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Friday, October 31, 2008


by tristero

Studs Terkel died. He was a wonderful man. I had the privilege of being interviewed by him once, it must have been at least 10 years ago, and I'll never forget his intensity and charm. A terrific host and a great progressive.

Youthquake And Prop Hate

by digby

Dday wrote about this last night, but I thought it was worth another push. Here's the latest from California's Field Poll (the best one) on the proposition to ban gay marriage:

Prop. 8 trailed in The Field Poll’s initial measurement in July by nine points (51% No to 42% Yes) taken shortly after it qualified for the ballot.

The No-side advantage increased to fourteen points (52% to 38%) in September, when voters were asked to react to its original ballot description, which referred to the measure as the “Limit on Marriage” initiative. However, following the state Supreme Court’s ruling that the state’s existing same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, thereby making it legal for same-sex couples to marry in California, state Attorney General Jerry Brown changed Prop. 8’s official ballot title to the “Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry” initiative. When voters were read this amended description in September, the No-side lead grew to seventeen points (55% No vs. 38% Yes).

Now, after more than a month of intensive campaigning on both sides, the initiative trails by just five points, 49% No vs. 44% Yes, with 7% undecided. Yes-side support has increased six points, and those opposed declining six points over the past month.

If you've ever wondered why these California propositions are so absurd, that should tell you why. Thank God for Jerry Brown, or we'd be losing this one big. The religious right is moving hard and fast with some of the most dishonest campaigning I've ever seen. (They are all going straight to a fiery, burning hell for it too.)

But there's another little wrinkle. I've grown a little bit concerned about the stories I'm reading about the youthquake failing to materialize in the early voting.

Gallup polling in October finds little evidence of a surge in young voter turnout beyond what it was in 2004. While young voter registration may be up slightly over 2004, the reported level of interest in the election and intention to vote among those under 30 are no higher than they were that year.


What's more, 18- to 29-year-olds continue to lag behind Americans aged 30 and older on these important turnout indicators.


As a result, 18- to 29-year-olds now constitute 12% of Gallup's traditional likely voter sample, basically the same as the estimate in the final 2004 pre-election poll (13%). Gallup's expanded likely voter model, which defines likely voters differently (on the basis of current voting intentions only), estimates a slightly higher proportion of young voters in the electorate (14%). However, even if the share of the youth vote were adjusted upward, doing so has little or no impact on the overall Obama-McCain horse-race numbers using either likely voter model.

It is possible that the 18- to 29-year-old share of the likely voter electorate will grow in the final days of the election. Although interest in the election and voting intentions usually increase as Election Day grows nearer, Gallup did not observe much of an increase from mid- to late October 2004, because interest was already at high levels (as it is this year).

A second possibility for heightened youth turnout would be voter mobilization efforts. Such efforts can convince people with little motivation or interest in the campaign to actually vote on Election Day. Gallup has been measuring voter contact in its daily tracking poll this week in an effort to gain a better understanding of this important component of the "ground game" in the final days of the campaign.

As of Oct. 27-29 polling, 39% of 18- to 29-year-olds had been contacted by either the Obama or McCain campaigns. That is the same contact rate seen among 30- to 49-year-olds, but is well below that of Americans 50 and older. So thus far, in a general sense, mobilization efforts have not reached the young voters to the same extent that they have older voters.


It goes on to discuss the fact that the Obama campaign has been far more aggressive and successful at outreach to all age groups than the McCain campaign and then concludes:

While Gallup data do suggest that voter turnout among young people will be high this year (as it was in 2004) compared to historical turnout rates, the data do not suggest that it will be appreciably higher than in 2004. Even if more young voters are registered this year, they do not appear to be any more interested in the campaign or in voting in the election than they were in 2004.

Unless turnout rates among older age groups drop substantially from what they were in 2004, young voters should represent about the same share of the electorate as in the last presidential election. And Gallup's data suggest interest in the campaign and voting are the same or higher among older voters compared to what they were in 2004.

It concerns me that with Obama looking like he's winning the young voters may have another reason to blow off voting on Tuesday. I don 't think this will affect an Obama victory. I'm sure they factored in the historical data that shows the youth vote to always be a little bit hyped. And the fact is that if the same percentage of the total vote as did in 2004, with the huge growth in voters of other age groups, that spells a very comfortable victory (assuming these numbers hold up, of course.)

But I am concerned about things like Prop 8 where the young people are far more liberal and open minded than the oldies and some conservative African Americans who may vote for Obama, but also vote for a constitutional amendment to discriminate against gays. It doesn't feel like much of an election here in California --- Obama's ahead by 22 points. But it's very, very important for the young and the liberal to vote anyway to make this election a truly historic, progressive victory.

If you have time to help with GOTV on Tuesday, and help defeat the latest attempt to discriminate against people the right wing doesn't like, you can go here.

If you have some time to do a little phone banking this week-end, the campaign to stop forced childbirth and back alley abortions for 14 year olds, could use your help too. This one's losing at the moment.

Both of the propositions are ones where the young voters could really make the difference. If you know any 18 to 29 year olds in California or elsewhere, give them a call on Tuesday and make sure they get their asses down to the polls.

The Hillary Cluster

by digby

I was doing some research and came upon this article from 1998 by Christopher Caldwell, which I've blogged about before, but which now has a different set of implications from the one's I've drawn over the past few years. Before, it always seemed that it felt right in theory, but had played itself out completely differently in fact. Now it seems as though it might have been ahead of its time. I'll have to revisit in in another year and see what I think.

But in the meantime, there is a piece of this analysis that I found intriguing:

THERE is an ideological component to Clinton's success and the Republicans' failure. The end of the Cold War, the increasing significance of information technology, and the growth of identity politics have caused a social revolution since the badly misunderstood 1980s. It's difficult to tell exactly what is going on, but in today's politics such subjects for discussion as Communist imperialism and welfare queens have been replaced by gay rights, women in the workplace, environmentalism, and smoking. On those issues the country has moved leftward. In 1984 the Republicans held a convention that was at times cheerily anti-homosexual, and triumphed at the polls. In 1992 the party was punished for a Houston convention at which Pat Buchanan made his ostensibly less controversial remarks about culture war. Reagan's Interior Secretary James Watt once teasingly drew a distinction between "liberals" and "Americans" while discussing water use, and pushed a plan to allow oil drilling on national wildlife refuges. By 1997 the New Jersey Republican Party was begging its leaders to improve the party's image by joining the Sierra Club.

This is in part a story of how successful parties create their own monsters. Just as Roosevelt's and Truman's labor legislation helped Irish and Polish and Italian members of the working class move to the suburbs (where they became Republicans), Reaganomics helped to create a mass upper-middle class, a national culture of yuppies who want gay rights, bike trails, and smoke-free restaurants. One top Republican consultant estimates that 35 to 40 percent of the electorate now votes on a cluster of issues created by "New Class" professionals -- abortion rights, women's rights, the environment, health care, and education. He calls it the "Hillary cluster." The political theorist Jean Bethke Elshtain calls it, more revealingly, "real politics."

And with this new landscape of issues Republicans aren't even on the map. Because of the Reagan victory, the Democrats went through the period of globalization and the end of communism amid self-doubt and soul-searching. The experience left them a supple party that quickly became familiar with the Hillary cluster.

I don't buy for a moment that it was Reaganomics that built the mass upper-middle class, but the mass upper-middle class certainly did become Democrats who care about those issues. (In fact, the concerns of Caldwell's Hillary cluster are what used to be called "women's issues" Don't tell anyone.) The irony, of course, is that this Hillary cluster is what turned into a large portion of Obama's base ten years later --- upper middle class professionals.

It would seem, looking back, that the Democrats were building their party around them --- while keeping African Americans on board and enticing the hispanic Goliath.I would guess that if it weren't for 9/11, it would have emerged sooner. As it stands, we are in uncharted financial waters and there's no knowing what will happen to some of these upper middle class workers if things go south. But it's as true today as it was then that the Republicans simply have no answers for their questions and no solutions to their problems --- Bush won by first blurring the lines and then running as a warrior leader. It was all papered over for eight years. These people aren't going anywhere. The question is, is what they want, what the country needs?

Stop The Presses. Drudge Is A Hack.

by digby

I think it's just terrific that the media are finally seeing that Drudge is a hack, but Jesus H. Christ --- he had to start screaming that Obama was a socialist before they saw it?

For Halperin to describe Drudge as "semi-defanged" and to rib his "fifth-to-last refuge" is a seminal moment of sorts. Recall that Halperin is the person who originally coined the "Drudge rules our world" phrase.

That's not all. The Financial Times recently weighed in with a piece called "Shock: Drudge loses his grip on US media!"

Traffic? HuffPo vaulted ahead of Drudge in September, as did Politico. While those outlets' staffs are obviously far larger than Drudge's, this still represents a blow to the former ruler of the Internets.

It's worth noting that the view that Drudge's fearsome influence is a shadow of its former self was a pretty controversial view even during this cycle, the exclusive province of whacked out liberal bloggers. Eric Boehlert sounded the siren about Drudge's tumble from the throne (as we did), and Hillary-spokesperson-turned-blogger Phil Singer has been flogging this argument, too.

The simple truth is that whatever dominance Drudge had over the cable networks just doesn't mean what it once did.

Like I said, I'm glad he has lost his "credibility." But somebody needs to do some soul searching about why such a blatant, over-the-top right wing whore had such a hold on the Village in the first place and everybody acted like it was perfectly normal. It's 2008 fergawdsake and Drudge has been peddling wingnut oppo non-stop for over a decade. How he came to "rule their world" and how they came to openly admit such a bizarre outrageous thing should be the subject for an emergency blogger ethics panel. Stat.
How High Can It Go?

by tristero

By all knowledgeable accounts, the latest McCain smear target, Rashid Khalidi, is a very distinguished scholar with, agree or disagree, a very important perspective on the Israel/Palestine situation. That's why I've just ordered Khalidi's book. Perhaps more of us should.

h/t Ezra via Crooked Timber
Years In The Making: The Ground Game Revs Up

by dday

Chris Bowers says that Obama has already won the election. Thanks for depressing turnout, Chris Bowers! But looking at his methodology, he may well be right.

However, I know that the Obama campaign is not going to bask in the glory and all head off for spa treatments this weekend. They're going to work their tails off right through till the last polls close on the West Coast on Tuesday.

To close the deal, Obama and his campaign must, in some ways, work opposite of one another.

The campaign’s ground forces, the likes of which this country has never seen, must make sure that the millions they helped register actually get to the polls. They have to continue knocking on doors to ensure that complacency doesn’t set in. Obama’s workers, paid and voluntary, have not traveled all this way to come up short.

As for Obama himself, he must maintain his steady, cool demeanor, which, ironically, was once viewed as a political liability. But now it has come to symbolize the candidate’s sure hand in the middle of the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Dee Dee Myers, a former Clinton White House press secretary and now a political analyst for CBS. “If you look back, there have been so few incidents where he’s been drawn off message, or resorts to getting involved with the attack of the day. He responds — but he does so in a rational, not emotional, way.

Obama will not get in the way of his campaign in these final days. There will be tens of millions of phone calls, millions of houses canvassed, millions of rides to the polls, seeking to extract every last voter and get them to their polling place. And it's going to happen in every state in America. The ground game, which has long been Obama's big bet, is bolstered by a strong union presence, which will do their own work to reach their membership. There are new media initiatives on Facebook and Twitter. But this starts and ends with the Obama campaign recruiting over a million volunteers for these last four days. As opposed to blowing your cash on attack ads and not bothering to expand turnout.

Sen. John McCain and the Republican National Committee will unleash a barrage of spending on television advertising that will allow him to keep pace with Sen. Barack Obama's ad blitz during the campaign's final days, but the expenditures will impact McCain's get-out-the-vote efforts, according to Republican strategists.

McCain has faced a severe spending imbalance during most of the fall, but the Republican nominee squirreled away enough funds to pay for a raft of television ads in critical battleground states over the next four days, said Evan Tracey, a political analyst who monitors television spending.

The decision to finance a final advertising push is forcing McCain to curtail spending on Election Day ground forces to help usher his supporters to the polls, according to Republican consultants familiar with McCain's strategy.

Wow, is that stupid. Especially in a year where turnout will mean everything. We don't live in a culture where the electorate collectively watches TV and experiences the campaign in a one-way manner anymore.

This whole thing, the Democratic resurgence, the Obama campaign, is the realization of something started about five years ago in Burlington, Vermont, of all places, and continued in Washington after the Kerry loss, at a low point for Democrats.

His hypothesis was simple: To be a national political party, you have to compete everywhere. It was called the “50 state strategy,” and it was unveiled in 2005.

Remember 2005?

That’s when Karl Rove was building a permanent Republican majority, and when President George W. Bush was going to save Social Security by privatizing it.

In 2005, Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont, campaigned among grass-roots activists to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

Campaigned to be head of the DNC? That’s an establishment job, hand-picked.

Howard Dean? What a loser.

But politics is all about a little prescience and a little luck. Dean had both. He had the wisdom to know Democrats could win in a lot of places if they bothered to show up and make an argument. The lucky part: The public has turned on the Republican Party.

It's a simple formula, but this article doesn't fully capture what Dean did. He put paid staffers into those 50 states so he could capitalize on any opportunity. He revitalized moribund state parties and created the neighbor-to-neighbor tool that can make Democrats a presence in people's lives all year round, not just before Election Day. He helped build a voter file that now rivals Republicans' vaunted data bank. He laid all the groundwork for Obama to build on and surpass.

In many ways, Tuesday could be Howard Dean's victory as well.

...Sean Quinn at 538 has more on the McCain campaign's ground game FAIL. They aren't funding it because they don't have anything to fund.

[ Find Your Polling Place | Voting Info For Your State | Know Your Voting Rights | Report Voting Problems ]

Got Hypocrisy?

by digby

I often say that Republicans have retired the concept of hypocrisy and people titter politely, but I suspect they think it's a sort of glib slogan and not a serious observation. But I mean it literally.

Recently Michelle Malkin went ballistic over Joe the plumber's privacy being invaded. And many people pointed out that she was hardly the best messenger for such a complaint considering her own notorious history of stalking low income families to prove they weren't actually in need of government subsidized health care when they had the nerve to speak out politically.

One would have thought that would be enough for her to slither off in an embarrassed funk and let someone else carry the hypocritical wingnut banner personal privacy, but it apparently spurred her on to write a big op-ed in the mainstream media instead.

[W]hen freelance members of the Obama Goon Squad take it upon themselves to do opposition research on The One's citizen critics and rummage through government databases, where are all the privocrats? And how safe will your state tax and IRS records be if Dear Leader is elected?

Welcome to Obama's America.

Now, as it happens, I think that public employees searching through Joe the plumber's governmental records is absolutely wrong and that people should lose their jobs if they did it. It creeped me out too. And I thought the press treatment was overkill as well --- right up until the moment that Joe started grandstanding for the cameras, got an agent and started talking to people about a recording contract.

But, again, Malkin is hardly the right person to complain considering the absolutely horrific invasion of privacy she perpetrated against the Frost family. It's mind-boggling that, of all people in the right wing blogosphere, she has appointed herself to be the one to lead this story. The sheer brass of it, the unreflective audacity, is simply breathtaking.

This is why I say that they have retired the concept of hypocrisy. It goes far beyond double standards or duplicity or bad faith. There's an aggression to it, a boldness, that dares people to bring up the bald and obvious fact that the person making the charge is herself a far worse perpetrator of the thing she is decrying. There's an intellectual violence in it.

In a world in which the conservatives weren't such post modern shape shifters, we could come to a consensus on certain issues in this country --- like privacy, for instance. We could agree that it's wrong for government employees to use private information for partisan purposes --- or for the media, including bloggers, to stalk and publish private information of anyone who dares speak out for a political cause. But we don't live in a world like that.

We live in a world where the right wing ruthlessly and without mercy degrades and attacks by any means necessary what they perceive as the enemy, and then uses the great principles of democracy and fair play when the same is done to them. They leave the rest of us standing on the sidelines looking like fools for ever caring about anything but winning.

it's not that I believe liberals are purely good and decent. We have many, many faults and are almost preternaturally talented at seizing defeat from the jaws of victory before we even get finished celebrating. But failing to truly grok just how pernicious this right wing rejection of hypocrisy really is and how much power it gives them is a foolish mistake.

I think we're about to get schooled. Again. The torture loving right is dusting off its completely hypocritical "government is full of jack-booted thugs" playbook --- and it's going to drive us all completely crazy.


by tristero

Another fake success story debunked::
Two years ago, President Bush hailed Najim al Jabouri as a symbol of success in the battle to curb Iraq's sectarian violence. Today, Jabouri is a symbol of how uncertain that success is.

Last month, Jabouri quietly left Tal Afar, an ancient city near Iraq's desert border with Syria where he was the police chief and the mayor, collected his wife and four children and flew to safety in the United States.
It needs to be pointed out that the surge has reduced violence in Iraq to the point where, if it was happening in the US, we would describe it as "a total unrelenting horror-show."

Obama And Maddow

by tristero

Rachel Maddow Interviews Barack Obama. It's a fascinating, and utterly refreshing, experience to listen to an American politician answer direct questions in a reasonably direct way. One hopes she gets a chance to sit down and talk to him many, many more times. These two are meant for each other.

The viewer interested in psychology may want to focus on the opening 3 minutes or so when both participants are clearly nervous and marking their territory. For Maddow, it's because this surely is a major "get" in her career. As for Obama, he seemed off his game at first, perhaps because he was facing potentially awkward questions from the "left," which he has hardly ever encountered, and certainly not in front of an audience as large as the one Maddow reaches. (In fact, Maddow is a liberal, hardly a leftist, at least on tv.)

But soon, the frozen grins and banter disappear - with Obama trotting through a thankfully abbreviated version of his bipartisan talking point - and they settle down to business. [UPDATE: I should add that Obama very graciously provided Maddow a nice gift; the incompetent part of the GOP quote.] Unlike many of her interviews I've seen, this wasn't a discussion, with Maddow actively expressing opinions and disputing the guest's assertions. Instead, Maddow let Obama talk in detail about issues like improving the electrical grid or chemical plant safety. She did offer Obama an opportunity to go political but for the most part, Obama skillfully sublimated the political to wonkery. The message was clear: We know that the lack of chemical plant safeguards is a "classic" case of interest group influence and there's no reason to dwell on that. How do we go about fixing it?

Obama's answers on Afghanistan/Pakistan clearly concerned Maddow (and me). He dwelled almost exclusively on the need for more American troops in Afghanistan and failed to answer her question about an exit strategy. The situation is fiendishly complex: the threat of a nightmarishly chaotic Pakistan - with Pakistan's nuclear arsenal only one of the alarming confounding variables - is very, very real. Only after a long, rambling answer on the need for more troops - the part about rotating in new people to prevent the use of stop-loss was persuasive, I thought - did Obama choose to mention diplomacy.

Clearly, a President Obama - we should be so lucky - will have to work long and hard to avoid extending the quagmire that already is Afghnaistan and make sure it isn't extended into Pakistan. I'm not sure, at present, he quite grasps the entire situation and how to approach it. I don't blame him, however. The catastrophe Bush created - with the help, of course, of Karzai, Musharraf, the Taliban, and bin Laden - is so out of control there may not be anything truly helpful to be done there for a very long time. Obama is an intelligent man, to be sure, but of all the difficult challenges he will face if he becomes president, this one may be the most intractable and dangerous.

(It goes without saying that McCain has neither the intellectual capacity nor the temperament to do anything about this disaster except make it 10 times worse. Palin? Jebus, the mind reels.)

Qua interview, this was very good work on Maddow's part. She managed both to respect her subject -clearly, both a serious person and an awesomely canny politician - and also illuminate issues where Obama's thinking is by no means as focused as it must be. Could she have been more forceful and probing? Of course, but let's not forget that Maddow has already dug far deeper into Obama's thoughts on Afghanistan/Pakistan than came out, say, in the debate questions.

UPDATE: Slightly restructured after first posting. No content added or changed.

Halloween Horror

by tristero

Nobel Prize Edition:
The long-feared capitulation of American consumers has arrived. According to Thursday’s G.D.P. report, real consumer spending fell at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the third quarter; real spending on durable goods (stuff like cars and TVs) fell at an annual rate of 14 percent.

To appreciate the significance of these numbers, you need to know that American consumers almost never cut spending. Consumer demand kept rising right through the 2001 recession; the last time it fell even for a single quarter was in 1991, and there hasn’t been a decline this steep since 1980, when the economy was suffering from a severe recession combined with double-digit inflation.

Also, these numbers are from the third quarter — the months of July, August, and September. So these data are basically telling us what happened before confidence collapsed after the fall of Lehman Brothers in mid-September, not to mention before the Dow plunged below 10,000. Nor do the data show the full effects of the sharp cutback in the availability of consumer credit, which is still under way.

So this looks like the beginning of a very big change in consumer behavior. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

It’s true that American consumers have long been living beyond their means. In the mid-1980s Americans saved about 10 percent of their income. Lately, however, the savings rate has generally been below 2 percent — sometimes it has even been negative — and consumer debt has risen to 98 percent of G.D.P., twice its level a quarter-century ago.

Some economists told us not to worry because Americans were offsetting their growing debt with the ever-rising values of their homes and stock portfolios. Somehow, though, we’re not hearing that argument much lately.

Cutting Off Your Nose To Spite Your Base

by digby

As we approach this historic election --- and watch the Village start to panic at the prospect of the dirty hippies coming to town to trash the place --- I think the least we can expect from this congress is that Joe Lieberman, the man who has applauded as John McCain called Barack Obama a socialist and Sarah W. Palin as she said he "palled around with terrorists," be expelled from the caucus. Sadly, it appears they want to reward his traitorous behavior and "let bygones be bygones" even after that perfidious putz gave a major endorsement speech at the Republican convention.

From Bold Progressives:

Today, the Hill reports:
One Democratic source said Lieberman is not likely to lose his position in the Democratic caucus, even if the party picks up several seats in next week's election... "There's no sense in cutting off our nose to spite our face," one source said.
When will Democratic leaders realize that every time Joe Lieberman spouts right-wing talking points on TV as a "Democrat" or attends a Republican press conference as a "Democrat," that spites their face big-time?

So here's the plan. Immediately after Election Day, if Democrats don't need Lieberman as their 60th vote in the Senate, progressive activists in Nevada will stand in front of Harry Reid's office for hours and read your letters to Harry Reid about Joe Lieberman.

Media will be invited. It will be a grand spectacle, and Harry Reid will get the hint that in the progressive era, he needs to be bold. And the first step is to boot Joe Lieberman. Write your letter to Reid here.

It's unfortunate that we are going to have to create spectacle to make them do the right thing but it appears that they are going to pretend that Joe Lieberman is still a member of the democratic party after having spent the last year trashing everything it stands for. They are telling the Democratic base of this country that they value his sorry ass more than they do ours. It's unacceptable. There's no excuse.


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Jules Winnfield FTW

by dday

Two pieces of very good news for No on Prop. 8. First, the latest Field Poll shows the initiative failing:

Prop 8 is down by 5 points, 44% Yes, 49% No. While one would like to see these two numbers further apart, these are pretty good numbers. And as the campaign points out, Field is just about the only pollster that has a good track record on propositions, at about 94%.

All that being said, this is still going to be a tight race. One worrisome indicator is that for those who voted already, Yes is leading. So please, please, do not let up. The progressive position tends to fare better on election day, but that requires we do all the hard GOTV work. Do not quit at 6PM when some LGBT organizations in LA have ridiculously chosen to start their party. Do not quit until that last poll closes.

Absolutely correct. I don't think this proposition will work like traditional ones, where all the undecideds break toward No. It's going to come down to turnout. If you're in the state, you can help with GOTV.

The other good news is this excellent ad, their best of the year, describing the history of discrimination in California for people of all stripes, and imploring viewers not to add to that sad legacy. And yes, that's Samuel L. Jackson.

If you want to shame the Mormons and the Knights of Columbus who would rather write their intolerance into state Constitutions across the country, remember this ad. And help defeat this proposition.

Halloween Horrors

by tristero

h/t Firedoglake

No One Could Have Anticipated

by dday

That actions have consequences.

The Syrian government has broken relations with Baghdad. It has completely opened its border. This article in Al-Arabiya (Al-Arabiya is generally fairly reliable) says that the Syrians have reduced their forces on the border. That's NOT what I'm hearing from BOTH sides of the border. What I'm hearing from very trustworthy sources whom I've known for years is that the Syrians have completely withdrawn their forces from the border.

• No troops.
• No border guards.
• No police.

While the total number of foreign fighters in Iraq was never that large, they have often been deadly, particularly for US troops. And Syria was actually doing a fair job of tightening the border. But no more. Funny how air-dropping commando units into a sovereign nation can clarify the mind a bit.

So our reward for getting rid of maybe one tiny group of foreign agitators is a target on the backs of 140,000 US troops as well as untold numbers of Iraqis. That's why they call it blowback.

Heckuva job.

The Long March

by digby

Boehlert catches TNR patting the press corps on its collective heads because it's so darned tuckered from the long campaign it can't even think of anything to write about anymore. And he reminds us that he warned this would happen a long time ago:

The arrival of my year-end issue of Newsweek in December was accompanied by a palpable sense of dread. Featuring Sens. Barack Obama (D-IL) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) on the cover with the headline, "The Race is On," the issue landed with a thud, like an unwanted fruitcake amidst the holiday season. How else to respond to a 2008 campaign preview package published 98 weeks before Election Day and nearly 400 days before a single registered Democrat would vote in a primary? That, plus the fact the 2008 drumbeat was sounding just six weeks after the all-consuming midterm elections had been completed.

Am I the only one who thinks it's madness to turn White House campaigns into 22-month press events? Or is it sacrosanct along the New York-Washington, D.C., media corridor, where pontificating about politics can pay very well, to suggest that there is such a thing as too much mainstream media election coverage?

The press truly has embraced the notion of the nonstop campaign and I think has done so for increasingly selfish reasons. For political scribes, presidential campaigns used to be the sports car their parents let them take out for a spin once every four years to show off. Now it's become a case of incessant cruising, with endless preening and posing. Specifically, White House campaigns can be career-making seasons, when high-profile promotions, book deals, TV punditry contracts, and teaching positions can be pocketed.

For news media companies, presidential campaigns meanbig business; relatively inexpensive content that can be endlessly rehashed. In other words, they're good for the bottom line.

The never-ending analysis for 2008, though, has already morphed into a deafening background noise. And the press' often shallow performance last week does not bode well for the long term.

No kidding. They turned this thing into a marathon spectacle that now seems longer than world war II. And I'm quite sure that people are excited and engaged in spite of the coverage rather than because of it, which is a testament to Obama's great appeal (and the hideous reality of what the conservatives have wrought.)

The TNR article congratulates the press for behaving like adults and not hating either of the candidates, which is about the faintest praise I've ever seen. how proud they must be. But, you know, that's just another form of the village disease: when Republicans are riding high, the press buys into their entire narrative and shows outright loathing for the Democrat. When the Republicans then fail in spectacular fashion, the media boys and girls rediscover their "professionalism" and treat both parties with equal, cynical skepticism. It is a slight improvement, to be sure, but I think we can all see some problems with that formula can't we?

Their Story

by digby

Just so you know:

RUSH: We either are what we are or not. The dirty little secret is, the vast majority of the people in this country live their lives as conservatives; and given conservative leadership, they respond to it in droves. Landslide droves.

CALLER: One reason that that difference is there is because Democrats and liberals specifically have a lot easier time in public of espousing their views regardless of what other people think.

RUSH: Right, because they don't have to worry about dignity...They don't have to worry about it. That's what J.R. Ewing said, "Once you get rid of the ethics and dignity, the rest is easy...You know, they've gotten away so long as being the caring party; they're the party that cares about the downtrodden. They have destroyed... They have created the downtrodden. Liberalism has created the downtrodden and the unhappy and the miserable, and then the liberals set themselves up as their champions, say, "Only we can fix them because only we care." They don't care. They loathe them! There is contempt, by the way, for these little people. Real compassion...

By the way, we have to do a far better job of PR. I'm not denying this. Real compassion is conservatism. Real compassion cares for the individual. Real conservatism wants every individual to be the best he or she can be, with nobody standing in the way.

Let a person use what their God-given talents are, combined with their ambition and their energy and their desire and their dreams, and get out of their way. We want people to amount to the most they want to be and can be. But for those who have a legitimate problem, they have some sort of problem that prevents them from succeeding; we are all for taking care of those people. But we do not want to take normal, healthy Americans and turn them into wards of the state, turn them into dependents. We do not want to look at them with arrogant condescension. We don't look at them and say, "You're worthless. You're stupid. You're not part of the smart group. You can't get anywhere without us." We don't look at people that way. We look at people with respect, hope. You talk about hope? We hope for this country to be the best damn country it can be and you need the best damn individuals for that to happen. Conservatism is about the individual. Liberalism doesn't care about the individual. This is simple. We just have to tell the story about it.

Rush is the epitome of a conservative sweetheart --- hopeful, dignified and ethical:

The problem is just that conservatives haven't been allowed to tell their story --- they have bad PR. Maybe someday, one of them will have a radio show with over 20 million listeners for over two decades to tell it. Until that day, we can only dream of a time in the future when conservatism will have its day in the sun.

Meanwhile, be sure to take the compassionate, ethical, dignified Rush's advice or you could be brainwashed:

"I do remember reading that the highly educated are the most susceptible to being hypnotized, so that would put me in the risk group, ladies and gentlemen. And yet, I'm going to watch Obama tonight."

"If you do watch Obama tonight, here's the sign that I want you to make for your TV: 'Do not be hypnotized. You are listening to a socialist.'"

In case you're wondering, the highly educated Rush isn't using "hypnotized" as a metaphor. He means it literally.

Update: Here's some more of that compassionate conservatism from another one of the silenced majority who can't get their story out:

"[t]he reason people are poor in America is not because they lack money, it's because poor people in America lack values, character, and the ability to work hard."

Stevens v. Those Liberal Elite Jurors

by dday

Digby can maybe speak to a more personal experience with Alaska, but I'll tell you, this is exactly what I expected to happen upon his (triumphant?) return.

But the crowd at his Anchorage rally seemed to harbor little doubt that Stevens, who showed flashes of both humility and defiance, would beat his challengers. They include Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, a Democrat, who was holding a dueling rally at a union hall at the same time as Stevens' event.

There was undisguised hostility toward the federal government and the FBI at the Stevens event, with people wearing T-shirts that said "F*#@ the feds, vote for Ted."

"Anyone who thinks you can get a fair trial in the heart of liberalism, Washington, D.C., is smoking dope. He was railroaded," said Mark Kelliher, a retired engineer.

Talk radio host Rick Rydell told the crowd he knows Stevens, a D.C. jury doesn't.

"I don't particularly like it when outsiders tell me what to do," Rydell said, before Stevens took the stage. "You can kiss my Alaska moose-hunting behind."

This is just backlash politics played perfectly. The fact that Stevens has spent the bulk of the past FORTY years in Washington as a US Senator is apparently besides the point.

Obviously being convicted of a felony is a strike against your record, but it would probably be more damaging to an unknown back-bencher instead of the guy who the Anchorage airport is named after. Stevens still has a really good chance to win, even though his Republican colleagues are publicly telling him to resign. And we know that there's a credible scenario of electoral victory followed by resignation that could lead us to Senator Sarah Palin.

So help out Mark Begich if you can. He's at the Blue America page.

(h/t davenoon at LGM)

Retreating Into Paranoia

by digby

Ari Melber has written an interesting article about how the web has impacted the use of dogwhistle politics by deconstructing and exposing them. That tracks with Drew Westen's thesis that the the key to dealing with these lizard brain tactics is to lay them out so people can see exactly what they mean and then reject them.

I think there is truth in this, but it's also true that as much as the internet has made it easier to do expose political tactics, it has also created a monster with these email whisper campaigns that people believe because they tend to come from someone they know and are ubiquitous and untraceable.

This, for instance, is just amazing:

A University of Texas poll to be released today shows Republican presidential candidate John McCain and GOP Sen. John Cornyn leading by comfortable margins in Texas, as expected. But the statewide survey of 550 registered voters has one very surprising finding: 23 percent of Texans are convinced that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama is a Muslim.

Obviously, most people are not subject to nonsense like this. But 23%?

I have to wonder what happens when the right wing paranoid strain truly begins to retreat to its already insular alternate universe, reinforcing its bizarroworld "facts" over and over again in a feedback loop. It can't be good.


by digby

From the ACLU:

There is a human cost when gay couples are denied the fundamental right to marry. The stories of three couples from New Mexico demonstrate what thousands of couples in California stand to lose if their right to marry is taken away on Election Day. It is important that we save marriage in California so couples in other states can have the hope to marry, too. Please forward and share this video with everyone you know in California and ask them to vote NO on Prop 8.

I didn't write one of those heartfelt prop 8 posts yesterday since dday did such a beautiful job of it. But I will repeat something I wrote once before that I think is important about this vote: young people have the opportunity to do something very special in casting their first vote for the first African American president. But if they come out in the huge numbers we've been expecting here in California, they could also cast their first vote to directly ensure equality for their fellow man in the great civil rights battle of the early 21st century. It's a vote they will remember and be proud of for the rest of their lives.

This good for the country and good for them too. Once they've had the heady feeling of making a difference, they'll know what it is to be part of something real and meaningful and they'll stay engaged long after this election. That's what this whole ground-up, people powered politics is all about.

The Infomercial

by tristero

I generally agree with PZ that the most effective part of the infomercial was when Obama was talking about his ideas. I dislike human interest anecdotes when I think hard facts are more persuasive. It's one of the major reasons TV news is as bad as it is.

However, when the middle-class woman with four kids pointed at the door of her refrigerator and told us that that was her family's food for the week... that cut to the heart.

Looks Like Some Good News

by tristero

Yesterday, dday sounded the klaxon that Bush was gonna have the Justice Department intervene in an Ohio voting rights case. As dday wrote,"This is attempted voter suppression at the highest levels..."

Looks like good news:
The Department of Justice will not require Ohio to disclose the names of voters whose registration applications did not match other government databases, according to two people familiar with discussions between state and federal lawyers.

The decision comes about a week after an unusual request from President Bush asking the department to investigate the matter and roughly two weeks after the Supreme Court dismissed a case involving the flagged registration applications.

Federal law requires states to verify voter registration applications with a government database like those used for driver’s licenses or Social Security cards. Names that do not match are flagged for further verification. But the law provides little guidance on how these flagged registrations should be handled and discrepancies corrected.

Ohio Republicans had sought the lists to challenge voters, but the Ohio Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, refused the request, saying that numerical errors or misspellings are the probable reason for most of the discrepancies. Forcing these voters to cast provisional ballots would possibly disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters, she said, since these ballots are easier to disqualify.

Republicans then took their request to court, but were unsuccessful. The Justice Department has been in contact with Ohio election officials since early October and this week its lawyers determined they would not pursue litigation before the election, according to the sources familiar with the discussions.

Most studies by non-partisan groups have found little evidence that voter fraud is a wide-scale problem or that fraudulent or duplicate voter registration applications lead to ineligible voters casting ballots.

Maybe The Dog Ate It All

by tristero

Being essentially a craftsman by trade - ie, someone who makes stuff with his hands (and a few computers) - I often find the world of Big Money a deeply strange place. A.I.G., for example:
The American International Group is rapidly running through $123 billion in emergency lending provided by the Federal Reserve, raising questions about how a company claiming to be solvent in September could have developed such a big hole by October. Some analysts say at least part of the shortfall must have been there all along, hidden by irregular accounting.

“You don’t just suddenly lose $120 billion overnight,” said Donn Vickrey of Gradient Analytics, an independent securities research firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Well, yes, that's what I would have thought. But here's the thing: Why is this being brought up now? Isn't, "Where the hell did that $120,000,000,000 go?" like, you know, a question you ask before you agree to a loan and write 'em a check?

Then there's this:
Mr. Vickery and other analysts are examining the company’s disclosures for clues that the cushion was threadbare and that company officials knew they had major losses months before the bailout.

Tantalizing support for this argument comes from what appears to have been a behind-the-scenes clash at the company over how to value some of its derivatives contracts. An accountant brought in by the company because of an earlier scandal was pushed to the sidelines on this issue, and the company’s outside auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, warned of a material weakness months before the government bailout.

The internal auditor resigned and is now in seclusion, according to a former colleague.
WTF? Seclusion? Since when do auditors go into seclusion? I thought only great authors did that. Has anyone bothered to check this guy's bank account? Seems to me that $120,000,000,000 could buy a feller one heckuva lot of seclusion.

But we go on:
A.I.G. has declined to provide a detailed account of how it has used the Fed’s money.
Oh, really? An internal auditor who resigns, goes into seclusion, and a replacement who won't provide details, when asked, on how the new loans are being used? Something smell a little strange here? Y'think?

Now, to be fair, "The company said it could not provide more information ahead of its quarterly report, expected next week, the first under new management." Even so, one would think they would have these figures available on demand for those of us - American taxpayers - who are fronting them the cash. But let's press on:
The Fed releases a weekly figure, most recently showing that $90 billion of the $123 billion available has been drawn down.

A.I.G. has outlined only broad categories: some is being used to shore up its securities-lending program, some to make good on its guaranteed investment contracts, some to pay for day-to-day operations and — of perhaps greatest interest to watchdogs — tens of billions of dollars to post collateral with other financial institutions, as required by A.I.G.’s many derivatives contracts.

No information has been supplied yet about who these counterparties are, how much collateral they have received or what additional tripwires may require even more collateral if the housing market continues to slide.
Now, to a financial dunderhead like myself, the phrase "what additional tripwires may require" sounds like trashtalk for, "GIMME MORE MONEY NOW, SUCKERS!"

And so it goes. If you read on, you'll encounter a bewildering array of alarmingly high numbers that, as far as I can tell (admittedly, not far), really don't add up. And then::
The swap contracts are of great interest because they are at the heart of the insurer’s near collapse and even A.I.G. does not know how much could be needed to support them.
"...even A.I.G. does not know how much could be needed to support them." This doesn't surprise me in the least.

But wait! There's more:
When the expert tried to revise A.I.G.’s method for measuring its swaps, he said that Mr. Cassano told him, “I have deliberately excluded you from the valuation because I was concerned that you would pollute the process.”

I can't help but think these loans and bailouts are nothing but turbo-charged financial suction pumps that are slurping up as much cash as the rubes - you and me - are prepared to leave lying around for the slurping.

The article ends:
“We may be better off in the long run letting the losses be realized and letting the people who took the risk bear the loss,” said Bill Bergman, senior equity analyst at the market research company Morningstar.
If he keeps saying things like that, Bill Bergman may have to join that "internal auditor" in seclusion. Sounds to me like there are a lot of people making out like bandits here who will not take kindly to that kind of talk.

UPDATE: Looks like A.I.G. isn't, by far, the only bunch of creeps hoovering up the simoleons at an obscene rate.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Top Dogs

by digby

If you had a chance to see the infomercial and then the Midnight Rally with Obama and Bill Clinton, then you saw what Democrats look like when they're winning. It's been a while since anyone but conservatives have been in this position and it's nice to see. They are firing on all cylinders right now, making the case with style, looking very confident.

I'm always hesitant to allow myself to get too excited, but tonight I felt that glow of anticipation when you start to believe the bad guys might really be vanquished and better days might be ahead. It's heady stuff.

American Dream

by digby

Oh dear. It looks like he really might need a CPA and a tax break this year:

Move over Sanjaya and tell William Hung the news: Joe the Plumber is being pursued for a major record deal and could come out with a country album as early as Inauguration Day.

“Joe” – aka Samuel Wurzelbacher, a Holland, Ohio, pipe-and-toilet man – just signed with a Nashville public relations and management firm to handle interview requests and media appearances, as well create new career opportunities, including a shift out of the plumbing trade into stage and studio performances.

On Tuesday, Wurzelbacher joined country music artist-producer Aaron Tippin to form a new partnership that includes booking-management firm Bobby Roberts and publicity-management concern The Press Office to field the multiple media offers he’s received over the past few weeks.

Among the requests – a possible record deal with a major label, personal appearances and corporate sponsorships. A longtime country music fan, Wurzelbacher can sing and “knocks around on guitar” but is not an accomplished musician or songwriter, according to The Press Office’s Jim Della Croce.

Is this a great country or what?

How long before he ends up in rehab with a frappucino and a chihuahua in his hand?

Handmaids and Commanders

by digby

Tina Brown's new site seems to be featuring a lot of disaffected feminists who are leaving the Democratic party. Yesterday we had this former editor of Ms magazine extolling the virtues of Sara W. Palin.Today's "goodbye to all that" essay is from someone named Wendy Button who was a speechwriter for John Edwards and as recently as a few months ago was writing speeches for Michelle Obama. Apparently, everything changed for her in August:

It got stronger during the Democratic National Convention when I counted the substantive mentions of poverty on one hand and a whole bunch of bad canned partisan lines against Senator John McCain. Some faith was lifted after Senator Hillary Clinton’s grace during a difficult hour. But that faith was dashed when I saw that someone had raided the Caligula set and planted the old columns at Invesco Field.

The final straw came the other week when Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (a.k.a Joe the Plumber) asked a question about higher taxes for small businesses. Instead of celebrating his aspirations, they were mocked. He wasn’t “a real plumber,” and “They’re fighting for Joe the Hedge-Fund manager,” and the patronizing, “I’ve got nothing but love for Joe the Plumber.”

Having worked in politics, I know that absolutely none of this is on the level. This back and forth is posturing, a charade, and a political game. These lines are what I refer to as “hooker lines”—a sure thing to get applause and the press to scribble as if they’re reporting meaningful news.

I'm sorry, but none of this scans as truth to me. She was an Edwards staffer who then worked for Michelle, was briefly inspired by Clinton at the convention but was turned off by the anti-McCain rhetoric at the convention? And then, after watching Joe the Plumber call Obama a terrorist and a socialist, what really bothers her is that somebody then mocked him in return? C'mon.

She isn't a PUMA. She comes from the Edwards camp. She's mad because the Democrats aren't talking about poverty. So she's going to vote for the Republicans because she agrees with them on economics:

Joe the Plumber is right. This is the absolutely worst time to raise taxes on anyone: the rich, the middle class, the poor, small businesses and corporations.

Our economy is in the tank for many complicated reasons, especially because people don’t have enough money. So let them keep it. Let businesses keep it so they can create jobs and stay here and weather this storm. And yet, the Democratic ideology remains the same. Our approach to problems—big government solutions paid for by taxing the rich and big and smaller companies—is just as tired and out of date as trickle down economics. How about a novel approach that simply finds a sane way to stop the bleeding?

(How about magic?)

Then we hear a fairly standard rant about how Democrats and the press treated Clinton badly and are doing exactly the same thing to Sarah W. Palin:

Governor Palin and I don’t agree on a lot of things, mostly social issues. But I have grown to appreciate the Governor. I was one of those initial skeptics and would laugh at the pictures. Not anymore. When someone takes on a corrupt political machine and a sitting governor, that is not done by someone with a low I.Q. or a moral core made of tissue paper. When someone fights her way to get scholarships and work her way through college even in a jagged line, that shows determination and humility you can’t learn from reading Reinhold Niebuhr. When a mother brings her son with special needs onto the national stage with love, honesty, and pride, that gives hope to families like mine as my older brother lives with a mental disability

Ok. She's come to like Palin. Whatever.

But what can we conclude about this bit of incoherence?

But thank God for election 2008. We can talk about the wardrobe and make-up even though most people don’t understand the details about Senator Obama’s plan with Iraq. When he says, “all combat troops,” he’s not talking about all troops—it leaves a residual force of as large as 55,000 indefinitely. That’s not ending the war; that’s half a war.

I was dead wrong about the surge and thought it would be a disaster. Senator John McCain led when many of us were ready to quit. Yet we march on as if nothing has changed, wedded to an old plan, and that too is a long way from the Democratic Party.

Is she for the war or against it? I honestly can't tell.

It's not that I don't get that a lot of people are still torqued about the primary and have a lot of bad feelings on the feminist, working class front. These are not illegitimate gripes, even if I don't share them. But it's very weird for a liberal of any stripe, much less a political professional, to make this case on the basis of taxes and the Iraq war, no matter how disgruntled they might be with the Obama campaign. And all this seems to have come to her rather recently, for reasons that aren't clear.

It's nearly impossible for me to see what road takes you from being a John Edwards speechwriter talking about the plight of the poor and ending the war to supporting McCain and Palin who are running around calling Democrats Marxists and talking about victory in Iraq. And there is nothing in this somewhat incoherent essay that explains it.

Well, except maybe this:

Before I cast my vote, I will correct my party affiliation and change it to No Party or Independent. Then, in the spirit of election 2008, I’ll get a manicure, pedicure, and my hair done. Might as well look pretty when I am unemployed in a city swimming with “D’s.”

Whatever inspiration I had in Chapel Hill two years ago is gone. When people say how excited they are about this election, I can now say, “Maybe for you. But I lost my home.”

I suspect there's going to be a very lucrative niche opening up for these Palin Democrats with lots of wingnut welfare to go around.

It's a good career move.

Wedding Guest

by dday

I haven't done too much writing about Prop. 8 here, though I have at my other haunts. Over at Calitics we've devoted a substantial amount of time and resources to it, and we've raised over $50,000 at the Calitics ActBlue Page for Equality for All. I've been praiseworthy of the campaign at times, critical at others - I think their ads fail to put a face on who the discrimination would actually harm, and as such come off as vague and allow the theocons to distract and distort the issue ("they'll teach your kids how to be gay!!!") and drive the narrative. I've been happy that much of the progressive movement has come together to defend this attack on civil rights, and that even establishment figures like Maria Shriver and Dianne Feinstein have gone public for the cause (Barack Obama has allowed the campaign to use him in Web advertising, but there's an argument to be made that he could do more).

But instead of an analytical post (the short answer is that every single volunteer is vital because this will be an extremely close vote), I'd like to get a little personal. Today is Write To Marry Day, where hundreds of bloggers are posting about Prop. 8 and their thoughts about gay marriage and civil rights. I'd like to add my own by talking about the wedding I attended a few months ago.

It was unusual only for the fact that it was extremely casual. There was morning coffee and some pastries and other food and drinks set up on picnic benches at a park in the hills behind Berkeley, and a large field where the wedding was held. When the announcement was given for the ceremony to begin, everybody kind of meandered over to the field and stood around in a circle. The "aisle" for the couple to walk down had to be created impromptu. Eventually that got sorted out. Other than that, the event had what you might expect - two people who loved one another making a commitment to spend their lives together. It was entirely unremarkable and indistinguishable from any other wedding where I've been invited. Except for one thing.

The ceremony was conducted by Assemblymember (soon to be State Senator) Mark Leno. He is notable for having authored the marriage equality law that passed through the California legislature - twice - only to be vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger. (Just remember that the next time someone tells you he's "practically a liberal." He's opposing Prop. 8, supposedly, but has gone completely silent on the issue.)

In brief remarks, Leno talked about how the issue was not made clear to him until the Massachusetts Supreme Court rendered their decision on the law. He quoted the text of the decision at length, particularly this portion:

The SJC ruling held that the Massachusetts constitution "forbids the creation of second-class citizens." The state Attorney General's office, which argued to the court that state law doesn't allow gay couples to marry, "has failed to identify any constitutionally adequate reason for denying civil marraige to same-sex couples," Marshall wrote.

The creation of second-class citizens is really the nub of this, said Leno. By defining marriage in such a way, those who would seek to ban gay marriage tell those who wish to love one another how they can do it. But this is part of the common experience of the human condition - the desire to love another man or woman and profess a commitment to them. What is perverse - indeed, irrational and against human nature - is to defy that love and that commitment. The right to marry is a right to share in the common experience of man. It has served the nation and the world with tangible societal benefits and promotion of the family. It is a profoundly conservative virtue.

And this was a very (small-c) conservative, simple wedding, just two people - two men - and their friends and family, coming together to express their love and joy. This is what those who would pass Prop. 8 would snuff out. Indeed they are the radicals - the kind of people who would express that equality is not an American value. They have to rewrite the Declaration of Independence to fit their worldview:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…

It's really as simple as that. I was thinking while attending this wedding that I would maybe write something about the feelings it engendered, the wonderful picture of basic civil rights being expressed. But it was totally unremarkable, which is why I waited so long. It was banal, even. It was just two people that love one another among the hundreds of millions and even billions on this planet. There was nothing that special about it.

Which is why it should not be singled out and rejected.

If you can, volunteer for No on 8 or donate to their cause. It's the best investment in normalcy that you'll ever make.

More Prop Hate Prop

by digby

At this point, I'm just documenting the atrocities. Get a load of this creepy thing:

If you're in California, and were planning to take the week-end off and just enjoy the fact that Obama is ahead by a gazillion points here, rethink it:

The religious right is calling Proposition 8 its "decisive last stand" -- an "Armageddon"-like battle to pass a ballot measure that would "eliminate the
right of same-sex couples to marry."

We couldn't agree more. This fight for our fundamental rights will shape the
future of the progressive movement for decades to come, both in California and across the country.

This Saturday, several ultra-right-wing religious groups will be gathering 70,000 evangelicals together in San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium for "The Call" -- a mega-church event that will mobilize thousands of out-of-state
volunteers to get out the vote in Califonia.

These religious extremists also want to pass Proposition 4 -- the "parental notification" ballot measure that medical professionals and progressive organizations agree would endanger teen safety.

Please watch this shocking promo video for "The Call" right now. This is what
we're up against. And we need to respond with a "call" of our own -- a call to volunteer for the "No on 8" campaign and the "No on 4" campaign across California this weekend and on Election Day.

We need to match them volunteer-for-volunteer. Will you answer our
call by forwarding this web page link to your friends -- and asking them
to volunteer with you -- before it's too late?

Click here to volunteer for the "NO ON 8" campaign

At the "NO ON 8" page, please don't forget to say the Courage Campaign sent you (by clicking on "Courage Campaign" in the Netroots Challenge drop-down menu).

Click here to volunteer for the "NO ON 4" campaign

There are shifts available several times a day this weekend and on election day. Volunteers will be asked to pass out literature, call voters and/or to wave signs at important locations. There is a way for everyone to help win this together.


by digby

Chris Matthews just allowed Tom Delay to call Barack Obama a radical, militant Marxist who wants to pack the Supreme Court with communists and is far to the left of Barney Frank --- and then chided Debbie Wasserman Schultz when she said that one should consider the source when it's someone who was forced to leave Washington in disgrace after presiding over the most corrupt congress in history. Apparently what she said was disrespectful.

The right wing is working itself up into an epic frenzy of hate about Obama. And guys like Matthews aren't exactly drawing any lines by allowing these guys to spew this disgusting swill on national TV which doesn't bode well for the future. Cable news and talk radio are easily turned into cauldrons of hate for high ratings and big advertising dollars. The right wing noise machine is already working them.

And by the way --- if there has ever been a more transparent effort to bully a new president into doing your bidding than declaring that he will never cut taxes on anyone and instead wants to raise them to 90%, I can't think of one. Luckily Obama doesn't appear to be subject to schoolyard dares, but it's pretty clear that the conservatives are staking out ground way way over to the far right so they can keep the goal posts firmly right of center. And knowing the way the village operates, I expect they will have some success. See, there's Colin Powell on the left and Tom Delay on the right. If Obama stays somewhere in between, he'll be a great bipartisan president who gets things done.

Socialist Republicans

by digby

Hendrick Herzberg's column in the New Yorker is all about this "socialism" nonsense and he does a particularly good job of explaining Alaska's special brand of it:

Sarah Palin, who has lately taken to calling Obama “Barack the Wealth Spreader,” seems to be something of a suspect character herself. She is, at the very least, a fellow-traveller of what might be called socialism with an Alaskan face. The state that she governs has no income or sales tax. Instead, it imposes huge levies on the oil companies that lease its oil fields. The proceeds finance the government’s activities and enable it to issue a four-figure annual check to every man, woman, and child in the state. One of the reasons Palin has been a popular governor is that she added an extra twelve hundred dollars to this year’s check, bringing the per-person total to $3,269.

But lord how they hate the government. Alaskan Republicans will be the first in line to cash the check, while telling each other how much they resent paying taxes and want the government out of their lives.

Last night, slimy Ari Fleischer was on Larry King lying as easily as he breathes (claiming, among other things, that Obama hates Israel.) And here's what he had to say about this:

L. KING: We have a blog question for Ari Fleischer. It's from Dawn, "How does Sarah Palin's policy in Alaska of taxing the oil companies and distributing $3,269 to each citizen differ from distributing the wealth?"

FLEISCHER: Well, that's because there is no state income tax in Alaska. Nobody has to pay because Alaska has such an abundance of natural resources. The state actually gets the royalties and passes it back to its citizens.

I wish that was the case for everybody in every state. That would be a real big growing private enterprise. I'd have no problem with that.

Golly, that sure sound like some sort of redistributional scheme to me, but what do I know? (And here I thought I heard McCain and Palin railing against corporate taxes ...)

So, how does Palin explain it? Here's Hertzberg again:

A few weeks before she was nominated for Vice-President, she told a visiting journalist—Philip Gourevitch, of this magazine—that “we’re set up, unlike other states in the union, where it’s collectively Alaskans own the resources. So we share in the wealth when the development of these resources occurs.”

Oh fergawdsake...

Voter Suppression Watch

by dday

I'm still a little stunned that it isn't a bigger story that a sitting US President is ordering his Attorney General to intervene in a voting-rights case in Ohio - a case already decided by the US Supreme Court - just a week away from the election to pick his successor. This is attempted voter suppression at the highest levels, with the President essentially aiding an abetting the nominee from his own party. And if it's so much as hit page D-38, I'd be surprised. Only the ACLU appears the least bit worked up about this:

With the election one week away, this kind of intrusion represents partisan politics at its worst. In addition, challenging -- or purging -- lawfully registered voters in the days before the election invites chaos and undermines the integrity of the democratic process.

The whole letter is here.

Why is this not the talk of Democratic circles? Ohio may not hold the key to the election the way it has in years past, but injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as the saying goes. My biggest fear is that after the election, if Democrats win there will be a strong pull to say "Oh well, the system worked" and not to enact the structural reforms that are needed at so many levels, whether that means instituting the National Popular Vote or same-day registration or automatic registration through Social Security numbers or a ban on e-voting machines and a paper ballot requirement or instant runoff voting or a federal voting standard or making Election Day a holiday. The catch-22 is that a win breeds inertia and a loss means the loser has no access to the levers of power.

But when people like this have a large bearing on how elections are run, there is a serious problem afoot and it doesn't matter if the eventual conclusion seems correct.

Yesterday we told you about an effort by Indiana's Republican secretary of state, Todd Rokita, to press federal and state authorities to prosecute ACORN for voter fraud. Rokita had said a review by his office of forms submitted by ACORN found "multiple criminal violations."

But it turns out that Rokita hardly has a reputation as a non-partisan public official. In October 2002, the South Bend Tribune reported (via nexis):

Working on his own time, [Rokita] also assisted George W. Bush's campaign during the infamous Florida election recount in 2000. Rokita is proud of that, especially because the U.S. Supreme Court cited Indiana election law when it decided the election in Bush's favor.

In other words, Rokita was part of the team of ambitious young Republican operatives who flew down to Florida to help out on a bid to stymie the recount effort -- remember the "Brooks Brothers riot"? -- and ultimately put George Bush in the White House.

This is a partisan operative, one of Roger Stone's freshly scrubbed protégés, and a McCain campaign co-chair, using his office to attempt to pervert the election process. At some point, this must be fought, regardless of who wins and who loses on November 4.

What Have We Learned?

by tristero

On August 31, 2008, I wrote, in re: Sarah Palin:
How refreshing and bold! Yet another ignorant far right nut who abuses government power for personal reasons!
I'm curious. In the past couple of months, have we learned anything new about Sarah Palin?

Impolite Servants

by digby

So everybody in Hollywood hates MSNBC. (Michael Reagan gets death threats from sissy liberals every time he appears!) Whatever. But this common piece of right wing victimology is worth examining:

Actress Patricia Heaton noted that Hollywood workers too often just assume everyone they work with is a like-minded liberal. When those around her belittle John McCain or Palin, she politely reminds them that she's a Republican.

"That's what you have to do in our town," she said.

The humanity. How can she bear up under it all?

She says "Hollywood workers" which would indicate to me that she's talking about crew as well as fellow actors. And it's true that there are more liberal "workers" in Hollywood --- a lot of them are union, after all. I can easily see Patricia Heaton telling them to stop expressing their opinions around her and them having to do so since she's a (washed up) TV star. I've had many a boss do the same thing. Everybody knows the score.

But poor Heaton still feels put upon because in her mind her beautiful ears should never have to hear liberals being mean to Republicans. It's impolite. Meanwhile, liberals in this country have been subjected to conservatives slinging crap like this for years every time we turn on the radio:

LIMBAUGH: I mean, if there is a party that's soulless, it's the Democratic Party. If there are people by definition who are soulless, it is liberals -- by definition. You know, souls come from God. You know? No. No. You can't go there.

That guy is given awards and treated like a king among the conservative set --- which includes the entire Republican establishment. Just a couple of months ago both Bush presidents called the show to shoot the breeze with its "polite" host.

For the last thirty years I have been listening to politicians run as "proud conservatives" without even the slightest acknowledgment that more than half the country identifies themselves differently. (Even the Democrats go to great lengths to assure the country they aren't "latte sipping, New York times reading" liberals.) Conservatives have been shoving their philosophy down Americans' throats for decades as if it were the one true American faith and anyone who doesn't agree is a traitor.

Nonetheless, get ready to hear more of these stories of victimization, as Republicans begin to realize that conservatism is as out of fashion as mullets and padded shoulders. If they thought they were being victimized when they ran the whole government and were feted as the personification of Real America you know they are going to wallow in victimhood as if being a conservative is akin to living in the Warsaw ghetto, once they are out of power. For reasons that probably have to do with guilt and projection they seem to need to see themselves as an aggrieved minority. I say let them follow their bliss.

Here's another one right out of the Limbaugh files --- this time used by Liddy Dole.

Holy Crap, Obama Went There

by dday

I don't think he needed to, but will anybody watch this and not understand implicitly?

Maybe this is the first ad of the 2012 campaign.

But for the current one, it's a devastating comment on John McCain's poor judgment. He tried to win a news cycle, but Barack Obama just won the war.

Taken For A Ride

by tristero

Don't miss Maeve Reston's revolting hurl in the LA Times recalling the halcyon days when McCain pampered, flattered, and even healed his media entourage. It really can't be excerpted, you need to experience the lurching contractions of the whole retch.

Many of you may be embarrassed, or even repelled, at Reston's avid enthusiasm for exposing, for no reason whatsoever, her truly limitless narcissism and negative self-esteem. It really is quite remarkable: It's all her fault, she informs us, that the Straight Talk Express derailed because she asked an awkward question of St. John McCain on video tape. It's like reading the confession of one of those cultists in the homemade skirts married to that polygamist. Memo to Maeve: It's not your fault. Trust me.

Reston's personality type is ripe for exploitation by trained manipulators like politicians. Sure enough, during her embed with Papa John, me-obsessed Maeve regressed to the psychological state of a helpless child, clingingly dependent upon the good Daddy - the "other man" in her life - not to mention his generous supply of solicitious aides who provided her with band-aids for her boo-boos. (Think I"m making this up? Read the article.)

Even though you and I may perceive Reston's "journalism" as shoddy to the point of corruption, I'm sure neither her nor her editors think of it that way. Her needy personality and ambition assured her access to one of the most powerful people in the world. And that provided her paper with close=up portraits of the Maverick straight-shooterer. Where's the problem?

The problem is that this isn't reporting as it is commonly understood, but merely rank publicity flacking. Those of us who couldn't care less about McCain's holiday jaunts in the rainforests of Costa Rica are being fed hagiographic bromides rather than facts. It is impossible to get a sense either of the issues or the temperament of the politician.

One can't blame McCain for trying, I suppose, to seduce the press rather than answer questions; it is what powerful people do when questioned. And Reston herself comes across as so pitifully insecure it's hard for me to get too angry at her, either. However, her bosses, who aided and abetted this abusive relationship - abusive, that is, to the readers of the Times who are looking to be informed about the powerful - have a heckuva lot to answer for.

UPDATE: Glenn has more.

Vote Flipping

by tristero

It's not an urban myth:

Notice that after the machine gets calibrated, it still flipped a vote.

As I've mentioned several times, my elderly parents were victims of the infamous butterfly ballot down in Florida. We're pretty sure that my mom ended up voting accidentally for Buchanan while my father probably voted for Gore. Both intended to vote for Gore but got confused. While both my parents were in full possession of their mental faculties, this was a highly disorienting experience for them.

The gadget in this video is no better. The out-of-calibration machine demonstrated on this video would, if used in the election, surely confuse many voters who wouldn't think to inform an official, or might be too embarrassed to do so. Proofreading a long printout of voter choices also adds needless redundancy and complication. I don't know what the solution is, but I do know that these machines are not it.

Meanwhile, it is important to stress what may seem obvious to many of us. Everyone who votes should check, and doublecheck, their ballot to make sure that the machine has properly registered their vote. And needless to say, clear, accurate voting technology should have a place of priority on all progressives' long, long list of issues to address.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


by digby

...we did better

Acorn's Bertha Lewis thanked the progressive movement for its help today:

That may be the first time that I've really felt that our budding progressive movement is real. Very, very nice.

*I do have to add another shout out to Brad Friedman, who is our resident blogospheric expert on all aspects of electoral integrity and is the ultimate repository of useful information on the subject.

Saddleback Wanker

by digby

Now that we've invited everyone into the big tent, it looks like some people aren't going to be welcome anymore. At least if they want to get married.

Pastor Dan reports:

Rick Warren Endorses Proposition 8

I thought about giving Warren the nod for the coveted Wanker Of The Day Award. But then I realized that he's just doing what comes naturally to him, even if, as Randall Balmer points out, it's not true to his Baptist roots.

The real problem here is the endless parade of Religious-Industrial Complex consultants and activists who tell us that Rick Warren is the epitome of the "moderate Evangelical" that Democrats should be working to attract. The only problem is, it doesn't work. Cameron Strang - who was supposed to pray at the Democratic Convention in Denver - is now on the board of Oral Roberts University. Randy Brinson worked for Mike Huckabee this spring and runs what's left of Alabama's chapter of the Christian Coalition. Joel Hunter endorsed Huckabee in the primaries, and has pledged himself to "maintaining a socially conservative platform". Even the venerable Jim Wallis won't describe himself as part of a "religious left." Moving away from strictly Evangelicals, Doug Kmiec is still an authoritarian Catholic.

You just wait. On the morning after the election we will see all these so-called Christians and their lobbyists rushing to take credit for the election and telling everyone that it proves America is basically socially conservative. That's what they always do, whether Democrats or Republicans win the thing. All these alleged Republican apostates will make the case that they are right there with Obama on everything --- except, you know,stuff like civil liberties and civil rights (Nobody wants any more of that, obviously.)

Pastor Dan gives the correct analysis of the problem:

So: while Rick Warren may be a useful ally on issues such as poverty, he is nothing like a progressive. Seeking to bring him or members of his congregation into the Democratic party only serves to drag the party rightward on social issues. Coalitions are fun and all, but sometimes they need to be built around issues, rather than elections.
Of course Democrats and liberals can work with these people on issues of common interest. What they cannot do is keep whittling away at their fundamental principles in a quixotic quest to bring these people into their electoral coalition. It won't work.

Besides, it's not like there aren't plenty of religious leaders who are actually tolerant and compassionate toward their fellow man for the Democratic party to work with: