14 March 2008
Today the fifth-largest investment bank in the country went hat-in-hand to a competitor and the Federal Reserve Bank to keep itself afloat.
Had Bear Stearns been unable to find someone to participate in a bailout we could have seen - and in fact may still see - more banks and investment banks go belly up.
A global credit crisis looms.
The stock market is in the tank.
Oil prices are well over $100 a barrel.
Home foreclosures have people living in 21st century Hoovervilles.
We are heading into - and frankly I would say are already in - a recession.
And the dollar is getting weaker by the second.
But the big story today on the blogs and the 24-hour noise networks is Barack Obama's pastor. It's hard to imagine that there's anyone out there who doesn't know what I'm talking about, so I'm not going to explain it here.
You'll notice that my posts on this blog have been fewer in recent weeks, and that is no accident.
I refuse to get involved in the bullshit and slime that passes for news and political discourse in this country, the supposed model of Democracy.
If you check back over the past month of posts on this blog, you will not see anything about the half-baked John McCain/female lobbyist story that sullied, or shall I say further sullied, the reputation of a once-great newspaper - the New York Times.
You won't see anything about the incendiary and bigoted remarks made by the right-wing preachers that have backed McCain in the hopes of bringing the rest of the religious right into the GOP fold for the fall.
You won't see anything about Geraldine Ferraro, or Samantha Power or any references to Hillary Clinton being a monster.
You won't see anything about the 3 AM ad, or Saturday Night Live.
That's because (to quote George Carlin) it's all bullshit and bullshit is bad for you.
As the Democratic race drags on, and the Republicans try to get a head start on the November campaign, the so-called news is getting uglier and more moronic by the day.
And it is getting that way for a reason.
Americans are themselves bigoted, stupid or just plain fearful and the politicians know how to play on that prejudice, ignorance and fear.
If you disagree with me, please explain to me how the Vietnam war hero was painted as the wuss in 2004, while the guy who got a plum appointment to the National Guard (secured by his important daddy) became the tough guy hero.
Politicians know that when they get into the gutter they get votes. And the 24-hour noise networks know that when politicians get into the gutter the networks get viewers.
You can argue that all the noise is really news because it affects how people vote.
Sadly, I'd have a difficult time arguing that point.
But that also proves my point.
Taken as a whole, the American electorate is not sophisticated enough to know when they are being led around by the nose.
With a six-week lull until the next primary, the noise machine will become deafening. The blogosphere and the airwaves - just when you think it impossible - will become trashier and more ridiculous.
This campaign started in earnest about a year ago with about 9 or 10 candidates (some from each party) who could make a good case that they were qualified to do the job they aspired to.
We're now down to three candidates who lose more and more luster each day, as they beat each other over the head and have every word they have ever spoken parsed, pulled out of context and distorted for someone else's political gain.
By the time the slime machine gets done with the remaining trio we will once again come to a November when we voters will ask ourselves if the last two candidates standing are the best we can do. Another hold-your-nose-and-vote election.
But we in the electorate have no one to blame but ourselves.
The politicians and the networks serve up this shit and we gladly eat it up.
If and when this campaign gets back to something worth talking about, I'll be posting again.
For now I will spend my time trying to figure out why it is we just don't seem to be able to do this Democracy thing right.
09 March 2008
There has been a lot of talk the past few days coming out of the Clinton camp - indeed out of the mouths of the Clintons themselves - about giving the Democrats their cake and letting them eat it to.
Giving the party faithful a two-fer.
Vote once and get Clinton and Obama - in that order.
Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton said it should be in that order when they each advocated for a ticket with both of the remaining Democratic candidates on it. But it's clear which way they intend the ticket to be structured.
The motives behind the suggestion are obvious.
The Clintons clearly see great value in having Obama, who has turned out droves of new voters during the primary season, to add excitement and votes to a November effort.
But that is not the immediate motivation.
So what is?
How about the notion of damning with feint praise?
By suggesting they'd love to see the Clinton-Obama ticket, they're telling voters that Obama would make a good president down the road, after he's had a chance to learn under Hillary.
They're also telling voters that they can get a ticket with both Obama and Hillary, if they vote now to make sure Hillary is at the top of the ticket. After all, they let the voters reason, Obama's still young. He can get in line for his turn next time.
Obama is having none of it.
In the past when the subject has come up, Obama has mostly said it is a question for another day.
Over the weekend he was more emphatic, saying he won't be running for VP.
On Meet the Press today, Obama backer and former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle put it a bit more bluntly.
"It may be the first time in history that the person who is running number two would offer the person running number one the number two position."
The so-called Dream Ticket will never come about.
The most obvious reason is the nastiness of the current campaign and the animosity it is building between the two candidates and their supporters.
Which of the two is going to agree to play second fiddle?Just based on the audacity she has displayed during this campaign, the sense of entitlement, do you really see Clinton agreeing to be No. 2 to "the novice" ?
If you were Obama, would you accept the vice presidency - a position already in search of a job description - with Bill Clinton hanging around the West Wing with lots of time on his hands?
In the case of either candidate, which would be a more attractive position to hold - a no-show job in the administration or a powerful new role in the Senate?
Both Clinton and Obama - with their strong showing as presidential candidates - can lay legitimate claim to a position of leadership in the Senate.
And then there's one more question to consider.
Do the Democrats really want the first legitimate woman candidate and the first legitimate African-American candidate for the presidency on the ticket together?
Isn't that a huge crap shoot?
Isn't that putting a bit too much faith in a country that has shown itself historically to be racist and sexist?
Will the new voters that such a ticket would bring to the party outnumber the swing voters who may decide that Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton is a little more change than they bargained for?
The Democratic Party is too hungry for a victory to roll those dice and find out.
05 March 2008
Ever come across one of those photos that you wish would just go away?
Maybe it's the prom photo where lavender is your dominant color. And you're the guy in the photo, not the girl.
How about a picture you posed for in March which could really come back to bite you in the backside in - say - November?
The GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, had one of those photo ops today - and will likely have many more in the months ahead with the man he hopes to succeed in the White House.
McCain was endorsed today by President Bush, who promised to help McCain in any way he could - including staying away from McCain if the GOP nominee feels that's the best way to go.
But McCain is wedded to Bush's war. He's wedded to Bush's "surge" and he's wedded to Bush's tax cuts.
He will easily be painted by the Democrats as the candidate offering four more years of what we've got now.
By accepting Bush's support today McCain seems to be OK with that.
04 March 2008
Hillary Clinton has characterized Barack Obama's presidential campaign is little more than fancy words.
Obama has argued that, although his campaign is a lot more substantive than that, words do matter.
They're going to matter big-time after the results of today's four primaries are known.
I'm not in the business of prognostication. That's often when trouble starts.
But based on the latest polls over the past few days, I'm going to stick my neck out and say Hillary Clinton will win Ohio tonight by 5 to 10 points, and probably a lot closer to 10.
The polls of the past two days show Texas as a tossup, but new polls released today show Clinton with a mid-single-digit lead.
I'm going to assume this all means the momentum has swung noticeably toward Clinton in the past few days and that she will notch a slim victory in Texas - though I think Obama could win more delegates in the state.
I'm going to say the two will also split the two small states voting today - Rhode Island and Vermont.
Most news organization have Obama leading Clinton by about 100-120 delegates, depending on who's doing the counting - and by about 140-160 pledged delegates.
Despite the fact that she seems poised to win Ohio and the popular vote in Texas, the delegate needle is not likely to move more than about 10 0r 20 in Clinton's favor. Which is hardly a move at all.
It's six long weeks until Pennsylvania, the next mother load of delegates. So the war of words after today's elections will be important.
If she wins the popular vote in both Texas and Ohio, Clinton's argument that she's as viable as Obama will be strengthened greatly.
But Obama can still boast a delegate lead and likely victories in more of the remaining states than Clinton is likely to pull off. With mostly western and southern states among the dozen elections that will remain after tonight, Obama's argument would seem to hold.
But Clinton, ahead by double-digits at the moment, is likely to take the largest single prize- Pennsylvania.
As of today her national numbers are as good as Obama's.
And she is likely to come out of tonight with a legitimate claim of momentum.
But with virtually no chance of winning the nomination with pledged delegates, Clinton may face a war of words with party leaders - who are growing tired of the length and nastiness of this campaign.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said the other day that the race must end after tonight, with the candidate holding the most pledged delegates being the nominee.
There is no chance of that happening, but it is indicative of a restlessness within the party over the possibility that the two candidates will tear each other down enough to lose in November.
NBC's Tom Brokaw today broke a story saying that about 50 super delegates are poised to come out very soon in Obama's favor.
That's another indication that the patience of party leaders is growing thin.
Depending on who the 50 are, the pressure for Clinton to step aside could be great.
She will need a strong argument to stay in the race.
But if the polls of the past few days are correct she just may be building that argument successfully.
02 March 2008
Earlier this week former (Bill) Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers said on CNBC's Hardball that she felt the races coming up on Tuesday in Ohio and Texas were moving toward Hillary Clinton.
I don't remember her exact words, but that was the gist of her comment.
When Chris Matthews jumped down her throat asking her what she based that opinion on, Myers paused for a brief moment and then said "my golden gut."
I have to say as we reach the end of the final weekend of the Ohio/Texas campaign I'm feeling the same way, based on little more than my considerable gut.
Having spent the first 27 years of my life in Cleveland - six of those years covering politics - I think I have a bit of a handle on Ohio's political make-up.
I look at today's (Cleveland) Plain Dealer survey, which shows Clinton ahead of Barack Obama by four points (47%-43%) and I have no cause to doubt the poll is accurate.
You have to look beyond the surface numbers to determine that, indeed, those results appear to be pretty solid.
Clinton leads among women (53-38), people over 50 (54-36) and union households (56-34) - three key components of her coalition. That she leads those groups is not surprising, but the size of her lead among those groups is larger than it has been in many of the recent contests
The same can be said about the white vote, where Clinton holds a commanding 58%-32% lead.
Clinton has a 23-point lead in southeast Ohio, a sparsely populated part of the state which is dirt poor and in the foothills of Appalachia. Clearly Clinton remains appealing to low-income voters, which will be key in a state that has been stung more than most by lost jobs and home repossessions.
Perhaps a larger key for Clinton is her 47%-43% lead in northeast Ohio, which is the most populous part of the state and includes Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown. These are all cities that have been devastated by the effects of NAFTA, but also the part of the state that has a much larger percentage of African Americans than other regions.
Clinton also leads in northwestern Ohio (53-38), which has Toledo as its largest population center.
Obama's strength is in central part of the state (46-43) and the southwest (52-36).
Central Ohio's population center is Columbus, easily the most progressive city in a not-very-progressive state. It's the home of Ohio State University and the state government. It also has the most highly educated electorate of any region in the state. What's surprising is that Obama's lead here is only three points.
The southwest population center is Cincinnati - home of the iconic Taft family, a leading Republican force in Ohio politics for more than 100 years. The pro-Obama vote here is more likely an anti-Hillary vote.
Only 8% of those polled by the Plain Dealer said it was possible they would change their mind before Tuesday, and they are evenly split among Obama and Clinton supporters. It's unlikely when these votes play out that they will bring about any overall shift in support.
Obama's best hope for an upset lies with two groups - the 9% statewide who say they remain undecided and independents, among whom Obama is favored 53%-33%.
If Obama can turn out independents in huge numbers and he can win the last two news cycles and move the undecideds into his camp, he can win.
Clinton has never trailed in the polls in the Buckeye State, and although Obama has cut her lead sharply over the past couple of weeks, I'm going to say Ohio will be a win for Hillary.
In Texas, the latest polls show Obama ahead, but by only a point or three.
Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram puts Obama ahead by 1 point.
The other recent Texas polls are equally inconclusive.
Whether it was her complaint of unfair treatment by the media finally getting traction, her performance in the latest debate in Cleveland or her tenacious campaigning, something has happened this week that seems to have stopped the bleeding for the Clinton.
Clearly no unexpected, Wisconsin-like blowout for Obama is in the offing.
The question is whether Clinton can spin one, and possibly two, very narrow wins in Tuesday's big primaries into an argument for her continued candidacy.
I'm going to predict we'll see a lot more of Clinton on the campaign trail in the weeks ahead.
27 February 2008
Does it seem to you that we are a nation of ninth graders? Or at least a nation led by a bunch of ninth graders.
Or maybe I'm not being fair to ninth graders.
While those running for the highest office in the land, and their surrogates, have provided dozens of examples in the past few weeks of "nah-nah-nah-nah nah-nah" politics, all you really have to do is go back 24 hours to have more of it than you can really stomach.
Today the low-brow commentary involved John McCain and Barack Obama, as McCain jumped on a slight misstatement made by Obama on an awkwardly worded hypothetical question by MSNBC's Tim Russert. (Click the link above for the full back-and-forth between McCain and Obama). About the only thing missing here is a "he started it" or a "see you after school dude" comment.
McCain's sarcastic rant against Obama came just 24 hours after the Arizona senator apologized to Obama for comments made by some moron radio host in Cincinnati who was a "warm-up act" at a McCain rally yesterday.
We also had the much-publicized nonsense about Louis Farrakhan's support for Obama and Obama's rejection of that support.
In this case, it's Russert who seemed bent on continuing to ram a question down Obama's throat when he'd already answered it. And of course Hillary Clinton chimed in with her "teacher, teacher, I have a better answer" response.
Which of course followed the whole Obama-in-Somali-dress episode, and the Three Faces of Hillary act which we commented on yesterday.
While criticizing your opponent is what political debate is all about, it seems we are incapable as a society of discussing the issues on an adult level.
One side is always looking to smear the other, or trip up the opponent rather than convincing people that they have the better plan.
The media seems to think its only purpose is to play "gotcha" or to make outrageous comments of their own, like Chelsea Clinton is being "pimped out" because she wants to help her mom win the election or Hillary's entire political career is based on sympathy for her having to endure the Lewinsky affair.
In the days before the 24-hour noise networks any newsperson making either statement would have been shown the door immediately. Now such inappropriateness seems to be cultivated by those networks.
The sad reality is we haven't even made it through February yet. There's still eight months to go and you have to wonder just how ridiculous it will get.
25 February 2008
During the most-recent Democratic debate Barack Obama said the political "silly season" was underway with Hillary Clinton's accusation that Obama plagiarized words from another politician's speech even though that politician not only gave Obama his blessing to use the words but encouraged him to do so.
The silly season may have reached it's peek today with wide-spread distribution of the photo of Obama shown above.
It's a legitimate (not doctored) picture of Obama, on a visit it Kenya in 2006, where he donned local ceremonial garb, much like thousands of politicians have done when they visit overseas.
(Think 'W' walking through the garden holding hands with some foreign male head of state because that's what they do over there.)
The picture was unearthed by The Drudge Report, saying it was obtained from members of the Clinton campaign. (somewhat like the Karl Rove campaign tactics Clinton accused Obama of using on Saturday)
The Obama camp called it "divisive" and campaign manager David Plouffe called it "the most shameful, offensive fear-mongering we've seen from either party in this election."
Clinton's spokesman Howard Wolfson, on a teleconference with reporters today essentially said 'don't look at us.'
"I just want to make it very clear that we were not aware of it, the campaign didn't sanction it and don't know anything about it."
The campaign had earlier issued a statement in which it did not come anywhere close to a denial that the photo may have come from somewhere inside the Clinton camp.
If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.
This is nothing more than an obvious and transparent attempt to distract from the serious issues confronting our country today and to attempt to create the very divisions they claim to decry.
We will not be distracted."But the Clinton campaign is indeed being distracted, or more accurately they are the ones doing the distracting - even if the Obama photo was not their handiwork.
Clinton today made a foreign policy speech in Washington, an area that - at least by her claims of superior experience - should be her strong suit over Obama.
But the silly picture of Obama looking like a member of the Taliban is getting all the attention.
And in her speech on foreign policy, Clinton made a few more incendiary remarks about Obama, contrasting his calls for talks with Iran and Cuba with his assertion that we should make an incursion into Pakistan, which harbors Osama bin Laden, and clean out the al Qaeda and Taliban elements who thrive there on the border with Afghanistan.
"He wavers from seeming to believe that mediation and meetings without preconditions can solve the world's intractable problems, to advocating rash, unilateral military action without cooperation from our allies in the most sensitive region of the world."--Hillary Clinton
The criticism of Obama - legitimate political criticism in most circumstances - becomes nothing more than "more mud thrown today by Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama" on the newscasts, if the speech is covered at all.
Unless you have been spending your recent days contemplating the meaning of life, your navel or the likely affect of Ralph Nader's entry into the presidential race, you are no doubt familiar with - and sick of seeing - Clinton's sarcastic rant yesterday which painted Obama and his followers as modern day Peter Pans, who refuse to grow up and face the realities of the real world.
Or her scolding of Obama Saturday over the campaign leaflets Obama's campaign distributed in Ohio.
All which followed her make-nice moment at the end of Thursday's debate.
The bluster seems to indicate that the "go-negative" wing of the campaign has won the day heading into the crucial Ohio and Texas primaries next Tuesday.
And just where has the strategy taken her?
A USA Today/Gallup poll today shows Obama up by 12 points nationally, though the latest three-day Gallup tracking poll shows Obama with a much smaller margin.
A Public Policy Polling poll shows Clinton's once huge lead in Ohio down to 4 points.
An American Research Group poll shows Obama ahead in Texas and facing a narrowing deficit in Ohio.
The University of Cincinnati's Ohio Poll shows Clinton with a narrowing lead, and so does the latest Quinnipiac Poll, though her lead in that survey is still in double digits.
With so much negativity in the air, tomorrow night's debate at my Alma Mater - Cleveland State University - should be interesting.
22 February 2008
19 February 2008
Barack Obama posted a larger than expected win in Wisconsin by carving chunks of support from Hillary Clinton's coalition, much as he did in the Potomac primaries.
Let's make this simple by skipping a lot of verbiage and go right to the numbers in the voting groups that Clinton had been carrying until last week's primaries in the mid-Atlantic.
Women: Clinton won this group tonight 50%-48%. Clinton had dominated this voting block until last week in Virginia when Obama won with about 60%. So Clinton regained some ground here.
White women: Clinton won 53%-45% in Wisconsin. The results were nearly identical in Virginia a week ago.
Families with income of $50,000/yr or below: Clinton again lost this once-solid demographic for her 46%-53%.
Education: Among high-school graduates the exit polls showed a dead heat 49%-49% - again an area where Clinton seems to be losing ground in a once-solid voting bloc.
Union membership: Obama topped Clinton in households where at least one family member is in a labor union 51%-47%. Among voters who themselves are in a union, the results were a tie.
Negative campaigning: 26% of those polled said that only Clinton attacked her opponent unfairly, and among that group 91% went for Obama; Just 6% said that Obama was the only candidate to attack his opponent unfairly. 27% said both took cheap shots at the other side.
Age: Obama won all age groups except those voters 65 and over. In Virginia Obama won literally every age group, so Clinton did reclaim some of her base among older Americans.
To summarize: Clinton regained some women, but didn't come anywhere near the levels she had wrung up among in the early primaries. She failed to take back those earning $50,000 or below, and failed to take back her lead among union members and union families. She also was unable to repeat her early performance among voters with only a high school education.
Her less-than-stellar performance in the lower-education, lower-income and unionized-worker groups does not bode well for Clinton as the race moves to Ohio and later to Pennsylvania.
Just two more observations and then we'll call it a night.
For the second time in key points in this campaign (South Carolina being the other), the voters have told the candidates - the Clintons in particular - that they are sick of negative campaigning.
The other point is a thought for Obama.
In breaking with campaign etiquette, Obama began his victory speech in Houston tonight before Clinton finished her non-concession speech in Youngstown.
It's not the first time that Clinton has not officially conceded on election night during this campaign - a breech of etiquette in itself.
But Obama would be wise from here on in to keep to the high road because his decision to upstage Clinton tonight smacked of the arrogance of a candidate who smells the nomination. It was unbecoming of the campaign he has tried to wage so far and he should think twice before doing it again.
Sometime around the time my alarm clock goes off at 4:30 a.m. EST we'll know what happened in Hawaii tonight. If you stay up for that you are more hardcore than I.
18 February 2008
I like to stay away from just collecting and parroting news stories on this site.
There are a number of very good collating sites already, and in fact we prominently link to one of the best - Taegan Goddard's PoliticalWire.
But because there are several things that popped up today that are worth knowing about and commenting on, I've decided to do a little collating - with some commentary - myself.
The most eye-catching is a report today by that sterling journalist Armstrong Williams, who reports that Barack Obama has a Plan B in mind if he should win the support of the voted-in delegates only to lose the Democratic nomination when it's in the hands of the super delegates.
Williams says Obama has talked with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg about teaming up on a third-party ticket (with Obama at the top) if Obama doesn't get the nod from the Democrats.
The ever-principled Mr. Williams quotes "the word on the street" and "sources" to back up his story.
You might remember that Williams was paid by the White House several years ago to promote President Bush's "No Child Left Behind" program on Williams' syndicated TV show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.
So you might just want to take today's story - and anything else that springs from Williams' keyboard - with about six shakers of salt.
Grasping at strawmen
Now on to today's next bit of ridiculousness.
Hillary Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson has accused Barack Obama of plagiarism for using lines from another politician in a speech Obama gave over the weekend.
The Clinton campaign's latest - lame - attempt to find a way to bring down Obama is to argue that because Obama gives a much better speech than does Clinton he must be somehow less able to govern effectively.
The "all-talk-no-action" accusation has been used in the past, against Massachusetts Gov. Duval Patrick in his 2006 race against Republican Kerry Healey, who accused Patrick of being strong on rhetoric and short on specifics.
Patrick, during his campaign, responded with the following lines, which were pretty much exactly the same words Obama used in the same way over the weekend.
“ ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal’ — just words? ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’ — just words? ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ Just words? ‘I have a dream’ — just words?”
Patrick's point then -as Obama's is now - is that part of being a good leader is being able to move people to action with your words.
Patrick, in a New York Times story this morning, said he and Obama had anticipated that Clinton might use the same strategy on Obama that Healey tried on Patrick, and that he - Patrick - has no problem with Obama using his words.
Here's an excerpt from the Times story:
In a telephone interview on Sunday, Mr. Patrick said that he and Mr. Obama first talked about the attacks from their respective rivals last summer, when Mrs. Clinton was raising questions about Mr. Obama’s experience, and that they discussed them again last week.
Both men had anticipated that Mr. Obama’s rhetorical strength would provide a point of criticism. Mr. Patrick said he told Mr. Obama that he should respond to the criticism, and he shared language from his campaign with Mr. Obama’s speechwriters.
Mr. Patrick said he did not believe Mr. Obama should give him credit.
“Who knows who I am? The point is more important than whose argument it is,” said Mr. Patrick, who telephoned The New York Times at the request of the Obama campaign. “It’s a transcendent argument.”Said Obama : "I was on the stump, and he had suggested that we use these lines. I thought they were good lines. I'm sure I should have (credited Patrick)— didn't this time. I really don't think this is too big of a deal."
Seems to me like it's not plagiarism if the two men discussed using the comments ahead of time.
It seems also that an increasingly panicked Clinton camp is grasping at straws here.
Pooh poohing the super delegate strategy
One of Clinton's staunchest African-American backers, Rep. Charles Rangel of Harlem said the Clinton campaign should not be counting on the super delegates to pull her effort out of the fire.
The Associated Press reports Rangel made the comments at a gathering in Albany last night.
"It's the people [who are] going to govern who selects our next candidate and not superdelegates," Rangel said last night at a dinner for the
Meanwhile, another Clinton backer and her fellow senator from New York, Charles Schumer, told Tim Russert yesterday on Meet the Press that he also sees no good coming from a nomination being sealed by the super delegates.
"For the sake of party unity, [Democratic National Committee chairman] Howard Dean and the two candidates will have to get together if neither candidate has 2,025 ... and come up with a strategy. Each candidate will have to buy into that strategy."
A little something more for the Clinton camp to be concerned about today.