Saturday, December 20, 2008

Happier Holidays

With an Old Cuban:
  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice
  • 1 ounce simple syrup
  • 1 1/2 ounce aged rum (Bacardi 8 Anejo)
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 6 mint leaves
  • 2 ounces champagne

Muddle 6 mint leaves in freshly squeezed lime juice and simple syrup. Add rum and bitters. Shake with ice. Strain (double-strain if you don't want bits of mint in the drink) into chilled and sugar-rimmed cocktail glass (champagne, martini, or sour glass). Top with champagne, garnish with mint leaf or a sugar-coated vanilla bean.

Created by Audrey Saunders from Pegu Club days

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Levi Johnston's Mother Hit With Drug Charges

Sherry L. Johnston was arrested by Alaska State Troopers at her Wasilla home Thursday December 18, 2008 and charged with six felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance. Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston, the Wasilla 18-year-old who received international attention in September when Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, announced their teenage daughter was pregnant and he was the father. reports:

A 42-year-old Wasilla woman was arrested Thursday at her home by Alaska State Troopers with a search warrant in an undercover drug investigation. Sherry L. Johnston was charged with six felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance.

Johnston is the mother of Levi Johnston, the Wasilla 18-year-old who received international attention in September when Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband, Todd, announced their teenage daughter was pregnant and he was the father. Bristol Palin, 18, is due on Saturday, according to a recent interview with the governor's father, Chuck Heath.

Troopers served the warrant at Johnston's home at the "conclusion of an undercover narcotics investigation," said a statement issued Thursday by the troopers as part of the normal daily summary of activity around the state.

Troopers charged Johnston with second-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance -- generally manufacturing or delivering drugs -- as well as fourth-degree misconduct involving controlled substances, or possession.

Troopers released no other information, including the kind or amount of drugs, because details could jeopardize an ongoing investigation, spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Asked how long the investigation had proceeded before Johnston's arrest, Peters would only say "a while."

The Palmer District Attorney's office had no comment.

Sherry Johnston was arrested around noon and booked at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility, according to a booking officer there. She was released on a $5,000 unsecured bond just after 2 p.m.

No charging documents had been filed at Palmer courthouse by the end of the day, a clerk said.

Levi Johnston sat with Bristol and the rest of the Palin family in St. Paul, Minn., during Gov. Palin's speech to the Republican National Convention, and he joined the family on the stage afterwards.

When asked about the arrest, Palin's spokesman, Bill McAllister, issued the following statement by e-mail: "This is not a state government matter. Therefore the governor's communications staff will not be providing comment or scheduling interview opportunities."

Johnston didn't come to the door of her home on Caribou Loop Road outside Wasilla on Thursday afternoon. A teenage boy who answered the door said he couldn't provide any information.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

To Build Confidence, Aim for Full Employment

In the NY Times, :
In the current crisis, discussions of economic policy have often centered on uninspiring, short-term goals. To restore confidence in our economic future, we need appropriate, firm targets that will clearly put us where we want to be.

For example, President-elect Barack Obama has framed his economic stimulus package in terms of the number of jobs he will create. The goal is to add 2.5 million jobs, he says, by hiring people to improve our highways, fix up our schools and do other infrastructure work around the country. All of that is fine, but it does not represent a commitment to full employment — providing a job for everyone who is willing to work. As a result, confidence remains abysmal.
If the new president had a target of full employment, and if Americans believed that he could reach it, the confidence problem could be quickly solved.

The Great Depression provides an analogy. Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt had at least a vague idea that economic stimulus would help the situation, but even Roosevelt lacked clear targets for such policies during the New Deal. The economic stimulus applied was inconsistent and inadequate. Confidence waned, and the depression was longer and deeper than it needed to be.

People still remember aspects of that depression history. The Works Progress Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps tackled infrastructure projects, much as Mr. Obama proposes — but these New Deal programs were not enough to restore full employment. That history reduces the current credibility of Mr. Obama’s target of 2.5 million jobs.

On the other hand, there have been some worthwhile targets in monetary policy in recent years. A number of central banks have adopted firm inflation targets, which has helped to contain inflation expectations. Those expectations have tended to coincide roughly with the targets.

At the moment, of course, inflation is no longer the fundamental risk. Our current problems are deflation and recession — possibly even depression — and so we must rethink our targets.

An immediate shift to a full employment target may not be possible, simply because there is no confidence right now that we can hit it. While people seem to believe that central banks can control inflation, there is little consensus that central banks can prevent a depression under circumstances like this.

In a forthcoming book I’ve written with Professor George A. Akerlof of the University of California, Berkeley, we argue that current circumstances call for a couple of intermediate targets. If we can hit them, we may credibly be expected to hit the ultimate target of full employment — and keep inflation at bay. The intermediate targets should be announced forcefully, with an immediate effort to achieve them.

First, there should be an intermediate target for conventional fiscal and monetary policy, one ambitious enough to restore full employment in a typical recession. (Fiscal policy is the taxation and expenditure proposed by the president and voted by Congress; monetary policy is the province of the Federal Reserve Board.)

This target may be inadequate, however, because we are not in a typical recession. Conventional fiscal and monetary methods may fizzle, as they did in the 1990s in post-bubble Japan. After its stock market and real estate debacle early in the decade, the government of Japan moved its budget into deficit and brought interest rates down to zero. But the economy never entirely recovered, and in due course the government debt rose to 1.71 times the annual gross domestic product, versus a current multiple of 0.74 in the United States.

Similarly, we just do not know whether these measures will work in this country. That is why we also need a second intermediate target, for credit. The ability to borrow should be restored to an appropriate level for a normal economy at full employment.

This is crucial because the most salient problem in our institutions is the drying up of credit. Without credit, companies that count on outside finance will go bankrupt, requiring an impossibly large fiscal and monetary policy stimulus to achieve full employment.

Furthermore, as long as the credit crisis continues, the economy’s response to conventional fiscal and monetary policy may be drastically reduced. A person who cannot borrow, for example, is unlikely to buy a car, even if a generous fiscal policy has provided him with the needed down payment. Under the current circumstances, the Keynesian “multiplier,” the economy’s response to fiscal policy, may be unusually low. Our best econometric models just won’t tell us how low.

FOR months, the Fed has been working to expand credit, and has invented some good methods for doing so. On Nov. 25, it announced a smart method to jump-start credit, called the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility, which would issue loans, using securities backed by newly issued consumer and small-business loans as collateral. The Fed has started paying interest on reserves to control the inflationary impact of such a policy.

This plan and others like it are promising. But all the government loan programs announced so far represent only a tiny fraction of the $52 trillion of total credit market instruments outstanding. We will need to go much further and extend credit to households and businesses that would otherwise be ignored.

Along with fiscal and monetary policy, credit needs to be targeted on a scale that would get us out of our current economic mess. That’s what Washington should do now.

Robert J. Shiller is professor of economics and finance at Yale and co-founder and chief economist of MacroMarkets LLC.

Elsewhere Around The World . . . .

. . . . Life goes on as usual

The inmarch to the Nobel Banquet, 2008:

Princess Madeleine and Paul Krugman [2:24-2:37]

Friday, December 12, 2008

Van Johnson

August 25, 1916 - December 12, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What Does $700 Billion Buy Taxpayers?

On NPR, bankruptcy and commercial law expert Elizabeth Warren explains how taxpayer money is being spent in the financial bailout program. A professor at Harvard Law School, Warren chairs the oversight panel appointed by Congress to monitor the spending of the $700 billion bailout money. The committee issues its first report on Dec. 10.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Are We A Nation Of Outlaws?

Is deregulation behind the economic meltdown, or have there been prosecutable crimes?

Reuters reports:
A failure to prosecute the "villains" responsible for the financial crisis that brought the United States to its knees will leave the country without the moral compass needed to avert future crises, a Wall Street luminary said.

Pioneer hedge fund manager Michael Steinhardt is angry that the bailout of America is eroding the nation's capitalist ethos while those whose deeds crippled the U.S. economy suffer scant opprobrium, their names still untarnished.

"Something really went wrong here. We're about to enter a period where our budget deficit will dwarf anything we've seen before," Steinhardt told the Reuters Investment Outlook Summit in New York.

"What we really needed a long time ago was a recognition that there were villains apace. The evils of the financial system should have been recognized long before this," said Steinhardt, who no longer manages billions of dollars but whose counsel is sought on Wall Street and among select politicians.
While scornful of the financial executives who should have known better, he also belittled Washington for its lack of leadership and for not spelling out what the future beholds.

The current and former Federal Reserve chairmen have proved ill-prepared for the job, said Steinhardt, a former chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, where he helped promote the career of Bill Clinton before he became president.

Of former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, often criticized for keeping interest rates so low that they sparked the housing bubble, Steinhardt said he may have been stupid for a long time, "but he wasn't pernicious."

Current Fed chief Ben Bernanke is little better.

"When you see what Bernanke said five, four months ago, it's laughable," he said. "So Bernanke is not a villain but was he prepared for what has happened here? Not in the slightest."

Steinhardt, however, said Americans themselves must share the blame for running away from the debacle and for not questioning the enormous public debt the U.S. government is about to assume.

"If you cannot accept short-term pain, then you do all sorts of things to coat reality, to pretend, to fabricate, to lie. That is what has happened in American business in the last 10 years," he said.

Steinhardt, who now dedicates his time to philanthropy, still hues to the almost impossible standards that made him a legend. His Steinhardt Partners hedge fund returned an annual 24.5 percent after fees over 28 years before he shut the fund in 1995.

Steinhardt is aware of scandal and reputation. His firm was stung by a federal investigation into allegations he and others, including Salomon Brothers, tried to corner the two-year U.S. Treasury market in the early 1990s.

Steinhardt denied any wrongdoing, and paid a fine and fees of more than $70 million to settle the case.

Steinhardt asked that if the government and Americans are unwilling to prosecute by law, what are the consequences of not being responsible and holding the culprits up for contempt?

"The question is, What's going to come of this, if there are going to be no villains?" he said.

"Is Hank Greenberg a villain?" Steinhardt said, referring to the former chief executive of insurer American International Group (AIG.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), recipient of a $152 billion federal bailout after it suffered massive losses mainly on complex securities tied to mortgages that had declined in value.

He rattled off other names: James "Jimmy" Cayne, former CEO and chairman of defunct investment bank Bear Stearns Cos, whose unsustainable leverage in two failed hedge funds sparked the crisis in summer 2007.

And Richard Fuld, ex CEO of failed investment bank Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. (LEHMQ.PK: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), whom Steinhardt said he saw last week in a restaurant "happy as a hero, blowing kisses."

Finally, he asked, referring to the senior counselor of Citigroup (C.N: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) and a former Treasury secretary under Clinton. "Is Bob Rubin a villain? Still at Citibank? Is he a villain? You can't name a villain? Is this a villain-less debacle?"

Although a friend of Clinton, Steinhardt knocked Barack Obama's pick of ex-Clinton officials for key positions in his administration. The choices reveal a deep lack of substance on the president-elect's part, he said.

"We have a new president who I find to be an absolute tabula rasa in terms of his knowledge of anything," he said, referring to Obama as a blank slate.

"Pay attention to what Obama says and you will find he hardly ever says anything of consequence."

Steinhardt also railed against Congress, where the quality of intellect "is not exactly awing."

"It seems to me that the intellectual level that we are surrounded with both in government and in the industry is exceptionally low at the moment, it makes me angry."

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

We Have Another Winner!

Washington State Supreme Court Justice and Federalist Society member Richard Sanders

State Justice Richard Sanders yelled "Tyrant!" at Attorney General Michael Mukasey before his collapse. The Seattle Times reports:
Richard Sanders, a justice on the Washington State Supreme Court, has never been one to shy from controversy or blunt language. And last week, as he sat at a Federalist Society dinner and listened to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, Sanders reached his tipping point.

After listening to Mukasey defend the Bush administration's counterterrorism policies — its detainment practices at Guantánamo Bay, its interpretation of the Geneva Conventions' reach — Sanders stood and shouted "Tyrant! You are a tyrant!"

"Frankly, everybody in the room was applauding or sometimes laughing, and I thought, 'I've got to stand up and say something.' And I did," Sanders told The Seattle Times Tuesday. "I stood up and said, 'Tyrant,' then I sat down again, then I left."

It wasn't until the next morning — when he turned on the TV in his hotel room — that Sanders learned what happened after he departed: Mukasey, later in his speech, began slurring his words, slumped at the podium and passed out. He was taken to a hospital, where he was released the next day after getting a clean bill of health.

"I couldn't believe it," Sanders said of the news that Mukasey had fainted.
Mukasey's collapse occurred well after Sanders shouted at him, and the two events appear unrelated.

The dinner, which took place in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, was hosted by the Federalist Society, a prominent collection of conservative judges and lawyers. Sanders, a state Supreme Court justice since 1995, belongs to the group.

In the initial days after the event, Sanders, when questioned by other reporters, danced around whether he was the person who shouted at Mukasey. He wouldn't confirm it, nor would he deny it.

But on Tuesday, Sanders told The Seattle Times that he'd simply reached the point where he couldn't remain silent.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine there would be any mention of this in the press," he said. "But here we are."

The state's Code of Judicial Conduct requires judges to be "dignified" toward those they deal with "in their official capacity."

Asked if his outburst might violate that code, Sanders said: "Well, it's so open-ended and vague, maybe someone would think that it could apply. I don't know. I think it's a free-speech activity. In my mind this had nothing to do with my role as a judge."

Asked if it was dignified, Sanders said: "I think it was an impulse. ... At that particular time, I didn't have a chance to reflect on it. I didn't plan it out in advance. It just happened."

He left before Mukasey's speech was finished, Sanders said, because "I wasn't enjoying myself."

Sanders said he wouldn't call what he did heckling. Afterward, he said, he heard from a number of people — some supportive, others not. "Some people think it was the wrong thing to do," he said. "To other people, it was heroic."

Sanders said he now regrets what he did: "If I had it to do over again, I wouldn't."

Alternatively, he wishes he had said "Tyranny" instead of "Tyrant," "because in my mind, these policies can lead to tyranny."

Three years ago, Sanders was admonished — the state's least severe disciplinary action for judges — for violating the judicial-ethics rules in connection with a visit to the state's sex-offender treatment center on McNeil Island. The visit prompted a variety of concerns because judges are prohibited from speaking with litigants about their cases outside the courtroom.

During the visit, the Judicial Conduct Commission alleged, Sanders talked to sexual offenders and accepted documents from two of them.

In 1997, Sanders was reprimanded for speaking at a rally for abortion opponents, but that sanction was later overturned by an appellate panel.

Sanders said he took offense at what he believed was Mukasey's cavalier attitude toward the Geneva Conventions.

In his speech, Mukasey said that almost every article in the treaty is "plainly addressed to armed conflicts among the nations that signed the Conventions. It is hardly surprising that the United States concluded that those provisions would not apply to the armed conflict against al-Qaida, an international terrorist group and not, the last time I checked, a signatory to the Conventions."

Sanders, on Tuesday, said that being a signatory was beside the point. "I didn't sign the Geneva Conventions, you didn't sign the Geneva Conventions, but the United States did sign the Conventions. And that's the point, isn't it?"

He also took umbrage at the Bush administration's detention policies at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, saying: "I think it's a disgrace to hold people without charge, without trial, to hold them incommunicado."
Despite Justice Sanders's walking-back ever-so-slightly from his outburst, his spontaneous 'excited utterance' earns him this blog's highest recognition.

To Justice Richard Sanders, a Constant American, goes the Golden Picket award.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The Chicken Or The Egg, 'Six-of-One, Half-a-Dozen of the Other'?

What's responsible for the economic meltdown - Gramm-Leach-Bliley or the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933? Republicans, or do Democrats need to step up to plate for a share of the blame?

And whatever kind of game is Bill Clinton up to (and wouldn't you know that the Wall Street Journal would leap on it)?:
A running cliché of the political left and the press corps these days is that our current financial problems all flow from Congress's 1999 decision to repeal the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 that separated commercial and investment banking. Barack Obama has been selling this line every day. Bill Clinton signed that "deregulation" bill into law, and he knows better.

In, Maria Bartiromo reports that she asked the former President last week whether he regretted signing that legislation. Mr. Clinton's reply: "No, because it wasn't a complete deregulation at all. We still have heavy regulations and insurance on bank deposits, requirements on banks for capital and for disclosure. I thought at the time that it might lead to more stable investments and a reduced pressure on Wall Street to produce quarterly profits that were always bigger than the previous quarter.

"But I have really thought about this a lot. I don't see that signing that bill had anything to do with the current crisis. Indeed, one of the things that has helped stabilize the current situation as much as it has is the purchase of Merrill Lynch by Bank of America, which was much smoother than it would have been if I hadn't signed that bill."

One of the writers of that legislation was then-Senator Phil Gramm, who is now advising John McCain, and who Mr. Obama described last week as "the architect in the United States Senate of the deregulatory steps that helped cause this mess." Ms. Bartiromo asked Mr. Clinton if he felt Mr. Gramm had sold him "a bill of goods"?

Mr. Clinton: "Not on this bill I don't think he did. You know, Phil Gramm and I disagreed on a lot of things, but he can't possibly be wrong about everything. On the Glass-Steagall thing, like I said, if you could demonstrate to me that it was a mistake, I'd be glad to look at the evidence.

"But I can't blame [the Republicans]. This wasn't something they forced me into. I really believed that given the level of oversight of banks and their ability to have more patient capital, if you made it possible for [commercial banks] to go into the investment banking business as Continental European investment banks could always do, that it might give us a more stable source of long-term investment."

We agree that Mr. Clinton isn't wrong about everything. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act passed the Senate on a 90-8 vote, including 38 Democrats and such notable Obama supporters as Chuck Schumer, John Kerry, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Dick Durbin, Tom Daschle -- oh, and Joe Biden. Mr. Schumer was especially fulsome in his endorsement.

As for the sins of "deregulation" more broadly, this is a political fairy tale. The least regulated of our financial institutions -- hedge funds -- have posed the least systemic risks in the current panic. The big investment banks that got into the most trouble could have made the same mortgage investments before 1999 as they did afterwards. One of their problems was that Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns weren't diversified enough. They prospered for years through direct lending and high leverage via the likes of asset-backed securities without accepting commercial deposits. But when the panic hit, this meant they lacked an adequate capital cushion to absorb losses.

Meanwhile, commercial banks that had heavier capital requirements were struggling to compete with the Wall Street giants throughout the 1990s. Some of the deposit-taking banks that were allowed to diversify after 1999, such as J.P. Morgan and Bank of America, are now in a stronger position to withstand the current turmoil. They have been able to help stabilize the financial system through acquisitions of Bear Stearns, Washington Mutual, Merrill Lynch and Countrywide Financial.

Mr. Obama's "deregulation" trope may be good politics, but it's bad history and is dangerous if he really believes it. The U.S. is going to need a stable, innovative financial system after this panic ends, and we won't get that if Mr. Obama and his media chorus think the answer is to return to Depression-era rules amid global financial competition. Perhaps the Senator should ask the former President for a briefing.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Huckabee-Hopeful Hong Hung

GOP Stalwart Arrested in 2-Day St. Paul Prostitution Ring

The Star Tribune reports:

Peter Hong, a longtime Republican operative in Minnesota, was arrested Wednesday afternoon on a charge of soliciting prostitution in St. Paul.

Police spokesman Peter Panos said that the arrest came during the first day of a two-day sting operation during which "johns" and prostitutes responded to ads placed on the Internet and in print. Thirty-five people were arrested Wednesday and Thursday, Panos said today.

He declined to say where the undercover operation was based.

According to city and county records, Hong, 41, of Minneapolis, was arrested at about 3:40 p.m. on Wednesday and arrived at the Ramsey County jail just after 5 p.m. He was one of at least 19 men swept up during the first day of the sting, police records show.

Hong, reached by phone Thursday, said: "I don't have any comment."

Hong has been in and out of the Republican side of Minnesota politics since the mid-1990s, when he surfaced as a genial bulldog campaign press secretary for former Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn. He served as a spokesman for Gov. Tim Pawlenty's campaign in 2002 and for the Bush-Cheney campaign in Minnesota in 2004.

Most recently, Hong was a point person for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Gina Countryman, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota Republican Party, said Hong is not currently working for any Minnesota candidate.

He is the third political figure to be arrested in a St. Paul prostitution sting in the past year.

Last summer, police arrested Tim Droogsma, a press secretary to former U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, who initially attributed his arrest to a "severe misunderstanding" before pleading guilty in January to an engaging-in-prostitution charge.

In February, New Brighton City Council member David Phillips was one of nine men nabbed in a prostitution sting. His next court appearance is in August.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hillary Clinton Asks To Keep Donor Money for 2012

The New York Observer reports:

Hillary Clinton's campaign is sending out letters to donors asking permission to roll a $2,300 contribution to Clinton's 2008 general election coffers to her 2012 senate election fund instead of offering a refund.

The letter, read to me by one recipient, includes a photocopy of a handwritten note from Clinton that says, "Dear friend, your commitment has meant so much to me over the course of my presidential campaign. You were there for me when I needed you the most and I'll never forget it. I hope you'll help me continue to fight for the issues and causes we believe in by filling out the enclosed form in support of Friends of Hillary."

The form says, "I hereby verify that my 2008 general election contribution may be designated to the 2012 Senate election. I designate the entire amount to the 2012 primary election. However if I have already contributed to the 2012 primary, I designate any amount in excess of $2,300 to the 2012 general election."

"If we do not hear back from you by August 28 2008 we will automatically refund your contribution."

This donor, at least, had no intention of signing. "Of course I'm going to get my money back," the donor told me.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A Constant American Takes A Stand, Quits Rather Than Lower Flag For Helms

L.F. Eason III gave up the only job he'd ever had rather than lower a flag to honor former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms.

L.F. Eason, III, 51, out of a job, but rich of character

News & Observer reports:

Eason, a 29-year veteran of the state Department of Agriculture, instructed his staff at a small Raleigh lab not to fly the U.S. or North Carolina flags at half-staff Monday, as called for in a directive to all state agencies by Gov. Mike Easley.

When a superior ordered the lab to follow the directive, Eason decided to retire rather than pay tribute to Helms. After several hours' delay, one of Eason's employees hung the flags at half-staff.
The brouhaha began late Sunday night, when Eason e-mailed eight of his employees in the state standards lab, which calibrates measuring equipment used on things as widely varied as gasoline and hamburgers.

"Regardless of any executive proclamation, I do not want the flags at the North Carolina Standards Laboratory flown at half staff to honor Jesse Helms any time this week," Eason wrote just after midnight, according to e-mail messages released in response to a public records request.

He told his staff that he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his "doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice" and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

Eason said in an interview Tuesday that he did not typically lower the flag himself, but that, as head of the lab, he supervised the technician who did. He also trained new employees on proper flag etiquette, including a one-person folding technique he learned in Boy Scouts.

When the lab opened Monday morning, the flags were not out at all. An employee called Eason's boss, Stephen Benjamin, who worked in another building in Raleigh. About 10:45 a.m., Benjamin told one of Eason's co-workers to put the flags at half-staff.

Another of Eason's superiors later drove by the lab to make sure the flags were up properly.

No one in the Governor's Office was aware of any time in recent memory when a state employee refused to lower a flag. Brian Long, a spokesman for the Agriculture Department, said Eason's refusal was unexpected.

"We've never had any conversations like that," he said.

An ultimatum

In a string of e-mail messages with his superiors, Eason was told he could either lower the flags or retire effective immediately.

Though he's only 51, Eason chose to retire, although he pleaded several times to be allowed to stay at the lab. Eason, who had worked for the Agriculture Department since graduating from college, was paid $65,235 a year as the laboratory manager.

Several people, including his wife, argued to Eason that the flags belonged to the state, as did the lab. But Eason said he felt a strong sense of ownership.

Eason and a previous boss had sketched out the building's rough design on a napkin at the Atlanta airport in 1984 after attending a national conference on weights and measures.

He then worked to get funding for it in the state budget, and he recently helped snag state money to study building another lab.

"I designed and built that lab," he said. "Even though technically the bricks and mortar belong to the state of North Carolina, I feel very strongly that everything that comes out of there is my responsibility."

It was not the first time Eason felt uneasy about lowering the flag.

A registered Democrat who frequently votes a split ticket, he said he had no problems lowering the flag for former Sen. Terry Sanford or President Reagan. But he remembers wondering whether he would be willing to lower the flag after President Nixon's death.

He never had to make that decision, since it rained both days.

Monday was sunny. And Eason was out of a job.
To L.F. Easley, III, a Constant American, goes the Golden Picket award.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama Does Not Support Return of Fairness Doctrine

There may be some Democrats talking about reimposing the Fairness Doctrine, but one very important one does not: Presumptive presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Over at Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton reports:
The Illinois senator’s top aide said the issue continues to be used as a distraction from more pressing media business.

"Sen. Obama does not support reimposing the Fairness Doctrine on broadcasters," press secretary Michael Ortiz said in an e-mail to B&C late Wednesday.

"He considers this debate to be a distraction from the conversation we should be having about opening up the airwaves and modern communications to as many diverse viewpoints as possible," Ortiz added. "That is why Sen. Obama supports media-ownership caps, network neutrality, public broadcasting, as well as increasing minority ownership of broadcasting and print outlets."
The Fairness Doctrine issue flared up in recent days after reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was talking about a Democratic push to reinstate it, although it was unclear at press time whether that was a new pledge or the restating of a long-held position.

Conservative paper Human Events reported that Pelosi was not planning to bring to a vote a bill to block the reimposition of the doctrine.

The paper went on to say that Pelosi “added that ‘the interest in my caucus is the reverse’ and that New York Democratic Rep. ‘Louise Slaughter has been active behind this [revival of the Fairness Doctrine] for a while now.’”

But it was unclear whether Pelosi was talking about a push, or simply restating her long-held view that the doctrine should return.

President George W. Bush pledged to veto any attempt to legislatively establish the doctrine, and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told B&C in an interview last fall that there were no plans to try to bring the doctrine back.

One year ago, the House passed a bill, from Indiana Republican and former radio talker Mike Pence, that put a one-year moratorium on funding any Federal Communications Commission reimposition of the doctrine. Democrats, led by David Obey (D-Wis.), suggested that the amendment was a red herring, a nonissue and that it was being debated, such as it was -- no Democrats stood to oppose it -- to provide sound bites for conservative talkers and "yap yap TV," who had ginned up the issue.

In a Shakespearian mood, Obey said the amendment was "much ado about nothing" and "sound and fury, signifying nothing."

It was a permanent version of that moratorium, also pushed by Pence, that Pelosi was reportedly saying would have no chance.

But other Democrats suggested that the sticking point was the current administration, and some big names, including Sen. John Kerry (Mass.), talked about the possibility of bringing it back. Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) went so far as to say he would make the doctrine part of his media agenda.

The Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues. The FCC found the doctrine unconstitutional back in 1987, and President Reagan vetoed an attempt by congressional Democrats to reinstate it.

It is a sensitive topic with Republicans, who fear that Democrats will use it to try and rein in conservative talk radio, the rise of which followed the scrapping of the doctrine.

In the wake of press reports about Pelosi's comments, Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), a longtime foe of the doctrine, said its return would be "nothing less than a sweeping takeover by Washington bureaucrats of broadcast media, and it is designed to squelch conservative speech on the airwaves."

Pelosi's office had not returned calls at press time on what she said, and meant, by her comments to the paper.
This is not good news.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm Voting Republican

The Selling Off Of America

Chrysler Building on the block.
The New York Post reports:

The latest Big Apple trophy being coveted by oil-rich sovereign wealth funds is the landmark Chrysler Building.

Sources say the super-rich Abu Dhabi Investment Council is negotiating an $800 million deal for a 75 percent stake in the Art Deco treasure that has defined the Midtown skyline since 1930.

The Chrysler assets would be purchased from TMW - the German arm of an Atlanta-based investment fund that's been eager to cash out of its Chrysler stake.

The deal follows last month's sale of the GM Building and three other Macklowe/Equity Portfolio properties for $3.95 billion to a group of investors including the wealth funds of Kuwait and Qatar and Boston Properties.

As part of the Chrysler deal, sources said the Abu Dhabi Investment Council would also get part of the skyscraper's signature Trylons retail prize next door.

Tishman Speyer Properties owns the remaining 25 percent stake in the Chrysler Building and operates the landmark at 405 Lexington Ave., along with the Trylons and the newer next door neighbor at 666 Third Ave.

The Trylons space also involves retail portion, which includes the Capital Grille steakhouse and a Citibank branch.

The buildings sit on land owned by Cooper Union, which leased it in a long-term arrangement to others and uses the payments to support tuition for its students.
Recently Tishman Speyer obtained a 150-year extension of the ground lease.

Sources say the deal would leave Tishman Speyer in charge of the building, with the Abu Dhabi fund essentially acting as a silent partner.

Abu Dhabi has also partnered with Tishman Speyer in other deals around the world, sources said. Since TMW and Tishman Speyer sold 666 Fifth Ave. to Kushner Companies for $1.8 billion last year, the Atlanta group began informing the real estate community that it was ready to cash out in the landmark Chrysler Center, as well.

None of the principals involved in the deal had any comment.

Boston Properties closed on its purchase of the GM Building on Monday with investment partners Kuwait and Qatar, and will complete the purchase of three other former Macklowe properties over the next few months.

Developer Harry Macklowe was forced to sell the assets after taking a personal loan on the GM Building and other family assets to raise nearly $7 billion to buy a city package of former Equity Office buildings.

The credit markets tanked right after completing that deal in July and Macklowe was unable to refinance the short-term debt causing him to sell the four buildings to Boston Properties and return the Equity portfolio to lender Deutsche Bank.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's A Very Big Family

"Kennedys Feel Bobby-Socked: Outraged RFK Kin Say Hillary's Now 'Toast'"

So reports the NY Post:
Members of the Kennedy family are incensed over Hillary Rodham Clinton's invoking the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy to explain why she's staying in the race - and they think it could be the death knell of an increasingly desperate and sloppy campaign.

"That comment may be the last nail in her campaign's coffin," a Kennedy relative told The Post. "How can Hillary even use the experience argument when she repeatedly pushes the wrong buttons in her comments?"

An insider added, "I think people really felt that a line was crossed and that her campaign - and even her legitimacy as a politician - ended today."

Said a second relative, "She no longer has only her husband to blame for the ill-chosen comments coming from her camp."

While Robert Kennedy Jr. immediately came out in support of Sen. Clinton on Friday, others in the family's inner circle are fuming.
One cited "a perceived insensitivity" in her comment, made Friday before a South Dakota newspaper's editorial board, especially with the 40th anniversary of RFK's death two weeks away and Sen. Ted Kennedy battling a brain tumor.

"We were all sort of dumbfounded that she would say such a thing," the insider said.

There was also anger outside the family. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), a Hillary supporter, told Bloomberg News that she said "the dumbest thing you could have possibly said." And the Rev. Al Sharpton ripped the comment as dangerous.

The Kennedy family insider added: "I know that many Clinton supporters in New York and New Jersey are sickened by her comments and that they are more concerned with Senator Kennedy's health and well-being than they are her campaign anymore.

Clinton was explaining why she was still in the race against Sen. Barack Obama when she said: "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June. Right?"

Then she added: "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California."

That line, which she later said was meant to convey the fact that nomination battles can extend late into the primary season, also sparked outrage for touching upon Obama's personal safety.

It was also just plain inaccurate, say historians, noting that Clinton's drawn-out battle with Obama in a seemingly endless primary season is nothing like the 1968 and 1992 Democratic campaigns.

Bobby Kennedy was not in the midst of a long-fought primary battle when he was assassinated. He entered the race on March 16, 1968, less than three months before the June 5 shooting.

As for Bill Clinton, despite his wife's perceptions, he'd won the nomination long before mid-June 1992. The race was essentially over by March 20, when Paul Tsongas dropped out and Clinton became the front-runner with a 7-to-1 delegate lead over Jerry Brown.

Obama, meanwhile, plans to give the commencement speech at Wesleyan University's graduation today in Connecticut, replacing the ailing Ted Kennedy.

Obama will be greeted by an unprecedented amount of security. The ceremony will be closed to the public, and guests will have to go through metal detectors.

One presidential historian thinks Clinton's loose-lipped reference to assassination raises the danger of someone's targeting Obama.

"Everybody, in the back of their minds, has been thinking of this, that Senator Obama could be in danger," said Rick Shenkman, a professor at George Mason University in Virginia.

"Now it's out there. It only takes one psycho."

In a radio interview yesterday in Puerto Rico, Obama said that he had accepted the apology Clinton issued Friday and that her comment about RFK was just "careless."

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lucky It Wasn't A Pig*

Lost Parrot Gives Vet His Name & Address

Lost in Tokyo, Yosuke the parrot was able to give his name and address to get taken home.

CNN reports:
When Yosuke the parrot flew out of his cage and got lost, he did exactly what he had been taught -- recite his name and address to a stranger willing to help.

Police rescued the African grey parrot two weeks ago from a neighbor's roof in the city of Nagareyama, near Tokyo. After spending a night at the station, he was transferred to a nearby veterinary hospital while police searched for clues, local policeman Shinjiro Uemura said.

He kept mum with the cops, but began chatting after a few days with the vet.

"I'm Mr. Yosuke Nakamura," the bird told the veterinarian, according to Uemura. The parrot also provided his full home address, down to the street number, and even entertained the hospital staff by singing songs.

"We checked the address, and what do you know, a Nakamura family really lived there. So we told them we've found Yosuke," Uemura said.

The Nakamura family told police they had been teaching the bird its name and address for about two years.

But Yosuke apparently wasn't keen on opening up to police officials.

"I tried to be friendly and talked to him, but he completely ignored me," Uemura said.

* Old joke:

A New Yorker, hopelessly lost while driving through the countryside, stopped to ask a farmer for directions. The farmer was feeding pigs, dumping buckets after bucket of vegetable scraps and cut up fruit into a trough when the New Yorker noticed that one of the pigs had a wooden leg. After getting directions back to the main road, the New Yorker asked the farmer about the pig with the wooden leg.

The farmer told the New Yorker, "That's one very special pig, a real hero. He's saved my life on more than one occasion. One night a fire breaks out in the farmhouse, the pig breaks down the front door, rushes up the stairs squealing all the way, drags each of my kids out to the front of the house by their pajama collars, and then pulls me and the missus to safety. Another time, I'm plowing and the tractor turns over on me. The pig roots around, grabs me by my belt and pulls me free of the wreck. This is one helluva pig."

The New Yorker, suitably impressed, asked, "Is that how he lost his leg? Saving you and your family?"

The farmer replied, "Well, not exactly. You see, a pig like this you don't eat all at once."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Waiting For The Election Returns

Could This Be Why Hillary Won't Leave?

U.S. to Attack Iran; Bush and Cheney Plan to Solve Disputes with Iran "radically and resolutely" reports:
The Israeli Army Radio and the Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post have both quoted unnamed Israeli officials today as saying that the US President George W Bush plans to launch an attack on Iran within the next few months.

According to officials a senior member of the Bush entourage on his recent trip to Israel said that both Bush and his Vice president, Dick Cheney planned to solve disputes with Iran “radically and resolutely”.

The unnamed sources claim the only reason the US Administration has not attacked Iran earlier is because of reservations expressed from Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The sources of this report is PressTV:
Israeli officials claim that US president George W. Bush intends to launch a military attack against Iran before the end of his term.

"George W. Bush intends to attack Iran within the next few months, before the end of his term", The Israeli Army Radio and the Jerusalem Post quoted unnamed Israeli officials as saying on Tuesday.

The officials claimed that a senior member of the president's entourage during Bush's trip to the occupied Palestine last week said that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney believed they should solve the issue of Iran 'radically and resolutely'.

They, however, claimed that Defense Secretary Robert Gates' and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's reservations had so far prevented the administration from launching an attack on Iran.

Earlier, a news website close the Israeli intelligence agency revealed that during his visit to al-Quds Bush criticized Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert for not attacking Lebanon after the political defeat of Fuad Siniora's government in the recent crisis in Lebanon.
A "Clinton cohort" reports to Huffington Post that Hillary Clinton is asking key supporters (superdelegates) not to desert her during the next two weeks of campaigning, assuring them that she "won't embarrass them".

Could her subtext be, "You'll see why I haven't gotten out of the race (war with Iran), and I'll make the case that I'm the experienced 'war president', not Obama".

If true, how could she know?

Bill Clinton, as a former president, gets the same daily intelligence briefing that Bush gets. We've heard about plans for an imminent strike against Iran for a while, but what isn't available to the public, but is in daily briefings, is the most up-to-date information on U.S. military placement. If it was happening, if a military strike against Iran was operational, the Clintons would know about it.

Monday, May 12, 2008

The Price of Freedom

Pennsylvania Gets Offers For Turnpike

The Wall Street Journal reports:
At least two bidding groups submitted undisclosed cash offers late Friday for the 75-year lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, in what could represent one of the largest deals in the coveted U.S. infrastructure sector.

One of the bidding groups is led by Spanish toll-road operator Abertis Infraestructuras SA and includes undisclosed financial partners, a company official said Saturday. A person familiar with the situation said another binding bid was filed by Spain's Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructura de Transporte SA in partnership with Australia's Macquarie Infrastructure Group.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley advised Pennsylvania's government that a long-term lease of its Turnpike can cover the $1.7 billion for its annual highway and transit needs, estimating the value of the 500-mile highway at $12 billion to $18 billion.
Disclosed terms of the proposed 75-year lease of the Pennsylvania Turnpike are similar to the privatization of Chicago's Skyway and the Indiana Toll Road. The city of Chicago raised $1.83 billion in 2005 by leasing its Chicago Skyway for 99 years. Indiana, in turn, obtained $3.85 billion in 2006 through the 75-year lease of the Indiana Toll Road. Both deals allow significant toll hikes over the long run, and both were won by Cintra and Macquarie.

The proposed formula for toll increases at the Pennsylvania Turnpike includes a 25% hike set for next year. Tolls can then match inflation or rise annually by at least 2.5%. Pennsylvania's government believes such a tolling formula benefits drivers, as it won't be required to toll other highways.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Hillary's Downfall

Another Notch On Hillary's Belt of Lies & Deception

Once again, Hillary Clinton demonstrates she is a stranger to truth.

If Hillary Clinton believes that hers is an honest representation and assessment, her fitness for the job of President of the U.S. needs to be questioned.

Kathy Kiely and Jill Lawrence interviewed Hillary Clinton for USA Today:
Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed Wednesday to continue her quest for the Democratic nomination, arguing she would be the stronger nominee because she appeals to a wider coalition of voters — including whites who have not supported Barack Obama in recent contests.

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on," she said in an interview with USA TODAY. As evidence, Clinton cited an Associated Press article "that found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."

"There's a pattern emerging here," she said.
Clinton's blunt remarks about race came a day after primaries in Indiana and North Carolina dealt symbolic and mathematical blows to her White House ambitions.

The Obama campaign, looking toward locking up the nomination, stepped up pressure on superdelegates who have the decisive votes in their race.

In both states, Clinton won six of 10 white voters, according to surveys of people as they left polling places.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said that in Indiana, Obama split working-class voters with Clinton and won a higher percentage of white voters than in Ohio in March. He said Obama will be the strongest nominee because he appeals "to Americans from every background and all walks of life. These statements from Sen. Clinton are not true and frankly disappointing."

Clinton rejected any idea that her emphasis on white voters could be interpreted as racially divisive. "These are the people you have to win if you're a Democrat in sufficient numbers to actually win the election. Everybody knows that."

Larry Sabato, head of the University of Virginia Center for Politics, said Clinton's comment was a "poorly worded" variation on the way analysts have been "slicing and dicing the vote in racial terms."

However, he said her primary support doesn't prove she's more electable. Either Democrat will get "the vast majority" of the other's primary election votes in a general election, he said.

Clinton lost North Carolina by 14 percentage points and won Indiana by 2 points after competing full-out in both states. She had loaned the campaign $6.4 million in the past month. She said she might lend more.

"We should finish the contests we have and see where we stand after they're over," she said, referring to the six remaining primaries that will end June 3.

There were signs of unrest Wednesday, even among Clinton allies. California Sen. Dianne Feinstein wondered to The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, "whether she can get the delegates that she needs." Former South Dakota senator George McGovern, whose 1972 presidential bid gave Clinton her first political experience, switched his support from Clinton to Obama.
Can you spot Hillary Clinton's deception in the May 4, 2008 AP article she was citing?:
Barack Obama's problem winning votes from working-class whites is showing no sign of going away, and their impression of him is getting worse.

Those are ominous signals as he hopes for strong performances in the coming week in Indiana and North Carolina primaries that would derail the candidacy of Hillary Rodham Clinton, his rival for the Democratic presidential nomination. Those contests come as his candidacy has been rocked by renewed attention to his volatile former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and by his defeat in last month's Pennsylvania primary.

In an Associated Press-Yahoo News poll in April, 53 percent of whites who have not completed college viewed Obama unfavorably, up a dozen percentage points from November. During that period, the numbers viewing Clinton and Republican candidate John McCain negatively have stayed about even.

Huge preference for Clinton

The April poll — conducted before the Pennsylvania contest — also showed an overwhelming preference for Clinton over Obama among working-class whites. They favored her over him by 39 percentage points, compared to a 10-point Obama lead among white college graduates. Obama also did worse than Clinton among those less-educated voters when matched up against Republican candidate John McCain.

"It's the stuff about his preacher ... and the thing he said about Pennsylvania towns, how they turn to religion," Keith Wolfe, 41, a supermarket food stocker from Parkville, Md., said in a follow-up interview. "I don't think he'd be a really good leader."

Just before the Pennsylvania primary, Obama said many small-town residents are bitter about their lives and turn for solace to religion and guns.

Recent voting patterns underscore Obama's continued poor performance with these voters, who are often pivotal in general election swing states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In Democratic primaries held on or before Super Tuesday, Feb. 5, whites who have not finished college favored the New York senator by a cumulative 59 percent to 32 percent, according to exit polls of voters conducted for The Associated Press and the television networks.

In primaries since Feb. 5, that group has favored Clinton by 64 percent to 34 percent. That includes Ohio and Pennsylvania, in which working-class whites have favored Clinton by 44 and 41 percentage points respectively.

The AP-Yahoo poll shows less educated whites present a problem to Obama in part because of who they are. Besides being poorer, they tend to be older than white college graduates — and Clinton has done strongly with older white voters.

'Lacks content'

Yet political professionals and analysts say more is at play. They blame Obama's problems with blue-collar whites on their greater reluctance to embrace his bid to become the first black president, and his failure to address their concerns about job losses and the battered economy specifically enough.

Terry Madonna, a political science professor at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., said Obama lost among working-class whites in the state because his message of how this generation's time has come did not address their economic needs.

"While it's incredibly motivating and passionate and compelling, it lacks content," Madonna said. "Hillary would come in and relate to them, talk about the specifics of her policy."

Pennsylvania also illustrated the problems racial attitudes among less educated whites are causing Obama.

In exit polls, one in five of the state's white voters who haven't completed college said race was an important factor in choosing a candidate, about double the number of white college graduates who said so. Eight in 10 of them voted for Clinton over Obama, and only about half said they would vote for Obama over McCain in November.

"The scab is peeled back off," Democratic pollster John Anzalone, not working for either presidential candidate, said of the latest attention focused on Wright and Obama's denunciations of him. In video clips of past sermons, Wright has damned the United States for its history of racism and accused the government of spreading the HIV virus to harm blacks.

Obama pollster Cornell Belcher said that while working-class whites have favored Clinton, the fact that huge numbers of them and other voters have participated in Democratic contests boded well for the November election.

"I don't think there's going to be erosion in the fall of a core group of Democratic voters," Belcher said.

While less educated whites tend to vote less frequently than better educated voters, they are important because of their sheer number.

Exit polls show they have comprised three in 10 voters in Democratic contests so far, a group that cannot be ignored in a contest that has seen Obama maintain a slim lead. They made up 43 percent of all voters in the 2004 presidential contest, when they heavily favored President Bush over Democrat John Kerry.

Underlining his need to connect with these voters, Obama has geared some television ads in Indiana toward economic issues. In recent days he has turned to small events, rather than his trademark huge rallies, concentrating on the economy, including lunching with a blue-collar Indiana family while discussing their problems.

He has let cameras record him playing basketball in hopes of connecting with the passionate fans of the sport who populate Indiana and North Carolina.

The findings from the AP-Yahoo News poll are from interviews with 863 Democrats on a panel of adults questioned in November and April. It has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

The poll was conducted over the Internet by Knowledge Networks, which initially contacted people using traditional telephone polling methods and followed with online interviews. People chosen for the study who had no Internet access were given it free.

The exit poll is based on in-person interviews with more than 36,000 voters in 28 states that have held primaries this year in which both candidates actively competed. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 1 percentage point, larger for some subgroups.
Setting aside some serious reservations about the methodology of this poll, it's more than a month old, and it was done before the Pennsylvania primary. Hillary Clinton makes these remarks citing this poll weeks after the Pennsylvania poll, after the Indiana and N. Carolina primaries which she lost.

Monday, May 05, 2008

White House Press Secretary Laura Bush?

Why was Laura Bush doing (Stepford press secretary) Dana Perino's job in the first place? Where was the State Department's usual spokesman, Sean McCormack? Where are the paid employees of our government? Have Bush and Grover Norquist succeeded, bankrupted the U.S. government and drowned it in the bathtub? Has everybody left and the First Family is running the show from the residence upstairs?

I had C-Span on in real time when the First Lady walked in to the Press Room, and my second thought was, "It's a sad indictment of the voters when the wife of the President is more articulate and knowledgeable than he is", and then I realized that you can't blame the voters completely (only 49% of them) when it was a coup d'etat that put him into office. But still.

Where is everybody?

Did He Really Say That?

Another Example of How The Media is Complicit in Helping Those in Power Manipulate, Ever So Subtly, the Collective Consciousness of the Masses

On Hardball with Chris Matthews, Chuck Todd's characterization of Michelle Obama's reasons for this being the one and only time Barack Obama would run for the presidency:

Chuck Todd's rendition is not exactly what Michelle Obama said. From Vanity Fair:
But Mrs. Obama has no interest in an ongoing quest for the White House. “To me, it’s now or never,” she tells me a few days later, in Chicago, where we’ve met up again at the campaign’s Michigan Avenue headquarters. “We’re not going to keep running and running and running, because at some point you do get the life beaten out of you. It hasn’t been beaten out of us yet. We need to be in there now, while we’re still fresh and open and fearless and bold. You lose some of that over time. Barack is not cautious yet; he’s ready to change the world, and we need that. So if we’re going to be cautious, I’d rather let somebody else do it, because that’s a big investment of time, just to do it the same way. There’s an inconvenience factor there, and if we’re going to uproot our lives, then let’s hopefully make a real big dent in what it means to be president of the United States.”

And what it means to Mrs. Obama is sacrificing many of the things she holds most dear, in favor of a larger goal. Although she has concluded that this mission is worth what it takes, achieving such acceptance has been difficult, and the adjustments are ongoing.

On the campaign trail in Connecticut, the NY Times reports:
Michelle Obama told a group of supporters today not to assume that her husband, Barack Obama, would return for another try at the White House, or be any more appealing as a candidate later, if this bid falls short. “It’s not a threat,’’ she said. “It’s the reality.’’

Speaking to five sympathetic women at a Stamford diner who had been hand-picked by her campaign, Mrs. Obama described some ways that youth had its advantages. “This is the only time we will have a chance to have someone who is three years from paying off his student debt,’’ she said, “and still going to Target to get toilet paper.’’

Time spent in Washington, engaging with special interests, she noted, does not always help politicians stay in touch with working-class people or their problems. “Realistically, you get more isolated,’’ she continued.

“I don’t know if things would be the same in four years, and why wait?’’ she declared.

Mrs. Obama also expressed some concern about the impact another campaign of this type might have on her daughters. “People say: ‘We like you. Do this in four years.’ Easy for you to say. But what about those two kids who have already not seen their dad much this year?’’

At times, the conversation, monitored by dozens of reporters with cameras and pads straining to hear every word, felt like an episode from the television show “The View” — women sitting around a table dishing about their home lives and their struggles, except not once in the hourlong conversation was there any evidence of nastiness.

Mrs. Obama said she was skeptical of many of the arguments behind waiting for another round. “For Americans to say, ‘Now we’re ready for you, Barack,’ it doesn’t always work that way. Wait until he’s spent more years in Washington and he’s farther away from folks? Wait till he’s made more money? Wait for what?’’

Her listeners mostly agreed. “They want him tied up in the machine,’’ said Alexis Mitchell, a 59-year-old family therapist from South Windsor. Before the event, she had said she was in Mr. Obama’s camp because she liked the “grace he exhibits, especially under pressure’’ and appreciated his background as a community organizer.

While she voted for Bill Clinton for president, she said she was dismayed by the tone of his wife’s campaign. “I have not liked the way she bared her claws and exhibited her nasty side, saying she will dig up stuff on Barack,’’ Ms. Mitchell said.

Once Mrs. Obama arrived, she wasted little time complimenting her five companions on how great they each looked, especially Meredith Olmstead, a Darien homemaker who announced that she was expecting another child.

To Taiwo Stanback, a 24-year-old Yale University graduate who said she was juggling side jobs since her position at a New Haven nonprofit group lost financing, Mrs. Obama joked: “Oh, no you can’t do three jobs? You’re not industrious enough.’’

Trying to connect to a group that ranged in age from 24 to 59, Mrs. Obama referred to her own experience after school. “So much of what you’ve said, I’ve been there,” she said. “After my law degree I wanted to go into nonprofits, but the cost of loans from all these wonderful degrees I had made it very difficult.’’

“Barack and I just paid off our college loans three years ago,’’ she said.
Todd's emphasis on Michelle Obama's expectation of "wealth", instead of the isolation from ordinary Americans that is the life of a politician in Washington is harsh and not accurate. By suggesting Michelle Obama is preoccupied with riches ("wealth"), Chuck Todd helped the Clintons anchor a question planted by their campaign rhetoric about the Obamas' character and commitment to public service: That "Barack Obama is an elitist (even if he doesn't have money now) who is out of step with our (the Clintons' and blue collar voters') concerns."

What is significant in Todd's mischaracterization is, most politicians who have no wealth before entering public service (who are not self-made or rich through inheritance) don't get wealthy until they leave government and make good on the networking and contacts they've made from over their years of service. That is, if they get wealthy at all. If you don't have money before you get to Washington, serving in Congress can be a risky proposition, character building, because of the expense of having to maintain two homes (in your home district and in Washington, D.C.), with two sets of everything and overlapping services (furniture, cable tv, newspaper services, monthly utility bills with basic monthly fees whether you're there or not), and travel expenses back and forth to your home district.

I don't think Chuck Todd is part of any grand conspiracy, but I do think that healthy distance and boundaries between the fourth estate and the people they are covering in government have all but eroded. When lobbyists are literally sitting in offices at the White House and on the Hill writing legislation, and Scooter Libby is calling executives at NBC to complain about the coverage they're getting, and the media attends spin sessions after debates, and basically takes dictation from campaign surrogates like Terry McAuliffe and Howard Wolfson, the fourth estate is no longer an impartial chronicler to be trusted.

MSNBC's David Gregory and Ken Strickland dance with Karl Rove and a Rove impersonator

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Clinton Campaign Goes [SUBLIMINAL]

ALERT: Racially offensive language ahead!

Thursday's release on of a doctored clip from the 1992 documentary,"War Room" which has Clinton advisor Mickey Kantor disparaging Indianans to George Stephanopoulos and James Carville, first by saying that "Indianas are shit", and then that Indianans are "white niggers" was an inside job by the Clinton campaign.

How do I know and why did they do it?

The answer to the latter question explains the former:

The Clinton campaign did it to get the word "nigger" out into the public. The intention wasn't to offend Indianans or to have Indianans think that people within the Clinton campaign think Indianans are the scum of the earth (because it's so obviously a fake and can easily be denounced): It was just to get the n-word out into the public arena. Ideally, in a news venue where the word itself would be repeated again and again. Even reported as "the n-word", our minds know what the reference is to. The purpose is to create a sense of discomfort in some white voters (the undecideds) at the idea of a black man becoming President of the United States. You don't even have to connect it with Obama, because the effect is that voters see Obama and the word "nigger" becomes synonymous with him.

The effect on voters doesn't have to be much. It can be mild, but the people who are being targeted are the undecideds voters who, when they walk into the voting booth, literally are not sure which button to press/name to check off. The word "nigger" provides the motivation for choosing Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama.

If only one out of a hundred voters is influenced by a feeling that they have, for example, thinking of Barack Obama and thinking "nigger", and being uncomfortable voting for him (and because they're not even thinking of it consciously, it's just a slight increase in their physical discomfort, the effect may be mild and not even register consciously), it's enough to throw the election to her. In a neck and neck race a change of one to two percent can make the difference between victory and defeat.

It's not a conscious experience. It's a gut reaction, a slight increase in discomfort. Particularly for those people who aren't aware of the issues, but who just vote based on whether they like somebody. There's a certain percentage of people who vote that way, who voted for Bush that way, over Al Gore and John Kerry. "Which candidate would you prefer to have a beer with?", as if there's even a possibility of that ever happening.

These are people who won't vote for somebody they get uncomfortable thinking about.

The diabolical 'beauty' of this plan (unlike other critically negative campaigns, such as saying that Hillary is "polarizing" which is an overt connection that people will consciously reject or accept) is that on the surface there's no connection between the phrase "white niggers", the word "nigger" and Barack Obama. You're not using the term in any way directly connected with Obama but you are getting the word into the public awareness.

In a certain number of people, the word will automatically be associated, not consciously but viscerally, with the African-American candidate. They will think "nigger" and then they will think of the candidate. They will think of the candidate and then they will think "nigger". They become interchangeable. And the voters to whom this is happening may believe that they're not racist (and consciously they may not be), but they will be uncomfortable voting for a "nigger" for President.

In a tight race such as this, enough voters may be swayed by this tactic to make the vote go one way rather decisively.

And it's feasible, given the kind of campaign Senator Clinton has chosen to run, to think that this was intentionally done with that result in mind.

It certainly dovetails into the whispering "He's unelectable"-campaign that superdelegates have been telling journalists they're being subjected to by the Clinton campaign. And also the truly bizarre comments made in the last three days by N. Carolina's governor Mike Easley ("Hillary makes Rocky Balboa look like a pansy"), Paul Gibson, president of the Sheet Metal Workers' Union in Indiana, who said of Hillary Clinton, she has "testicular fortitude", and James Carville who said if Hillary gave Obama "one of her cojones, they'd both have two". These are not spontaneous utterances, they don't just pop out these mens' mouths. These are carefully crafted and intended for the same undecided voters who, if voting for a woman as president creates similar unease as voting for the black man, the Clintons want them to think, "Worry not, this woman makes Sylvester Stallone look gay".

There is no conceivable way that the Mickey Kantor clip benefits anyone but Hillary Clinton. Once the word ("nigger") is 'out of the barn', so to speak, the voters' discomfort has been created. All that is left for the Clintons to do is to keep up the whispering campaign, that "Obama is unelectable", only they don't have to whisper anymore because it's being discussed openly in the media. It will ring true for voters because they assume others are having the same feelings of discomfort, and won't vote for him.

Guam Recount "Imminent"

Pacific News Center reports:

The Democrat Party Nominating Committee said officials will look over the large amount of "spoiled ballots" in the coming days.

At issue is the small margin of victory of Senator Barack Obama. He beat his rival, Senator Hillary Clinton by 7 votes, but well over 500 ballots were deemed invalid during the tabulation process.

Herbie Perez, chairman of the nominating committee, said she will not certify the results because the Committee needs to ensure that all the uncounted ballots were properly identified as "spoiled."

She said officials from the Party and representatives from both candidates will meet probably Monday or Tuesday to address that issue.

Perez revealed she is also looking into the missing ballots.

More than 8,100 were printed in response to reports of shortages at precinct sites. But when the final tally came in, only a little over 4,500 ballots were used.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Obama "Temporarily" Leads Guam Caucuses

What an odd way to report the fact that Obama is ahead, but that's how is choosing to report the story:

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama temporarily led Hillary Rodham Clinton as the results of Guam caucuses are rolling out on Saturday.

With 37 percent of villages' results reported, Illinois Senator Obama led with 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent for Clinton.

The residents in the U.S. territory with a population of nearly 175,000 are not allowed to vote for president in November, but the voters are electing eight delegates on Saturday, who will each have a half vote at the Democratic presidential nomination convention in Denver in August.

Among Guam's five superdelegates, two have already pledged their votes, each to Clinton and Obama, and the rest three remain undecided.

Neither of the two Democratic hopefuls campaigned in person in the Pacific island, but they have appeared in radio and TV ads, as well as long-distance interviews.

Both of them promised voting rights for president, more affordable medical care and better economic opportunities.

Obama, in particular, wooed voters with his background of growing up in Hawaii to show his sensitiveness to the needs of islanders.

Hillary's Dilemma

How does she get people who are inclined to vote for this man...

....see this man when they look at their ballots...

ALERT: Racially offensive language ahead!

If I were Macchiavellian, and in a neck and neck race with a black opponent, and I wanted to manipulate racist attitudes, I might ask myself, "How can I get the word "nigger" into the public consciousness without actually calling him that?"

One way to do it indirectly is applying the word to a completely different group of people and creating a firestorm or setting up a straw man. For example, creating a tape where it looks as if someone on my team called Indianans, "white niggers", then release it anonymously into the public arena (on the internet, on and make sure it got reported on TV (CNN, Anderson Cooper's 360/MSNBC/ABC).

The beauty of this tactic is that it doesn't matter if it's accurate and it doesn't matter if anybody believes it. The purpose is to get the word out ("nigger") into the public consciousness. At some level, a certain level percentage of the voters will associate the word with my black opponent and that can create a reluctance to vote for him. Even if it influenced 1% of the voters, it's a significant factor in a race as close as Indiana.

It's very sophisticated, obviously very underhanded, but it can be effective, as any social psychologist can attest. [Think you're for Obama (or Clinton, or McCain)? Want to see if your unconscious mind agrees? Take the Presidential Candidates Implicit Association Test at Harvard University's virtual laboratory, Project Implicit.]

Given the kind of campaign Senator Clinton has chosen to run, I'm having a very hard time believing she isn't behind the last minute Mickey Kantor-YouTube slur video. It certainly dovetails into the whispering "he's unelectable" campaign that superdelegates have been telling journalists they're being subjected to by the Clinton campaign.

The broader implications of what this means for our country and our culture in the 21 century is unconscionable. Unless we evolve, there are always going to be those less high-minded people plotting to exploit unconscious processes for their own selfish advantage.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Is It All Over (Superdelegates Making Up Their Minds) But The Shouting?

Democrats' Suspense May Be Unnecessary

At, Elizabeth Drew reports:
The torrent of speculation about the end game of the Democratic nomination contest is creating a false sense of suspense – and wasting a lot of time of the multitudes who are anxious to know how this contest is going to turn out.

Notwithstanding the plentiful commentary to the effect that the Pennsylvania primary must have shaken superdelegates planning to support Barack Obama, causing them to rethink their position, key Democrats on Capitol Hill are unbudged.

“I don’t think anyone’s shaken,” a leading House Democrat told me. The critical mass of Democratic congressmen that has been prepared to endorse Obama when the timing seemed right remains prepared to do so. Their reasons, ones they have held for months, have not changed – and by their very nature are unlikely to.

Essentially, they are three:

(a) Hillary Rodham Clinton is such a polarizing figure that everyone who ever considered voting Republican in November, and even many who never did, will go to the polls to vote against her, thus jeopardizing Democrats down the ticket – i.e., themselves, or, for party leaders, the sizeable majorities they hope to gain in the House and the Senate in November.

(b) To take the nomination away from Obama when he is leading in the elected delegate count would deeply alienate the black base of the Democratic Party, and, in the words of one leading Democrat, “The superdelegates are not going to switch their votes and jeopardize the future of the Democratic Party for generations.” Such a move, he said, would also disillusion the new, mostly young, voters who have entered into politics for the first time because of Obama, and lose the votes of independents who could make the critical difference in November.

(c) Because the black vote can make the decisive difference in numerous congressional districts, discarding Obama could cost the Democrats numerous seats.

One Democratic leader told me, “If we overrule the elected delegates there would be mayhem.” Hillary Rodham Clinton’s claim that she has, or will have, won the popular vote does not impress them – both because of her dubious math and because, as another key Democrat says firmly, “The rules are that it’s the delegates, period.” (These views are closely aligned with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s statement earlier this year that the superdelegates should not overrule the votes of the elected delegates.)

Furthermore, the congressional Democratic leaders don’t draw the same conclusion from Pennsylvania and also earlier contests that many observers think they do: that Obama’s candidacy is fatally flawed because he has as yet been largely unable to win the votes of working class whites. They point out something that has been largely overlooked in all the talk – the Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries were closed primaries, and, one key congressional Democrat says, “Yes, he doesn’t do really well with a big part of the Democratic base, but she doesn’t do well with independents, who will be critical to success in November.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Crazy? Or Crazy Like A Fox?

What Bill Clinton's Odd Denial of Previous Day's Comment ("They Played the Race Card On Me") May Be About....Because He Surely Did Say It

Here are Chris Matthews and Chuck Todd talking about on Pennsylvania primary day:

MSNBC's pundits have a habit of bending over backwards to give the Clintons every benefit of doubt (or ignore the obvious entirely), and Chuck Todd doesn't break with that tradition.

Let's look at the story as it unfolded on Monday.

CNN reports:
Former President Bill Clinton denied Tuesday he had accused Senator Barack Obama's campaign of "playing the race card" during an interview Monday.

Bill Clinton is facing tough questions Tuesday over an interview with a Delaware radio station.

A recording of the former president making the comment is posted on the WHYY Web site.

It says he made the comment in a telephone interview with the Philadelphia public radio station Monday night.

Clinton was asked whether his remarks comparing Obama's strong showing in South Carolina to that of Jesse Jackson in 1988 had been a mistake given their impact on his wife Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign.

"No, I think that they played the race card on me," said Clinton, "and we now know from memos from the campaign and everything that they planned to do it all along."

"We were talking about South Carolina political history and this was used out of context and twisted for political purposes by the Obama campaign to try to breed resentment elsewhere. And you know, do I regret saying it? No. Do I regret that it was used that way? I certainly do. But you really got to go some to try to portray me as a racist."

After the phone interview, a stray comment of his on the issue was also recorded before he hung up: "I don't think I should take any s*** from anybody on that, do you?"

But outside a Pittsburgh campaign event Tuesday, a reporter asked Clinton what he had meant "when you said the Obama campaign was playing the race card on you?"

Clinton responded: "When did I say that and to whom did I say that?"

"You have mischaracterized it to get another cheap story to divert the American people from the real urgent issues before us, and I choose not to play your games today," Clinton added.

"I said what I said -- you can go back and look at the interview, and if you will be real honest you will also report what the question was and what the answer was. But I'm not helping you."

Clinton did not respond when asked what he meant when he charged that the Obama campaign had a memo in which they said they had planned to play the race card.

Meanwhile, at a Pittsburgh press availability on Tuesday, Obama was asked about Clinton's charge that his campaign had drawn up plans to use "the race card."

"Hold on a second,'' he said. "So former President Clinton dismissed my victory in South Carolina as being similar to Jesse Jackson and he is suggesting that somehow I had something to do with it?"

"You better ask him what he meant by that. I have no idea what he meant. These were words that came out of his mouth. Not words that came out of mine.''

Clinton commented just before the South Carolina primary that "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."

Question for Bill Clinton: Is your knowledge of these memos (the "memos from the campaign and everything" that you spoke about with Susan Phillips in the WHYY interview that you claim "show that they planned to do it all along") connected to the break-in of Obama campaign offices in Allentown on April 19, 2008, where laptops and cell phones were stolen?

The memo on the subject of race from Amaya Smith, S. Carolina press secretary for Obama for America lists news accounts of events during the campaign, and nothing else.