Saturday, January 26, 2008

Caroline Kennedy Endorses Obama

In an op-ed for the New York Times, Caroline Kennedy writes:
Over the years, I’ve been deeply moved by the people who’ve told me they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president. This sense is even more profound today. That is why I am supporting a presidential candidate in the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama.
My reasons are patriotic, political and personal, and the three are intertwined. All my life, people have told me that my father changed their lives, that they got involved in public service or politics because he asked them to. And the generation he inspired has passed that spirit on to its children. I meet young people who were born long after John F. Kennedy was president, yet who ask me how to live out his ideals.

Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.

We have that kind of opportunity with Senator Obama. It isn’t that the other candidates are not experienced or knowledgeable. But this year, that may not be enough. We need a change in the leadership of this country — just as we did in 1960.

Most of us would prefer to base our voting decision on policy differences. However, the candidates’ goals are similar. They have all laid out detailed plans on everything from strengthening our middle class to investing in early childhood education. So qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual.

Senator Obama has demonstrated these qualities throughout his more than two decades of public service, not just in the United States Senate but in Illinois, where he helped turn around struggling communities, taught constitutional law and was an elected state official for eight years. And Senator Obama is showing the same qualities today. He has built a movement that is changing the face of politics in this country, and he has demonstrated a special gift for inspiring young people — known for a willingness to volunteer, but an aversion to politics — to become engaged in the political process.

I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.

Senator Obama is running a dignified and honest campaign. He has spoken eloquently about the role of faith in his life, and opened a window into his character in two compelling books. And when it comes to judgment, Barack Obama made the right call on the most important issue of our time by opposing the war in Iraq from the beginning.

I want a president who understands that his responsibility is to articulate a vision and encourage others to achieve it; who holds himself, and those around him, to the highest ethical standards; who appeals to the hopes of those who still believe in the American Dream, and those around the world who still believe in the American ideal; and who can lift our spirits, and make us believe again that our country needs every one of us to get involved.

I have never had a president who inspired me the way people tell me that my father inspired them. But for the first time, I believe I have found the man who could be that president — not just for me, but for a new generation of Americans.

Monday, January 21, 2008

She's Nothing If Not Indecisive

Norma McCorvey, 'Jane Roe' in Roe vs. Wade, chooses a presidential candidate like she chooses sides on the abortion debate: "I'm for Brownback Huckabee Paul"

Norma McCorvey on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court with Gloria Alred in 1987

Norma McCorvey's baptism by Rev. Phillip Benham in 1995

ABC News' Z. Byron Wolf reports:
It's not as well-known as his anti-war stance, but Ron Paul - an OB-GYN by trade - is also pro-life.

This is a fact he has highlighted in Republican early primaries as he has tried to sell his libertarian, anti-establishment ethos to the Republican rank and file.

He will get a boost at an event in Washington tomorrow when the "Roe" in the Roe v. Wade 1973 court case, Norma McCorvey, endorses his bid for the presidency.

McCorvey has famously changed her mind about abortion and now the woman whose court case created current abortion law crusades against the practice. Paul is McCorvey's current choice for President, but he was not her first.

Back when the Presidential campaign was getting going, before the summer, McCorvey endorsed Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan. She even campaigned for him at the Iowa straw poll in August, which is an early test of a campaign's organization in that state.

At the outset of the 2008 campaign, Brownback was seen as the pro-life candidate of choice. But his star fell with the rise of former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who eventually won in Iowa at the January caucus.

It's interesting that McCorvey is now going to go with Paul, although, with Brownback as evidence, don't expect her endorsement to turn the public tide in Paul's favor.
McCorvey, a pathetic woman with a trainwreck of a life, should never have become the face for safe and legal abortion; a pox on any group that tries to exploit her for their cause. Any cause.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

As If We Needed Any More Proof Of A Failed & Corrupt Democracy

Edwards' Campaign Funds Frozen As Partisan Tiff Paralyzes Election Panel reports:
John Edwards, who is relying on federal money to help fund his presidential campaign, may not get any more. The list of lobbyists raising cash for the candidates, and how much they have brought in, remains hidden.

The Federal Election Commission doesn't have enough members to oversee what is expected to be the most expensive election in US history. Down to just two of its six commissioners, the FEC can't assemble the quorum of four votes required to approve federal campaign funds, enact regulations, undertake fraud investigations, or provide legal advice to candidates.

The reason: Senate Democrats have refused to confirm former Justice Department official Hans von Spakovsky to a seat on the FEC, and, in response, Senate Republicans won't let through President Bush's three other nominees.
"There are decisions that need to be made; now there is no one to make them," said Gary Kalman, a lobbyist with the Boston-based Public Interest Research Group, which favors stronger campaign finance laws.

So far, Edwards is the only top-tier presidential candidate to agree to limit campaign spending to $50 million in exchange for partial federal funding. The FEC can't approve any more money for Edwards beyond the $8.8 million it certified in December. The government has yet to disburse Edwards's money, though he can borrow against the promise of getting federal funds.

"We fully expect the FEC to meet their obligations under the public-financing system," Edwards spokesman Eric Schultz said.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

John McCain Cheated On His Sixth Grade Math Test??!??

Who knows, but you'll get it in a minute . . . .

John King and Glenn Greenwald

At, Glenn Greenwald writes:
Over the weekend, I wrote about an adulating interview which CNN's John King conducted with John McCain while riding on the storied Straight Talk Express bus. The interview was broadcast on "Situation Room" with Wolf Blitzer. In that post, I printed all of the "questions" King asked of McCain in their full, unedited entirety as broadcast on CNN, linked to the full transcript of the program, and then added some commentary.

Yesterday, I received a response from King via e-mail, the authenticity of which was confirmed in a subsequent exchange:

From: King, John C
Sent: Tuesday, January 15, 2008 5:40 PM
Subject: excuse me?

I don't read biased uninformed drivel so I'm a little late to the game.
But a friend who understands how my business works and knows a little something about my 20 plus years in it sent me the link to your ramblings.

Since the site suggests you have law training, maybe you forgot that good lawyers to a little research before they spit out words.

Did you think to ask me or anyone who works with me whether that was the entire interview? No. (It was not; just a portion used by one of the many CNN programs.)
Did you reach out to ask the purpose of that specific interview? No.

Or how it might have fit in with other questions being asked of other candidates that day? No.

Or anything that might have put facts or context or fairness into your critique. No.
McCain, for better or worse, is a very accessible candidate. If you did a little research (there he goes with that word again) you would find I have had my share of contentious moments with him over the years.

But because of that accessibility, you don't have to go into every interview asking him about the time he cheated on his sixth grade math test.

The interview was mainly to get a couple of questions to him on his thoughts on the role of government when the economy is teetering on the edge of recession, in conjunction with similar questions being put to several of the other candidates.

The portion you cited was aired by one of our programs -- so by all means it is fair game for whatever "analysis" you care to apply to it using your right of free speech and your lack of any journalistic standards or fact checking or just plain basic curiosity.

You clearly know very little about journalism. But credibility matters. It is what allows you to cover six presidential campaigns and be viewed as fair and respectful, while perhaps a little cranky, but Democrats and Republicans alike. When I am writing something that calls someone's credibility into question, I pick up the phone and give them a chance to give their side, or perspective.

That way, even on days that I don't consider my best, or anywhere close, I can look myself in the mirror and know I tried to be fair and didn't call into question someone's credibility just for sport, or because I like seeing my name on a website or my face on TV.

During our subsequent exchange, when I pointed out that this was not the first time he appeared to be reverent of John McCain, as documented by Media Matters, he said: "Go to its conservative counterpart and you will find me there, too. Comes with the territory."

Most of this speaks for itself, but it's worth noting how often journalists' responses to criticisms contain so many of the same elements which King's email contains. They always want you to know that they never read what you write and that you're an Unserious, biased, partisan amateur (without any recognition of the glaring contradiction between those two claims).

They boast of what they believe to be their reputation, assuring you that they are widely respected and admired by the People Who Count. Even though they never read you, they're repulsed by the idea that you would dare to critique their work because you know absolutely nothing about the High Art of Journalism and never get any messages on your Blackberry from Ed Gillespie or Karl Rove or Anyone.

They invariably point to criticisms from both Left and Right as proof that they're unbiased straight-shooters. They chide you for being unaware of the secret, concealed information (interview questions that weren't broadcast, paragraphs that were edited out) which somehow disproves your critique of what they did broadcast or publish.

They proudly inform you that there have, indeed, been some instances over the many decades that they've been working when they've stood up to someone and asked something other than mindlessly reverent questions, and if you had looked hard enough, you might have found a couple. They tell you it's appalling to comment on what they publish to their readers or viewers without first talking to them about it, even though you linked to or even printed in full everything they said and wrote. And they close by telling you that you have no standards, no ethics, no understanding of their Complex Profession, and no decency -- that you're just a shrill, ignorant partisan pushing a lowly agenda while they are in the business of Real Unvarnished, Objective Reporting.

Ponder how much better things would be if establishment journalists -- in response to being endlessly lied to and manipulated by political officials and upon witnessing extreme lawbreaking and corruption at the highest levels of our government -- were able to muster just a tiny fraction of the high dudgeon, petulant offense, and melodramatic outrage that comes pouring forth whenever their "reporting" is criticized. All this energized invective from King because CNN aired an "interview" with the GOP front-running presidential candidate consisting of one adoring question after the next, which I printed in full.

It's not exactly a secret that the traveling press harbors bountiful, blinding love for John McCain. That love was glaringly evident in King's "interview." Judging by his response, King quite clearly knows this, too. It's not actually that complicated. The next time you or your colleagues interview McCain, keep your affection to yourself; skip the part where you lavish him with praise; exercise journalistic skepticism; and just ask real questions.

-- Glenn Greenwald
Here we have yet another journalist with a mainstream media outlet who believes that if both the left and the right complain, he must be doing a good job.

I can't think of any other profession where the measure for how well you're doing your job is by the number of dissatisfied customers you are creating.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cloned Animals May Be Used for Food in U.S., FDA Says

And like the rest of our altered food supplies, labeling won't be required.

The Food and Drug Administration has concluded that milk and meat from cloned animals, such as these cows, should be allowed on the market. That stance has raised a debate over whether food from clones that are raised organically could still carry the organic label. (PRNewsFoto/ViaGen)

Reuters reports:
While the science appears to have come down on the side of the cloning industry, the technology remains controversial, even within the agriculture industry.

Some dairy firms oppose cloning, betting that consumers will shun goods they see linked to cloning technology.

Others believe that more investigation is needed to conclude cloning is safe -- especially after a year in which consumer confidence was marred by numerous food scares -- or oppose it on moral or religious grounds.
"Despite widespread public disapproval, FDA is not planning to require labeling of The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ruled food from certain cloned animals and their offspring is as safe as other food, opening the door to using the controversial technology in the U.S. food supply.

The FDA confirmed preliminary findings in a final risk assessment on cloning on Tuesday.

"Extensive evaluation of the available data has not identified any subtle hazards that might indicate food consumption risks in healthy clones of cattle, swine or goats," the agency wrote.

The FDA said it did not have enough information, however, to make the same assertion about cloned sheep.

The FDA ruling is the latest twist after years of debate over the reproductive technology, which advocates say will provide consumers with top-quality food by replicating prized animals that can breed highly productive offspring.

The cloning industry, made up so far of only a handful of firms, expects that it will be the offspring of cloned animals, not the costly clones themselves, that would eventually provide meat or milk to U.S. consumers.

There are currently about 570 cloned animals in the United States, but the livestock industry has so far followed a voluntary ban on marketing food from the animals.

It could take four or five years before consumers are able to buy products derived from cloned animals.

products from cloned animals, keeping already wary consumers in the dark," Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group, said in a statement.

Greg Jaffe, director of biotechnology at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, says the cloning industry must now convince the public why cloning is useful.

"Just because the technology is safe, it doesn't mean that as a society there is reason to embrace it," he said.

Jaffe expects Congress or some states may try to impose additional restrictions on marketing or labeling.

The Senate has passed a bill, which must be merged with a House bill and approved by the president, that would delay FDA approval until after more studies are completed.

Several major food companies quickly stated that they are not signing up, at least right away. Tyson Foods Inc, the largest U.S. meat producer, said on Tuesday it has no immediate plans to buy cloned livestock.

The FDA cloning decision comes as biotechnology becomes an ever more important part of global agriculture.

Last week, the European Food Safety Authority made an interim ruling about food from cloned animals and their offspring, saying it was unlikely there was any difference from food derived from traditionally bred animals.
Meanwhile, the BBC reports on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean:
An influential Italian farmers' union has threatened to challenge an EU report that says products from cloned animals are probably safe.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) says it is "very unlikely" that such food is any different from that from conventionally bred animals.

But the Italian farmers' group Coldiretti believes cloned foods would pose an "unacceptable risk".
The Washington Post reports that consumer groups object to FDA approval of cloned food:
Reaction from consumer groups was quick and largely negative today as word spread that the Food and Drug Administration had concluded that milk and meat from cloned farm animals is safe to eat.

The agency's final report, to be released today, makes it likely that food from clones and their offspring will start making its way into the food supply over the next few years.

But opponents, and in particular people and organizations concerned about the health and welfare of cloned animals, raised objections immediately.

"Despite the fact that cloned animals suffer high mortality rates and those who survive are often plagued with birth defects and diseases, the FDA did not give adequate consideration to the welfare of these animals or their surrogate mothers in its deliberations," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. "Furthermore, no regulations exist in the United States that protect farm animals during cloning research."

"The Food and Drug Administration's decision to allow the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals leaves consumers at risk and releases another questionable technology into the food supply," added Patty Lovera of Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer rights organization.

The long-awaited FDA report concludes that foods from healthy cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as those from ordinary animals, effectively removing the last U.S. regulatory barrier to the marketing of meat and milk from cloned cattle, pigs and goats.

The 968-page "final risk assessment," finds no evidence to support opponents' concerns that food from clones may harbor hidden risks.

But, recognizing that a majority of consumers are wary of food from clones -- and that cloning could undermine the wholesome image of American milk and meat -- the agency report includes hundreds of pages of raw data so that others can see how it came to its conclusions.

The report also acknowledges that human health concerns are not the only issues raised by the emergence of cloned farm animals.

"Moral, religious and ethical concerns . . . have been raised," the agency notes in a document accompanying the report. But the risk assessment is "strictly a science-based evaluation," it reports, because the agency is not authorized by law to consider those issues.

In practice, it will be years before foods from clones make their way to store shelves in appreciable quantities, in part because the clones themselves are too valuable to slaughter or milk. Instead, the pricey animals -- replicas of some of the finest farm animals ever born -- will be used primarily as breeding stock to create what proponents say will be a new generation of superior farm animals.

When food from those animals hits the market, the public may yet have its say. FDA officials have said they do not expect to require food from clones to be labeled as such, but they may allow foods from ordinary animals to be labeled as not from clones.
The concern that eating products from such animals may be unsafe is not unfounded:

The original cloned animal, Dolly. Suffering from an incurable lung disease, she was euthanized at an early age. She is seen here stuffed and displayed at the National Museums of Scotland. Photo: Trustees of National Museums Scotland

Clones not only don't live as long, but they contract diseases not seen in the 'parent'. There clearly are differences between the original and the clone, and the consumption of clones can't be declared as 'safe' simply because scientists haven't identified any problems in the short term. The only testing that has been done has been on the animals; not on humans who have eaten clones. Without bans or any regulations at all, there is nothing to prevent the industry from introducing cloned products into the food chain without notifying consumers. Currently under consideration is a public relations campaign to "educate" to raise the consumer's "comfort level" (lull the consumer into acquiescence).

Bloomberg reports:
Registering Clones

The major producers of cloned animals, ViaGen Inc. and Trans Ova Genetics, have pledged to register all of their livestock clones so food manufacturers can exclude the animals if they choose, though the program won't apply to the natural-born offspring of replicated animals. Testing for this link is impossible, and it shouldn't make consumers wary of eating meat and dairy products, ViaGen Chief Executive Officer Mark Walton said in a Dec. 19 phone interview.

``If you were to go ask a consumer today if they were concerned about offspring, they would say `Of course I am,''' Walton said. ``When you educate and provide the information and help them understand that progeny and offspring are not cloned, the comfort level goes way, way up.''

Industry groups, including the American Meat Institute, the National Milk Producers Federation, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, have said they support registering clones as a way to ease public queasiness.

650 Live Clones

There are now an estimated 650 live clones in the U.S., mostly cattle produced by Austin, Texas-based ViaGen and Trans Ova, of Sioux Center, Iowa. The companies charge about $13,500 to copy a cow, and they expect the clones to be used exclusively for breeding bigger, stronger and perhaps tastier herds.

Cloning allows ranchers to replicate a prize-winning animal or replace one that is injured or aging. About 80 percent of ViaGen's animals so far have gone into the entertainment business as rodeo horses, bucking bulls and show cows. The rest went to ranchers betting the FDA would repeal the voluntary moratorium on sale of food from clones and their offspring.

Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat who has raised objections to cloned food, sent a letter in December to FDA Commissioner Andrew von Eschenbach telling him not to ``pull a fast one'' by acting on cloned foods without conducting additional studies sought by lawmakers.

The Senate included an amendment that would have required more study of cloning in a $286 billion farm bill that awaits negotiation with the House. Congress earlier added language urging the FDA to delay action in an omnibus spending measure signed by President George W. Bush.

The Center for Food Safety has also challenged the agency's review of the scientific data supporting cloned food. The FDA relied on incomplete evidence and misrepresented its findings, the Washington-based consumer group said in a 32-page critique submitted among the public comments.

Call for Hearings

``Congress should hold hearings on the animal-welfare, ethical, and environmental implications of cloning,'' said Gregory Jaffe, director of biotechnology for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, in Washington, in an e-mail today. ``FDA is charged with assessing the safety issues surrounding animal cloning. It is not the agency's job to address other objections that make cloned animals controversial.''
It looks as if we will be unsuspecting guinea pigs.

A Little Perspective On Martin Luther King's Birthday

A censored clip, never broadcast, from a 1974 Merv Griffin Show.

Former presidential candidate Pat Paulsen:

It's taken thirty-three years to get from there to here:

...and we still can't talk about race and ethnicity without someone's hackles getting raised.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Democrats' New Front-Runner, Fresh Out of the Gate

From the New York Observer:

Referring to his new status as the Democratic front-runner, Barack Obama said: "This feels good. It's just like I imagined it when I was talking to my kindergarten teacher."

Barack Obama and the Speech That Launched a Thousand "SHEE-IT!"s

The speech did nothing for me, but apparently it did plenty for his supporters and pundits across the political spectrum:

I think Obama's read on what his win in Iowa meant, and on where Americans are at ("hope over fear", "unity over divisiveness", "moving beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger in Washington") is his speechwriter's fantasy. I hear that it helps to be in the room when Obama gives a speech, in order to understand his appeal.


You know, they said this day would never come.

They said our sights were set too high. They said this country was too divided, too disillusioned to ever come together around a common purpose.

But on this January night, at this defining moment in history, you have done what the cynics said we couldn't do.

You have done what the state of New Hampshire can do in five days. You have done what America can do in this new year, 2008.

In lines that stretched around schools and churches, in small towns and in big cities, you came together as Democrats, Republicans and independents, to stand up and say that we are one nation. We are one people. And our time for change has come.

You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that's consumed Washington.

To end the political strategy that's been all about division, and instead make it about addition. To build a coalition for change that stretches through red states and blue states.

Because that's how we'll win in November, and that's how we'll finally meet the challenges that we face as a nation.

We are choosing hope over fear.

We're choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.

You said the time has come to tell the lobbyists who think their money and their influence speak louder than our voices that they don't own this government -- we do. And we are here to take it back.

The time has come for a president who will be honest about the choices and the challenges we face, who will listen to you and learn from you, even when we disagree, who won't just tell you what you want to hear, but what you need to know.

And in New Hampshire, if you give me the same chance that Iowa did tonight, I will be that president for America.

I'll be a president who finally makes health care affordable and available to every single American, the same way I expanded health care in Illinois, by...

... by bringing Democrats and Republicans together to get the job done. I'll be a president who ends the tax breaks for companies that ship our jobs overseas and put a middle-class tax cut into the pockets of working Americans who deserve it.

I'll be a president who harnesses the ingenuity of farmers and scientists and entrepreneurs to free this nation from the tyranny of oil once and for all.

And I'll be a president who ends this war in Iraq and finally brings our troops home...

... who restores our moral standing, who understands that 9/11 is not a way to scare up votes but a challenge that should unite America and the world against the common threats of the 21st century.

Common threats of terrorism and nuclear weapons, climate change and poverty, genocide and disease.

Tonight, we are one step closer to that vision of America because of what you did here in Iowa.

And so I'd especially like to thank the organizers and the precinct captains, the volunteers and the staff who made this all possible.

And while I'm at it on thank yous, I think it makes sense for me to thank the love of my life, the rock of the Obama family, the closer on the campaign trail.

Give it up for Michelle Obama.

I know you didn't do this for me. You did this -- you did this because you believed so deeply in the most American of ideas -- that in the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it.

I know this. I know this because while I may be standing here tonight, I'll never forget that my journey began on the streets of Chicago doing what so many of you have done for this campaign and all the campaigns here in Iowa, organizing and working and fighting to make people's lives just a little bit better.

I know how hard it is. It comes with little sleep, little pay and a lot of sacrifice. There are days of disappointment. But sometimes, just sometimes, there are nights like this; a night that, years from now, when we've made the changes we believe in, when more families can afford to see a doctor, when our children -- when Malia and Sasha and your children inherit a planet that's a little cleaner and safer, when the world sees America differently, and America sees itself as a nation less divided and more united, you'll be able to look back with pride and say that this was the moment when it all began.

This was the moment when the improbable beat what Washington always said was inevitable.

This was the moment when we tore down barriers that have divided us for too long; when we rallied people of all parties and ages to a common cause; when we finally gave Americans who have never participated in politics a reason to stand up and to do so.

This was the moment when we finally beat back the policies of fear and doubts and cynicism, the politics where we tear each other down instead of lifting this country up. This was the moment.

Years from now, you'll look back and you'll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope. For many months, we've been teased, even derided for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It's not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path.

It's not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.

Hope is what I saw in the eyes of the young woman in Cedar Rapids who works the night shift after a full day of college and still can't afford health care for a sister who's ill. A young woman who still believes that this country will give her the chance to live out her dreams.

Hope is what I heard in the voice of the New Hampshire woman who told me that she hasn't been able to breathe since her nephew left for Iraq. Who still goes to bed each night praying for his safe return.

Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire. What led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation. What led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause.

Hope -- hope is what led me here today. With a father from Kenya, a mother from Kansas and a story that could only happen in the United States of America.

Hope is the bedrock of this nation. The belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.

That is what we started here in Iowa and that is the message we can now carry to New Hampshire and beyond.

The same message we had when we were up and when we were down; the one that can save this country, brick by brick, block by block, (inaudible) that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things.

Because we are not a collection of red states and blue states. We are the United States of America. And in this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.

Thank you, Iowa.

And In 2nd Place . . . .

. . . . John Edwards:

I prefer Edwards' positions on most of the issues out of all of the other candidates (except for Dennis Kucinich's positions, but let's get real here - Kucinich doesn't stand a chance in hell and this race will be over within a month).

I love Elizabeth Edwards. I wish it was she who was running. Elizabeth thinks on her feet, has keen instincts, knows what's important, and what Americans want and need to hear from the candidate. Elizabeth is, inarguably, John Edwards's best advisor and asset. However, her first and most valuable role in this campaign is as the candidate's wife. If she is going to advise her husband, she has to do it out of sight of the public, in private.

Advisors in politics must work behind a veil of invisibility. When a candidate takes his advisor's advice, it must look as if it came from the candidate, that it was the candidate's own idea. Or else, voters might start asking, "Why aren't we electing the advisor?":

This shouldn't ever happen. John Edwards' has enough trouble selling himself as a dynamic alpha male, without looking as if he's taking direction from his 'mommy'.

Candidates are chosen, not only for their stands on the issues, but on how they come across as leaders. The candidate who is able to evoke the voters' imagination, positively, as to how he would lead in a national emergency, is the candidate who will get the job. Unless it's an incumbent running for reelection, a candidate for the presidency of the United States has only those situations that crop up during the campaign to interact with and show his stuff. He has to take advantage of every seemingly petty and picayune attack leveled against him, using them to show the electorate that he's got the right stuff.

Throughout the campaign, the Edwards' campaign has looked (and been) out of sync and out of touch. Edwards' himself has detached, removed, "a day late and a dollar short", and (worst of all), looking above-it-all when it comes to responding to his critics. How it is that Edwards hasn't seen his critics coming?

If you intend to run as a populist, don't buy a 102-acre parcel of land right before you toss your hat in the ring. Or build a 28,000 square foot home (with indoor basketball and handball courts, indoor swimming pool, etc.). Or buy rural 'transitional' property to build your dream house next to old time residents who are being forced out of their properties because they can't afford to pay the increase in their property taxes because of the changing base you represent. Or make any disparaging comments about your neighbors (in this case, an old "gun-toting Republican" living in a rundown house across the road that has been his family for generations).

Any candidate who isn't a step ahead of his critics, with a crack media team anticipating assaults from all directions, is worrisome. Because he can be taken off message any time his opponents need a distraction.

Here's John Edwards's entire speech:

EDWARDS: Thank you. Thank you.

The one thing that’s clear from the results in Iowa tonight is the status quo lost and change won.


And now we move on. We move on from Iowa to New Hampshire and to the other states to determine who’s best suited to bring about the change that this country so desperately needed. Because what we’ve seen here in Iowa is we’ve seen two candidates who thought their money would make them inevitable. But what the Iowa caucus-goers have shown, is if you’re willing to have a little backbone, to have a little courage, to speak for the middle class, to speak for those who have no voice.


If you’re willing -- if you’re willing to stand up to corporate greed, that message and the American people are unstoppable. No matter how much money is spent, no matter how much. And we are so proud of this cause.

But I want all of us to remember tonight while we’re having all these political celebrations, that just a few weeks ago in America, Nataline Sarkisian (ph), a 17- year-old girl who had a -- needed a liver transplant, and whose insurance company decided they wouldn’t pay for her liver transplant operation.

Finally, her nurses spoke up on her behalf. Her doctors spoke up on her behalf. Ultimately, the American people spoke up on her behalf by marching and picketing in front of her health insurance carrier. And, finally, the insurance carrier caved in and agreed to pay for her operation. And when they notified the family just a few hours later, she died. She lost her life. Why? Why?

James Lowe was born 51 years ago in the United States of America with a severe cleft palate, which kept him from being able to speak. And he lived for 50 years in the greatest, most prosperous nation on the planet, not able to speak because he didn’t have health-care coverage and couldn’t pay for a simple operation. Why?

Doug Bishop, who’s actually behind me tonight, Doug and his family worked at the Maytag plant in Newton -- Newton, Iowa. For generations, for generations, they worked. They sacrificed. They did everything you’re supposed to do in America. And then recently, this plant closed. And the jobs went overseas. Why? The reason is because corporate greed has got a stranglehold on America. And unless and until we have a president in the proud tradition of Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, who has a little backbone, who has some strength, who has some fight, who’s willing to stand up to these people, nothing will change.

We will never have the America that all of us dream of. The promise of America, which has been available to so many of us, will not be available to our children and our grandchildren. And I take this very personally.

I watched my grandmother, who I loved dearly, work year after year after year in the mills. And we lived in the same neighborhood. She would cook for us, leave the house, walk her way to the mill, work her shift, and come back home and take care of us again.

My grandfather, who was partially paralyzed, would go to work the graveyard shift in that mill and come back in the morning, when we’d have breakfast together.

My father, who’s here with me tonight, worked 36 years in the mills -- hard, tedious work; hard, tedious work. Why did he do it? Why did he struggle and sacrifice? Why did your parents and grandparents struggle and sacrifice? They did it so that you could have a better life. My parents did it so that I could have a better life.

And we, all of us to whom the torch has been passed, we carry an enormous responsibility. And that responsibility transcends politics and transcends elections. It’s our responsibility to ensure that we leave America better than we found it; that we give our children a better life than we’ve had.

And this is what I see in America today. I see an America where last year, the CEO of one of the largest health insurance companies in America made hundreds of millions of dollars -- in one year.

I see an America where ExxonMobil’s (NYSE:XOM) profits were $40 billion just a couple of years ago. Record amounts -- record profits.

All of that happening at the same time that this picture of America emerges. Tonight, 47 million Americans will go to bed knowing that if their child gets sick, they’ll have to go to the emergency room and beg for health care. Tomorrow morning, women will go to their doctor and be diagnosed with breast cancer, just like Elizabeth was. But unlike Elizabeth, they’ll have no health care coverage. And as a result, they know that they can’t go to the emergency room and get chemotherapy. What are they supposed to do? What are they supposed to do? You can literally see the fear and terror in their eyes.

Tomorrow morning, 37 million of our own people will wake up literally worried about feeding and clothing their own children. I went to a shelter here in Des Moines just a few weeks ago, where they took single moms with their children who had no place to live. And I said: Do you ever have to turn people away? Yes, a few months ago, they had to turn 70 to 75 families away in one month. And I said: These are moms with kids -- yes -- some of them with three or four children. And I said: Well, where did they go when you sent them away? They went back to the street, back to their homes. Thirty-five million people in America went hungry last year in the richest nation on the planet.

And tonight, 200,000 men and women who wore our uniform proudly and served this country courageously as veterans will go to sleep under bridges and on grates. We’re better than this. The United States of America’s better than this. And what happened tonight is the Iowa caucus-goers said, we want something different. We are going to stand up, we are going to rise up, we’re going to create an America that all of us believe in.

Because the truth is, when we speak up, when we speak up for James Lowe and the millions like him who live in the darkness, when we speak up against corporate greed and for the 37 million Americans who live in poverty, when we speak up for single moms who have no place to live with their children, when we speak up for hundreds of thousands of veterans who served this country proudly and are homeless with no place to live at night, when we do that together, as a nation -- and Iowa caucus-goers did it tonight -- when we do it, America’s a better place.

It says something about who we are. It says something about our character. Because when we do, America rises up. America becomes what it’s capable of being. And what began -- and it is not over -- what began tonight in the heartland of America is the Iowa caucus- goers said: Enough is enough. We are better than this. We are going to bring the change that this country needs.

And you have created and started a wave of change, a tidal wave of change that will travel from here to New Hampshire to Nevada to South Carolina, all across this country.

Because we know the torch has been passed to us. We stand proudly on the shoulders of our parents and grandparents and all those generations who came before us. And we take our responsibility seriously.

And this tidal wave of change that began tonight in Iowa and that will sweep across America, when that wave is finished, when it is done, every one of us are going to be able to look our children in the eye and say, we did what our parents did for us and what our grandparents did for us. Which is: We left America better than we found it, and we gave our children a better life than we had.

That’s what this is about. That’s what this change is about.

Continue on. This march of change continues on. God bless you. Thank you for everything you’ve done. Stay with us in this fight. We are in this fight together. Thank you.

In 3rd Place . . . .

. . . . Hillary Clinton:

My biggest complaint about Hillary's speech was the visual.

Whose terrible idea was it to have her flanked at the podium with the old (Bill) Clinton administration appointees (former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and retired General Wesley Clarke) most identified with the Clinton administration's aggressive and highly controversial military activities in Kosovo? She doesn't leave herself any room for even the possibility of movement away from her pro-war/hawk, establishment/corporate position. Given the early Democratic primary goers desire for change, painting herself into a corner doesn't seem to be the wisest strategy for winning over an electorate thoroughly done leaders who stubbornly cling to failed policies.

And what's with this?:

Who was that dark-haired, cross-eyed fellow standing behind Hillary, who wouldn't move for the candidate's husband, the former president of the U.S.? Bill Clinton had to pivot around and squeeze by this guy to make sure he was in the camera frame with his wife. The candidate's daughter (Chelsea) and the governor of the state (Tom Vilsack) had to move to the end of the row (to the far right side of the stage) because this stranger wouldn't move out of the picture.

SENATOR HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON: Well, we’re going to take this enthusiasm and go right to New Hampshire tonight. This is a great night for Democrats. We have seen an unprecedented turnout here in Iowa. And that is good news, because today we’re sending a clear message: that we are going to have change, and that change will be a Democratic president in the White House in 2009.


I am so proud to have run with such exceptional candidates. I congratulate Senator Obama and Senator Edwards. I thank Senator Dodd, and Senator Biden, and Governor Richardson, and Congressman Kucinich. Together, we have presented the case for change and have made it absolutely clear that America needs a new beginning.

And I am as ready as I can be, after having had this incredible experience here in Iowa, starting out a long time ago, and making this journey with so many people who have become my friends and who I am so grateful for, their hard work and support, those from Iowa, those who have come from around the country. And the people who were there exceeding anybody’s expectations about what it would mean to have the caucuses this year, I thank you. I thank each and every one of you for coming out and standing up for a Democrat.

What is most important now is that, as we go on with this contest, that we keep focused on the two big issues, that we answer correctly the questions that each of us has posed. How will we win in November 2008, by nominating a candidate who will be able to go the distance? And who will be the best president on day one? I am ready for that contest.


Now, you know, we have always planned to run a national campaign all the way through the early contests, because I want the people of America, and particularly Democrats, and like-minded independents... (LAUGHTER) ... and Republicans who have seen the light... (APPLAUSE) ... to understand, number one, that the stakes are huge, that the job is enormous, but that I believe we’re going to make the right decision.

There will be a lot of people who will get involved, as they have here in Iowa, of all ages. That is what we want, because we’re not just trying to elect a president; we’re trying to change our country. That is what I am committed to doing.

I have set big goals for our country. I want to rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class. And to me, that is the most important job the next president will have here at home, because if we don’t begin to pay attention to the people who do the work, and raise the families, and make this country great, we will not recognize America in a few years.

And I want to make it absolutely clear I intend to restore America’s leadership and our moral authority in the world. And we’re going to tackle all of the problems that are going to be inherited because of the current administration, including ending the war in Iraq, and bringing our troops home, and then giving them the support that they need.

And we’re going to reform our government. We’re going to make sure that it is not the government of the few, by the few, and for the few, but it actually works for every American again.

And we’re going to reclaim the future for our children. I have done this work for 35 years. It is the work of my lifetime. I have done -- I have been involved in making it possible for young people to have a better education and for people of all ages to have health care, and that transforming work is what we desperately need in our country again. I am so ready for the rest of this campaign, and I am so ready to lead.

So if you’re concerned about whether or not we can have quality, affordable health care for every American, then I’m your candidate. And if you’re concerned about whether we can have an energy policy that will break the shackles of our dependence on foreign oil and set forth a new set of goals for us to meet together, then I’m your candidate. And if you are worried about once and for all taking on global warming, making it clear that we will end the unfunded mandate known as No Child Left Behind, that we will make college affordable again, that we will be once again the country of values and ideals that we cherish so much, then, please, join me in this campaign.

We have a long way to go, but I am confident and optimistic, both about the campaign, but maybe more importantly about our country. This country deserves everything we can give to it. You know, there were a lot of people who couldn’t caucus tonight, despite the very large turnout. There are a lot of Iowans who are in the military. They are in Iraq or Afghanistan or somewhere else serving our country, and they need a commander-in-chief who respects them and who understands that force should be only used as a last resort, not a first resort.


And there are a lot of people who work at night, people who are on their feet, people who are taking care of patients in a hospital, or waiting on a table in a restaurant, or maybe in a patrol car keeping our streets safe. And they need a president who’s going to care about them and their families.

You know, I wrote a book some years ago called ”It Takes a Village to Raise a Child,” and in it I have a chapter that I titled ”Every Child Needs a Champion.” Well, I think that the American people need a president who is their champion, and that is what I intend to be.


So I want to thank all the people who have been part of this campaign so far. I especially want to thank all of my friends here in Iowa who have worked so hard. I want to thank those who have come from across America. I want to thank all of the unions, the more than 6 million union members who support my candidacy.

And I know that we’re going to get up tomorrow and keep pushing as hard as we can to get the message out about what is at stake in this election, because we know that it is literally the future of our country.

So thank you all so very much for caring enough to be involved in politics, for giving of your time and your resources, for understanding that this great democracy of ours deserves to have all of our best efforts. And I promise you this campaign that I am running will certainly have mine and I ask for yours, as well. Thank you all very, very much. God bless you.

The Republican To Beat (For the Moment) . . . .

. . . . Mike Huckabee:

In the purest Republican tradition of hijacking the English language to lead people into believing you've said something entirely different, this was the speech of the night. The word to look and listen for is 'change'; tonight it became the word that will define the 2008 election, and that each of the candidates will shape their campaigns around from here on out. The question that they now must answer is, "How?"

MIKE HUCKABEE: Thank you, Iowa.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

You know, I wasn't sure that I would ever be able to love a state as much as I love my home state of Arkansas.

But tonight, I love Iowa a whole lot.

Over the past several months, my family and I have had the marvelous joy and privilege of getting to know many of you. And it's been an incredible honor.

I was thinking last night that some of the friendships that we've forged here in the last several months are friendships that will last a lifetime.

And we didn't know how this was going to turn out tonight. But I knew one thing: I would be forever grateful to the people that I met, the ones who voted for me, even the ones who didn't, who still treated me with respect and who gave me their attention, who have allowed me to come often, not just into their communities, but into their homes, not once, but time and time again.

And a few of them, I even convinced to vote for me tonight and that's really remarkable.

I want to say how much I appreciate my wife, Janet.

She was a wonderful first lady of Arkansas.

And I think she'll be a wonderful first lady for the United States of America.

We also want to say thanks. Our three children are with us tonight.

I would like them to come and just be a part of this tonight. They have all been so much involved. Our oldest son, John Mark, our son, David, his wife, Lauren, our daughter, Sarah, who has literally lived in Iowa for the past two and a half months.

And I told her if she stayed much longer, she'll have to get her an Iowa driver's license and probably start paying even more taxes up here.

And I say thanks to all of them for joining with us in this effort, because a family goes through it, not just the candidate. But tonight is a celebration for everybody on our team, so many of you who have traveled from all across America to be here.

I'm amazed, but I'm encouraged, because tonight what we have seen is a new day in American politics. A new day is needed in American politics, just like a new day is needed in American government. And tonight it starts here in Iowa.

But it doesn't end here. It goes all the way through the other states and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue one year from now.

I think we've learned three very important things through this victory tonight. The first thing we've learned is that people really are more important than the purse, and what a great lesson for America to learn. Most of the pundits believe that when you're outspent at least 15 to 1, it's simply impossible to overcome that mountain of money and somehow garner the level of support that's necessary to win an election.

Well, tonight we proved that American politics still is in the hands of ordinary folks like you and across this country who believe that it wasn't about who raised the most money but who raised the greatest hopes, dreams and aspirations for our children and their future.

And tonight I hope we will forever change the way Americans look at their political system and how we elect presidents and elected officials.

Tonight, the people of Iowa made a choice, and their choice was clear.

Their choice was for a change.

But that choice for a change doesn't end just saying, "Let's change things."

Change can be for the better. It could be for the worse.

Americans are looking for a change. But what they want is a change that starts with a challenge to those of us who were given this sacred trust of office so that we recognize that what our challenge is to bring this country back together, to make Americans, once again, more proud to be Americans than just to be Democrats or Republicans.

To be more concerned about being going up instead of just going to the left or to the right.

And while we have deep convictions that we'll stand by and not waiver on, or compromise -- those convictions are what brought us to this room tonight. But we carry those convictions not so that we can somehow push back the others, but so we can bring along the others and bring this country to its greatest days ever.

Because I'm still one who believes that the greatest generation doesn't have to be the ones behind us. The greatest generation can be those who have yet to even be born.

And that's what we are going to...

And, ladies and gentlemen, we've learned something else tonight, and that is that this election is not about me. It's about we.

And I don't say that lightly. I'm the person whose name gets on the signs, who occasionally gets the attention in some...

... of the few ads that came out here and there.

But the election is not about me. And the country is not just about me.

What is happening tonight in Iowa is going to start really a prairie fire of new hope and zeal. And it's already happening across this nation because it is about we; we the people.

We saw it tonight. We've seen it in other states. And we're going to continue to see it because this country yearns and is hungry for leadership that recognizes that when one is elected to public office, one is not elected to be a part of the ruling class; he's elected to be a part of the serving class. Because we the people are the ruling class of America.

G.K. Chesterton once said that a true soldier fights not because he hates those who are in front of him, but because he loves those who are behind him. Ladies and gentlemen, I recognize that running for office, it's not hating those who are in front of us. It's loving those who are behind us.

It's recognizing that behind us are great patriots dating back to the beginning of this wonderful country, when 56 brave men put their signatures on a document that started forth the greatest experiment in government in the history of mankind, and gave birth to the idea that all of us are created equal, and we have been given by our creator inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And these who signed that document, who gave birth to this dream, were the beginnings of those throughout our history who have continued, with great sacrifice, extraordinary valor, to pass on to us that liberty and the quest for something better than the generation before them had.

I stand here tonight the result of parents who made incredible sacrifices as part of a great generation, who went through a Depression and a world war and said our kids won't have to go through these things. And every sacrifice they made were to lift us on their shoulders and give us a better America than they ever could have envisioned. And they were successful in doing that.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, for the same reason that our founding fathers and those before us saw what was behind us and gave it their best, I ask you to join me across Iowa and the rest of America to look out there in front of us and not to hate those, but to look behind us and to love them so much that we will do whatever it takes to make America a better country, to give our kids a better future, to give this world a better leader.

And we join together tonight for that purpose. God help you and thank you for all you've done. I'm so grateful for the support, the incredible work that you've done. And now we've got a long journey ahead of us.

I wish it were all over tonight, and we could just celebrate the whole thing. But unfortunately, if this were a marathon, we've only run half of it. But we've run it well.

And now it's on from here to New Hampshire, and then to the rest of the country. But I'll always be wanting to come back to this place and say, wherever it ends -- and we know where that's going to be -- it started here in Iowa.

Thank you and God bless you, every one of you. Thank you tonight. Thank you.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

There's Always One

Single Trader Behind Oil Record

The BBC reports:

The man behind the record rise in oil prices to $100 a barrel was a lone trader, seeking bragging rights and a minute of fame, market watchers say.

A single trader bid up the price by buying a modest lot and then sold it immediately at a loss, they claim.

The New York Mercantile Exchange said that US crude oil futures traded just once in triple figures on Wednesday.

Some analysts questioned the validity of the trade, though their concerns faded as oil set a record on Thursday.

New York light sweet crude climbed to a new high of $100.05 a barrel on Thursday.

Vanity trade

On Wednesday, one floor trader bought 1,000 barrels, the smallest amount permitted, and sold it immediately for $99.40 at a $600 loss, said Stephen Schork, a former floor trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange and the editor of an oil market newsletter.

"They absolutely overpaid," he told Radio Four's Today Programme.

"He paid $600 for the right to tell his grandchildren that he was the first in the world to buy $100 oil."

Most trading in energy futures has shifted away from the trading floor and takes place on electronic platforms.

The NYMEX, along with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange is one of the last bastions of "open outcry", where traders use frantic hand signals to trade securities.

In London, open outcry trading still takes place on the London Metal Exchange, where aluminium, copper and zinc are traded.

The supporters of electronic trading claim that it is faster, cheaper, more efficient for users, and less prone to manipulation by market makers.

The dwindling liquidity on the NYMEX trading floor has led to considerable speculation that the exchange will soon shut down the trading floor to cut costs.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Whom Fitzgerald Was Talking About

"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me. They possess and enjoy early, and it does something to them, makes them soft, where we are hard, cynical where we are trustful, in a way that, unless you were born rich, it is very difficult to understand."
~ The Rich Boy, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1926

Vast rightwing conspiracy financier, Richard Mellon Scaife, and his soon-to-be ex-wife Ritchie.

Editor & Publisher reports:
In a dirt-dishing account of their divorce, Richard Mellon Scaife and his second wife Margaret Ritchie Rhea Battle Scaife exchange accusations of adultery, gold-digging, and even dognapping in their first extensive interviews.

An article by Michael Joseph Gross in the February issue of Vanity Fair portrays a drama that combines the "Citizen Kane" aspects of Pittsburgh Tribune-Review owner and conservative cause bankroller Richard Scaife with a "War of the Roses" almost comic dramedy of their split.

Richard Scaife, in what Vanity Fair says are the first interviews he has given in eight years, describes "his estranged wife as conniving, greedy, and abusive," Gross wrote.
At first, Ritchie Scaife declined to interview, leaving her lawyer William Pietragallo II, Ritchie Scaife to describe her as a "very supportive and caring wife" who was thrown over for a women with reported prostitution arrests on her record.

"Later, Ritchie changed her mind and agreed to what turned out to be a long and highly animated interview. Seated between Pietragallo and another of her attorneys, Eddie Hayes (the model for the scrappy defense lawyer in Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities), Ritchie described a marriage that swung between emotional extremes, from the days when 'I always called him "my snuggle bunny" ... and he called me his "precious,"' to the public embarrassments brought on by their breakup, which she compares to 'the tortures of the damned,'" Gross wrote.

Ritchie Scaife

While much of the broad outlines of the marital discord have been published by Pittsburg papers including Richard Scaife's Tribune-Review, some of the Vanity Fair stories are doozies.

Ritchie Scaife sics a private investigator on her husband, and discovers he is going to a cheap hotel with 43-year-old Tammy Vasco. Enraged Ritchie Scaife tries twice to confront the two at his mansion, only to be arrested for deliberate trespass -- and tossed in jail where fellow prisoners pass the time petting her fur collar.

Richard Scaife ruefully admits bringing marijuana to his son in prep school. Ritchie is portrayed, and vehemently denies, as being a woman interested only in the Mellon name and fortune, once threatening to plunge into the ocean because she did not like the winter slip covers at a summer place.

An in-law is quoted as saying she would stick pins in pictures of Richard Scaife.

"Ritchie denies every detail of this story," Gross wrote. "There was an altercation, she admits, but she says it was Sara who 'went berserk.'
"And did she stick those pins in the pictures?
"'No, Dick did.'
"Her lawyer interrupts: ' -- Ehh -- '
"'It's true!,' Ritchie says.
"Pietragallo: 'Stop. Stop.'"

Richard Scaife became famous politically for what Vanity Fair calls his "moral crusade" against President Bill Clinton, including investigations into the so-called "Troopergate" allegations of sexual assignations and efforts to link former White House chief of staff Vince Foster's suicide to the Clinton administration.

Richard Scaife responds by telling Vanity Fair that he believes in "open marriage," and says with a laugh that philandering " "is something that Bill Clinton and I have in common."

He also recounts have a "very pleasant" lunch last summer with Bill Clinton, whom he calls the most charismatic man he's met in his life.

"It would be a mistake to read the saga of Richard Mellon Scaife's divorce as simply a story of moral hypocrisy," Gross wrote. "His treatment of women, especially his first wife, suggests a high regard for his own gratification. His commitment to conservative politics has never been primarily about upholding traditional morality; it has been about promoting policies that help to preserve his own wealth and that of people like himself. On the subject of Clinton his weather vane is now spinning wildly."

The Vanity Fair article portrays a tempestuous couple -- one of whom, Richard admits a drinking problem he says he's licked -- who set tongues wagging in Pittsburgh virtually since they got together.

At their wedding reception a fireworks display included a "a blazing sign on the lawn that proclaimed, in sparkling letters, 'Ritchie loves Dick'," Gross wrote. "Even today, a certain set of Pittsburgh women, including wives of some of the country's most brass-knuckled industrialists, speak of Ritchie's flaming double entendre as among the most shocking moments of their lives."

It was not intended as a double entendre, and only low minds could think that, Ritchie Scaife tells the magazine.

Soon after her arrest on trespassing, which was later dismissed, three dogs belonging to the couple moved in with her lawyer. Richard Scaife displayed a sign on his front lawn that said something to the effect of "wife and dog missing -- reward for dog."

One of the dogs later turned up at Richard Scaife's house, where a sign soon said, welcome home, beauregard. Vanity Fair quotes court documents that allege Ritchie Scaife, having spotted a housekeeper walking the dog, beat the woman trying to wrest the dog from her. Richard Scaife's security officer tried to break up the fight, and was allegedly scratched. Ritchie was arrested in the incident, though charges were later dropped.

The court pleadings in the Scaife's divorce (which Scaife tried to get sealed by the court) are linked here.

And if you haven't had your fill of the tawdry details of these people's lives, David Segal at the Washington Post will take you on a road trip:

The 2008 Counterterrorism Calendar Is Out!

Just when you think the Bush administration couldn't have revamped and reorganized our U.S. government agencies to be any more brazenly exploitational (and just when I thought I couldn't get any more cynical), it does (and I do).

Look Who Swift Boat Veterans Are Giving It ($$$) Up For . . . .

. . . . And McCain's taking it ($$$)!

Back in the 2004 presidential campaign, John McCain condemned the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ad against John Kerry, calling it, "dishonest and dishonorable." When asked if the White House was behind it, McCain said: "I hope not, but I don't know. But I think the Bush campaign should specifically condemn the ad."

Fast forward to today - Politicians don't bother even giving lipservice to having integrity anymore. The Nation reports:
More than three years after John Kerry's bitter defeat, at the dawn of what looks like a far more promising campaign cycle for the Democrats, the party is still haunted by the specter of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Once upon a time, "Swift boat" denoted an obscure military vessel, but thanks to the activities of this group it has come to represent movement conservatism's penchant for ruthlessly (and effectively) smearing any and all political opponents, from a sitting senator and war hero to an 11-year-old boy with a cranial fracture.

Research by The Nation into Federal Election Commission records of the group's top twenty donors reveals that they've been remarkably active in this cycle, contributing and bundling nearly $200,000 to presidential candidates. This does not bode well. During the last presidential campaign, the wealthy backers of Swift Boat Veterans for Truth--now rebranded as Swift Vets and POWs for Truth--didn't do their real dirty work until the general election, where as a tax-exempt 527 group they operated outside the restraints of direct campaign contributions. We may wish we were done with the Swift Boaters, but they aren't done with us.
In 2004 the top twenty donors all gave (with one exception) at least $50,000 to the group. The top three--Houston home builder Bob Perry, Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens and billionaire drugstore impresario and investor Harold Simmons--gave a combined $9.5 million ($4.45 million, $3 million and $2 million, respectively). Calculating the influence of these and the slightly less wealthy Swift Boat donors during this cycle is a touch more complicated than simply adding up their contributions. Each one exerts far more influence as a bundler, given the federal restrictions on individual giving, which limit donors to a maximum of $4,600 per cycle. So The Nation looked not only at the contributions of the donors themselves but also at those of their family members and employees. It's an imperfect method, since some employees are clearly contributing of their own volition (such as one employee of a Simmons company who gave money to Hillary Clinton), but it gives a rough estimate of who's backing whom and to what extent.

The most notable recipient of Swift Boat largesse is John McCain, erstwhile front-runner and Stand Up Guy. When the Swift Boat ads were first unleashed, McCain was alone among his Republican colleagues to condemn them. A fellow Vietnam veteran, a good friend of Kerry's and a former target of smears about his own service, McCain called the ads "dishonest and dishonorable," a "cheap stunt," and he urged Bush to condemn them. But in pursuit of the GOP nomination, McCain ditched the mantle of maverick for that of hack, and his once-floundering, possibly rejuvenated campaign has been aided along the way by $61,650 from Swift Boat donors and their associates. "There is such a thing as dirty money," said Senator Kerry in a statement, after The Nation informed him of McCain's FEC records. "I'm surprised that the John McCain I knew who was smeared in 2000 and thought so-called Swift Boating was wrong in 2004 would feel comfortable taking their money after seeing the way it was used to hurt the veterans I know he loves." (McCain's office did not return calls for comment.)

McCain's Swift Boat bounty is exceeded only by that of Mitt Romney, who has raked in $70,550. Romney's success with Swift Boat donors is significant because he has surpassed even McCain in his demonstrated willingness to do or say anything in pursuit of the presidency and because he has emerged as the GOP establishment's favored candidate. Last year, when McCain held that position, the Arizona senator received significant backing from Swift Boat donors. But many have subsequently switched their allegiance. Pickens, who donated to McCain in June 2006, is now an enthusiastic Giuliani donor and fundraiser (Giuliani ranks third in Swift Boat funding, with $47,950). Perry, who also recorded several donations to McCain's PAC in 2005 and 2006, is now a major donor and fundraiser for Romney. If the list of top Swift Boat donors is expanded to fifty, Romney's fundraising edge is even more pronounced. (Neither Romney nor Giuliani's campaign returned calls for comment.)

Also noticeable among the recipients of Swift Boat largesse is one who received only a single donation: Mike Huckabee. Despite meager fundraising and little national name recognition, the former Arkansas governor has experienced a bubble-like expansion of support and media attention, taking the lead in Iowa and approaching a steady lead in national polls. But the lack of Swift Boat contributions lends credence to the claim that Huckabee is viewed warily by the money men who call the shots in the modern GOP. Despite proposing a radically regressive tax change and taking Grover Norquist's antitax pledge, he's been attacked savagely by the Club for Growth and eviscerated by columnist George Will for "comprehensive apostasy against core Republican beliefs," among them "free trade, low taxes, the essential legitimacy of America's corporate entities and the market system allocating wealth and opportunity."

This all supports the notion that the people behind the Swift Boat operation are chiefly concerned with the continued upward redistribution of wealth that is, more or less, the contemporary GOP's raison d'être. In 2006 Perry ponied up $5 million to start the Economic Freedom Fund, a 527 group devoted to attacking Democratic incumbents, and landed a large donation from prominent Swift Boat donor Carl Lindner. All of which is to say that the Swift Boaters aren't some kind of side show, a coterie of vicious mudslingers operating at the edges of respectability. They are the show. They are modern conservatism's core funders and beneficiaries. With conservatives staring straight into the abyss, their activities in this election cycle could very well make the Swift Boat smears look tame by comparison.

Not Walking The Talk

Striking writers outside the Burbank, Calif. studios of NBC. (Photo: Ric Francis/Associated Press)

Last week, it was Huckabee's mistakes about Pakistan. Just three weeks earlier, it was his ignorant blunders about the NIE on Iran which he blamed his failure "to keep up on every little thing, from Britney to 'Dancing with the Stars'" to being on the campaign trail.

Now he's showing us his plain ignorance about the status of the writer's strike (it's not over, 'dimples'), as well as proper recognition of striking employees whom you claim to "support" - You don't cross their picket line!

The New York Times'-blog reports:
Former Governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas today professed his support for the striking television writers union just a few hours before he was expected to board a plane for a taping of the Jay Leno show where he will face a vocal picket line of striking writers.

Mr. Leno’s program is returning to the air for the first time since a long hiatus for the strike. Speaking to reporters, Mr. Huckabee said he was unaware that he would be crossing picket lines and believed that the program had reached a special agreement with the union.
Although crossing picket lines might not be unusual for most Republican candidates, Mr. Huckabee has waged an unusual populist campaign on economic issues, stressing his empathy with the anxieties of working people. On Wednesday, he said he identified with the striking television workers as an author himself and believed they deserved a share of the proceeds from the sale of their work.

Mr. Huckabee’s inconsistency about the picket lines outside the Leno show are the latest in a string of missteps that have underscored the ad-hoc, on-the-fly nature of his insurgent campaign. Last week, he made a series of small misstatements about Pakistan that raised questions about his fluency in matters of foreign affairs and raised eyebrows when he suggested applying special scrutiny to Pakistanis at the borders in the interest of national security. Then, he reversed a pledge to avoid attacking his opponent, Mitt Romney, and two days ago reversed himself again to renounce those attacks.

On Wednesday, Mr. Huckabee appeared to edge back once again toward explicit swipes at his opponent. Asked by a reporter about Mr. Romney’s roughly $17 million in personal loans to his campaign, Mr. Huckabee asked how voters could expect understanding of their problems from a candidate who “writes checks for tens of millions of dollars and doesn’t miss the money?”

In a stump speech in Fort Dodge, Iowa, Mr. Huckabee did not name Mr. Romney but made veiled references to his opponent. Alluding to Mr. Romney’s professed change of heart on abortion rights, Mr. Huckabee said he was a candidate whose views in the issue did not change depending on polls or where he was running.

“You want someone who is authentic, you want someone who is consistent, you want someone who can lead,” Mr. Huckabee said.

“Some of us come to you with the views that we had because they are convictions not political conveniences,” he said later in Mason City, Iowa.

“Wouldn’t it be something if the people of Iowa proved that they cannot be bought?” he said, alluding to Mr. Romney’s heavy spending on the campaign.

Speaking to reporters, he said he expected his appearance on the Jay Leno show to reach more Iowa voters than a day of appearances to crowds of a few hundred each. He said he planned to fly back to Iowa by the end of the day, spending as little time as possible out of the state. He is continuing to wage his Iowa campaign largely from the airwaves of national television, beginning Wednesday with three morning television interviews before boarding a bus for two appearances on the stump.

Episodes like these offer candidates unique opportunities to own the moment by sucking all of the oxygen out of the air (waves) with a grand gesture (or stunt).

If I was on Huckabee's staff and advising him, I wouldn't let him go into NBC's studios. I'd have him stand on the street with the picketers (after clearing it with the WGA) and get Leno to wire him up for a remote interview. I'd focus the interview on the striking writers, working Americans, quality television, and have some prearranged gag that the writers had prepared. Something like this:

Huckabee Tells His Bloggers, "God Wants You To Clog The Net, Prevent Press From Filing Bad Stories About Me"

Yesterday in Des Moines, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee hosted an event thanking roughly 700 bloggers who, he said, were responsible for keeping his campaign alive.

Calling them his secret weapon, Huckabee urged the bloggers to clog up the wireless system in Des Moines so that reporters couldnt file any more bad stories about him. He added that by blocking the free press from doing their jobs, bloggers were doing the Lords work:

The New York Times-blog reports:

Mike Huckabee held a little event here on Tuesday to thank the roughly 700 bloggers who, he said, were responsible for keeping his campaign alive. Because he had no money and initially got very little media attention, he said, he could not have kept going without their dedication.

He said the bloggers, whom he called his “secret weapon,” spent their days “pounding their keyboards and hitting ‘send’ in the middle of the night.” Ed Rollins, his campaign consultant, said none of the bloggers were on Mr. Huckabee’s payroll, chuckling at the idea of a payroll.

At one point, Chuck Norris, Mr. Huckabee’s most famous supporter, wandered into the small meeting room where the event was being held. Mr. Norris, the martial artist and action actor, confessed to being “computer illiterate” himself, but thanked the bloggers for getting him and Mr. Huckabee together.

Mr. Norris proposed holding a fundraiser for Mr. Huckabee with a “virtual barbeque” at his Texas ranch on Jan. 20. He said he would take the blogosphere on a virtual tour of the ranch, including his 2,000-square-foot gym, and perhaps Mr. Huckabee would sing with his band. One blogger proposed that all bloggers hold actual barbeques in their home towns at the same time to raise money. The bloggers applauded their approval.

“Pork across America!” Mr. Huckabee proclaimed.

About a dozen or so bloggers had set up their laptops to take notes and blog as Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Norris spoke; the mainstream media was allowed to observe but not ask questions.

Mr. Huckabee had a rough time yesterday at the hands of the media when he announced he was canceling a negative ad against Mitt Romney and then showed the ad to the assembled reporters, who burst out laughing. Today, he turned the tables. He noted that the mainstream media might be “filing a bad story” right now, and if the bloggers were relying on the same wireless system at the hotel, they might be “clogging up the lines” and preventing them from filing.

If that’s the case, “thank you,” he said. “You’re doing the Lord’s work.”

Mr. Huckabee was asked if he became president whether he would hold an event like this one in the White House. He said he would. “You gotta dance with the one that brought you,” he said.

Afterwards, Anthony Bonna, 20, a blogger from Florida who is a student at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., said he supported Mr. Huckabee because he is “the authentic conservative” in the race. His Web site,, is devoted to him.