Sunday, August 31, 2008

What's the risk of John McCain dying in the next four years?

Here is a U-tube video from The Reality-Based Community:

Are we really willing to run the risk of electing the 72-year-old cancer-survivor, John McCain, President with Sarah Palin as his stand-in if something happens to him? That's one chance in six that an extremist radical right-wing anti-abortionist with a resume that would fit on a postage stamp might be suddenly propelled into the Presidency? A woman whose main claim to fame is that she was Miss Congeniality in the Miss Alaska competition two decades ago?

The risk that electing McCain as President represents has sharply jumped since last Thursday.

Jon Stewart on the Palin pick

Here's why so many people are currently getting their political news from Comedy Central:

[h/t to tristero at Hullabaloo.]

McCain's choice of Palin instead of the candidates he wanted shows that McCain is a prisoner of the Republican Right Wing.

As I have been writing, McCain's choice of the Alaska beauty queen and ultra right wing social conservative reflects his own desperation and impulsiveness. But I missed this.

Digby points to the statement that John Kerry made on Stephanopoulos' weekly show this morning:
KERRY: What John McCain has proven with this choice -- this is very important, George. John McCain wanted to choose Tom Ridge. He wanted to choose Joe Lieberman. He wanted to choose another candidate, but you know what? Rush Limbaugh and the right wing vetoed it.

And John McCain was forced to come back and pick a sort of Cheney-esque social conservative who's going to satisfy the base.

What John McCain has proven with this choice is that John McCain is the prisoner of the right wing, not a maverick.
Yep. Kerry is spot on.

It's been a rough week for the Republican Party. They are clearly dispirited by the outstanding reception that the American public has given the Democratic convention, followed by the disaster that was McCain's impulsive decision to take the obviously inexperienced and ultra-right-wing Palin on as his Vice Presidential nominee.

It is true that the choice of Palin as McCain's Veep upstaged the weekend media coverage of Obama's great acceptance speech, but that's like creating a massive train wreck to distract the media from reporting on an opponent's successful political event. Now the Republican pundits and the media are forced to defend McCain's intentional train wreck.

That's why the right-wing pundits and noise machine have been throwing out a lot of verbiage this weekend in an attempt to cover up their disappointment, but the problems for McCain and the Republicans are building. Now they have had to announced that they are cancel the first night of the Republican Convention in St. Paul, MN because Hurricane Gustave is going to hit the Gulf Coast 1200 miles. the total cancellation reflects what they are really feeling.

Canceling the first night of the convention is probably a good idea. That's when George Bush was scheduled to speak. They couldn't snub the President, but they really want to distance the McCain campaign from any connection to the toxic Bush. By cancelling Monday night they get to distance McCain from Bush by sending Bush to Texas "ahead of the Hurricane." That is, itself, a mixed blessing for the Republicans. Hurricane Gustave is going to make a lot of news and keep reminding Americans of the earlier disaster that was the way the Bush administration failed to handle the challenges of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

This has already been one bad week for the Republicans and McCain, and appears likely to be followed by another. I wander what kind of "bounce" the Republicans will have after their abbreviated Republican Convention?

Palin - a money-grabber, not a budget cutter

TPM, reporting on today's report from the Anchorage Daily News, points out that when running for governor in 2006 she actively supported the Bridge to Nowhere, and only changed her mind when she was able to get the same federal money for whatever other projects she wanted.

But she is still building the road to where the Bridge to Nowhere was going to be built even though there is nothing there. That's not infrastructure. It's a government give-away. Why?

Because it was also federally funded, and if the (useless) project is canceled the money has to be given back to the federal government.

That's more miraculous federal funding for Alaska, you see. Money flows in, Alaskans don't have to pay it back or anything. It is a useless road, but while it is being built it provides jobs and contracts that Palin can hand out to her supporters. Just more Republican crony" governance." Can you say "Corruption?" The government remains a great ATM machine to make "free enterprise" Republicans wealthy on the backs of tax payers.

The choice of Palin resembles the 1988 choice of Dan Quayle ...

...except that Dan Quayle had been a Senator for a while and had already proven his ability to find his way to Washington, D.C. on his own. Both are lightweights chosen specifically to cater to the Republican Social Conservatives. Dan quickly became a joke. So will Sarah if McCain by some sick miracle or vote stealing wins the election. She simply adds nothing to the ability of a McCain administration to govern and is scary in the primary function of the Veep - standing ready to step in when the President dies or becomes obviously disabled. The Palin decision reflects bery badly on McCain's judgment.

Sarah Palin's inability to step in and immediately take office as President if something happened to a President McCain in Feb 2009 is obvious. What is less obvious until her record is looked at is how she combines all the worst elements of the Bush administration conservative government. She has a remarkable resemblance to the attitudes of George W. Bush. Here's how her history displays those attitudes.

Mayor Palin's dislike of the hard work of governance and her magical thinking is on display in the fiasco of the Wasilli sports complex. Her penchant for cronyism and use of government to settle personal scores is demonstrated, first by how she fired the Wasilli Chief of Police and head librarian and then by how she fired the Alaska Public Safety Commissioner, Walt Monegan, because he would not fire Palin's ex-brother-in-law, state trooper Mike Wooten, just because she had personal problems with Wooten. It is becoming clear that he has also lied about her lack of involvement in firing Monegan. To top it off, she has a George-Bush level of dislike for the hard work of good governance. Like Bush, she is interested in being in the lime-light and enjoying the perks of her job, without working at it. She is also a practitioner of social conservative "Magical Thinking" just as George Bush is. When she wants something she expects to get it just because she ordered her subordinates to deliver it. Cost is irrelevant. She stuck the village of Wasilli with a massive debt and unnecessary overruns for a poorly handled and unprofitable Sports complex and has been bailed out as governor by only raising taxes on the oil companies in Alaska and killing the building of the Bridge to Nowhere while still taking the federal money planned to build it. Here's the evidence.

Josh Marshall has already addressed Palin's Troopergate Scandal.
We rely on elected officials not to use the power of their office to pursue personal agendas or vendettas. It's called an abuse of power. There is ample evidence that Palin used her power as governor to get her ex-brother-in-law fired. When his boss refused to fire him, she fired him. She first denied Monegan's claims of pressure to fire Wooten and then had to amend her story when evidence proved otherwise. The available evidence now suggests that she 1) tried to have an ex-relative fired from his job for personal reasons, something that was clearly inappropriate, and perhaps illegal, though possibly understandable in human terms, 2) fired a state official for not himself acting inappropriately by firing the relative, 3) lied to the public about what happened and 4) continues to lie about what happened.

These are, to put it mildly, not the traits or temperament you want in someone who could hold the executive power of the federal government.
An earlier event that occurred when Palin was mayor of Wasilla shows that she fits right in with the Bush method of running government by cronyism. She fired the Chief of police of Wasilli because she felt that they were "... not fully supporting her efforts to govern. " When asked what evidence she had she never offered any.The problem appears to have been that both individuals supported her opponent in the election. The court threw out the Police chief's lawsuit because the contract that he thought protected his job was signed by the previous mayor and was not binding on Palin. The point is, however, that this is another example of her rule using small-town Republican cronyism. That's exactly what Bush and Rove have used to destroy the effectiveness of the Federal Government over the last two years.

Add to this
  • She originally supported the famed Bridge to Nowhere earmark obtained by Ted Stevens, then opposed that use of the federal funds when the Bridge to Nowhere became a nation-wide example of pork barrel spending. She hasn't turned down the money when the restrictions requiring that it be spent on the useless bridge were removed, though. She's an Alaskan politician who feeds at the federal trough just like all the others.
  • Governor Palin has increased Alaska revenues by imposing a massive windfall profits tax on the oil companies. This is an idea which Republicans in Congress killed federally, with the concurrence of John McCain, and an idea that Barack Obama supports federally. Presumably Sarah Palin does not agree with the Republican Party that a windfall profits tax on oil companies will raise gasoline prices and lower the incentive for oil companies to drill for more oil.
  • On Creationism she favors the stealth Creationism of students being exposed to all sides of the evolution argument. This is, of course, teaching religion in the science class instead of teaching science there. The entire discipline of biological science is organized around the concept of Evolution. To "teach the controversy" means to teach against all biological science. Without the concept of Evolution there is no discipline of biological science. You'd think that the daughter of a science teacher would understand that.
  • Like George Bush she has little interest in the nitty-gritty unglamorous work of government, of gaining consensus, and making difficult compromises. Instead she wants to stand in the limelight (Beauty queen, remember?) and offer simplistic bromides about how government should work. This is combined with another characteristic of the Bush administration - that ...
  • ...she and her administration have no interest in the hard work of getting budget under control.
  • As mayor of Wasilla Palin shoved through the construction of an expensive sports complex which has never been profitable, which cost the city a great deal more than it should have if handled competently, and which landed in court in an immanent domain lawsuit that the city lost after Palin left the job of mayor. That badly handled decison has left the village of Wasilli in major debt for a long time. The Anchorage Daily News describes the case and qgz at Daily Kos explains the background of what happened.
So there are some clear lessons from the choice of Sarah Palin by the impulsive shoot-from-the-hip ex-flyboy John McCain.

McCain has chosen her in part because he feels she is very much in tune with his ideas and attitudes. No surprise, then, that what can be determined from her work history shows that Sarah Palin represents the exact same negative characteristics of governance that the Bush/Cheney government has. Like the Bush administration, Sarah Palin represents government by cronyism and simplistic sound bytes conducted by a lazy administrator. The lazy administrator is very much like George Bush. Both Palin and Bush have a clear distaste for government itself and they both immensely dislike the hard work of gaining consensus, making compromises with those who disagree with her, and getting the budget control.

The final part of that - Palin's refusal to work to get the budget under control - reflects the magical thinking of the social conservatives . They enact the government policies they desire regardless of cost and assume that somehow, magically, the costs will be covered even if they refuse to work to pay the price of what they demand. They demand something and expect God or someone to perform a miracle to provide it, since they hate taxes.

The choice of Sarah Palin as the Republican Veep nominee is a reflection of John McCain's impulsivity in decision-making, his lack of seriousness in his campaign for President, and his utter desperation as he sees all chanced of a win on November 4th fading away as election day gets closer. But Sarah Palin herself is a reflection of so many of the many ways in which the conservative movement simply is not competent to run a government.

But Hey! The Frida announcement of McCain's impulsive choice certainly stepped all over any media discussion of Barack Obama's great acceptance speech Thursday night. That was the main reason for having McCain announce his highly flawed and ideocentric decision Friday. The campaign was trying to dominate the weekend news cycle and they succeeded. It's a good thing that 38 million people - more than have ever watched a Presidential acceptance speech before - tuned in to watch the Thursday speech itself.

The resemblance between the current Palin choice and the 1988 Quayle choice will become more obvious over the next few weeks as Mrs. Palin is questioned by reporters.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin exposes McCain's incompetent psychotic decision-making

McCain has made the decision to choose a beauty queen he has spoken to only three times. According to Sidney Blumenthal, McCain's decision to choose her was forced on him when the Republican party would not accept his desire to choose Joe Lieberman and Karl Rove was pressuring him to chose the man he detests, Mitt Romney. So John McCain reverted to type and made an impulsive gut decision without considering all the consequences.

In addition to being merely having been, as Steve Benen pointed out, "...the governor of a small state for a year and a half, and who is in the midst of an abuse-of-power investigation in which she appears to have lied rather blatantly. She has no obvious expertise in any area, and no record of any kind of federal issues. McCain doesn't care." Now we learn that Sarah Palin and her husband were Brigadiers for Pat Buchanan in 1996. Although Pat Buchanan denies being anti-Israeli or anti-Semetic, he has his own page at the Anti-Defamation League web site.

In 1996 Pat Buchanan ran for President because Bob Dole was not nearly conservative enough to suit him. This is the man Sarah Palin and her husband supported.

The choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate is a guarantee that McCain is running to fill Bush's third term and to push the country further to the right than even Bush and Cheney did in the first two terms.

Addendum 8/31/2008 5:10 pm CDT
It appears that contrary to the statements put out from the McCain camp, there was very little vetting of Sarah Palin before McCain announced her as his choice for Veep. The McCain Camp Didn't Search Palin's Hometown Paper Archives. The article also reminds us that
...the McCain campaign did not contact Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, who Palin pushed to have fired after he refused to remove her sister's former husband from the state's police force. [Snip]

In addition, the former Republican House Speaker of Alaska, Gail Phillips, admitted to reporters that she was shocked by McCain's choice of Palin, as "his advance team didn't come to Alaska to check her out."

Even McCain's own aides seemed unprepared by the choice. After Palin's name was announced, spokeswoman Nancy Pfotenhauer was asked about the governor's relationship with the Senator.

"You're running flat into the wall of my ignorance here," she said. "I truly have no indication whatsoever the extent of a relationship that exists with the Governor of Alaska."
It is this kind of impulsive judgment that characterizes John McCain. He expects the American voters to elect him President at age 72 and a cancer survivor and to give the job of his replacement if he dies or becomes disabled to a beauty queen that he choose after meeting her only three short times and with almost no vetting at all? That's noting short of political malpractice.

Sidney Blumenthal on why McCain chose Sarah Palin

This is a very interesting insight into how the Republican party works and especially how John McCain thinks and reacts. Why did John McCain choose Sarah Palin as his running mate?
On Palin: My information is that Karl Rove wanted Romney and pushed him. McCain pushed back. He really wanted Lieberman. That was completely out of the question. Palin is the result. One element of the Palin nomination is McCain establishing himself apart from the Bush/Rove political operation, even as his campaign manager, Steve Schmidt, is one of their creatures. From the outside, it’s often hard to figure out how vicious and divided the Republicans can be with each other.
That makes it an impulsive decision that McCain made because he didn't want to be told what decision he had to make.

From FDL Book Salon Welcomes Sidney Blumenthal: The Strange Death of Republican America: Chronicles of a Collapsing Party comment #60.

How do the conservatives defend the Palin pick?

Steve Benen cruises the conservative opinions on the Palin pick so that the rest of us don't have to. Go read what he found.

What the choice of Sarah Palin tells us about the McCain campaign

Jim Vandehei and John F. Harris of Politico offer six things the choice of Sarah Palin tells us about the McCain campaign for President:
  1. He’s desperate. Politicians, even “mavericks” like McCain, play it safe when they think they are winning — or see an easy path to winning. They roll the dice only when they know that the risks of conventionality are greater than the risks of boldness.
  2. He’s willing to gamble — bigtime This is not the pick of a self-confident candidate. It is the political equivalent of a trick play or, as some Democrats called it, a Hail Mary pass in football. McCain has a history of taking dares. Palin represents his biggest one yet.
  3. He’s worried about the political implications of his age. Like a driver overcorrecting out of a swerve, he chooses someone who is two years younger than the youthful Obama, and 28 years younger than he is. (He turned 72 Friday.)
  4. He’s not worried about the actuarial implications of his age. If he was really concerned about an inexperienced person sitting in the Oval Office we would be writing about vice presidential nominee Mitt Romney or Tom Ridge or Condoleezza Rice. There is no plausible way that McCain could say that he picked Palin ... because she was ready to be president on Day One.

    Nor can McCain argue that he was looking for someone he could trust as a close adviser. Most people know the staff at the local Starbucks better than McCain knows Palin.
  5. He’s worried about his conservative base. If he had room to maneuver, there were lots of people McCain could have selected who would have represented a break from Washington politics as usual. Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman comes to mind (and it certainly came to McCain’s throughout the process). He had no such room.
  6. At the end of the day, McCain is still McCain. Spontaneity, with a touch of impulsiveness, is one of the traits that attract some of McCain’s admirers. Whether it’s a good calling card for a potential president will depend on the reaction in coming days to what looks for the moment like the most daring vice presidential selection in generations.
At the end of the day it seems to me that the things that will carry forward are that McCain was desperate and rolled the dice big time to get the social conservatives to support him. But to do that, he had to step all over one of his major campaign messages - that he offered experience in the White House that Obama can't match. He also raised the stakes a lot of voters need to consider when they think about the possibility of him dying or becoming disabled in office. For a candidate trying to win by raising voter's views of the uncertainty of his opponents' image the Palin choice increases the uncertainty and fear associated with his own image to a much higher level.

Naming Sarah Palin has his vice Presidential pick on Friday DID step all over the Friday media reaction to Obama's great Thursday night acceptance speech. But it is such an obvious sign of McCain's desperation as he fights a losing campaign that the desperation is the flavor that will last with the voters until election day, not the one day win in the media war. The choice of Palin is also such a clear surrender to the social conservative moralists of the Republican Party that Independents who might have considered McCain as "moderate" are going to look at him again a lot more carefully before voting for him.

In short, McCain did shake up the media view of the race for President for a few days, but when it settles down again he is going to find that he is in a relatively worse position than he was before choosing Palin as his nominee for Veep.

Consider what Kevin Drum has to say about the state of the McCain campaign.
So it turns out that not only does John McCain's running mate not have even the slightest background in foreign policy, but that she can't even talk about it coherently. McCain's handlers really have their work cut out for them.

And here, Matt Yglesias confirms that McCain had apparently met Palin exactly twice before today: once a few months ago when she came to Washington to talk about oil drilling and once more for five minutes via phone last Sunday. [UPDATE: Nope, three times! He also met with her briefly on Thursday morning before offering her the VP slot at 11 am.]

This is all part of what I was talking about the other day when I noted that McCain is running such a palpably unserious campaign. Steve Schmidt seems solely interested in winning the daily news cycle; his staff spends its time gleefully churning out juvenile attack videos; McCain himself has retreated into robotic incantations of simpleminded talking points; and now he's chosen a manifestly unqualified VP that he knows nothing about. I've honestly never seen anything like it.
So it appears to the experts that McCain is running a campaign out of his hip pocket, perhaps because the Republican brand is so lousy this year that no standard campaign has a chance of winning the Presidency and perhaps also because that's just McCain's style of operating.

It just might work to win the election (not that I'd bet on it), but if it does, it certainly provides an advance warning of the kind of White House McCain will preside over - chaotic, conservative as Bush's first term and highly disorganized.

From Jonthon Chait we get a bit more insight into Sarah Palin.

Eve notes Christopher Hayes's catch that Sarah Palin supported Pat Buchanan in 1999. Neither of them really dwells on the significance of this, so I wanted to back up for those who don't remember the circumstances of the time. This isn't like supporting Buchanan in the GOP primary. When Palin was supporting him, Buchanan was running as a third (actually, fourth) party insurgent, appealing to conservatives who thought George W. Bush was too moderate. This suggests that she's not just a run-of-the-mill movement conservative but a hard-core right-winger.
This would confirm what Gregg Erickson said yesterday in the interview that I posted yesterday: "You wrote: "If you took a poll of reporters and legislators I expect her approval rating would be down in the teens or twenties." What do they know about her that the general population does not?

Gregg Erickson: One example: The Republican chair of the Alaska State House Finance budget subcommittee on Heath and Medicaid says he can't find anyone in Palin's executive office who cares about helping bring that budget under control. He is furious with her about that."

Essentially she is a hard core conservative who has no interest in how government really works, but is always ready with a simplistic slogan to say how she thinks it SHOULD work. Government by sound-byte. Worked well in Katrina/Rita and in Iraq, didn't it?

That's, of course, the George Bush model of government and is clearly the model that John McCain prefers.

Friday, August 29, 2008

More about Palin as governor of Alaska

A transcript of a telephone interview from the Washington Post:
Gregg Erickson: Hi. I'm Gregg Erickson. I'm an economist, columnist and reporter in Juneau, where I've been covering Sarah Palin since November 2006 when she was elected governor. I grew up in Alaska and have been covering the legislature here since 1991. I look forward to fielding your questions.


Arlington, Va.: A couple of questions: Where does Gov. Palin stand on allowing oil drilling in ANWR? What is her overall stance on environmental issues? What is the latest on the investigation into the firing of her ex-brother-in-law who was a state trooper in Alaska?

Gregg Erickson: Palin, like about 60 percent of Alaska voters, favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Her environmental credentials are, at best, mixed. She favors what we in Alaska call "predator control," including, if necessary, the hunting of wolves from the air. Just recently her Dept. of Fish and Game pulled some wolf cubs from their den and shot them as part of a program to improve moose survival.

She also opposes the listing of the polar bear as an endangered species.


Baltimore, Md.: What are Governor Palin's three greatest strengths? What are her three greatest weaknesses?

Gregg Erickson: She is smart, vivacious and energetic; she tends to oversimplify complex issues, has had difficulty delegating authority, and clearly has some difficulty distinguishing the line between her public responsibilities and private wishes.

She is under legislative investigation regarding the last issue, the so-called "troopergate."


Washington, D.C.: I was an apathetic McCain supporter until this. Now, I am energized. She does not have much experience but she is VP not POTUS. She seems smart, tenacious and just what McCain needs to beat the rap of "more of the same." This is definitely not "more of the same."

Gregg Erickson: You are right: smart and tenacious are good words to describe our governor. She was in Texas this spring when her water broke. Rather than staying there to have the baby, she jumped on a plan for an 11-hour flight back to Alaska, so her baby would be a "Alaskan-born."

It will be interesting to see what happens when she confronts the national media regarding her positions on Roe v. Wade, airborne wolf hunting, etc.


Eagle River, Ak.: Morning, Gregg! I've suddenly being hearing a number of pundits credit Gov. Palin with stopping the "bridge to nowhere." This isn't how I remember it, though -- in fact, I seem to recall that she was initially in favor of the bridge. Could you clarify? Thanks!

Gregg Erickson: She did curtail state support of the "bridge to nowhere" connecting Ketchikan with its island airport. But contrary to her statement today in Dayton, OH, she didn't send the federal money back. It's available for use in other projects elsewhere.


Illinois: Is it true that Palin favors teaching creationism in public schools?

Gregg Erickson: I don't know about that, but she said during her campaign for governor that she favored students being exposed to all sides of the evolution argument.


Claverack, N.Y.: This afternoon was my first exposure to Gov. Palin' speaking style; would you consider it typical of her style? I don't want this to seem pejorative, but she seems kind of soft-spoken. We're used to politicians speaking grandly and boomingly on the national stage; the governor, with respect, looks like she came here directly from a PTA meeting.

Gregg Erickson: That's the way she usually talks--as if she is at the PTA. It's one of her more charming characteristics.


Washington, D.C.: An AP photo caption at today's event listed Palin's children as "daughters Piper, Willow, Bristol, and son Trig." Are those really their names?

Gregg Erickson: Yes, really. Piper is named after the light aircraft.


Los Angeles, Calif.: It's clear from your responses that you don't particularly like her (I'm not speaking personally, but politically.) How do you explain her high approval ratings?

Gregg Erickson: I think she did a great job in taking on the oil industry, that has had a lock on Alaska politics since 1981 She is also stood up against the corruption in Alaska politics long before it was fashionable to do so. I think those things resonate with many Alaskans beside myself.

Her approval ratings are high--65 percent, or so--but down from 80 percent earlier in her term. Most Alaskan's haven't watched her as closely as most reporters or legislators. If you took a poll of reporters and legislators I expect her approval rating would be down in the teens or twenties.


Sun Prairie, Wisc.: Good afternoon, Mr. Erickson. When I heard the name of Sarah Palin I thought of William Miller, Geraldine Ferraro, and Jack Kemp -- running mates chosen by candidates running against popular presidents, who knew they were almost certain to lose and filled out their tickets with a view toward keeping at least their own party's base together.

No name ID. Little relevant experience. No past relationship with the presidential candidate. From a small state that Sen. McCain would have to go into a coma to lose. But, Gov. Palin is a strong social conservative, appealing to the kind of George Bush Republican who has never liked McCain very much.

This is a choice that makes a lot more sense if one assumes McCain has no chance of winning this election. Do you agree?

Gregg Erickson: The only way I can figure that it makes sense for McCain is he believes his campaign is in big trouble, and hopes this very unconventional choice will give his candidacy much needed appeal women voters and those from the religious right who have been not quite comfortable with his credentials as a social conservative.


Arlington, Va.: I hear that Gov. Palin is a moderate on gay rights, in that she vetoed some anti-gay legislation up there. Where does she stand on same sex civil marriage?

Gregg Erickson: She is strongly against it.


Jarrettsville, Md.: Why did she want her ex-brother-in-law fired?

Gregg Erickson: The child custody fight continued after the divorce, and got very nasty, on both sides.


Don't forget Track!: The earlier poster's question about Palin's children was incomplete --- She has two sons, Track and Trig.

Gregg Erickson: You are correct.


Washington, D.C.: Why don't reporters and legislators have a high opinion of the governor?

Gregg Erickson: It is clear that she has not paid much attention to the nitty-gritty unglamorous work of government, of gaining consensus, and making difficult compromises. She seems to be of the view that politics should be all rather simple. That often appeals to the wider public, but frustrates those who see themselves as laboring in the less glamorous parts of the vineyard.
[This sounds a lot like Bush 43. Ed WTF-o]


Arlington, Va.: Do you think Hillary supporters will vote for McCain now just because there's a woman on the ticket -- even though she's about as opposite as Hillary as a candidate could be?

Gregg Erickson: As I replied to another question, the only way I can figure that it makes sense is that McCain believes his campaign is in big trouble, and hopes this very unconventional choice will give his candidacy much needed appeal women voters and those from the religious right who have been not quite comfortable with his credentials as a social conservative.

Appealing to Hillary supporters by choosing someone opposed to any abortion, rights seems odd to me.
[Actually I think there have been some otherwise Republican women who were ready to vote for Clinton just because of her gender. These individuals will switch to vote for McCain now. How many are there? More than liberals want to admit. But if these are significant numbers, who knows? Ed WTF-o]


Washington, D.C.;: You wrote: "If you took a poll of reporters and legislators I expect her approval rating would be down in the teens or twenties." What do they know about her that the general population does not?

Gregg Erickson: One example: The Republican chair of the Alaska State House Finance budget subcommittee on Heath and Medicaid says he can't find anyone in Palin's executive office who cares about helping bring that budget under control. He is furious with her about that.


(A different) Washington, D.C.: What is Gov. Palin's campaigning style? Is she a good campaigner?

Gregg Erickson: Yes she is a very good campaigner. I'm not so sure how she would do, however, in a campaign controlled by someone else.


Wheaton, Md.: Why is she experienced enough to lead our nation as president if McCain were unable to do so?

Gregg Erickson: I have a hard time seeing how her qualifications stack up against the duties and responsibilities of being president.


Bethesda, Md.: I noticed that Palin criticized the Supreme Court's limitation on punitive damages with respect to the Exxon Valdez incident. As a conservative, you would think she would be in favor of this kind of "tort reform" and limit on judicial power? How has she justified her disagreement on limitation on damages, or is it simple parochialism?

Gregg Erickson: No Alaska politician and very few Alaskans support the Exxon position. Many would like to see the corporate death penalty levied against Exxon. Take their corporate charter away and sell off their assets.


Alexandria, Va.: Has Governor Palin ever traveled outside the U.S.?

Gregg Erickson: She went to college (journalism degree) in Idaho. She's been to Iraq, to visit the troops.


Alexandria, Va.: Knowing what you do of Gov. Palin, do you think this could be a case where the more the American people know about her, the more impressed and charmed they'll be; or, could getting to know her better be trouble?

Gregg Erickson: It will certainly have both effects. What's not to admire about a straight-talking soccer mom who suddenly finds herself in the running for vice-president. It's like a TV sitcom plot. The reality of the national scrutiny will be another thing, however.


Washington, D.C.: What should we expect from her during the VP debates?

Gregg Erickson: I expect her to stick with simple truths. When asked about continued American troop presence in Iraq she said she knows only one thing about that (I paraphrase): no one has attacked the American homeland since George Bush took the war to Iraq.


Hudson Valley, N.Y.: Who takes care of her children while she's busy being governor? It's pretty rare to see a woman in public office with such young kids.

Gregg Erickson: Good question. There hasn't been much reporting on that. She does carry the baby around, and has a crib and play pen in her office in Juneau. She has a big, close family, and I assume they may help out.


Fairfax, Va.: Why didn't she want polar bears added to the Endangered Species List?

Gregg Erickson: Concern that it might inhibit oil development off Alaska's Arctic Ocean coastline was clearly a factor. Some Alaska Native interests in that area also opposed the listing.


Germantown, Md.: Is it true that Gov. Palin is skeptical about global warming?

Gregg Erickson: Yes. Although she has not been outspoken about that. Alaska's national politicians have been allied with Sen. Imhoff, but have had to reverse course rather dramatically on that as the effects of climate change began to show up so dramatically in Alaska.


Silver Spring, Md.: You say she "took on" the oil companies, but that she favors drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Refuge. In what ways did she stand up to Big Oil, and in what ways might she be in their pocket?

Gregg Erickson: She is strongly in favor of oil development. She just wants the state to get a bigger share of the profits, and wants the companies to develop their Alaska resources faster than the companies consider profitable or prudent.


Memphis, Tenn.: Why do you hint that the campaign must be in trouble?

Gregg Erickson: I said if that is McCain's view, then the choice of Palin could make sense. Otherwise, why take the risk on someone he obviously doesn't know well, and whose appeal to the national electorate is unknown, and who brings only three electoral votes. There may be other reasons, good or bad, for his choice, but I can't guess what they would be.


Gainesville, Va.: What is Governor Palin's religious background?

Gregg Erickson: She is fundamentalist protestant. I think she has been affiliated with different congregations.


Gregg Erickson: This is Gregg Erickson, signing off. It's been an interesting and fun experience doing this. If anyone really needs another answer feel free to e-mail me at

Tristero on the Palin choice

Tristero, writing on Hullabaloo has a few comments and a number of questions about the McCain choice of Palin as Republican nominee for Veep:
McCain chose Palin merely because she was useful in shoring up a demographic needed to win an election. She has, as far as anyone knows, no other qualifications or experience that is directly relevant to running an entire country. It is like Bush nominating Miers for the Supreme Court because she's a good person.

The decision to choose Palin demonstrates McCain's impulsiveness, his erratic character, and his lack of seriousness about the actual job of being president.

Palin is, apparently, a radical Christianist, in the mold of Dobson, Robertson and others. Therefore it is only fair to ask her these questions, among many others:

Does Palin wish to undermine science by permitting religious doctrines like "intelligent design" creationism into the public school curriculum? UPDATE: Palin is a "teach the controversy" creationist (note: there is no scientific controversy to teach. ).

Did Palin support Randall Terry in his attempts to undermine the US judiciary and prolong the vegetative state of Terri Schiavo?

Since McCain believes America is a Christian nation, what positions does Palin believe non-Christians should be permitted to hold in the US government?

Does Palin consider Catholics to be Christian?

Some other preliminary questions to ask Palin:

Besides Canada, has she ever been out of the US? Where? For how long?

Who is the head of Australia, North Korea, South Korea, Afghanistan, Israel, the EU and the UK? Who is the president of Brazil?

What is the difference between Shia and Sunni Islam?

What is NAFTA?

Who was John Locke?
Considering that the likelihood that McCain will either die or succumb to Alzheimers in the next four years is quite high, Palin's inexperience is a massive problem. Her christianist credentials are even worse.

Palin might not be such a bad choice after all

Charles Homans of Washington Monthly has covered Sarah Palin in Alaska since she was elected governor, and has a lot positive to say about her.

Apparently there is a significant bit of back story behind McCain's choice.

Better news for Democrats behind the Palin Veep choice

This I didn't realize. We all know that Alaska's Republican Senator Ted Stevens is both running for reelection after 40 years in the Senate and at the same time facing a federal trial for corruption in September. If he is convicted, he will not be able to run for reelection.

Charles Homans at The Washington Monthly explains:
There was talk of her (Palin) taking Stevens's place on the Republican ticket in the general election if Stevens is found guilty, and it's probable she would have beaten Begich (the Democratic contender) --so this is good news for Democrats in the Senate. Parnell, (current Alaska Lt. Governor, waiting a recount in last Tuesday's Republican primary against Don Young for the sole Congressional seat in Alaska.) meanwhile, would presumably take over as governor if McCain/Palin wins.
This looks like all kinds of fun breaking out in Alaska.

McCain throws "Hail Sarah" pass

The news that John McCain has chosen the 44 year-old beauty queen and 20-month Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential choice is certainly out of left field. This is a real reminder that last Spring the Republicans chose McCain as their candidate out of desperation when no other candidate was even marginally acceptable to the republican base. When everyone else dropped out, McCain was all that was left as a desperation choice.

Now we watch as John McCain himself attempts to shake up his failing Presidential campaign by choosing Mrs. Palin whose main asset appears to be her appearance and the fact that she has something of a maverick reputation in Republican circles. Apparently she has not hesitated to go after other corrupt Republicans in the most corrupt state in America. (As an ex-artilleryman, I would describe Alaska as a "target-rich environment" for someone going after corrupt politicians.) I'm sure Mrs. Palin's gender and undoubted beauty was also a draw to the womanizing McCain, too. I wonder what her husband thinks of her associating closely with McCain, or if he feels that at age 72 McCain is not any real problem anymore?

OK. Mrs. Palin has occupied the office of governor of Alaska for twenty months, during which time she has also had her fifth child. I'm sure she does an excellent job of the ceremonial functions of governor. Prior to being elected governor she was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, a bedroom community "...69 km northeast of Anchorage.... About one third of the people of Wasilla commute to work into Anchorage every day. It has been pointed out that as governor she commands the Alaska National Guard (whoopee!) Believe it or not, FOX news has already touted her foreign affairs experience because "Alaska is right next to Russia." (Texas is also right next to Mexico, but even FOX wasn't so desperate as to float this idiocy for Bush.)

So somehow a beauty queen with experience primarily as mayor of a bedroom community of about 8,000 people is now being proposed by John McCain to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency. McCain is an ex-POW cancer survivor who is today celebrating his 72d birthday and who some say is already showing symptoms of confusion similar to those Ronald Reagan showed in 1987. A fellow ex-POW, Phillip butler points out that the injury and privations suffered by the POWs held by the North Vietnam have a shorter life expectancy than other people. (The The 2000 actuarial table from Social Security gives an average life expectancy for someone age 72 to be 12 years.) If McCain is elected President, this woman will have a much better than average chance of becoming President.

Mrs. Palin brings to the table her gender, her obvious good looks, and her reputation as a maverick Republican who for the last couple of years has gone after corrupt Alaska politicians. By choosing her McCain is separating himself from George Bush, but he's also separating himself from the mainstream of the American Republican Party. McCain's choice of Mrs. Palin is a clear statement that there is no one in the Republican Party competent to be Vice President, so McCain has to roll the dice and choose someone with literally no significant resume or accomplishments on the national stage.

The choice of McCain himself as the Republican nominee for President last Spring was a desperation move when no one was able to get a majority of the party behind him. This roll-of-the-dice desperation decision to choose Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential pick is a further example of how totally disorganized the national Republican Party has begun.

I'm sure that some will hail this choice as a stroke of genius by McCain. Then the second thoughts will sink in, and what is going to happen is that all the questions about McCain's age and mortality and the clear desperation of the decision will surface. This was an act of utter desperation from the McCain camp without a shred of intelligence behind it. If the choice of a vice-Presidential running mate is the first Presidential-level decision a candidate makes, then McCain has just blown it - big time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How excited are the Republicans about McCain?

Mile High Stadium in Denver holds 75,000 people and there isn't enough room for everyone who wants to be there for Obama's acceptance speech.

Tomorrow McCain is expected to announce his Vice-President choice at Wright State University's Nutter Center. CNN reports:
The presumptive Republican nominee will appear with his prospective running mate at a massive rally on August 29, the day after Barack Obama formally accepts the Democratic presidential nomination.

The McCain campaign is hoping to have 15,000 people at the Ohio rally — roughly five times the size of his largest crowd to date.
The Dayton Daily News reports:
DAYTON — Tickets are still available for Sen. John McCain's Friday, Aug. 29, rally at Wright State University's Nutter Center in Fairborn. [Snip]

Tickets are being given away at county GOP offices in southwest Ohio and in Indiana and Kentucky.
The media will not show the empty seats indicating a lack of passion for McCain, but it's going to be difficult to totally ignore.

Putin accuses US of fomenting crisis in Georgia to get one Presidential candidate elected.

From CNN Europe:
From CNN's Matthew Chance

SOCHI, Russia (CNN) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia to benefit one of its presidential election candidates.
Russian PM Vladimir Putin has accused the U.S. of orchestrating the conflict in Georgia.

In an exclusive interview with CNN's Matthew Chance in the Black Sea city of Sochi on Thursday, Putin said the U.S. had encouraged Georgia to attack the autonomous region of South Ossetia.

Putin said his defense officials had told him it was done to benefit a presidential candidate -- Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are competing to succeed George W. Bush -- although he presented no evidence to back it up.

"U.S. citizens were indeed in the area in conflict," Putin said. "They were acting in implementing those orders doing as they were ordered, and the only one who can give such orders is their leader."
Gee. Why he would think that? And which candidate do you think he is talking about, the one that belongs to the party in the White House or the one who belongs to the party outside the White House without the power to induce Saakishvili to attack South Ossetia?

Considering the history of the Bush/Cheney administration there is no accusation that can be made that is too extreme to be considered within the realm of reasonable possibility, is there?

Joe Lieberman as McCain's Veep pick?

I understand that McCain is scheduled to announce his Veep pick tomorrow. He'll pretty well have to if he is going to do so before the Republican convention starts Monday, and it is an announcement that can be expected to reduce the Obama bounce from the Democratic Nomination Convention.

My best bet is Mitt Romney, but there is a lot of talk about McCain choosing his old friend and current supporter, Joe Lieberman. This has brought some interesting comments.
  • Bob Novak, who recently retired because of brain cancer, has written a column entitled Avoiding a Lieberman Disaster which clearly advises against McCain choosing Lieberman.
  • William Kristol thinks it's a good idea to choose Lieberman and writes to say so in his column A Joe of His Own?.
  • Karl Rove is reported to have called Joe Lieberman and asked him to tell McCain not to choose Joe. Rove is reported to be pushing for Mitt Romney to be chosen for Veep.
  • Very interestingly, David Brooks stated last night on the PBS commentary regarding the Democratic Convention that "...the OBVIOUS answer to the Dems successful mantra of McCain = Bush is for McCain to choose as his VP, get this, Joe Lieberman." When I heard Brooks say that that I wondered what Brooks was smoking, which appears to be a common reaction. Upon reflection that appears to be something caused by David Brooks status as a big Kahuna inside the Washington beltway pundits who think that by choosing a "Democrat" (even one rejected by his state Democratic Party) McCain can immunize himself from the toxic waste spread by George Bush' ultra-partisan manner of governing.
It looks like we will know McCain's choice tomorrow. McCain Has Made His Pick and Is Set to Tell on Friday.

I'll be extremely surprised if the choice is Lieberman. Surprised and delighted. Joe's pro-choice views will drive away a lot of Republican voters, and his closeness NeoCon-level support of the Iraq war as well as pushing for attacks on Iran is not going to attract many Democrats.

Besides, Joe, with his silly grin, simply doesn't look Presidential.

Addendum 3:32 pm CDT
Mark Kleiman offers an interesting take on the Lieberman-as-Repub-Veep issue.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sullivan: McCain's plan is war, war and more war

Josh Marshall quoted Andrew Sullivan's complete reaction to to the Wall Street Journal editorial by Joe Lieberman and Lindsay Graham, then goes on to add to Sullivan's response.

Really. Do the American people really want to cut off all cooperation with Russia over controlling nuclear warheads and exchange of Intelligence on terrorist groups just so that we can start a new Cold War with Russia to defend Moldova and Azerbaijan? That's what Lieberman and Graham are suggesting, and these are two of the hotheaded war-lover McCain's closest advisers.

Go read the article by Josh Marshall, then confirm what
Lieberman and Graham
wrote in the Wall Street Journal.

Then consider what Senator Pat Leahy thinks about McCain's current level of confusion. Sen. Leahy thinks McCain's current confusion is reminiscent of Reagan's, circa 1987. If this is correct, then McCain will be both extremely suggestible and less in control of his already well-known hot temper. Lieberman and Graham will be there to suggest war and threats of war - threats of war which might be intended as bluff but which might get out of hand, as apparently the Bush administration's egging Georgia's Saakishvili's Bear-baiting did.

The tabloid press is now using "Body Language Experts" to cover their lies about Hillary.

Ah, yes. The tabloid press now uses "Body Language 'Experts'." Both CNN and CBS did it. Why?

Simple. Even if there really is an effective "Body Language 'Expert'", how would anyone know who it was? And who is to stop any incompetent from claiming expertise? The so called "Body Language 'Experts'" don't add real data to the discussion. They are paid liars saying what the pundit wants said in a way that keeps the pundit's hands off the lie. It isn't about finding out what Hillary had to say. It's about getting the anti-Hillary narrative out there and claiming it came from an object source and not the pundit.

How long until the political press is hiring astrologers, mind readers and tarot card readers? Wait for it. It won't be long. The political news media has ceased to be a professionalized news media at all - if it ever was. It probably disappeared about the time degrees in journalism were replaced by degrees in communication.

When the Reagan administration removed the requirement that news be presented on the publicly-owned airwaves as a public service, "news" became just another profit center. More eyeballs are needed in order to charge more for advertising.

The result? News ceased to exist in the media. Now all that matters is polling the audience to see what they want as entertainment. Real news has a tendency to disrupt their safe, secure little cocoons. Real news interferes with the revenue stream.

Foreign bureaus became an overly expensive luxury. Then with the competition for eyeballs from the cable networks, entertaining shows have devolved into game shows and "cheap" so-called 'reality' shows.

But the use of "Body Language 'Experts'", mediums to speak to ghosts, astrologers, tarot card readers and so on differentiate the 'news' shows and the other entertainment shows from their competition.

The public media as a source of information and education is dead. It has been for well over a decade. And it's not coming back. Professionalized news media are dead and gone.

The conservatives recognized this and have created their own politicized media empires. They don't deliver news, they deliver votes. It's only the Democrats/Progressives/Liberals who still believe in the fantasy of a professionalized news industry.

[H/T to Steve Benen replacing Kevin Drum at Political Animal.]

Cheney's top top National Security aide was in Geogia just before Saakishvili attacked South Ossetia

Does anyone seriously believe that Joseph R. Wood, Cheney's deputy assistant for national security affairs was in Georgia just before Saakishvili attacked into South Ossetia and didn't discuss (and encourage?) the attack?

Read the LA Times short article Why was Cheney's guy in Georgia before the war?, then go read Pat Buchanan's description of what happened in South Ossetia at Pat Buchanan on what happened in South Ossetia.

Dick Cheney is, of course, the leader of the Neocon ProWar efforts trying to demonize Iran, North Korea, Syria, the Palestinians, and others. Every international problem calls for another war or application of military force. Wood's presence in Georgia just before the hotheaded Saakishvili invaded South Ossetia is unlikely to be a mere coincidence. That so many Georgians reported believing that the U.S. would come to their support if the Russians counterattacked suggests that Wood had reinforced the apparent American support for Georgia in its conflict with Russia over the breakaway provinces.

Did Wood encourage Saakishvili to "Bait the Bear" as Dick Cheney's representative? Was Cheney beating they could bluff Putin? Some reporters think so. Now that the effort has failed, we'll probably never get any answer from the Office of the Vice President. Maybe, once the Bush administration is gone, the Georgians will tell what happened. Of course, since the direct responsibility for the disaster falls on Saakishvili, it'll have to come from someone other than him.

It's another disaster mystery out of the Bush administration that the historians are going to need to dig into.

There are no unbribed "Clinton Supporters for McCain"

It's been my opinion that the whole thing about disaffected Clinton supporters who are now supporting McCain is a media-made fiction. Supporting my opinion, here's an unscientific report from Hilzoy at the convention:
I've been wandering around having random conversations, and by pure chance, all the delegates I've talked to have been Clinton delegates. I have asked all of them whether they will have any problem voting for Obama, or are in any way aware of any of the disunity I see so much about on CNN. In every case the answer is not just 'no', but something closer to 'are you crazy?' The first Clinton delegate I talked to said: "For heaven's sakes, we're Democrats." The second said: "I'm sure some Clinton supporters, somewhere, won't support Obama, but everyone who thinks will." I cannot pretend that the delegates I've talked to are in any way representative, but for what it's worth, they have all reacted to the idea of not supporting Obama by looking at me as though I had come from Mars.

What they are concerned about, more than anything else, is the economy. I would have thought that a convention full of people who can somehow afford to take a week off and get to Denver might be somewhat insulated from that, but I would have been wrong. One of them was telling me, at some length, about the economic problems in her town: the way everyone is cutting back, the fact that she and her husband used to go out to eat every so often, but have cut that out along with the rest of their luxuries, the effects this is all having on local restaurants and other merchants, her fear that it will only get worse, and that politicians do not really get how bad it is. She was sure that the Republicans don't get it; she has her doubts about some people in the upper reaches of the Democratic party. She had none about Obama.
Why would the media create a fake controversy like this? Three reasons:

  1. The media exists to attract viewers so that they can sell advertisements for revenue. Controversy attracts viewers. The media has been creating controversy for a century and a half.

  2. The conservatives have built up a massive propaganda machine to inject their issues and subjects into the media and then pump up the coverage of those subjects. David Brock, the ex-right-wing propaganda expert described the process in his book Blinded by the Right. Propaganda experts in the the CIA call it "The Wurlitzer." FOX "News", the Washington Times, the Weekly Standard (also a Murdoch publication) and a number of other fake news organizations are part of the Wurlitzer.

  3. The news media, especially the TV news media, have been hiring conservative activists in order to attract more viewers. Ron Fournier, the Washington Bureau Chief for Associate Press is only one current example. This process got into high gear during the Reagan Revolution when government regulation of how TV used the airwaves was removed and the TV news departments ceased to be public service departments to became profit centers. Profit centers have to sell advertisements for more money. The price of advertisements is based on how many viewers are likely to view them (measured by ratings.) Activist conservatives are an obvious potential market. Since print media readership has been declining since the 60's, they are desperately doing the same thing as TV news. What the conservatives learned after Goldwater was that the free media did them no services. They've had to buy their own media outlets. Democrats are going to have to do the same thing. Free media is now useless for political news. Its purpose is to make money, not provide news, so it is either highly biased or easily manipulated. Professionalism has failed as a method of protecting "objective" news, so the public media now has no protection against either flaw.
So that's why all this fake controversy over Hillary supporters for McCain. The McCain campaign loves is and encourages it, and it fills the media coffers with more revenue.

It only has the slight flaw - the "controversy" is a fantasy.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

TV news - there was definitely a plot to assassinate Obama

We've all heard about the three men picked up in aurora, CO. with sniper rifles and bullet-proof vests.

From the LA Times:
We knew then that authorities in suburban Aurora had stopped a pickup truck for swerving between lanes early Sunday morning in what they thought was a routine drunk driving incident.

But in the rented vehicle of Tharin Gartrell, a 28-year-old convicted felon, they found two high-powered scoped rifles, ammunition, sighting scopes, radios, a cellphone, a bulletproof vest, wigs, drugs and fake IDs.

According to Brian Masss of Denver's KCNC Channel 4, under questioning Gartrell implicated two other men -- Nathan Johnson, who is 32, and Shawn Adolph, who is 33 -- and Johnson's girlfriend, Natasha Gromack. Johnson also reportedly confirmed the plot to FBI and Secret Service interrogators. [Snip]

The U.S. Atty. Troy Eid declined to elaborate on Monday but said there is no credible threat to the party's convention or to the freshman Illinois senator, who was campaigning in Kansas City Monday and traveling to Montana today.

But the television station reports that under questioning the men admitted there was indeed a plot to kill Obama during his speech before some 70,000 supporters and a nationwide television audience.
I guess a right-wing Republican U.S. Attorney who has survived being fired by the highly politicized Bush Department of Justice would be loath to admit that there really is a right-wing conspiracy to assassinate the Black Democratic nominee for President, wouldn't he?

Notice also that the arrest was not because the Secret Service were somehow "On top of the situation." Instead is was because a cop in Aurora, CO made what he thought was going to be a routine Drunk Driver stop, The driver's license turned out to be expired, the truck was rented by someone else, which led to the guns and walkie-talkies being discovered.

Of course the TV media are all over this right-wing conspiracy to murder Senator Obama, so I don't even need to write anything here, do I?

Monday, August 25, 2008

An Obama ad that makes the right point

This is another very good political ad. The McCainiacs are going to hate it, and those who see it will remember it. Plus, it has a very light tone.

[H/T to Steve Benen. ]

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Here's a video of CNN salivating as Obama played them like dogs waiting for a treat

As I wrote yesterday, Obama was using the veep selection to play the media, making them line up and bark on command -- and it did them no good at all. They finally got the news from the Internet, just like all the rest of us did. How crazy did it drive the TV personalities? Kevin Allocca and Stephen Sherrill put together a video of CNN personalities going crazy as they tried to fill air time with a total absence of news. Here's their video.

That's what I was describing when I wrote "The Veepstakes has had the reporters sitting at Obama's feet panting with their tongues hanging out like dogs waiting for a treat. Even better, the pundits/TV personalities have been going wild with both anticipation and frustration as they can't get any news on the choice."

This was all about Obama making his first real Presidential-level decision. Suddenly he wasn't just another aspirant for the Democratic nomination who had to accept whatever treatment the media doled out to him. Suddenly Obama was the man in charge and the Washington Political Press had to play the game by his rules.

I wonder how the Associated Press' Washington Bureau Chief and strong McCain supporter Ron Fournier will fare when he has to get cooperation from an Obama White House. His anti-Obama "reporting" is already legendary. (See Media Matters and Politico.) Right now he is part of the Washington Political Press which is tuned in to the needs of the Republican Party and Bush/Cheney/Rove.

Will there be a bid shift between the current political Press insiders and a new set when Obama takes over? From Fournier I anticipate more lies and much whining that he is not being treated in the royal manner deserved by a Bureau Chief of his stature.


How many position reversals make a McCain flip-flop?

So far Steve Benen has documented 74 reversals of position. Go read them.

Over at the Washington monthly site Steve points out
McCain has been in Congress for more than a quarter-century; he's bound to shift now and then on various controversies. But therein lies the point -- McCain was consistent on most of these issues, right up until he started running for president, at which point he conveniently abandoned literally dozens of positions he used to hold, as part of a drive to pander and become palatable to the far-right Republican base.

One need not "drink the Kool Aid" to notice this. McCain's contradictory record speaks for itself.
So if one position reversal by McCain is a "flip" and the second is a "flop", what does that make 74 position reversals, most designed to make himself more attractive to the Republican base he used to mostly disdain?

Does it really take MoDo to question McCain's POW status as the answer to every difficult question he faces?

Perhaps not every weirdity that John McCain exhibits can be excused by his status - 40 years ago - as a prisoner of war of the Vietnamese. But does it really take Maureen Dowd in the MSM to call him on it?
While McCain’s experience was heroic, did it create a worldview incapable of anticipating the limits to U.S. military power in Iraq? Did he fail to absorb the lessons of Vietnam, so that he is doomed to always want to refight it? Did his captivity inform a search-and-destroy, shoot-first-ask-questions-later, “We are all Georgians,” mentality?
Just like the case when every time Rudolph Giuliani was questioned about his worldview elicited the response "I was the Mayor of New York on September 11, 2001!" every irrational response offered by John McCain to national security questions that John McCain has offered has been excused by "He was a POW of the North Vietnamese for five and a half years!" McCain's status as POW has been his "Get-out-of-jail-Free" card throughout his political career. When he has offered an irrational response to a national security question his excuse has always been the non sequitur "He was a POW!"

But does it really take - of all people in the media - Maureen Dowd - to call him on it? And to make the media take the issue seriously?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How long will the oil underlying Russia's current assertiveness last?

Much of the recent military assertiveness by Russia in Georgia is based on an economy newly rebuilt by oil and gas exports. What happens if that oil runs out soon? Tom Lasseter at McClatchy News writes that Russia's oil and gas supplies may be a lot less than has recently been believed.
Most of the oil produced after the country's 1998 financial collapse has come from drilling and re-drilling old Soviet oil fields with more advanced equipment — squeezing more black gold out of the same ground — and efforts to develop new fields have been slow or non-existent.

That strategy is potentially disastrous, said Valery Kryukov, who researches oil companies in western Siberia for a government-funded think tank.

"If the situation which exists now stays the same, oil production will start to decline seriously in two years," Kryukov said in a phone interview from his offices in the city of Novosibirsk.

The implications extend far beyond Russia's borders. Last year, Russia was the world's second-largest oil producer. If its output begins to decline or is hampered by inept or corrupt business practices, the price of oil could begin climbing again.

The concerns about Russia's oil industry also raise questions about the health of the nation's economy, which has enjoyed stratospheric growth thanks to high oil prices since the economic crisis a decade ago, according to interviews with a dozen economists and analysts. [Snip]

That's a serious matter for a country where, by some estimates, the oil sector funded about a third of the national budget last year, and where by all accounts industrial, technological and agricultural businesses lag far behind. Russia's other major revenue source is natural gas, in which Russia leads the world; oil and gas sales are mainly responsible for the country's $592 billion in gold and foreign exchange reserves.

The practice of reaping quick profits and ignoring long-term interests is reminiscent of the former Soviet Union's development policies, and it was embraced by post-Soviet billionaires, known as oligarchs, who propped up flimsy companies to strip Russia's natural resources for as many fast rubles as possible. It continued as the government took over many of those private companies, often by brutish means.

Without the income from oil and gas, Russia's economy is not going to be able to afford the recently assertive military it has been fielding. Yet the oil and gas the Russian economy is based on comes from secondary recovery from old oil and gas fields. Without new fields, the secondary recovery effort will stop being effective quickly.

This will badly effect the Russian economy, and since much of Europe's Winter heating and electricity is produced from gas provided from Russia, Europe's economy will be hurt also. The new "Cold War" currently being discussed will then just be reduced to everyone, Russian and European alike, being very cold.

With both the US and Russia effectively out of oil and unable to supply a long range military forces without external help from oil suppliers, it is unlikely that there will be any combat between those two nations. Any military actions will occur between close neighbors. In that case the US will once again be protected by its ocean borders.

The possibility of Russia quickly running out of oil and gas to export puts a whole new spin on the possibility of a new Cold War between the US and Russia.

Thomas Frank shows where taxpayer taxes now flow - and they don't benefit of the taxpayers

Thomas Frank takes a short tour of the Washington D.C. metropolitan area to show where government power has moved. Power no longer resides in government buildings.

As you look at the palaces that Frank videos, remember that is our tax money going to build them. Most of the fortunes are not the result of contractors bidding for contracts. They result from contractors hiring lobbyists to bribe and cajole short term government employees to hand out no-bid contracts as they did to Halliburton and KBR. Then once the government employees hand the contracts out they move to jobs with the contractors at multiples of their government salary.

Is it any wonder that the Bush administration White House has presided over the most incompetent federal government since the 1920's?

Biden is Obam's choice for Veep. Well-played in the media games.

We know now that Obama announced Sen. Joe Biden as his choice for the Democratic nomination for Vice President. Joe's not perfect, but he is clearly a good match for Obama and will be a real asset to the Democratic ticket.

What I find most fascinating is how the Obama people have used the Veep announcement to play the media like it was a musical instrument at Julliard. The Veepstakes has had the reporters sitting at Obama's feet panting with their tongues hanging out like dogs waiting for a treat. Even better, the pundits/TV personalities have been going wild with both anticipation and frustration as they can't get any news on the choice.

Beyond the suspense, the release of Biden's name by email drives everyone to the media that Obama dominates - the Internet. The reporters, pundits and TV personalities have nothing they can do to add value to the Obama announcement.

Another point - the timing of the Veepstakes announcement gives the Sunday morning TV talking heads time to discuss it as a lead-in to discussing the Democratic Convention. As I say, Obama has played the Veep announcement very well.

Then McCain's "House-count gaffe" adds even more to the same media frenzy. Obama has hit back hard, and his attack the big advantage of being true. That contrasts it sharply to the media fiction based on Brittany and Paris Hilton that has been coming out of the McCain camp. Add to this, this week's announced Bush - al Maliki agreement on a timetable to get American troops out of Iraq has cut the legs out from under McCain's recent VFW statement that "We both agree we will bring the troops home, but I will win first" line of attack.

With all this happening, who is going to be the first talking head on Sunday who asks about McCain's age and apparent confusion?

Looking forward to nest week, all this media frenzy provides a really fine base on which to run the Democratic convention. If it's as well coordinated as this weeks Obama PR stuff, next week is also going to be a very interesting - and for Democrats, pleasing - Fall leading into the election.

The dark spot that concerns me is that it is clear that the Bush administration set Georgian President Saakishvili up to attack into South Ossetia knowing that the Russian military was waiting for him.

The Russian troops had to have been sitting in place waiting for the command to attack to the south. They reacted too rapidly for it to be otherwise. US technical Intelligence had to have satellites pictures of their armor and troops in the jump-off locations. With all the warning and tension there, not to have had satellite coverage of the Caucasus Mountains would be pure incompetence on the part of US Intelligence. Had the Americans who claim they were warning Saakishvili not to attack South Ossetia shown those pictures to the Georgian high command, the Georgians would not have walked into the trap as they did.

The Bush administration was adding to the anti-Russian rhetoric and encouraging Saakishvili in his hothead rhetoric with promises of "support", so at best they might have been providing mixed messages. Had they actually shown pictures of the Russian troops in position waiting to snap the trap on the Georgian military, it is very unlikely the Georgians would have attacked South Ossetia. The US either suffered a massive Intelligence and diplomatic failure or they directly encouraged Saakishvili to attack South Ossetia. Two separate sources have informed me that the US encouraged the Georgian attack.

One very strong implication is that the Bush administration is playing the "fear of Russians" game to try to spread fear of a new Cold War in the American electorate, since fear of Iranians and fear of al Qaeda is not having the effect on the American electorate the Republicans hoped for. As far as I can tell, the threat of a new Cold War is McCain's best chance of winning in November. This makes the Cold War with Russia the Republican Presidential-Monarchist's in control of the Presidency.

Will it work to elect McCain and allow the Republican NeoCons to keep control of the Presidency - which they are pressing hard to turn into a monarchy based on the theory of the Unitary Presidency?

Any patriotic American will hope it doesn't work. For right now, Obama appears to be playing the media game beautifully. This builds on his ground game and the declining Republican economy that should determine the Presidential election. But the Bush Administration still has slightly over 10 weeks to set up a new Cold War with the Russians and get McCain elected to keep the Cheneyites and NeoConss in control of the Presidency. As the election gets closer and everything else fails for the Republicans they are likely to get desperate and attempt anything to defeat Obama.

Colombian Bank and Trust of Topeka Kansas Closed yesterday

Another bank has fallen afoul of the conservative movement deregulation of financial institutions. Colombian Bank and Trust of Topeka Kansas was closed yesterday by the FDIC. According to the FDIC's Press Release (PR-69-2008)
To protect the depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with Citizens Bank and Trust, Chillicothe, Missouri, to assume the insured deposits of The Columbian Bank and Trust Company.

The nine branches of The Columbian Bank and Trust Company will reopen on Monday as branches of Citizens Bank and Trust. Depositors of the failed bank will automatically become depositors of Citizens Bank and Trust. Deposits will continue to be insured by the FDIC, so there is no need for customers to change their banking relationship to retain their deposit insurance coverage.

Over the weekend, customers of The Columbian Bank and Trust Company Bank can access their money by writing checks or using ATM or debit cards. Checks drawn on the bank will continue to be processed. Loan customers should continue to make their payments as usual.

As of June 30, 2008, The Columbian Bank and Trust Company had total assets of $752 million and total deposits of $622 million, of which there were approximately $46 million in uninsured deposits held in approximately 610 accounts that potentially exceeded the insurance limits. This amount is an estimate that is likely to change once the FDIC obtains additional information from these customers.

The Columbian Bank and Trust Company also had approximately $268 million in brokered deposits that are not part of today's transaction. The FDIC will pay the brokers directly for the amount of their insured funds.
The International Herald Tribune reports that the problem was "losses on soured real estate loans."
Columbian reported $92 million in delinquent loans in the second quarter, citing a "volatile real estate market." The bank set aside $9.2 million for loan losses in the first quarter, up nearly 30 percent from the $7.1 million it set aside in the first quarter of 2007.

A financial statement for the bank shows $482.3 million in real estate loans in the first quarter, including $439.4 million in construction and development and commercial real estate loans. Columbian has said that five borrowers represented nearly half the $92 million in problem loans.

Construction and development loans are areas that have been under greater scrutiny from federal examiners, the FDIC has said, and a growing number of banks have cited weakness in those areas of their loan portfolios.
If the problem was commercial real estate loans, then this bank failure may have been a result more of the souring economy than of bad mortgages.

Regarding home mortgages, the FDIC has announced a new mortgage program. This should bail out some mortgage holders as well as help the financial institutions holding the mortgages.
On Wednesday, the FDIC announced a program under which thousands of troubled home borrowers with loans from IndyMac will be able to switch into 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages with interest rates capped at around 6.5 percent in what could be an important test case for future bank resolutions.

FDIC officials have said the agency expects to raise insurance premiums paid by banks and thrifts to replenish its reserve fund after paying out billions of dollars to depositors at IndyMac. The fund, currently at $53 billion, is expected to take a hit from IndyMac of $4 billion to $8 billion.

FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said recently she expects turbulence in the banking industry to continue well into next year, and more banks to appear on the agency's internal list of troubled institutions.

Of the 8,500 or so banks in the country, 90 were considered to be in trouble in the first quarter. The FDIC doesn't disclose the banks' names.

Only 13 percent of banks that make the list fail, on average, and most are nursed back to health or acquired by stronger institutions, according to Bair.

Federally insured banks and thrifts set aside a record $37.1 billion to cover losses from soured mortgages and other loans in the first quarter, when profits were nearly halved.
If 90 banks were considered to be in trouble, that is 1.06% of the 8,500 total banks. That was five months ago, though, and the economy has gotten worse. The suggestion that Colombian went under because of commercial real estate loans suggests that there may be more banks on the troubled list now than just 90, and the declining economy will add even more.

Add to that the number of banks and investment institutions currently trying to rebuild their capital base, thus simultaneously restricting lending along with recent reports that other nations appear to be entering a recession, then hopes that the US economy will turn around even in 2009 are just that - only hopes.

Bill Moyer's show last night about the collapse of the American middle class strongly suggests that the American economy is not coming back anytime soon. "Soon" would be at a minimum five years. Remember that the American economy produces to meet demand for goods and services, and that 70% of that demand is from mostly middle class consumers. Much of the Investment demand is based on anticipated consumption demand, so adding investment funds is not going to help, either. For there to be real recovery, the American middle class has to recover and at the moment there is not only no sign that it will, instead it appears to be headed even further down.

Here is the transcript of Bill Moyer's show last night.

Here is a video of the August 22nd show.

McCain: In touch with who?

Yeah, I'm sure John McCain can feel our pain. Sure. Really.

Friday, August 22, 2008

All you need to know about McCain's attack ads

3 Fridays, 3 misleading attack ads. It's like a reflex with the McCain campaign.

There'll be another one next Friday, and it will be even less accurate.

Who's the elitist?

Here is the description by USA Today:
McCain, who has portrayed Obama as an elitist, is the son and grandson of admirals. The Associated Press estimates his wife, a beer heiress, is worth $100 million. Obama was raised by a single mother who relied at times on food stamps, and went to top schools on scholarships and loans. His income has increased from book sales since he spoke at the 2004 Democratic convention.
So we have John McCain who attended Annapolis because his father and grandfather, both Admirals, also attended Annapolis and who very probably would not have even graduated had they not been admirals. Then after his stint as a POW he returned home, divorced his wife and married the heiress of a beer fortune who bought him his election to Congress and the Senate. McCain's Congressional career has been primarily one of saying things that were not approved by the party while voting very conservative votes all the time. He has done nothing especially noteworthy during his decades in Congress. But he does wear $500 shoes.

McCain's nomination as the Republican candidate occurred because every other Republican candidate for the job failed to achieve anything. McCain got the nomination by default. It was handed to him because of his family connections and the position they allowed him to get, just like everything else he has ever done.

Contrast that to Obama who was raised by a single mother, earned his own way through Ivy League college and Law School. Everything he has ever gotten he earned on his own. And he earned $4 million last year based on sales of his books as a result of his keynote speech in the 2004 Democratic Convention. This is a man who has earned everything he has received so far. He took the Democratic nomination for President away from the clear front runner after a long, hard fought 50 state primary against a very capable opponent in which he again proved his capabilities. Obama has not inherited his position or married wealth. Everything he has is a direct result of his own capabilities and efforts.

McCain is just another frat boy (Annapolis is much like a large fraternity) like Bush, being given pass after pass because he belongs to the right family and has money. That's an elitist.

Instead Obama has earned his way and shown himself extremely competent. Competence is what America is supposed to reward, not inheritance and the "Republican" Royalist Party of inherited wealth and social position.

Addendum 2:04 pm CDT
Here are a few views of a politician who lives off the money his wife inherited. The term frequently used is "gigolo."