge.

Since 1998, the inspector has approved more than 97% of requests during criminal inquiries, new documents show. According to USA Today, which filed the request, "In 2004, 2005 and 2006, the most recent year provided, officials granted at least 99.5% of requests."
The irony, of course, is that while all of these activities come in the name of fighting terrorism, I'm becoming increasingly terrified of our federal government.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Note from Tortoise to Hare: Hillary Clinton wins big!

There have been many studies done on the relative strengths of men and women. One common finding that was proved again last night is a woman's superior strength of endurance. Obama has sprinted to the frontrunner status in this race, only to have Clinton continue to work -- and work twice as hard for half the money, I might add! -- and win. Big!

As Clinton said last night:
This is for everyone across America who's been counted out -- but refused to be knocked out. For everyone who's stumbled -- but stood right back up. And for everyone who works hard -- but never gives up.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Obama's bad luck. Really?

Newsweek is reporting on Clinton's recent "bump" in the polls:
The former First Lady has been helped by a stunningly unlucky news cycle for Obama.
And I say, really? Because I think many of us have been predicting this bad "news cycle for Obama" would happen as soon as the media started looking at him critically.
For starters, his friend and fund-raiser, the indicted Chicago Democratic power broker Antoin (Tony) Rezko, began his federal fraud trial on Monday. While the Rezko probe and criminal proceedings are several years old, the timing of the trial's start is beyond inopportune for the Illinois senator.
Yeah, see, that's actually not new. We've known about Rezko for quite a while, and knew this trial would happen eventually. So why didn't the media press him on this before now?
Then there's the broadening flap over allegations that Obama's chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee, told Canadian officials to disregard Obama's protectionist trade message as pure campaign rhetoric.
Hello?! Some of us have been talking about our concern over Obama's foreign policy experience — or lack thereof — for a long, long time. This was bound to happen.
It's hard to miss that Clinton's advisers smell blood in the water, even as they protect their own legacies by selectively leaking reputation-enhancing tidbits to reporters lest their candidate fail miserably on Tuesday
Well ... perhaps if the reporters did their own job, the Clinton advisers wouldn't have to "selectively leak .... tidbits."

Just a thought.

"I don't like la di dah" versus "Um ... change?"

I'm watching the exit interviews of voters in Texas on ABC just now, Jake Tapper spoke to 2 women who had just voted. One said she voted for Hillary Clinton because "She has substance. I don't like la di dah."  The other stammered for a moment when asked why she voted for Obama, before finally answering "Um .... change?"  in that tone I remember from teaching middle school: "Um, is that the right answer?"

Ah, the American voter ..... it's going to be a loooooooooong night!

Will Obama's 'wink wink' on free trade help Clinton win precious votes in Ohio?

From the Canadian Globe and Mail:
The Clinton people have dubbed it NAFTA-gate, and desperately wish the press would do the same. The Obama people try to shrug the whole thing off.

The question is whether Barack Obama's Canadian contradictions over the North American free-trade agreement could tip the balance in today's mini Super Tuesday.

Here's what happened, based in part on a leaked memorandum obtained by The Associated Press, and on reports from CTV: Early in February, Austan Goolsbee, one of Mr. Obama's senior economic advisers, talked informally with officials at the Canadian consulate in Chicago. A consulate staffer wrote a memo based on the conversation, in which he said Mr. Goolsbee advised the Canadians that “much of the rhetoric that may be perceived to be protectionist is more reflective of political manoeuvring than policy.”

This memo made the rounds, and eventually the gist of the message was communicated to a CTV journalist, who reported that Mr. Obama was saying one thing about NAFTA to voters, but something quite different to the Canadian government.

Mr. Goolsbee insists his comments were taken out of context by the memo writer. The Canadian embassy in Washington strongly denied that there had been any communication between the Obama campaign and the embassy.

When that turned out to be technically, but not substantively, true – the communication was with the Chicago consulate, not the embassy – the embassy yesterday offered an apology, saying that “there was no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private, including about NAFTA. We deeply regret any inference that may have been drawn to that effect.”

End of story? Hardly.

Throughout a marathon 75-minute conference call with reporters yesterday, senior Clinton campaign officials repeatedly stressed the importance of the contradiction between Mr. Obama's anti-NAFTA rhetoric and the private assurances of one of his advisers.

“The fact that his aide would be saying something in private very different to Canadian officials is very much on the minds of voters in Ohio,” maintained Howard Wolfson, Ms. Clinton's communications director.

“Because it's just flat-out wrong to tell the people of Ohio one thing in public about NAFTA and say something quite different to the government of Canada behind closed doors.”

Ms. Clinton said yesterday that she believed the Obama campaign had given the Canadian government “the old wink-wink.”

“I think that's the kind of difference between talk and action that I've been talking about,” she went on. “It raises questions about Senator Obama coming to Ohio and giving speeches against NAFTA.”

And in further display of his, like, totally awesome diplomatic skills, we have this from the Obama campaign:

The CBC reported yesterday that the affair had infuriated Mr. Obama and his senior advisers to the point that it could impair relations between an Obama administration and the Canadian government, quoting an Obama campaign official saying, “Why is Canada meddling in the internal affairs of the United States. … To provide such a false account at this juncture on the eve of a crucial election is not an accident, and it is really, really stupid.” But the Obama official who spoke to The Globe and Mail described the reaction as “overblown.”

Dear Ohio, Texas, Vermont, and Rhode Island: Here are 100 reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton

If you're voting today and you're still not sure which Democratic candidate would be the best President of the United States, Taylor Marsh has 100 Reasons to Support Hillary. A few from the list:

Reason #1 to support Hillary:
In Arkansas she was instrumental in straightening out their school system - taking it from one of the worst systems to a role model used by other troubled schools on how to improve public education.

Reason #2 to support Hillary:
In 2006, she led the fight to kill the anti-gay Republican constitutional amendment that for the first time would have added laws to the Constitution that would INCREASE discrimination.

Reason #11 to Support Hillary:
Rated 100% by NARAL, indicating a pro-choice voting record. (Dec 2003)

Reason #15 for Supporting Hillary:
In 1965 she brought black classmates to her until-then all-white church.

Reason #17 to Support Hillary:
IN 1988 Instituted gender diversity Report Card within the American Bar Association, which sets standards for lawyers in the U.S.

Reason #34 to Support Hillary:
Wants a complete re-write, a Total change in No Child Left Behind. (August, 2007)

Reason #42 to Support Hillary:
Voted NO on drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve on national security grounds. (Apr 2002)

Reason #61 to Support Hillary:
Pledges to support $50B for AIDS relief in US and world

Reason #70 to Support Hillary:
Voted YES on preserving habeas corpus for Guantanamo detainees. (Sep 2006)

Reason #74 to Support Hillary:
Voted: No salary increase for Congress until minimum wage increased.

Reason #83 to Support Hillary:
Served as a Staff attorney on Watergate/Nixon impeachment investigation.

Reason #86 to Support Hillary:
Voted NO on confirming John Roberts for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Reason #87 to Support Hillary:
Voted NO on confirming Samuel Alito as Supreme Court Justice.

Reason #94 to Support Hillary:
1978: chaired Legal Services Corp. in President Carter's Administration - allowing Poor Families access to legal aid

Reason #100 to Support Hillary:
In October, 2006 - called for "Phased redeployment out of Iraq, beginning immediately."

These are just a few things for you to know today. Please read the entire list of reason here.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Paging Doctor Feelgood

A few days ago I posted about several of our U.S. Senators missing a rather high percentage of votes. While I have no doubt that campaigning for president does indeed cramp one's style when it comes to doing your "day job," it's cause for concern when that day job means co-chairing an oversight committee on Afghanistan, as is the case with Barack Obama. You remember Afghanistan? Otherwise known as "The Forgotten War"?

Always quick to jump on the bandwagon, Obama's all about Afghanistan now, after Hillary Clinton brought up the issue. Of course, he's mostly just annoying Europe at this point.

Obama has been in the Senate for barely 4 years. For the past year he has not even found the time to hold hearings for this committee, despite the death and injury that continues for our military personnel stationed in Afghanistan. He admitted in 2004 that if he were to run for president in 2008 "I would basically have to start campaigning now." Which is apparently just what he did.

I know his name is listed as co-sponsor on a whole litany of bills. A few even made it into law. But do you realize how many Senators are usually listed as "co-sponsor" on any bill that makes it through the Senate? Where are the bills that he has championed and fought for? Where has he shown these tremendous leadership skills I keep reading about? When has he stood on the Senate floor and delivered one of these motivational and inspiring speeches to his colleagues?

I think it's fine that Barack Obama makes you feel full of hope, and makes you want to work for change. But why hasn't he done this with his colleagues in the Senate? We can be inspired as we want, but we don't have the power to make that change. And the people who do? Well they haven't heard much from Sen. Obama lately. He's been busy making you feel good.

For those of you joining me in the Obama Drinking Game, I count 3 shots ....

I'm in the market for a kevlar sleeping bag

If you're planning a peaceful summer vacation, communing with nature in one of our national parks, you may want to make new plans. From McClatchy News:
[T]he Interior Department may relax a 25-year ban on loaded guns in national parks and wildlife refuges, leaving the issue for states to decide. In a decision that the National Rifle Association has applauded, the department announced that it will issue a new set of rules by April 30.
You might think the ban is being lifted so that citizens can better protect themselves because, you know, crime has increased in the national parks. Uh, no. Crime has actually gone down, dramatically the the national park system:
The number of criminal offenses reported in the nation's parks declined by 25 percent from 1995 to 2006, going from 6,009 to 4,485, according to statistics compiled by the National Park Service. That includes murders, rapes, robberies, kidnappings, aggravated assaults, burglaries, thefts and arson.
So why does anyone need to carry a loaded gun around a national park? Well, according the NRA Chief Lobbyist Chris Cox,
[L]aw-abiding citizens shouldn't be prohibited from defending themselves while visiting the parks. He said the ban was outdated, noting that while only six states allowed citizens to carry handguns for self-defense in 1982, 48 states now issue licenses or permits for people to carry firearms to protect themselves.

Under current law, guns are allowed in national parks only if they're unloaded and stowed.

Unloaded and stowed. Is that such a bad thing? Really?


I'm having a flashback to the days of yore, when I actually looked forward to Mondays because I needed to recover from the weekend. Trust me, those Mondays are few and far between anymore, but this is definitely one of them. Don't get me wrong — it's all been fun. Saturday night, for example, we went to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, led by the world's cutest conductor, Marin Alsop. We haven't done anything like that in quite a while, so it was nice to get a little dressed up, go to dinner downtown, and go to an event. Thank you MK and ML!

But the "big" event was a birthday gathering for Unnamed Partner's (U.P.) nieces and nephew on Sunday. A house (requiring 2 full days of cleaning) full of people, including an unexpected 2-year old which my dog did his best to herd, but damn those 2-year olds are quick. (And that sound you heard was of universes colliding: the 2-year old belongs to the 16-year old girlfriend of U.P.'s nephew, but she also happens to be a former student of mine when I taught middle school. So having her run around my house yelling at her toddler was a little, um, "surreal," to say the least.)

I love U.P.'s family. They are so different from my own, it's fascinating. My family is all about decorum and manners. U.P.'s family is all about living life. So it's always loud and boisterous and there are always several conversations going on at once, so then someone turns up the t.v., and then the conversations get louder and then the t.v. goes up again (am I right, Scepter66?).

Add to that the foster kitty living in the front bedroom until we can get him tested (tomorrow) to make sure he's not carrying something lethal to our other cats. Somehow during the party he ended up in a different bedroom with the door shut. I suspect this has something to do with the aforementioned 2-year old; I have no proof .... This kitty is an incredibly well-behaved lover-boy, and as far as I can tell he did no damage in the second bedroom. He does get a little lonely being by himself, so I sat with him for a while after the crowd was gone to give him some attention. But as I crawled into bed he began pathetically mewing from across the hall.

Boy it's great to be at work today. I think I'll just shut the door and put my head down for a moment ... I think I read that tomorrow's going to be a big day in political news, so I'd better rest up ....