Thursday, December 18, 2008

Calling BS on Obama #1

[#1, because I am sure there will be many opportunities over the next four years.]

Obama has chosen Rick Warren, mega-church pastor, evangelist, and CA-Prop 8 supporter to deliver the invocation at his inauguration.  Which is fine by me.  But here's Obama defending his position on GLBT rights:
Obama also said he's known to be a "fierce advocate for equality" for gays and lesbians, and will remain so.
But equality apparently does not extend to same-sex marriage:
Obama told MTV he believes marriage is "between a man and a woman" and that he is "not in favor of gay marriage."
And that's where I call BS.  Either allow same-sex marriage, or make the government recognize only civil unions for everybody, gay or straight, and let individual faiths/churches/whatever decide what "marriage" is.

Update: Actually, I now do have a problem with Rick Warren.  According to Kathryn Kolbert of People for the American Way:
But it's not just his support for Prop. 8 that is so galling to equality activists.
It's that Warren, in an interview with, has since equated allowing loving same-sex couples to get married with redefining marriage to permit incest and pedophilia.
That is just plain Santorum-level stupidity and bigotry.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sonal Shah in the Obama team: right-wing Hindu sympathizer?

Sonal Shah is part of the Obama transition team, on leave from, and a former Clinton Treasury official. She is a member of the Technology, Innovation and Government Reform panel.
Today I saw an article on that Shah "formally severs links with the VHP." Googling around a little, Shah has been accused of being a sympathizer of the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) by Professor Vijay Prashad of Trinity College, Hartford, CT in an article on Counterpunch.

A second National Journal on this topic prompted a fresh statement from Ms Shah, in full here. A second NJ article is here (where I picked up some of these links). Shah's statement included this nugget:
In 2002, Gujarat suffered one of the most profound tragedies in its long history, when extremist political leaders, including some associated with the VHP, incited riots that resulted in the deaths of thousands. Had I been able to foresee the role of the VHP in India in these heinous events, or anticipate that the VHP of America could possibly stand by silently in the face of its Indian counterpart’s complicity in the events of Gujarat in 2002 — thereby undermining the American group’s cultural and humanitarian efforts with which I was involved — I would not have associated with the VHP of America.

Emphasis added. Any Indian involved with politics (even stateside) should have been aware of the 1992-93 Hindu-Muslim riots following the demolition of a Muslim Masjid by a Hindu mob led by BJP leaders, and the extremism the BJP and its allies, including the VHP, are guilty of, IMO. The 1992-93 events and the surrounding "Hindu nationalism" campaign kick-started the BJP's rise to power. So this is a really weak denial, if you ask me.

An e-mail she sent her supporters apparently includes:
"I need your help," wrote Shah. "This is gaining legs as the National Journal also picked it up and likely Fox. I need to moblize [sic] people against the leftists and the right wing. There is a likely chance that they will ask me to resign as team does not need my publicity."
(National Journal story; emphasis added.)
I haven't seen any such mentions on dkos in the past month. This is not a specific targeting of Indian-leftists (even in the US), but a generic statement similar to the VHP-A's assertion (quoted below).
UPDATE: So my search criteria was a day or two less than required - I found three diaries on Nov 8/10, two questioning Shah's ties to the VHP (link1, link2), both of which received 1 "rec" and 250 comments in total - mostly saying the diarists were wrong. The third diary praised the first two diarists for raising the question and initiating a spirited discussion. Still, two diaries does not the American left make; an American such as Sonal Shah should know that "leftists and the right-wing" in the US means liberals as found on dkos, and Republicans, respectively.

For people who don't know, the VHP is part of the Hindu nationalists in India, which includes the more mainstream Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and the parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

The trail ends (starts?) with Professor Prashad's article in Counterpunch, which goes into some historical detail about Gujarat, the site of Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 (allegedly aided by the BJP state government). Prashad also details Ms Shah's apparently strong family links to the VHP/BJP/etc. (her father came stateside when she was very young). He describes a personal encounter in 2004:
In 2004... I questioned her links to the Hindu Right, and so asked people to be wary about her organization, Indicorps. She was furious, and we had a bitter exchange in the Green Room. But at no point did she deny her active connections to the Hindu Right... “Of course we are free to have our multiple associations, and there is no expectation that all our affiliations necessarily influence each other. That necessity is granted, although it is my understanding that the VHPA is a very disciplined organization that demands a lot from its members – notably congruence in all the work that they do. Which is why I raised the question.”

Guess who next raised the question? None other than Rick "gay marriage leads to bestiality" Santorum (talk about bipartisanship, and a Republican accusing someone of right-wing ties!) From the first National Journal article:
Santorum's Thursday op-ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer repeated the charge made by several others:...
"Shah should condemn the VHP and its actions soon," Santorum wrote. "If she doesn't, keeping her on -- or, more ominously, giving her a post in the new administration -- would send the message that the president-elect does not think the VHP is a radical organization."

Santorum's certainly not someone I want to associate with.

An "open letter" to Shah by members of the Indian-American community says: no time during this terrible period [Gujarat 2002 riots] are we aware of any statement from you dissociating yourself from these dreadful acts of VHP and RSS, especially given your proximity to these organizations:

And according to a Q&A with the general secretary of the VHP-America,
Q. She gave a statement where she says she does not identify with the ideology of the VHP. Does that hurt you?
No, everybody does not have to stand up for everything. You have to see the forces running against you. There is something called wisdom. It is very clear what is going on. Known characters from the Left. Leftist, Communist, Marxist well-known Hindu baiters, Hindu haters are coming out of the woodwork. So you do not have to fall in their trap. No matter what you tell them they are going to sing the same song so I think what Sonal has done is correct.

[Rick Santorum's a Marxist?!]

Full disclosure: I *hate* the BJP and its cohorts. Anyway, my point here is not to say one way or the other whether Sonal Shah is deeply tied to right-wing, Hindu nationalist nutjobs. I don't know. I repeat: I DON'T KNOW. But Shah has accused "leftists" of spreading lies and rumors, just like the VHP (even though Shah's part of the American left, i.e. Democrats!), and her denial is very weak; so I have to ask the question.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Indian reactions to the Mumbai terrorist attacks

A couple of articles on Rediff caught my eye this morning:
1. Muslim leaders are coming out against the terror attacks, saying (a) they are Indians first and don't want outside help to avenge the Babri Masjid demolition and other communal attacks against Indian Muslims; (b) terrorism blemishes the concept of Jihad; and (c) "terrorists and communalists are cousins."
2. The Bombay Metropolitan Magistrate Court's Bar Association passed a resolution saying none of the over 1000 members would defend the lone terrorist captured live, Kasab.  Some say since he has been captured red-handed, and given the crime, nobody would defend Kasab.
That is just  stupid.  Do they not understand the concept of "everyone is allowed to mount a defence, and given a lawyer to help mount said defence"?  That is one of the basic underpinnings of a free society; what differentiates us from them.  I can't think of a credible defence for Kasab; but I also know that someone's terrorist is another's freedom fighter, no matter how twisted and tortured (pun unintended) that logic. [That's probably why I will never be elected to public office, if I ever did run.]
3. An online petition is being circulated that urges certain "minimum actions" that the Government of India must apparently take.  I urge folks NOT to sign this petition; I did not, and here's my response to the various "action points" detailed therein:

1 - "Destroy internal terror network" - this is easily taken to put away all sorts of people, particularly minorities. I hear the most prisoners under POTA were captured in... Jharkand! Alleged Naxalites. [Naxalites are like anarchists, calling for violent overthrow of the government.  Far-left extremists.]
2 - "All training camps outside should be destroyed" - this is a declaration of war against Pakistan. The US can afford to do this with targeted missile strikes, though not even that these days given the Iraq/Afghanistan situation, but not India. Any such missile strikes inside Pakistan will be a declaration to war, which will only help Al-Qaeda and LeT.

If War with Pakistan and state terrorism of minorities is the "minimum action required" - thanks, but no thanks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Renaming cities and countries, and Hitchens

I was reading Christopher Hitchens' latest article in Slate, where he says the US must come out more openly in support of India and against Pakistan-based terrorists.  That is a good read, though it might follow Hitchens' known tendencies against religion, particularly Islam.
In the article, Hitchens decries the renaming of Bombay to Mumbai, claiming that to be the work of Hindu chauvinists, and comparing it to the "fake name Myanmar" for Burma.  The latter article - also by Hitchens - riles against the renaming of Ceylon to Sri Lanka, as the work of Buddhist/Sinhala nationalists and apparently against the wishes of the Tamils.

I agree with Hitchens partially - that the renaming of Bombay to Mumbai was the result of an incredibly restrictive sons-of-the-soil policy implemented by a right-wing party, the Shiv Sena.  [A class-mate once said the Shiv Sena is not communalist, it is opportunist.  True.  At one point, it was anti-Communist/labor union; once anti-South Indian, now anti-North Indian.  And in the past 15 years, anti-Muslim.]

However, Hitchens fails to mention that both Bombay and Ceylon are Anglicized versions of Portuguese names.  The Portuguese were NOT the original residents; they were colonizers.  So neither the residents of Bombay/Mumbai, nor, probably, the natives of Sri Lanka/Ceylon, have a vested interest in the name, other than being used to it for many generations.  That's why I continue to refer to Bombay as such.  But the name Lanka is Sanskrit in origin, apparently meaning "island."  The Hindu epic Ramayana refers to Lanka, AFAIK.  So is it against the wishes of the Tamils?  I seriously doubt it - the Portuguese were not good rulers; colonizers never are.
[Of course, one could argue that Sanskrit and the Ramayana are impositions by Aryan invaders and thus Lanka is against the wishes of native Dravidians/Tamils... But what did the Tamils call it?  Definitely not Ceylon (before the Portuguese).]

Anyway.  The point of this post is to point out where Hitchens is seriously wrong - the renaming of Bombay and Ceylon may be the work of native "nationalists," but they at least were the work of natives (even if of a particular political/ethnic persuasion).  But the deposed names themselves are the imposition of colonizers - Roman Catholic Europeans of Mediterranean stock - and so are NOT native to the land.

Disclaimer: I am a native of Bombay, though from South India a couple generations back.  So to the Shiv Sena, I'd be a foreigner... I am also Tamil.  But I am really a Bombayite - that where I was born, brought up, and what I call home.

Friday, November 28, 2008

India's 9/11

Some friends have asked me about the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai/Bombay.  I shot off this e-mail to a friend, which captures my feelings about this:

This is something very new to Bombay - gunfire and bombs happen all the time in Kashmir, but not in Bombay, and there is definitely no attack of such public places.  Those terrorists have (had?) a death wish - there is no other explanation.  There was no chance of escape, given just 30-40 terrorists in a city of millions.  So they are trying to become martyrs, taking as many innocent lives as they can.
My first reaction was - this is India's 9-11 moment. [Apparently, I am not alone.]
[A little while after 9-11, some terrorists drove into the Parliament complex shooting at random.  The press in India started calling that 12-13 (Dec 13, the day of the attack), iirc.  But that was nothing - comparatively.]

People in India are pretty riled up, and quite likely a similar reaction as Americans had to 9-11.  Kill the terrorists (some idiot politician or cop has already used the dead-or-alive theme), use strong anti-terror laws (previous PATRIOT-like laws TADA and POTA were allowed to lapse with a refusal to invoke such laws as late as last week), etc.  It's easy enough to blame Islamic extremists for this tragedy, and very likely they are.  Things are just going to get a lot worse now...

Why now - recently, some right-wing Hindu extremists bombed a Muslim-majority locality.  (This apparently followed many other incidents perpetrated by Islamic terrorists.)  Anyway, this is similar to (connecting to my memory-map) what happened in 1992-93:
Dec 6, 1992: Hindu right-wing mob destroys the Babri Masjid.
Jan '93 - Hindu-Muslim riots break-out, especially severe in Mumbai. [The area around my college is among the ones put under curfew.]  Many casualties among Muslims, with allegations (probably true) of Hindu-police complicity (at the very least, inaction by the police as Muslims were killed).
March '93: Serial bomb-blasts at 7? sites across Bombay, within minutes of each other.  Over 300 killed iirc.

So there's a pattern...

Update 11/29: Here's a timeline of the events, and an interesting take from Robert Baer of Time.

Update 12/2: Amitav Ghosh opines in the NYT that this is not exactly India's 9-11.  Ghosh makes a good point that America was not used to terrorist attacks on American soil unlike India, which has a much longer experience with terrorism (though he offers an example of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots - but America is used to communal/racist riots).  He also says 9-11 refers not just to the attack itself, but the "utterly misconceived military and judicial response" that followed.  I must disagree with Ghosh to some extent here - I think the US invasion of the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan was right, even as the excesses at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib were wrong.
I look at last week's events as India's 9-11, as the day the Indian government and the world community (read the US and Pakistan) realize these terrorist activities cannot continue, and action is taken  by all concerned governments and peoples to hound the terrorists out of business.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Did Britain just sell Tibet?

...asks Robert Barnett in an NYT op-ed.  Apparently, Britain is dropping its support for Tibet as an autonomous region in return for financial help from China to help the UK tide over the current global financial crisis:
an announcement on Oct. 29 by David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, that after almost a century of recognizing Tibet as an autonomous entity, Britain had changed its mind. Mr. Miliband said that Britain had decided to recognize Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China. He even apologized that Britain had not done so earlier.

And this matters to India as well, says Barnett:
the decision has wider implications. India’s claim to a part of its northeast territories, for example, is largely based on the same agreements — notes exchanged during the Simla convention of 1914, which set the boundary between India and Tibet — that the British appear to have just discarded. That may seem minor to London, but it was over those same documents that a major war between India and China was fought in 1962, as well as a smaller conflict in 1987.

This is NOT helping the Tibetans (d-uh!):
On Nov. 10, China issued a damning attack on the exile leader, saying his autonomy plan amounted to ethnic cleansing, disguised independence and the reintroduction of serfdom and theocracy. The only thing that China will henceforth discuss with the exiles is the Dalai Lama’s personal status, meaning roughly which luxury residence he can retire to in Beijing.

The last word from Barnett:
Including China in global decision-making is welcome, but Western powers should not rewrite history to get support in the financial crisis. It may be more than banks and failed mortgages that are sold off cheap in the rush to shore up ailing economies.

Free Tibet!  Let's at least have an autonomous Tibet.  Oh wait, we are broke and China has money... The Chinese commies are great, it's the Dalai Lama who is engaged in ethnic cleansing!

'Nuff said.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The change I need!

Following up on my previous post, here are somethings I'd like to see in an Obama presidency, as a change from the Bush administration:
1. A real scientist in-charge of the EPA, or at least a professional with a science background.  The person should also have a strong independent streak, so s/he can put science and the public health ahead of corporate/monetary interests.
[There was a trial balloon that RFK, Jr could be the EPA administrator - but he's an activist of dubious credentials, even if on the right side.  And not a scientist.]
2. Do we really need another President who uses executive orders rather than wait for Congress to act (via FirstRead)?  Here's a leader of Obama's transition team, John Podesta:
"There’s a lot that the president can do using his executive authority without waiting for Congressional action, and I think we’ll see the president do that"

Yes, I know - Obama will be reversing some questionable decisions by the Bush administration.  But it's the principle - and should we not hold President Obama to the same standard to which we hold/held President Bush?
3. This is not about governance per se, but worth mentioning.  I just heard Howard Fineman on "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" that Obama does not want to make a hero out of Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) by kicking him out of the Democratic caucus or stripping him of his Homeland Security/Government Affairs Senate Committee chairmanship.  I am not so sure - Lieberman campaigned actively against Obama, questioning his abilities while praising Governor Palin's qualifications.  Lieberman also said that "whether Obama is a Marxist" is a good question, questioned Obama's patriotism, and was mute when Governor Palin accused Obama of "palling around with terrorists." [The last as heard on Rachel Maddow's show tonight.]  This is the person Obama, Reid and other Democrats want as Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security/Government Affairs committee?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What to do next?

So Obama has won, with increased Democratic majorities in Congress and the Senate.  What's next?  Are things going to be much better now that The One is President?  Will everybody chant kumbayah and work together for the "right" things?
I don't think so.  As Obama said in his victory speech: "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep."

Here is a great article by Tim Wise:

...we can savor the moment for a while, for a few days, perhaps a week. But well before inauguration day we will need to be back on the job, in the community, in the streets, where democracy is made, demanding equity and justice in places where it hasn't been seen in decades, if ever. Because for all the talk of hope and change, there is nothing--absolutely, positively nothing--about real change that is inevitable. And hope, absent real pressure and forward motion to actualize one's dreams, is sterile and even dangerous. Hope, absent commitment is the enemy of change, capable of translating to a giving away of one's agency, to a relinquishing of the need to do more than just show up every few years and push a button or pull a lever."

This encompasses what I have read occasionally elsewhere (mostly on dailykos!) - whether we revert to "rule by politician" and trust Obama to make the right decisions, or get more involved.  After all, Obama is human like the rest of us, will make mistakes, will probably do something that we think is wrong - but it's up to us to call him on it, or support him, as we see fit.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Boulder story

Boulder is seen as a far-left part of the country, like San Fran (one of my favorite cities!)  "Folks here don't vote for the Democrat, but go for Nader!"
The NYT has an excellent graphic giving county-wise results, not just for 2008, but all Presidential elections since 1992.  The data bear out a strong preference for Nader/Perot in the '92, '96, and 2000 elections:
1992: Clinton 50.9% (64,567), Bush 26.5% (the rest Perot?)
1996: Clinton 52.2% (63,316), Dole 34.5% (the rest Perot?)
2000: Gore 50.1% (69,983), Bush 36.4% (the rest Nader?)
2004: Kerry 66.3% (105,564), Bush 32.4% (Nader out!)
2008: (29% reporting) Obama 75.2% (43,347), McCain 23.5% - ~100,000 votes to be counted

Obama currently leads Colorado by 138k votes - if the Boulder split holds up, add another 50k to that lead.
Yes. We. Did.

End of an election

President(-elect) Barack Hussein Obama.


Landslide, baby, landslide!  Popular vote by 6.34 million, or ~5% according to CNN as of 0200 Mountain time, Nov 5.  Electoral votes: Obama 349, McCain 159, as per's aggregate of the different networks:
- CBS/Fox/NBC/AP have called IN for Obama.
- NE's CD-2 EV is still outstanding as per  So are MO, NC, MT.
- At least CNN has called MT for McCain.  So McCain's up to 162.
- The AP has not called GA for McCain (via an excellent diary at dkos) - apparently because approximately 600k early votes cast in metro Atlanta are still outstanding, which is almost twice McCain's 245k lead.
- Obama's ahead in NC by 12k votes out of 4.2 million cast.  Looks like Obama has won NC!  So Obama's up to 364 EVs.

Yes. We. Did.

p.s. 11/5 PM: I just remembered my post - made almost a full month back - that Obama's EV upper limit was... 364!  This was similar to Larry Sabato's prediction, except he called MO, while I called... IN!  In fact, Sabato's prediction was exactly like the final leads, including the pick of MO rather than IN - per the Pollster trendlines, McCain was ahead a hair in IN (R+1.2, actual D+0.9), while Obama was ahead in MO (D+1.2, actual R+0.2).
Did I just beat the Crystal Ball, with a tremendous assist from, but with the considered pick of IN instead of MO?  Yay!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Florida polls

Florida is essential to a McCain victory, and so two recent polls by PPP and SurveyUSA (via Pollster) make me slightly optimistic.  Both show a small Obama lead, 50-48 (PPP) and 50-47 (SUSA).  That could be just two polls matching due to the wrong reasons, but the internals seem quite similar.

Early voting:
PPP says 56% has already voted, and Obama wins them 56-43.  McCain leads E-day voters 56-38.
SUSA says 58% have voted, and Obama wins them 58-40.  McCain leads E-day voters 54-42.

Gender split:
PPP: Obama wins women 52-47; is tied among men at 49.
SUSA: Obama wins women 50-47; also wins men 49-47.

Ethnic splits (pollster, fraction of voters):
Whites: McCain 57-41 (PPP, 70%) or 53-43 (SUSA, 69%)
Hispanics: Obama 55-42 (PPP, 13%) or 53-44 (SUSA, 15%)
Blacks: Obama 93-6 (PPP, 13%) or 81-16 (SUSA, 12%) - the latter result seems weird, but the subgroup sample size is small.

Age-group composition and splits seem slightly different, but neither pollster uses the same age groups.

IMO, two independent polls showing roughly the same result is an indicator which means Obama has a good chance of winning FL.  Fingers crossed... In the mean time, I will be doing my part at Getting Out The Vote in Colorado.  We still gotta win this state!

Final GOTV push, Day 2

Today was the second day of the final Get Out The Vote (GOTV) push.  I am a canvass captain in North Boulder (Colorado) for the Obama/Udall/Polis campaigns, which just means I train new volunteers in addition to canvassing.

Though thus far the NB office hasn't looked busy, there has been a steady influx of volunteers, which means we knocked on over 1100 doors today.  That's a decent figure, and hopefully more volunteers show up tomorrow and E-day (very likely), so we can really turn out Obama supporters here.  Though Gallup's final release (via dkos) suggests Obama is up 53-42 among likely voters, a series of polls released by Democratic pollster PPP says the election is much closer where it matters - in the battleground states of OH, FL, NC; PA is becoming tighter, but so is MT.  Obama apparently has a good lead in CO, but I will believe it when I see it.

Today, I had some experiences, which perhaps encompassed the highs, the lows, and the middle of canvassing.  First, the good.  Most folks who I talked to supported Obama - this is Boulder, but some say folks here are apt to support Nader more than Obama!  Very possible... Pacifists don't like Obama's position on Afghanistan - the other day, my neighbor said, "why should we fight in a country half the world away that hasn't harmed us?"  [I am no kumbaya-singing pacifist.  Gotta finish Al-Qaeda, and that requires fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan.]
A neighbor to one of my stops was a little worried about OH and PA, but I told her things are OK in PA, and Obama has many more routes to 270 even if he loses OH.  She said she'd stay up late tonight to finish her work, so she could come volunteer, which is a great attitude!
There was also this incredibly beautiful woman I ran across - I was canvassing her room-mates, who were out.  Greek goddess, I thought, but I managed to spew out the required information coherently.  I woulda asked her out, but a random canvasser asking a person out is so not creepy, right? :-)

The middle - a woman, about my age, asked me what I hoped to accomplish with the GOTV effort.  She supported Obama, so that was no problem, it was just that I had asked her to volunteer.  I talked to her for about 10 minutes, but I don't think I convinced her.  Though the polls may show Obama up in CO, folks, remember - this was a red state for many years, and polls don't win states - only votes do.

[On CO as a red state - Amendment 48 tries to classify a fertilized egg as a person, and Kristi Burton, the sponsor, was selling it on local PBS today as "a commonsense basis for further negotiations."  Apparently, CO is a testing ground for this anti-abortion legislation, though a poll suggests Amendment 48 might be defeated.  Even Bob Schaffer, the Republican candidate for CO-Senate, is apparently against it, though Burton denied this.  A guy on my canvass, when I asked who he voted for, mentioned Amendment 48 as the most important issue for him!]

Another young woman I met today said she was voting only for President this year.  I wonder if that was because she didn't want to vote for Schaffer, but she didn't want to support one-Party rule (by voting for Democrat Mark Udall for Senate) either.  Oh well.
[On my first canvass, I met an elderly woman who said she'd seen an NEA ad supporting Udall, and so was unsure because she didn't like the NEA - even though Udall has been the Boulder Congressman for almost a decade.  But she supports Obama... So there are other reasons to oppose Udall as well, I suppose.]

Finally, the bad.  On my fifth or sixth day of canvassing (it's all a blur!), I came across a drunk (at 2 PM) nutjob.  In an apartment building, nobody else around, though he was small-built, so I could probably take him.  First, he goes: "You are with ACORN, aren't you?"  Ummm... No.  That starts off a tirade - "F***ing socialists, tax the people who create jobs..." etc.  I had just inserted Obama and Udall leaflets under the door of an apartment, so he goes around me, takes it out, and storms out of the building, tearing up the leaflets.  (I replaced the leaflets later, this time pushing it well inside the door.)  This was followed by the guy ranting outside the building, using more four-letter-words and flipping the bird at me.
Later I walked into the next building, and after a few stops, the guy came up behind me again.  Walked the corridor, and tried to pry another leaflet from under a door (but now I had learned, and he couldn't get it out).  Walked off, again muttering and swearing.  As I said before, I could have probably taken him if it came to that, but he left me shaking, nonetheless.  Probably a Sarah Palin fan.  The worst part of it was that the experience erased the picture of the Greek goddess from my mind... I just remember she had lovely blue eyes and long, wavy, jet black hair :-)

Time to get some sleep now, two more days to go... Remember, folks: polls don't win elections, only votes do.  And you knock on enough doors, you run into all sorts of people, the good, the bad, and the ugly.  So canvass during day time, and/or if you prefer, walk in pairs.  But it's overall a good, positive experience at least in Boulder.  And it's for a great cause!

By the way, I should give a shout-out to the "higher-ups" in our team - they work longer hours, have been at this longer, and deserve full credit for keeping us enthusiastic. And of course, the comfort captains and volunteers who are bringing in good food :-)

(Also cross-posted at dkos)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Obama infomercial

Just watched the Obama infomercial on MSNBC (the local CBS and NBC affiliates are showing it at 7.00 PM MT - delayed an hour.)

I thought Obama said he would mention specific spending cuts to pay "over and above" his spending plans, but I didn't hear said cuts.  Will have to listen to it again.  Update: the only specific cut appears to be ending the War in Iraq.  While I'd have liked to see more, I understand some people might find specific domestic cuts unpalatable.  Anyway, I am not such a deficit hawk - I think both candidates will be deficit-spending.  I would rather the money be spent regenerating the American economy (particularly through non-conventional energy sources), than on wars against Iraq, Iran and Russia.

I initially thought the ad would use stories from only battleground states when it started with Missouri and New Mexico, but Kentucky also made an appearance. [So did Ohio, as I watch a delayed broadcast on the local Fox station, post-World Series.]  I also liked the appearances by Governors Strickland, Sibelius, Kaine, Deval Patrick and Richardson, and Senators Durbin, McCaskill, and Biden.  I was pleasantly surprised at the (personal!) endorsement by Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  I do wish a Republican - like Senator Hagel or even General Powell - had made an appearance.  If Hagel does not want to endorse McCain, and he's not running for re-election, what's keeping him from coming out for Obama?

Obama on his mother's fight against the big-C and the insurance companies was incredibly touching.  Michelle speaking about Obama doing a good job as father was excellent as well.

Overall, the infomercial was well-produced, and I was glad to see lots of diversity.  But more importantly, with the quick turn - within the first few minutes - to regular American families (a Caucasian family trying to make ends meet, an elderly African-American couple with the husband taking a new job at Wal-Mart to pay for his wife's medical expenses, a retired Caucasian whose pension was dramatically reduced due to corporate fiscal mismanagement, a Hispanic single mother with two jobs), Obama demonstrated that this election is not about him.

It is about all of us.

Update: The video!

Coda: McCain says the ad was paid for with broken promises.  In short: "Waaaah!  Obama didn't let me gain a vast financial advantage via the RNC-DNC fundraising gap!"

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Obama not admitting a mistake?

"Obama has not admitted the Surge worked" - so says Senator Lindsey Graham on This Week.
But has McCain ever admitted that the Iraq War was a mistake?  That the US was not greeted as a liberator, that it was not a short war, that the War was not paid for by Iraqi oil but instead by American budget deficits, all opposite to what McCain proclaimed before the Iraq War?

John McCain - continuing the Iraq War and continuing tax cuts for the wealthy - just like the first 7 years of George W Bush, but without the common sense on comprehensive immigration reform.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Working to get Obama elected (2)

Four days of canvassing - about 200 doors knocked, ~50 persons talked to, and 4-5 volunteers recruited: 20-25 hours.
About 30 calls to voters, and about the same number to potential volunteers (2 recruited): 2 hours.
Having fun trying to get Obama elected: Priceless.

[Updated] Voter statistics in Boulder County

Decided to look up the voter statistics in Boulder County today.  Here's what I found at the CO Secretary of State, updated as of 10/23/08:

Total MIB requested - 120k out of 182k "active registered voters" (I have no idea what inactive RVs are!)
Total MIB received - 39k (Boulder County Clerk says 47k as of today, 10/25/08)
Early voters - ~6k (BCC says 9k as of today)

UPDATE: A more comprehensive, nationwide summary by Michael McDonald is here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Random musings (updated)

I caught this morning's This Week show only part-way. Talking about paying for their spending plans - McCain promises $5 trillion in new spending compared to just $3.5 trillion for Obama, IIRC - the talking heads only spoke about Obama. George Will, one of the WaPo conservatives, said, "Obama restricts his tax-cuts to the middle class, but is going to tax the richest 2% - there's not much left to tax the top 1% who already pay 38% of the taxes, where's he going to pay for his spending?"
None of the others asked - "How's McCain going to pay for his spending when he isn't raising taxes onanybody?" It's almost as if President Obama's a certainty...

I agree with whoever (Richard Lewis on The Daily Show?) who said "McCain's plan is socialism for the wealth, and a big F***-you to the rest of us." Or so it seems to me, anyway - see the $300 million to banks to buy failing mortgages at face value. Where's the free market you champion, Senator McCain?

Again, This Weak - ABC's ad for the show has a "dynamic" George Stephanopoulos hunting around for stories, and proudly shows George telling Senator McCain [about his charge that Obama's putting personal ambition over country?] - "I can't believe you believe that." Umm... ABC, that, if anything, shows George's naivete rather than his ability to speak "truth to power"...

Stupid, stupid, stupid. Nancy Pfotenhauer says McCain's leading in the "real" Virginia. Guess what? The state's electoral votes are determined by all of Virginia, real or false... and guess who's leading in that count?

Senator McCain apparently responded to General Colin Powell's endorsement of Obama with "This doesn't come as a surprise." What exactly do you mean by that, Senator? That Colin Powell, who used to be a widely-revered General before being used as cover for the Bush-Cheney War agenda, disagrees with you on the way forward in Iraq and Afghanistan? Or that Powell was endorsing Obama based on his race? If the latter, well, that seems to put you in the company of Rush Limbaugh, who seems to have the same reaction. Enough said.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Palin on SNL

Just watched Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK)  on SNL.  She was actually quite funny - well, at least the skits were, and she appeared a good sport.  If this swings the election back to McCain, Tina Fey and SNL would have finally avenged Hillary... Yes, I still hold SNL's Democratic primary spoofs on Senator Obama featuring a Fred Armisen in blackface against them.  And why I say this could swing a few votes to McCain-Palin is because Palin came off as likeable and a good sport, which suggests some intelligence.  Now it's true that polls show one can like Palin but still not support her, but we are talking about the swing voters who still can't see the vast daylight between Obama-Biden and McCain-Palin on the issues of substance after all this time... Who knows what will swing them one way or another?
[That also raises another, troubling question - what was Governor Palin, the true patriot, doing in NYC, one of the anti-America regions of America?]
The "weekend update" section was followed by an ad break featuring the anti-Obama "empty chair" advertisement - "in this time of crisis, the nation is considering elevating someone with the least experience and no executive experience" to the Presidency.  Well, as far as I can recall, Lincoln did a damn fine job with the Civil War.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The third debate

The third and final Presidential debate ended earlier this evening, with pretty much the same results as the earlier two debates.  Neither candidate scored a knock-out, and so McCain has not done much to change the state of the race - which doesn't bode well for the Republican.

The most enduring image of the debate for me was McCain's reaction to Obama's statement that Joe the Plumber would pay ZERO fines if Joe didn't buy health insurance for his (future?) employees.  McCain gaped aghast - he clearly was not expecting that!  Video via kos:

I am so happy to have that video... On a second watch, McCain's reaction is simply b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l.

It was also surprising to see the Democrat argue against wasteful spending of taxpayer money - like buying mortgages at face value, or higher health care costs due to ER visits by uninsured people.

Outside of that, though, I thought Obama could have socked McCain at least a couple of times.  For instance, after Obama said "zero" fines for JtP, McCain just continued to spout his "will have to pay fines" line.  Obama could have simply said, "didn't you hear me, John?"  Or when McCain said toward the end "so if there aren't enough vouchers, lets not do it?  I understand!" - Obama could have said "vouchers are your only solution to education; I have a much more comprehensive approach - including charter schools - because the youth are America's future."  Or about ACORN (this might be a too-subtle point, but let's not underestimate voters) - "you could register Mickey Mouse or one guy 23 times, but Mickey Mouse is not going to vote, and a guy can vote only once!" [After all, McCain did say "democracy is endangered by ACORN!"]

In trying to avoid a gaffe/not lose, I think Obama let a great opportunity to KO McCain slip away.  It's just like the primaries - Obama's running out the clock, content that he has a definite lead that he has to protect.  Unlike the primaries, though, Obama has a lead in the polls - but nothing in the bag, yet.

Still, I remain cautiously optimistic...

On the conservative intelligentsia leaving McCain-Palin

Of late, a number of conservative pundits appear to be fleeing McCain - George Will, David Brooks, Kathleen Parker... On this topic, I find this Ross Douthat piece very smart and well-written.  Here's a key excerpt:
Suppose that you accept the most cynical account of, say, Peggy Noonan's uncertainty about whom to vote for in this election, or Christopher Buckley's Obama endorsement - that they're just craven, self-interested bandwagon jumpers who want to keep getting invited to all those swanky cocktail parties I keep hearing about. Suppose that you regard every right-of-center writer - or single-issue fellow traveler with the Bush Republicans, in the case of Christopher Hitchens - who's publicly hurled brickbats at the McCain campaign as a quisling and a coward, a stooge for liberalism and a rat fleeing a fast-sinking ship. In such circumstances, what's the best course of action - denouncing the rats, or trying to figure out why the hell the ship is sinking? Even if Brooks and Noonan and Buckley and Dreher and Kathleen Parker and David Frum and Heather Mac Donald and Bruce Bartlett and George Will and on and on - note the ideological diversity in the ranks of conservatives who aren't Helping The Team these days - are all just snobs and careerists who quit or cavil or cover their asses when the going gets tough and their "seat at the table" is threatened, an American conservative movement that consists entirely of those pundits with the rock-hard testicular fortitude required to never take sides against the family seems like a pretty small tent at this point.
Of course, not all conservative pundits are fleeing McCain.  Michael Gerson - once Bush-43's speechwriter - says McCain may be "a great man running at the most difficult of times."  And his reasoning for saying that?  That Obama's naturally a laidback 1940s crooner, who has done nothing of note to alleviate the current fiscal crisis, unlike McCain, who suspended his campaign to work on the bailout bill.  Oh, and that Obama is friends with terrorists, unlike McCain, about whose bad associations we would surely have known.
Really, Mr Gerson?  I suppose you don't consider G Gordon Liddy a radical (he did it for Nixon!  But what about shooting government officials?)  And maybe Major General John Singlaub is an American Hero... but what about his links to Nazi collaborators and ultra-right-wing death squads? (via a dkos diary)  And I am sure the Alaska Independence Party is all-OK! (via midwest voices)  And of course, the fact is that McCain didn't really suspend his campaign to work on the bailout plan - and he didn't do much to get the bailout plan passed either, rather he might have actually helped Republicans oppose the "rescue" plan!
Ahhh... what am I thinking?  Gerson sees McCain, sees the Bush within, and reverts to his old fealty.  D-uh!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Working to get Obama elected

A couple weeks back, I walked into the downtown Boulder Obama office, and ended up making some calls.  I meant to go back, but one thing after the other...

Then last week, an Obama canvasser came by my door (the second; but the first was just trying to get me registered).  I think he had my name off my TNR subscription.  Anyway, I told him what I told the first volunteer - I am a permanent resident, so I can't vote.  So he said - "Do you want to volunteer?"  I said, sure.

And surprise - a few days later, I got a call asking me if I was available to canvass that weekend (last Saturday).  I figured I had put it off long enough, and showed up at house.  Spent five hours walking the neighborhood (though it was a cold and drizzly afternoon) with another volunteer.  My fellow canvasser later sent me a message about a 4-h training session for GOTV yesterday (Sunday), which was also quite interesting.  And now I am going to a neighborhood-specific GOTV meeting and phonebank tomorrow.

The point is this - I walked in to the Obama office, and while that was useful, there was no follow-up to make me come back.  The neighborhood team, on the other hand, has me attending more often, and I got a call earlier tonight thanking me for attending the GOTV training, and asking if I would show up Tuesday.

It appears past campaigns relied almost entirely on the "central campaign office" model, where volunteers would walk in, be given rudimentary tasks, and that was it.  But the Obama campaign is blending top-down and bottom-up approaches to campaign organizing, that even the Right may learn from for the next time round.  That Next Right piece is a reaction to this piece in HuffPo (which Patrick Ruffini of The Next Right describes as "one of the must-read pieces of this election cycle.")

Obama's middle-class economic rescue plan

Obama's economic speech today, as prepared for delivery is here.

Lots of specifics, suggests a new economic rescue package - but for the middle class - to be passed by Congress ASAP (including the sending out checks for the "tax cuts for 95% of American workers and families" now). Sure, it involves a lot of government spending, but for the deficit hawks, I have one question: Where the f*** were you the past eight years?

Ideally, I'd rather not have a fiscal deficit. But if there's gonna be deficit spending, I'd rather the government spend that money on boosting the economy than on more wars with the Russians over freakin' Georgia and Ukraine, thank you very much.

Video here:

Some details of the costs.  $60 billion for the steps proposed today, $175 billion for Obama's complete economic stimulus package.  The previous $115 billion includes $50 billion for infrastructure projects, and the rest is the cost of a second round of tax rebates.  Businesses hiring new full-time employees will get a $3000 tax credit, costing $40 billion.  $10 billion to extend unemployment benefits; small business loans from the SBA's disaster funds $5 billion; and $4 billion for additional loan guarantees to the auto industry ($50 billion instead of $25 billion earlier, I think in the bailout package passed by Congress earlier).

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The second debate

The second Presidential debate between Obama and McCain was supposed to be a townhall-style meeting.  But all it had in that vein was questions from voters, with some voters personally asking the questions and Tom Brokaw reading off some questions submitted via the Internet.  There were no follow-up questions, with only one somewhat extended discussion between Obama and McCain.  That was one shortcoming.

There were some good questions, and good answers - Obama mentioning the $400k AIG junket, Obama's "I'll take out bin Laden even if he's in Pakistan" statement, McCain saying "talk softly and carry a big stick."  Though Obama hit McCain hard on that last point, mentioning "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran", McCain's promise to annihilate North Korea, and "Next stop, Baghdad!"

Earlier in the campaign, Obama hit McCain for suspending his campaign to work on the bailout plan, saying a President should be able to work on more than one thing at a time.  So perhaps in a turn of events, when Brokaw asked them to prioritize between health care, SS/Medicare and energy, McCain said "we can work on all 3!" while Obama said "first energy, second health care, and third, education" (but not entitlements!)

In response to a question about the effect of the bailout plan on ordinary working Americans, McCain gave his standard stump speech, while Obama explained how the plan would affect ordinary folk (as in small businesses may not make payroll due to a lack of credit), in addition to his spiel.  There were one or two questions where neither answered, and instead gave their standard stump speech.

Overall, though, I thought there was no clear winner (though the CNN and CBS flash polls say Obama won by a bit).  Obama came off looking very unruffled, looking intently at McCain when McCain was speaking - as the talking heads said, good body language, and most importantly, Obama looked Presidential.  I thought McCain looked old, perhaps even wheezing a little.  So all in all, Obama won.

Aside - the in-house audience was made up of undecided voters from the Nashville area.  What...?  Do Tennesseans really matter? :-)  And KeithO and ChrisM kept talking about McCain's "that one" (referring to Obama) and "not you, Tom!" (on candidates for SecTreasury).  That was stupid, and those comments barely registered on me.  On this, I am with Mike Duhaime, the McCain guy, who said Mathews should focus on the substantive issues.  Now, if only the McCain campaign itself would follow that advice...

[Update] EJ Dionne reminds me of a question that I thought McCain would hit out of the ballpark, but didn't: "As president, what sacrifices -- sacrifices will you ask every American to make to help restore the American dream and to get out of the economic morass that we're now in?"  McCain's campaign was centered around sacrifice (well, mostly military, apparently), but it was Obama who gave the much better answer.  As Dionne writes:
McCain spoke almost entirely about cutting or freezing government programs. It was a strange answer from a man whose military career was characterized by years of punishing patriotic sacrifice.

Obama caught the idealism behind the query, criticizing President Bush's call for Americans to shop after the Sept. 11 attacks. He spoke of the need for individual energy conservation; called for expansion of service programs, including the Peace Corps; and described the hunger among young people to serve their country. McCain sounded like a legislator, Obama like a president.

Update 2: Jon Stewart, one of the most astute political observers, reminds me of Obama's reply to McCain's "let folks buy health insurance across state boundaries" - that the insurance companies would move to the state with most lax regulations to reduce their cost and increase profits, like the banking industry does in... Delaware! Ummm.... with the help of regulations written by your VP? Ouch!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Obama's upper limit?

As of writing, things are looking very good for Obama - as per, Obama leads McCain 296-163 in the electoral vote count, including strong- and lean-Dem states, with Florida and Colorado moving in to the lean-Obama column.  Further, Obama has slender leads in New Hampshire, Virginia, Ohio, Nevada - and North Carolina!  In OH, VA and NC, use of the "sensitive" smoothing shows Obama leads from 4% to 7%, close to or beyond MOE (likely also the case for NH, but Pollster's map for NH has a bug).  The only toss-up states where McCain is ahead are Missouri and Indiana (where Obama will likely spend his third debate prep-time).  This should be Obama's upper limit - 296 strong/lean-Dem + 57 slight leads = 353 EV.  Add in Indiana, and that makes 364 EV Obama's high water mark.
Of course, Obama winning all 364 electoral votes is highly unlikely, and I will settle for 270!  In the mean time, here's the electoral vote map, which is now offered as an embed by the awesome Mark Blumenthal:

Friday, October 3, 2008

The VP debate

The only VP debate between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin was... interesting.  Joe Biden was remarkably restrained, on-message (attacking only John McCain), and didn't come off as either Papa Bush (against Ferraro) or Rick Lazio (against Clinton).  The best Sarah Palin could do was be folksy and wink at/flirt with the audience, and try to be Reaganesque ("Say it ain't so, Joe... there you go again!") as she repeatedly avoided answering the questions.  Unfortunately, Gwen Ifill didn't push her; maybe she was a little wary of appearing partisan after the recent right-wing attacks on her neutrality for writing her book on Black politicians.

On climate change, Sarah Palin said she's not convinced about anthropogenic (my word, not hers!) effects - but that we should do something about it (even if it's just, as Palin apparently believes, natural cyclical changes?)  Palin also claimed that the USA should bring other countries along - but ummm... isn't the USA, under Bush, the only industrialized country to not sign the Kyoto Protocol?  Joe Biden, quite appropriately, pointed out that without knowing the reason, we can't fix the problem.  And he also said that pollution from China affects the western USA, showing a depth of knowledge (or at least, awareness, which is just as important).

On Israel, Sarah Palin said "I am so encouraged to know that we both love Israel." (h/t Milbank)  Ummm... you are talking to Joe Biden, who's been doing this s*** ever since you were in the second grade.  I am glad Joe didn't point out what a neophyte she is, who said recently that she was too busy governing Alaska to follow the war in Iraq (and if she can't do that, what about other foreign policy issues, like Israel?)  That might have been taken as "sexism."  Also, doesn't Sarah Palin's Church seek to convert, or at least encourages conversion of, Jews to Christianity?  What sort of a friend to Israel is she?

Toward the end, Joe Biden had an awesome smackdown of "Maverick" McCain - "on the issues important to the American people, he's no maverick!"  And best of all, Joe related his touching story of knowing what it felt like to wonder if his child would survive... It was genuine, heart-felt, and warm.

And all Palin said in response was... "mavericks!  we are mavericks!"  Yes, you definitely are - while the rest of America was sympathetic toward Joe, you just trod on... All the folksiness was revealed as an artifice, just cold calculation.  Kos says "Anyone who knows what Biden has had to deal with raising his kids wouldn't have blithely made that comment."  Someone who knows but doesn't give a s***, easily would have.  And that a***hole was Sarah "hockey mom with a Down's child" Palin.

Barack Obama picked a great Vice-President.  John McCain played craps with the country's future.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Obama's support among Hispanics slipping?

This is based on Gallup "key indicators" weekly pooled data, the last of which ends Sept 21.  Obama's lead among Hispanics - according to Gallup - was down to +15% from +40% a month earlier.

Support among non-Hispanic Whites (Obama-McCain): 
Aug 18-24: 37-52 
Aug 25-31: 40-50 
Sept 1-7: 39-53 
Sept 8-14: 37-55 
Sept 15-21: 42-51 (M +9; best O-margin pre-last week) 
Support among non-Hispanic Blacks: 
Sept 8-14: 93-4 
Sept 15-21: 93-3 
Support among Hispanics: 
Aug 18-24: 58-31 
Aug 25-31: 64-24 (O +40) 
Sept 1-7: 60-31 (O +29) 
Sept 8-14: 55-35 (O +20) 
Sept 15-21: 53-38 (O +15; pre-last week; lowest O-margin)

I wonder why that is - Obama losing ground among Hispanics even as he gains among non-Hispanic Whites.

Recently, Obama's campaign put out the "Limbaugh" ad [clarification] [where Limbaugh's apparently attacking Mexicans].  Politifact says the ad came out on Sept 18, and called it "pantalones en fuego" wrong (also includes the video).  That ad also comes bang in the middle of that last week for which Gallup's pooled internals are available.

One way to read that ad is that Obama's support was slipping among Hispanics in their internal polling, and so they put out this misleading ad.  Another way is that somehow, Hispanics saw the ad, and figured Obama was trying to scare them... Much as an Obama-bot I am, and as we know McCain in trying to win the nomination said he wouldn't vote for his own immigration bill, yes, that ad was trying to scare Hispanics by linking Limbaugh and McCain, and I wish Obama hadn't put that out.  Still, looking at the Gallup trends (O+40 to O+15 in one month), the first explanation seems more reasonable... We'll see over the next couple weeks if it worked, though the effect may well be lost in the economic crisis effect -Hispanics are as effected by it as anybody else.

Of course, I still haven't figured out why Obama's losing ground among Hispanics in the first place...

[UPDATE: Yes, the dkos/R2K poll shows Obama up 40 points among Latinos, and had been for a while.  But (a) I am looking at Gallup which has a longer history; (b) Gallup's pooled weekly sample has about 7000 voters; say 15% Hispanics, makes that a Hispanic sample of ~1000 voters, with a MOE of 3%.]

As I was writing this, I looked up PPP's numbers for two states where Hispanics are influential - CO (O +7) and FL (O +3).  Obama leads CO Hispanics 57-36 (PDF), but McCain and Obama are almost even among FL Hispanics (including Cubans) (PDF).  Obama's gotta win them back...

I wrote this post at dkos first, here.  I got a lot of flames, including accusations that I was concern-trolling... That if I didn't know the difference between Florida and NM Hispanics, I shouldn't comment... While all I was doing was point out that based on the Gallup data, which have a decent sub-sample size in the pooled weekly data, Obama seemed to be slipping - which might be confirmed by the release of the "pants on fire"-wrong "Limbaugh" ad (as the Obama camp's reaction to try and bring back Latinos).  Guess I am not a complete Obama-bot after all - my support isn't blind.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The first debate

The first debate between Senators Obama and McCain was reasonably good.  McCain kept yammering away that Obama "does not understand" - but Obama showed that claim to be hollow through his thoughtful, considered responses to Jim Lehrer's questions as well as McCain's accusations.  Throughout the debate, I kept yelling at Obama to state the obvious - that Osama bin Laden is still free because of Bush-McCain's singular focus on Iraq.  Repeating this mantra throughout the debate would have done some good - unlike McCain's juvenile, disrespectful "Obama does not understand."  Still, I am glad Obama pointed out bin Laden is free and Al-Qaeda is growing, as his closing argument - a strong finish.
If anything, this debate was a tie, which benefits Obama much more than McCain.  McCain came off as a jerk, while Obama was cool personified.*  More than that, Obama showed he's well-versed in foreign policy, and that an Obama Presidency would not be a risky proposition.  Now all Obama has to do is point out - matter of factly - that a President McCain would be dangerous, driven by a "beautiful fatalism" that would lead to another Cold War, which is what McCain appears most comfortable with.
Today, more than ever, I feel confident that Obama will win this election.

* Alas, the original Mr Cool passed away this morning.  Paul Newman, RIP.  Your "Newman's Own Virgin Lemonade" is a staple.

Monday, September 15, 2008

On pointing out lies and mistruths

Commenting on my previous post, Ciccina asks: "Is it okay to mention one side's distortions, but not the other?"
Definitely not, but as I have mentioned before, I am not a journalist, but a partisan blogger.  Still, in the interests of (some) fairness, here's my take on the distortions/lies split between the two campaigns:

First, anecdotal: The front page of FactCheck as of writing lists a dozen recent articles.  One debunks rumors spread about Governor Palin by chain e-mails (though a few have some truth to them); two point out issues with Obama ads.  The remaining NINE point out distortions, smears and lies spread by John McCain, Sarah Palin, and their acolytes, mostly about Barack Obama.

Second, some quantification.  Politifact has a truth-o-meter that tracks claims and statements made by each candidate.  As of writing, they have looked at 113 for John McCain, and 114 for Barack Obama.  I assume these are serious enough to be looked at by Politifact; some may be fluff, of course, but a lie is a lie, and a truth is a truth.  Etc.
Anyway, I graded these judgments on a numerical scale:
True: +10 [25-39 McCain-Obama]
Mostly-true: +5 [20-24]
Half-true: 0 [19-21]
Barely-true: -5 [21-12]
False: -10 [22-18]
Pants-on-fire: -20 [the most egregious lies carry the heaviest penalty; 6-0]

Weighting and averaging the scores, Senator McCain gets a -0.84, while Senator Obama gets +2.37.  So it seems that on average, Senator McCain's statements fall somewhere between "half-true" (0 points) and "barely-true" (-5), while Senator Obama's statements fall between "half-true" and "mostly-true" (+5).  Reducing the "Pants-on-fire" weighting to -10 still leaves Senator McCain at sub-zero levels.

There you have it... Yes, all politicians stretch the truth or exaggerate; but of the two Presidential candidates currently running, one has been much more truthful than the other.  And it is not the one claiming honor and integrity as his cornerstone.  Surprise, surprise.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Women react to Sarah Palin: Part Deux

I quoted a few anecdotal responses and a poll earlier.  Recent polls suggest White women now prefer the Palin-McCain ticket over the Obama-Biden ticket...

Hopefully, as the media wakes up to the lie-machine that is the Palin-McCain ticket and calls them on the wrong facts, distortions, deceptions, exaggerations and outright lies / gutter smears, people, including sensible women, will come to their senses.  After all, I am sure women - and men - don't want to support someone who made rape victims pay for their rape kits and forensic examinations, so tax-payers wouldn't be burdened...

"It's been one week since we sent out a letter to a few friends and family members asking them to respond to Sarah Palin's candidacy for Vice President. We had never done anything like this before. What motivated us? It's pretty simple: we were tired of feeling angry and helpless. We were thrilled to receive the first 100 letters in reply. Their eloquence and passion were inspiring, their rage and frustration palpable. Our disbelief began to mount as those 100 letters turned into 1,000 letters, which then turned into 10,000 letters. And as we sit here writing you now, we have reached nearly 100,000 letters."

Thankfully, not all women are vagina-Americans.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

He's skinny but he's tough

The major event of last week was Senator Obama's acceptance speech at Invesco Field. All through the Democratic primaries, his toughness was repeatedly questioned: would he stand up to the mud-slinging Republicans? Or is he just a Kumbayah-chanting Kerry (of the 2004 vintage)?

In recent weeks, the GOP was throwing everything at Obama - calling him a vacuous celebrity, not ready to lead, inexperienced, etc. And the Obama campaign was not exactly hitting back as it should, said many observers. His "new politics" would fail when faced with the old politics. Some of this could be seen in the early days of the Convention, when not many attacks were made on John McCain.

But on Thursday, all those questions were answered. Obama showed that he is skinny, but he's tough. He went after George Bush. Tied John McCain to W and questioned John McCain's judgment and temperament. Proclaimed his goals (an aim-for-the-moon "freedom from foreign oil in 10 years"), laid out his economic agenda (e.g. tax cuts for 95% of American working families, eliminate capital gains tax on small businesses) and emphasized (libertarian) personal and mutual responsibility. He also made clear areas where people could find common ground: Surely, people could agree on the need to reduce unwanted pregnancies? Surely, people could hunt, while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals? And surely, everybody could agree on hospital visits by loving partners of gay patients, even if they could not be married? [That last list is for those who say unity is hogwash.]

As either Tom Brokaw or Brian Williams (I forget who) pointed out at the end, the "bring it on, John McCain" attitude was taken straight from Andrew Shepherd's call-to-arms in The American President. The country has been going in the wrong direction for the last eight years, and some liberalism could well help set it straight again.

Each time Obama delivers a major speech, I am compelled to call it The Speech. Whether it was The Speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, The Speech on Race this March, or The Speech delivered earlier this week. Yes, Obama is not perfect, yes, he has faults. But the man is a genius, intelligent, and truly, as someone said, the question is not whether he deserves to be President, but whether we deserve him.

The Speech:

Sarah Palin: lying already

When Governor Palin proudly proclaimed in her acceptance speech that she told Congress "Thanks, but no thanks" about funds for the Bridge to Nowhere, she was being less than truthful. Mudflats, a blog out of Alaska, quotes the Ketchikan Daily News (via dkos, I think):

“People across the nation struggle with the idea of building a bridge because they’ve been under these misperceptions about the bridge and the purpose,’ said Palin, who described the link as the Ketchikan area’s potential for expansion and growth.

Palin said Alaska’s congressional delegation worked hard to obtain funding for the bridge and that she ‘would not stand in the way of the progress toward that bridge’.

‘We need to come to the defense of Southeast Alaska when proposals are on the table like the bridge and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that’s so negative,’ Palin said.”
Ketchikan Daily News 9-28-06

[Ketchikan is the sparsely-populated destination of the Bridge.]

A report from the Anchorage Daily News (via Mudflats) also has a Ketchikan campaigner for Palin's gubernatorial run, Mike Elerding, saying he would not vote for the McCain/Palin ticket "because of Palin's subsequent neglect of Ketchikan and and her flip-flop on the "Ralph Bartholomew Veterans Memorial Bridge.""

Sarah Palin: For the Bridge to Nowhere before she was against it.
[Lifted from the ADN report!]

More: Slate's Timothy Noah points out that Alaska gets back $1.84 for each $1 it pays into the Federal Treasury, ably aided by the great Guv'nor, and other hypocrisies.

Women react to Sarah Palin

Alkibiades, a Clinton supporter who backed Obama once the primaries were over, says:
"Personally, I am laughing my ass off that he and Rove think this anti-choice, pro-creationist will sway our votes! I swear, everyday they insult my intelligence more."
[See comments to this.]

Newly-revived Kossack MyOwnClone, a self-described ex-PUMA says, "Don't you dare patronize me, John McCain!"

Also on dkos, Angry Mouse says, "No, Senator McCain, I am not an idiot!" Quote:
"You think I will forget every single one of my personal and political values just because there's a vagina on your pro-war, anti-woman, anti-science ticket. You, Senator McCain, are wrong."

[But as a true-PUMA would say, those posting on kos are not feminists. Just like those women and men who didn't support Senator Clinton. See, there are certain litmus tests to be accepted as such...]

A PUMA calls the Palin pick "F*cking wow." A commenter agrees and says the Democrats calling Palin inexperienced are sexist, as the Dems chose Obama.

Sullivan digs into Rasmussen internals and finds that among undecided voters, 59% think Governor Palin is unready to be President; 8% say the pick made them more likely to vote McCain while it made 31% less likely; and 69% view Palin as conservative, with 37% as very conservative.
[On the other hand, what about the ratings among women? How many of them vote with their vaginas, or want to spite the sexist Democrats by voting in someone who'd return us to the good old pre-1973 days?]

My own take is here. Crucial point: the pick of Sarah Palin takes the "experience" issue off the table, undercutting McCain's best argument against Obama. I'd add - being Mayor of a town of 6000 people, and leaving the place $20 million in the hole perfectly fits the Republican idea of success.

And from The Best F*cking News Team on TV:

Oh yeah.

Friday, August 29, 2008

[UPDATED 9/1] Hail Sarah!

I can’t believe a guy that handsome wouldn’t have some impact.” - John McCain on George Bush picking Dan Quayle in 1988. (via Wiki)

I wonder if that tells us all we need to know about John McCain's own VP pick, apart from the fact that she's a woman. I am a little surprised the news didn't leak out sooner - no news about Secret Service details, etc. Guess the McCain camp has better control over its secrets.

More seriously, on its face, the pick reinforces the "maverick" tag, as Governor Palin was elected on a reform platform. As a commenter pointed out on dailykos, Biden might also not go hammer-and-tongs at Governor Palin during the VP debate - that would turn off some more women (remember the NH Dem debate, after which Clinton won?)

The Democratic response has been to hit the "do you really want this person to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency?" theme, emphasizing that McCain is 72. The GOP comeback is to say "if you want a debate on experience, let's have it!" However, the Democratic approach may be backwards - what we need to emphasize, as kos points out, is that the Palin pick takes McCain's "Obama is inexperienced" argument off the table (something also picked up by Ramesh Ponnuru). Bill Burton, Obama's spokesman, appears to be picking this up in his later comments (I get this impression from his appearance on one of the TV shows) after the initial campaign reaction which Obama apparently didn't like. A better argument is made by Paul Begala, who says the pick calls into question McCain's judgment - as someone who has "always put country first," how could McCain have picked someone so unqualified to be VP?

UPDATE: Michael Kinsley (via dkos) does a fine job, saying

The whole "experience" debate is silly...
That's why the important point about Palin's lack of experience isn't about Palin. It's about McCain. And the question is not how his choice of Palin might complicate his ability to use the "experience" issue or whether he will have to drop experience as an issue. It's not about the proper role of experience as an issue. It's not about experience at all. It's about honesty. The question should be whether McCain -- and all the other Republicans who have been going on for months about Obama's dangerous lack of foreign policy experience -- ever meant a word of it. And the answer is apparently not.

[Emphasis added - RS]

While it is true Palin has not been Governor for long (20 months!), the same "experience" argument made against Obama may not hold - people could look at the VP as a President-in-training, the same way Clinton supporters wanted a Clinton-Obama ticket to "season" Obama. And McCain does not need that many Hillary supporters - just enough like Debra Whassername who believe McCain won't overturn Roe v Wade.

Chuck Todd said someone pointed out to him a 20-year-phenomenon - the GOP picks a newbie for the VP, the Dems ridicule it, but the GOP wins. See Nixon/Agnew '68; Bush/Quayle '88. McCain/Palin '08?
There are differences, though, that could be key to ensuring that is not the case:
First, as Obama showed in his acceptance speech (my take later), he is no Dukakis, Gore or Kerry.
Second, Democratic registrations, I believe, are up this year while Republican registrations are down. So to win, Obama needs to first unify Democrats, maybe cut the 25% or so of Clinton supporters who as of now support McCain for whatever reason by half - the Clintons' and Obama's own speeches should go some way toward accomplishing that goal. Also, Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton, as Representative Wasserman-Schulz said in an interview with NBC (via TNR) - Palin is strongly anti-abortion, a creationist, etc. - a traditional, dyed-in-the-wool Conservative. So if Hillary Clinton supporters were really in it for the issues, they should not vote for Palin.
Third, Obama just needs to stay even among independents, and get enough Obamacans - there is always some support bleed across party lines, and this needs to - and likely will - continue. So he should be reasonably Centrist, but not necessarily aggressively so - most people realize that the country is going in the wrong direction, so some leftward swing wouldn't hurt.
Fourth, Obama, from his days as a community organizer and the massive Chicago voter registration drive, puts a lot of emphasis on the ground game - registration and GOTV. With Palin on the opposite ticket, the GOP GOTV could improve - which makes new voter registration crucial.

Though the McCain campaign storyline says the offer to Palin was made on Thursday morning, I have a strong feeling that T-Paw was the pick till right before Obama's speech. After all, Governor Pawlenty abruptly canceled his press interviews on Thursday. However, after Obama's speech - with the "bring it on, bitches!" 'tude - the McCain campaign took a collective dump in their pants, and decided to throw a Hail Sarah.

Coda: Here's where I wrote Sarah Palin could be a future President (based on an NYT article), and here I say she could be a strong adversary as VP.
Coda 2: McCain probably took Palin as VP to provide "education and training" so a woman could be POTUS...
Coda 3: McCain's acceptance speech is scheduled for next Thursday, when the Giants open the NFL regular season against the Redskins. They might just finish in time for the speech... But that means the rest of the day won't be seen by many! I just wish the NFL had scheduled the Monday Vikings @ Packers game on Thursday instead... would have been beautiful!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Democratic Convention: Day 3

This was a good day - partly because I watched it on C-SPAN (though there were some audio glitches during Joe Biden's speech). No talking heads interrupting or (worse) replacing the speeches!
There were plenty of good people in-between the Big People. CSM Michele Jones, Lt Gen. Claudia Kennedy (first female 3-star General), Rear Admiral John Hutson (lifelong Republican) (the last two retired), Rep. Patrick Murphy, Tammy Duckworth, Beth Robinson (wife of a Marine, VA activist and MS patient).
Senator Kerry came out firing, comparing Candidate McCain to Senator McCain ("before McCain debates Obama, he has to debate himself!"), and getting the crowd to weigh in on Obama's judgment on Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Georgia vs McCain's erroneous acts/proclamations on the same issues. Kerry even came out and said the candidate who wanted to raise the discourse uses only personal attacks and questions Obama's patriotism. Where was this guy in 2004?!
President Clinton got a huge ovation that last a few minutes - he's easily one of the most popular Democrats. More importantly, he strongly endorsed Senator Obama's candidacy, from his (self-described) unique perspective as one of two Democratic Presidents alive. He trumpeted Obama's policies (not generic "Democratic" policies) as superior to McCain's, which I think was very good and effective. Clinton also said Obama is Ready to be President. Now I only hope Clinton doesn't make any more ambivalent statements going forward.
Finally, Joe Biden. He seemed to stumble occasionally, but that appears to be audio glitches in C-SPAN's transmission. Biden's son did a nice introduction, and Joe continued in the personal-story-vein, describing his childhood and his relationship with his mother ("if a bigger boy knocked me down, my mother told me to bloody his nose so I could walk the street the next day!") Described ordinary people worrying about their situation, immediate and future concerns. He also attacked John McCain, on his continuation of the Iraq War, on his (lack of) understanding of the economy, his support of the Bush tax cuts, his opposition to raising the minimum wage, and contrasted McCain's record with Obama's:
"...on the most important national security issues of our time, John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was proven right."
The speech might have been delivered better (which would have really brought the house down), but the content seemed quite good. And the NYT has picked up this impression - that Biden did what was needed - which will be good in driving the narrative.
It was great to see Mama Biden and Obama-Uncle Charles Payne. And the ending visual of Obama with the Family Biden was beautiful.
Some people (like Pat Buchanan on MSNBC!) criticize the Convention for not attacking McCain enough. However, the Convention is keeping Obama's promise of a relatively clean campaign, while still drawing a contrast with McCain and tying McCain to Bush (repeated Freudian slips of "George - I mean, John McCain!") And most importantly, I think Party Unity might have been achieved, except for a small minority of recalcitrant Clintonistas (aka PUMAs).

If most of Hillary Clinton's supporters, both women and senior citizens, come back to the fold, and I think Joe Biden can really help with the 65+-group, then Obama will have a much easier time ahead. Obama repeatedly gave shout-outs to the Clintons, which should have helped. Now it's entirely up to Obama - we will see how his speech goes tomorrow.

Still, as for a post-convention bounce for Obama - McCain's VP announcement and the Republican Convention next week would likely dampen it. But we will see... Though as David Plouffe says, the Obama campaign doesn't care about the horse-race, but are focused on 18 battleground states.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The case for Biden over Clinton as VP

As I wrote earlier, I had mixed feelings about Senator Joe Biden as VP. But the more I see, the more I like. His personal life story is strong - first sworn-in at his son's hospital bedside, takes the Amtrak almost every night to be with his kids, one of the least-wealthy Senators (his net worth is less than $200,000). Despite 35 years in DC, apparently no enemies. Author of the Violence Against Women Act ("the greatest breakthrough in civil rights for women in nearly two decades" according to NOW). And just one house!
In addition, Biden can speak with authority on foreign policy, and attack McCain/the Republicans with ease - allowing Obama to remain above the fray.
[Obama/Biden vs McCain/Romney? - two houses, $2 million net worth vs 20 houses, $350 million net worth. Bring on the foreign policy and tax policy debates, bitches!]

Now, Senator Clinton can attack McCain well - as she did a little while earlier ("no way, no how, no McCain!") I have already stated why she would have been a good pick - but also why she'd have been bad, as seen this week with McCain's numerous ads featuring her primary comments.

I just had another thought, though. Biden can make the charge that Republicans are wrong on national security, foreign policy, women's rights, other domestic issues with a lot of credibility. Yes, his 1987 campaign imploded after charges of plagiarism, and there have been other gaffes, but 1987 was two decades ago, and the gaffes are much less serious than McCain's.
On the other hand, the main problem with Senator Clinton is the public perception that she has a troubled relationship with the truth - see Bosnia-gate, for instance. Given her serious charges against Obama - that he does not have the required experience (two decades of public service notwithstanding) - in an official, very public role as the VP, she might not possess the same credibility as "everyman" Joe, as she might be seen as someone who will say anything to get elected. Clinton's main task, if any, over the next two months will be to get her supporters - part of the Democratic base - to back Obama. This is not such a visible role, and is limited to people who trust her.

Coda: I think Senator Clinton's speech tonight was very good, particularly her challenge to her supporters - "are you in this for me, or are you in this for the young Marine and others like him?"
Hopefully, folks look to Hillary more than to Bill, who continues to be publicly ambivalent toward Obama - in the latest instance, President Clinton will apparently not attend Obama's speech at Invesco. Maybe it's as TPM reader JM writes - the old President/new President relationship is always fraught with difficulty. Update: Apparently, departing early is "standard practice" for President Clinton, who did likewise in 2000 and 2004.
Coda 2: Governors Mark Warner and Brian Schweitzer also gave excellent speeches, as did Rep. Nydia Velasquez. Lilly Ledbetter's story was also quite touching, and an example of the injustice that John "women need training and education" McCain will enable (link via Women on Business).