Saturday, January 12, 2008

Throwing out optimism with De-Baath water - Updated

By Libby Spencer

It's surely big news that Iraq finally passed a De-Baathification law but marching as usual to my own drum, I seem to be the only one who isn't all that encouraged by it. The reactions range from Capt. Ed's rousing cheers to Cernig's more tempered optimism, but I find I'm concerned by this aspect of the agreement.

The law will allow low-ranking Baathists not involved in past crimes against Iraqis to go back to their jobs. High-ranking Baathists will be sent to compulsory retirement and those involved in crimes will stand trial, though their families will still have the right to pension.

I wonder what that really means on a practical level. To me it sounds like the Baathists will be allowed to hold positions as let's just say DMV clerks, but the administrators and the chief of the DOT would still be limited to Shia. Suppose, we divided up authority here in that manner between Democrats and Republicans. Do you think it would satisfy the party holding the short end of the stick? I don't and I wonder how much of this is for show to satisfy US pressure for parliamentary results.

Certainly this reaction from a Sunni leader would add some weight to my concerns.

Inside parliament, when the Kurdish lawmakers raised their hands in favor of the article that the members of Saddam's security bodies should be sent to compulsory retirement, the Sunni Arab parliament speaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, told the Kurds: "Now you raise your hands in favor of sending Saddam's security men to retirement, while earlier you reinstated the Kurds who collaborated with or worked for Saddam to government jobs in Kurdistan." [...]

"Are your donkeys better than our donkeys?" al-Mashhadani asked, referring to Kurds who used to work for Saddam's security operations.

I truly hope for the sake of the Iraqi people that my pessimism is misplaced but I just can't shake the feeling that this is more a parliamentary parlor trick designed to play to the US audience than it is a real breakthrough in placating the displaced Baathists.

Update: Unfortunately, Juan Cole validates my pessimism.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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Does Chris Matthews have a problem with women?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

That's the question currently being posed by Media Matters, and it would seem to be an easy question to answer. Matthews has a history of treating women like objects to be simultaneously feared and desired, a tension he resolves, if not consciously, by lusting after them and/or demonizing them. It all depends on who the woman is. When the woman in question is strong and powerful, a woman who is not on her knees, that is, a woman who is a threat to his fragile manhood -- a woman like, say, Hillary Clinton -- Matthews demonizes her, calling her names and otherwise using his prominent public platform (MSNBC be shamed!) to attack her femininity/womanhood and/or to hold her femininity/womanhood against her, in so doing playing on misogynistic stereotypes of femininity and womanhood, for such is his debased understanding of femininity and womanhood.

Thus he calls Clinton a devil and a witch, an unappealing modern woman, the leader of the sisterhood, a castrator of men. Real men, you see -- and Matthews wants so badly to be a "real" man -- do not support Clinton and presumably prefer their women on their hands and knees, cooking, cleaning, and no doubt fulfilling Matthews's profoundly dysfunctional fantasies. Certainly they object to a woman actually making something of herself, worst of all running for president. It doesn't take much to imagine what Matthews would say in response to a Clinton victory in November. And I suspect his penis would explode.

For more on Matthews, make sure to read the Media Matters piece linked above. It includes contact information for MSNBC -- send them your objections.

And see also my post on Matthews the Sexist Jerk from last September.

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Cut the fatheads

By Carl

You can be sure the economy is in trouble when Congress and Bush can agree on something to do.
Cut taxes:

Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill are also suggesting that they might be able to put aside longstanding partisan differences and work on a stimulus measure, lawmakers and aides said Friday.

In a fresh sign of the possibility of an agreement on a roughly $100 billion package of tax cuts and spending to spur the economy, Nancy Pelosi of California, the speaker of the House, and Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, wrote to President Bush on Friday saying, “We want to work with you.”

That little mash note is interesting, since one could easily make the case for ignoring the economy and letting it fester while Bush twists in the wind. Naturally, you'd want to do just enough to duck accusations of doing nothing.

Democrats might be feeling a little heat from their base, however, with all the kowtowing and rubber stamping they did in 2007. I've been of the mind that Pelosi and Reid were figuring the first year was about setting up the second year of the 110th Congress. Sadly, there at about 800 Americans in Iraq who had to die as part of this strategy.

Some Democrats say they could support tax relief focused on lower-income people and, perhaps, even tax cuts for corporations, if the White House and the Republican Congressional leadership accept some spending increases like extended unemployment benefits or aid to states to help them avert spending cuts.

The unfortunate truth is, Bush's first three tax cuts... 2001, 2002, and 2003... ultimately did not benefit the economy in any substantive way, as it was really the sub-prime mortgage business and the ripple effect low-cost mortgages had across the economy.

People spent because they borrowed. This was not current income, not taxable income, and yes, the tax cuts may have generated some tax revenues because the wealthiest among us started shedding some long-term assets because of the the more favorable tax treatment, but it wasn't in line with what was supposedly the "booming economy" that resulted.

Indeed, tax revenues under Bush declined for
every year until 2006 when compared to Clinton's last budget. And 2006 only went up because "a big increase in individual taxes on stock market profits and executive bonuses."

Like I said.

Will a tax cut help this time? Probably not. But the key element of this plan is increased government spending: extending unemployment benefits now, before the recession hits, is a sure-fire way of lessening the impact on people and is actually helping to close the barn door before the horse can get out. If it takes a tax cut to get that implemented until a real President comes along, so be it.

I feel both Congress and the President are severely underestimating the nature of this recession...I'm pretty sure it will be a depression, as I've said here before... and if I was running for president, I would address this issue in greater depth. Suffice it to say that nature is about to hand us lemons, and I'd have a lemonade stand set up already. We are presented with an opportunity the way FDR was: to do good for a lot of people and help this country improve, at the same moment.

But I digress.

I hope the Democrats are at least listening to Ronald Reagan's old "Trust, but verify" shibboleth:

Democrats said the White House would have to agree not to try to attach favorite measures like repealing the estate tax or making permanent Mr. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 cuts, just as Democrats would have to refrain from attaching extraneous spending.

“It would make sense for the president to do something in a bipartisan way,” said Representative Charles B. Rangel, Democrat of New York and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. “But I’m scared to death to even talk about tax rebates because of what that might open up.”

A senior Republican aide said: “Republicans will have to talk about making the tax cuts permanent and all that kind of stuff. Democrats are going to want things on their long-term agenda. But if you figure those cancel each other out, there’s probably a playing field where everyone can agree.”

Somehow, I see a fillibuster in our future. And that would be the greatest tragedy of all.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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The surge has not worked

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This according to WaPo's Thomas Ricks, who knows a thing or two about Iraq:

I think Iraqis recognize that large parts of Baghdad are more peaceful than they were, but violence is basically back to 2005 levels. And that was no picnic, 2005. It's just 2006 was pure hell.

Think Progress has the video of Ricks on Olbermann. Make sure to watch it.


While in England recently I had the opportunity to talk at length to a former British special forces soldier who now works for a private security firm operating in Iraq. He made basically the same point. The surge has worked insofar as the violence is down in some parts of the country. The problem is that the surge will soon end -- the current troop levels cannot be sustained -- and that it is simply being waited out by many of those who wish to commit acts of violence. In other words, there is a certain calm before the storm right now -- although the calm is relative. This contractor told me that the situation in Iraq is much worse than is being reported. Some positive developments are going unreported (or underreported), too, but, for the most part, it is simply chaos and anarchy, and genocide. Iraq is still, it seems, pure hell -- and it will only get worse.

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Stupidest endorsement of the day

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Stupid because it comes so late, with the endorsed candidate already in steady decline and without much of a hope of winning anything, stupid because the endorsed candidate is running a pointless campaign lazily and without much enthusiasm, stupid because the truth about the endorsed candidate long ago broke through the imaginary facade that had been propping him up, his supporters basing their shallow opinions of him largely on fiction, specifically on the qualities of the fictional characters he has played on television and in the movies.

Yes, it's Fred Thompson, who has been endorsed by Human Events, a "Reaganesque" publication that has featured such right-wing luminaries (and crazies) as Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Bob Novak, Oliver North, and Pat Buchanan. And, sure, it does make Thompson out to be the second coming of Ronald Reagan -- or at least preferable, in ideologically conservative terms, to the other candidates in the field, all deeply flawed: Giuliani, Romney, McCain, Huckabee, Paul. Reading through the endorsing editorial, you get a good sense of what matters to conservatives these days, of what it means, in the U.S., to be a conservative: "We conclude that Thompson is a solid conservative whose judgment is grounded in our principles." On abortion (anti), guns (pro), taxes (anti), gay marriage (anti), and the environment (anti), Thompson holds all the right positions. Human Events would have liked him to support the Clinton impeachment, to have opposed McCain-Feingold, and to have opposed the efforts of trial lawyers to oppose "limitations on liability in defective product and medical malpractice cases," but, well, no one's perfect -- and perfectly crazy.

No, this is not a joke. This is what conservatives -- the real, hardcore kind -- think. We can all have a good laugh over this, their endorsement of one of the genuine losers of this election season, but it's helpful to come to terms with their despicable agenda as we work to defeat it as decisively and as definitively as possible.


Whatever the results on the Human Events scorecard, it seems to me that the publication gets Thompson wrong, exaggerating his conservative record and platform and overlooking his more maverick past.

For more, see here, here, and here.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Best in show

By Capt. Fogg

Hark, hark, The dogs do bark
The beggars are coming to town

-- 13th century nursery rhyme --

Do we really believe Ron Paul has no idea about who wrote the articles that went out under his name during the 1990's? Does anyone buy the statement that he never read them? Does anyone think it's irrelevant because it happened before the 6 week memory span of the American public? Paul says what I want to hear about our drift away from a constitutional Republic toward an oligarchy driven by expedience. He is willing to directly address many problems directly that his opponents are either ignorant of or afraid to incriminate themselves by mentioning, but anyone can say anything. His customary candor seems to have gone missing when it comes to the Ron Paul Political Report.

Does anyone believe the pusillanimous pandering of Fred Thompson?

On the one hand, you have the Reagan revolution, you have the Reagan coalition of limited government and strong national security,

he said last night. Actually we never did, we had a corrupt president with a progressive neurodegenerative disease who inflated the government to record size, ignored the law, trained terrorists in Central America sold missiles to Iran and a military that tripped all over it's inadequacies while invading the tiny Caribbean Island of Grenada. A pretty revolting sort of revolution it was.

He would be a Christian leader, but he would also bring about liberal economic policies, liberal foreign policies,

Thompson said of Huckabee. The Pope would be a Christian leader, too, even though neither man could be accused of being Liberal or being qualified to be our president, nor could Jesus be accused of being conservative. Perhaps that's all there is to Thompson's campaign: just say Reagan and Liberal and lie about what that means until the dogs start to bark.

The Air Force has a saying that says if you’re not catching flak, you’re not over the target. I’m catching the flak; I must be over the target.

This was supposed to be a demonstration of the Huckabeean wit and probably was, to anyone dumb enough to let the false syllogism pass unnoticed.

And then there was Rudy.

"There were other people on this stage that also supported the surge. The night of the president’s speech, I was on television. I supported the surge, I’ve supported it throughout.”

Me too, me too, you guys -- it wasn't only him, it was me too! 9/11 -- 9/11 -- I was there! What about a candidate that isn't afraid to criticize the grotesque and fatal errors of the worst president and most inept Commander in Chief in American history? Not amongst the Republican kennel club.

I’m going to fight for every single job. Michigan, South Carolina, every state in this country. We’re going to fight for jobs and make sure that our future is bright,

says Uncle Milton Romney. Sure you are, Mitt and I'm sure you'll explain just how you're going to do it after the election is over.

Then came McCain:

One of the reasons why [sic] I won in New Hampshire is because I went there and told them the truth, and sometimes you have to tell people things they don’t want to hear along with things that they do want to hear.

Right, whatever suits the occasion and the audience and that's usually the latter.

Are we bothering to name a "winner" in these debates any more? For may part, I don't give a damn and I don't have a dog in this fight anyway but It's easy enough to name a loser of course. There may be about 300 million of them.

Some in rags and some in Jags
And one in a velvet gown

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

It's that time again. In 2008 --

By Carol Gee

More soldiers are becoming casualties in Iraq. According to McClatchy (1/9/08):

A new military operation involving 74,000 U.S. and Iraqi soldiers is targeting the epicenter of al Qaida in Iraq's operations and the source of recent attacks that have unsettled Iraq after months of relative calm.

. . . About 20 to 30 insurgents have been killed so far, Hertling estimated, refusing to give a firm body count. Three U.S. soldiers were killed by small-arms fire in Salah al Din on Jan. 8, a statement from the military said, and six more were killed by an explosive device in a home in Diyala on Jan. 9.

Those who survive the current Iraq violence will someday come back to the United States. There will be other casualties as the U.S. puts its "mini-surge" into Afghanistan. Many of out military men and women will come back to an uncertain future. Far too many of our veterans are falling through the cracks. Those who do can eventually become homeless.

In December I posted about a group that is trying to help out. I encourage you to look at the list below and see it there isn't something you can do to support their efforts in your area. Tomorrow night is the event in Detroit. Others follow.

Andy Koelz, Program Specialist at Circle of Friends for American Veterans said this last month:

Using the media attention gained from these rallies as support, we hope to spur government action to provide greater assistance to combat the problem of homelessness among veterans. We are a strictly non-partisan organization that only seeks to help veterans. In preparation for our upcoming series of rallies we are making a strong effort to let as many people know about our rallies as possible. The more people in attendance at our rallies the greater the show of support for homeless veterans.

The organization is their big month of rallies about which I again want to remind folks:

Detroit, Michigan……………..……………………………….………………….……………Friday, January 11th at 6:00PM
Michigan Veterans Foundation -2770 Park Avenue, Detroit, Michigan

Charleston, South Carolina……………………………….…………….………………Tuesday, January 15th at 7:00PM
William Aiken House – The American Theater –
454 King Street, Charleston, South Carolina

Columbia, South Carolina……………………………………..……………………….Thursday, January 17th at 7:00PM
American Legion Post #6 -200 Pickens Street, Columbia, South Carolina

Tampa, Florida…………………………….…………..………………….…………………Thursday, January 24th at 7:00PM
Elks Lodge – 3616 West Gandy Boulevard, Tampa, Florida

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania…………………………………..……..…………………Thursday, January 31st at 7:00PM
The National Liberty Museum –
321 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Arlington, Virginia……………………………….…………………………………….……….Friday, February 8th at 7:00PM
American Legion Post #139 –
3445 Washington Blvd., Arlington, Virginia

For more information, call us toll-free at 1-800-528-5385
To learn more about OPERATION UNITED REVEILLE IV and the Circle of Friends for American
Veterans, visit us on the Web at

To quote further from the organization's press release:

Members of Congress and local politicians have, in the past, come forward at the rallies to offer their support for our country’s homeless veterans. At these rallies, the Circle of Friends promulgates the Veterans’ Bill of Rights and challenges all Members of Congress to affirm their support for it.

Thus far, the organization has garnered support from 25 members Congress representing both Houses of Congress and both major political parties. Presidential candidates of both political parties are also invited to attend the rallies or send a representative. One goal of the rallies is to obtain support from Presidential candidates. The Veterans’ Bill of Rights continues to move forward with resounding community and political support. Major Hampton will travel more than 25,000 miles across America during the 2007-2008 series of rallies, in the process of obtaining support for veterans nationwide.

Once the Circle of Friends has secured the support of several hundred Members of Congress, they will go to the Congress with all the names and tell them it is time to support their words with actions by passing legislation with adequate appropriations.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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What's in the Kool-Aid???

By Carl

A couple of news items tells me the Kool-Aid at RNC headquarters is being spiked up in anticipation of the November elections:

1) Bush sees Palestine state treaty within year -- Now, nevermind that for sixty years, Israel and the Palestinians have been at each other's throats, and nevermind that both sides are guilty of atrocities of a nature that would make forgiveness hard for even Jesus, all you need to know in order to find this hilarious is that this is Bush's first trip to Israel during his Presidency. In the last year. Of a lame duck term. From an irrelevant politician who is advised by a group of neo-cons who aren't, to put it mildly, particularly objective about which side should get the lion's share of consideration.

Giuliani Targets Conservatives With Tax-Cut Plan -- Never mind that, as mayor, Rudy actually ended up raising taxes when the dust settled (he claims he reduced taxes, but by the time he left office, his last budget had created a net increase, at a time when the city economy was tanking. Too, the tax cuts were targeted towards businesses and the wealthy). Does anyone in the GOP realize (besides Mike Huckabee) that the Laffer Curve they're so fond of quoting has a downside, that you can cut taxes TOO MUCH and it starts to destroy the revenue stream that covers the basic needs of the nation????? We have failing infrastructure, a bloated government that's grown exponentially under a "compassionate conservative", debts to pay off AND an aging population. A tax cut is exactly what we DON'T need right now!

Romney's Fishy Delegate Claim -- In layman's terms (especially if you own an Apple Computer), this is called the "reality distortion field" coming into play. The count based on election results is that Huckabee has 33 delegates, Romney has 19. By Romney's count, he has fifteen delegates, and Huckabee has 12. WTF?

Turns out that Romney is ignoring Iowa, claiming that it really didn't count since the caucus delegates are technically uncommitted, meaning Iowa was the
Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of primaries. *snark*

Sheesh! And these were supposed to be the adults of American politics!

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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FAIR and friends

By Capt. Fogg

Lou Dobbs is quick to argue that his obsession with illegal immigration centers on the illegality and not the fact of immigration or the ethnicity of the immigrants, although I haven't heard a peep out of him about Canadian immigrants or the need to close the northern border. Indeed, many of the illegal immigration opinion shouters take great pains to tell us that they are only concerned that laws are being broken even though the near hysterical reaction to the very thought of Spanish being spoken within our borders is visible everywhere and calls their dispassionate pose into question. Are we looking at racism carefully cleaned up, shaved and passed off as reason?

Dan Stein, president of FAIR or the Federation For American Immigration Reform has appeared on Lou Dobbs' television show more than a dozen times, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center and many times on other news programs. His organization, the largest anti-immigration group in the US, has been called on by Congress to testify about immigration more than 30 times and has been instrumental in shooting down immigration reforms. Are these people voicing reasonable concerns about immigration policies and the effects on the US of immigrant labor or are they something else? Is it fair to look at FAIR and friends a little closer?

Stein has been communicating about immigration policies with a Belgian political party that has been banned from that country by their Supreme Court for their racist views.FAIR's Western Field representative, Joeseph Turner has created and been the head of an anti immigrant group whose rallies were frequented by neo-Nazis; people Turner refused to disassociate with his group.

The founder of FAIR, John Taunton, was an outspoken critic of Latinos and Catholics and a proponent of eugenics, a selective breeding program developed by Adolph Hitler. Stein calls him" a remarkable figure in American politics." FAIR has accepted $1,200,000 from the Pioneer Fund to promote the racial stock of the original colonists (presumably not those from Spain or Africa.) It's for such reasons as this that SPLC has added FAIR to it's list of hate groups.

It's not surprising that people with notions about an ethnically pure United States should try to dignify the enterprises of such people or cover up their slimier aspects. The facade of avuncular sincerity of people like Dobbs is quite convincing, but then it's part of a long American tradition of pretending that slavery and then segregation and religious discrimination were really reasonable policies well thought out by reasonable men. That's not to say that we don't have a problem; it is to say that when you listen to someone's statement of a problem and to the solution he offers, it's a good idea to know who stands behind him and what their real agenda is.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

When a win is really a tie

By Edward Copeland

Hillary Nothing-But-Ambition Clinton beat Barack Obama in the New Hampshire primary, but lost in most of the media blather is something everyone should remember, particularly after the 2000 general election: popular vote totals don't always mean a win. In fact, Obama and Hillary both got 9 delegates out of New Hampshire:

Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the New Hampshire Democratic primary. But this is no more relevant to the outcome of the contest than Al Gore taking the national popular vote in the 2000 elections. The Democratic nominee will be decided on the basis of who can claim the most delegates at the national party convention, not by the popular vote. By that measure, primary elections in New Hampshire resulted in a tie between Clinton and Barack Obama.

Clinton's popular-vote margin over Obama was razor-thin -- fewer than 8,000 votes, or 3%, with 96% of precincts reporting. As a result, each will come away from New Hampshire with the pledges of 9 delegates. John Edwards, finishing in a distant third place, will take the remaining 4. A look at the national scorecard finds Obama barely in the lead with 25 delegates to Clinton's 24.

Of course, as has been mentioned in other posts here, this a long process and we've got a long way to go, not even factoring the wishy-washy votes that will be cast by "superdelegates," the modern version of the old smoke-filled backrooms that decided a party's nominee:

There's more. The real winner in New Hampshire can't be declared until you factor in superdelegates. These are party leaders who are allowed to vote at the convention, but may make their own choices at any time, and without regard to the popular vote results. New Hampshire has 8 superdelegates; of these, 2 have declared their support for Clinton, 3 for Obama, and 3 are undeclared. When all of the declared superdelegates in the nation are tallied, Clinton roars into
the lead with 183 total delegates to Obama's 78.

Stay tuned. This ain't over yet.

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Playing the immigration card, German-style

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Widely viewed as a sensible sort of conservative, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently came out in support of boot camps for young offenders. Indeed, as The Guardian is reporting, Merkel's party, the CDU, proposed last weekend "a swath of tougher laws to crack down on young criminals, including higher sentences and the swifter expulsion of immigrant offenders".

Conservatives everywhere, Germany included, tend to respond to the problem of crime, which they overhype in order to score political points, not by addressing its root causes but by expanding police powers and focusing on punishment. In this regard, Merkel's shift to the right is hardly surprising. She and her party are trying to score as many political points as possible in anticipation of a key upcoming state election and with her own hold on power exceedingly tenuous -- her government is a so-called "Grand Coalition" of the country's two main politial parties, the CDU (the Christian Democrats) and the SPD (the Social Democrats) -- and crime is a good place to start.

The problem, however, is that this isn't just about crime, or youth crime, or tougher punishment. Rather, it's also, and perhaps primarily, about the ongoing and deeply problematic issue of immigration and racism in Germany, a country that has long welcomed foreign workers without fully accepting them. It is easy to become Canadian or American, or even British or French, far less easy to become German. Ultimately, foreigners are foreigners, and remain so even after spending much of their lives in Germany. And while crime may indeed be a problem worthy of serious examination, what is troubling here is that foreigners are being scapegoated, and not just by Germans generally but by the Merkel and other conservative politicians specifically:

The issue was first seized upon several weeks ago by the CDU's Roland Koch, the state governor of the western state of Hesse and a major Merkel ally, who is fighting for re-election in just under three weeks' time and risks losing his absolute majority.

His campaign had seemed to lack direction until just before Christmas, when a pensioner was brutally beaten and called "shit German" on the Munich underground network by two youths -- one Greek and one Turkish -- whom he had asked to extinguish their cigarettes. The incident was captured on CCTV images which were subsequently broadcast across German television networks.

Koch's declaration that "we have too many criminal young foreigners", and that a "zero tolerance against violence" was key to foreign integration, were splashed across the media. He has subsequently threatened Germany's 15 million immigrants with "consequences" if they fail to "play the rules of the game" and adapt to a German way of life, criticising them for everything from
failing to learn German to their "strange attitudes" towards the country's strict waste disposal laws, as well as the "odd" way Muslims slaughter animals "in their kitchens".

And Merkel, for her part, is playing along:

In her statements made at the weekend, Merkel challenged the Social Democrats, her coalition partners, to address the issue of youth crime. "The SPD cannot close its eyes to the fact that 43% of all violent crimes in Germany are committed by people under 21 years of age, and that nearly half of these are by foreign youths," she said.

The debate has created the perception that immigrant crime is on the rise, despite the fact that Federal Crime Office statistics show that crime by non-Germans has been on the decline since 1999 and youth crime as a percentage of all crimes has remained stable at around 12% for 15 years.

In other words, Merkel and Koch are playing politics, much like Bush Sr. was playing politics in 1998 when he unfairly attacked Dukakis's record on crime as governor of Massachusetts. In a country like Germany, however, a country with a historically appalling record with respect to its treatment of ethnic and other minorities (and of non-"pure" Germans generally), to put it nicely, this sort of xenophobic brand of politics is unsettling, to say the least.

As in the past, if not quite so viciously, when the going gets tough politically, many German politicians -- and notably, and noxiously, its conservatives, including its conservative leaders -- play to the country's deepest and most disturbing prejudices, levying blame on the Other, the outsider, the non-German, the foreigner. And they are not alone. American conservatives do it, too, of course, and so do British conservatives, and conservatives elsewhere, and so do many others across the political spectrum throughout Europe and much of the rest of the world -- for such bigotry is hardly restricted to any one ideological segment -- and it is often much worse than what bubbles up in Germany.

Still, it is clear what Merkel and her party, Germany's governing party, are doing, and it is, not to put too fine a word on it, reprehensible. The fact that they are doing it in a country with Germany's past, a fairly recent past at that, only makes it worse.

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The day my Senator lost me

By Creature

This is why I cannot support Hillary Clinton.

[AP] About 151,000 Iraqis died from violence in the three years after the United States invaded, concludes the best effort yet to count deaths — one that still may not settle the fierce debate over the war's true toll on civilians and others.

Hillary voted for the war. She had an eye on politics when she voted. She trusted a president that should never have been trusted. Many, many people died unnecessarily. End of story.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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The NH independents didn't have much impact


A story from the New Hampshire primaries that has been totally missed by the (few, I admit) news outlets I consulted last night and this morning is how irrelevant the "independents" were. I heard more than once that 2008 was a repeat of 2000, when independents gave McCain his edge. And, of course, Obama was to be the candidate of independents (who may vote in either primary by re-registering at the polling place).

On the GOP side, according to the MSNBC exit poll, the claim that independents made the difference is completely wrong. The real story is that those who came to vote already registered Republican were as pro-McCain as those who came as independents. Among independents (34% of the toal), it was McCain over Romney, 38-30. Among Republicans (61% of the total), it was McCain, 37-33. Even ignoring margins of error, that is a non-substantial difference. Huckabee also did as well with independents (10%) as with Republicans (11%). The independents who participated in the GOP primary were just Republicans not registered as such.

On the Democratic side, the pundits' expectation that Obama would be favored by independents is closer to being accurate, but the boost was not big enough. Nor is his disproportionate support among independents necessarily good news for him going forward, if it leads partisans to rally around the one perceived as more their own (as was the case, post-NH, for Republicans in 2000). It is especially unhelpful in closed primaries (on which more below). Among those registered independent before primary day (42% of the total), Obama beat Clinton, 40-34. Good, but given that polls going in (which were, of course, way off) showed him nearing or breaking 40% overall, that he just made 40% among independents has to be as big a letdown to his campaign as his coming in a close second overall to Clinton. Among Democrats (52% of the total), Clinton trounced Obama, 43-32.

As expected, Democrats attracted many more independents than Republicans, and, as expected, Democratic-voting independents favored Obama, but it just was not enough.

That breakdown among registered Democrats in New Hampshire is bad news for Obama in some primaries ahead that are closed. But maybe not too bad. The two biggest closed primaries on 5 Feb. are in New York and Illinois, which presumably will not be hotly contested, anyway. California (441 delegates) allows independents (registered "decline to state") to participate in the Democratic primary. On that same day, so do Minnesota (88 Democratic delegates), Missouri (88), Georgia (103), and Tennessee (85). Among the other contests that day that are closed are Connecticut (60), Colorado (71), New Mexico (38), and Arizona (67). So there remain a lot of delegates at stake in states in which independents could still boost Obama--especially California. In the contests between now and 5 Feb., South Carolina's primary is open (54) and Nevada's caucuses are closed (33). Michigan's primary on 15 Jan. is open, but the national party is not seating any delegates from it, and Obama withdrew from the ballot (Clinton is on it). Florida's primary on 29 Jan. is closed, but likewise not selecting any recognized delegates, due to violating national protect-New-Hampshire rules.

In all the postmortems on the New Hampshire Democratic primary, it is still worth remembering that if New Hampshire had been the first state, and thus there had been no expected "Iowa bounce" for Obama, the big story would be how he came back from a 2:1 deficit and almost caught the presumed front-runner. And, on that score, I sure do wish the media would stop speaking of candidates' "victory" and "concession" speeches when, on the Democratic side, they tied in delegates (9 each, and 4 for Edwards) won from an electorate representing around 0.5% of the nation. A wish sure not to be fulfilled, I know.

(Cross-posted at Fruits & Votes.)

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For once, Lou Dobbs is right

By Michael J.W. Stickings

(This is post #4000 at The Reaction, a major milestone. Thanks as always to all the co-bloggers and contributors who have made this blog far better than I could ever have made it on my own.)

From Dobbs's CNN column, entitled "Pundits take it in the teeth":

Many of our political savants and pundits took one in the teeth last night. I couldn't be happier about last night's surprising results, and not because I favor one candidate or another. I'm just glad the so-called experts in the national media were wrong about their premature assumptions that the Democratic and Republican nominations for president were a done deal.


At this point, all of the geniuses in the mainstream media, mainly in television news, need to summon the courage to tell their audiences that there are a few important issues to be discussed and a few important facts to be collected before permitting a public coronation of any candidate based on dynasty, momentum, charisma or, God save us all, likeability.

I don't much care for Dobbs, a populist-nativist with a prominent platform from which to spew his daily idiocy, but on this he's absolutely right. The mainstream news media should be ashamed of themselves. Unfortunately, they're incapable of such self-criticism. They will learn nothing from this, and they will make the same mistakes ad nauseam and ad infinitum.

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Notes on New Hampshire

By Carl

There's been an awful lot of analysis of the results from last night's New Hampshire primary, including some rather "
over the top" stories.

"Clinton Escapes"? *snark*

Hillary Clinton did get a wake-up call in Iowa, to be sure. I don't want to minimize that, She also was in deep trouble, based on the polling leading up to last night. Even her internal numbers looked bad, if you read between the lines of the news stories coming out of her camp.

So what happened? What changed between Iowa and New Hampshire?

One word: organization.

Clinton had very little organization in Iowa. Indeed, she was warned going into Iowa that she stood very little chance of winning the caucuses and she should consider skipping them, but the impression of the "inevitable nominee" skipping any primary or caucus didn't play well.

So she went in expecting to lose. I don't think she expected to lose that badly.

In New Hampshire, it was a different story: she had the blessings of the regular Democratic machine in the state (Jean Shaheen, former governor of the state, and wife of former Clinton press aide Michael Penn, was her state campaign chairman), and she had a network of volunteers that recruited 6,000 volunteers from out of state this past weekend to knock on doors.

Too, she caught a break in the frenzy over scheduling: as Iowa, Michigan, and Florida started to play with the calendar, New Hampshire was forced to move their primary up into the winter break for Dartmouth University. Dartmouth would have provided some votes for Clinton (single college educated women went strongly for her), but Obama and Edwards would have gained many more votes than she.

Edwards provided another firewall for her, to be sure. By aligning his position so closely to Obama's, he gave political cover to those who wanted to vote for him but who felt obliged to acknowledge Obama's "change" narrative. I think this backfired on Edwards. I think he meant to take Clinton out, but only hampered Obama's chance for victory.

One more unintended resource for Cljnton was the independent vote, which swerved from Obama in Iowa to support John McCain in New Hampshire. I'm thinking hatred of Romney survives from his gubenatorial reign in neighboring Massachussetts.

But to say that Clinton "escaped" in New Hampshire is to tacitly acknowledge that Obama "escaped" in Iowa, because these factors I've listed here (with the possiblee exception of Edwards) worked for Obama in Iowa.

Hillary Clinton finally got her campaign back on track, doing pretty much what I
prescribed earlier this week (albeit in a way I had never pondered when I wrote my piece), She took the focus away from the infighting and turned the spotlight more clearly on what she wanted to do for this country, and how this country had slipped back from progress:

"You know, I have so many opportunities from this country, I just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said, her voice breaking a bit. The audience applauded.

"This is very personal for me, it's not just political, it's [that] I see what's happening, we have to reverse it," she said emotionally, adding that some "just put ourselves out there and do this against some pretty difficult odds.

"But some of us are right and some of us are wrong. Some of us ready and some of us are not. Some of us know what we will do on day one, and some of us really haven't thought that through enough."

"So as tired as I am and I am. And as difficult as it is to try and keep up what I try to do on the road, like occasionally exercise and try to eat right -- it's tough when the easiest food is pizza -- I just believe so strongly in who we are as a nation.

Just keep it up, Hillary. You've got your groove back.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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The voters spoke:

By Carol Gee

. . . not the mainstream media, not political campaign managers, not even the presidential candidates themselves, except unconsciously. That is, as's Jim VandeHei called is this morning on CNN, "the beauty of the process."

We all forget that it is VOTING process. . . not an opinion polling process, not a media process, not a leadership process. It was the followers that spoke in Iowa, Wyoming and now New Hampshire.

Democratic, Republican and independent voters spoke in the only way that counted. And it was anxiety-producing to watch the vote count. It did not take very long for Senator John McCain to emerge as the Republican primary winner, characterizing the state's voters as ". . . New Hampshire, where they don't let others make their decision for them.

It took a long time for the media to project who would win the Democratic primary. It was the AP who first projected Clinton's eventual win. Not long afterwards Senator Obama graciously conceded to Senator Clinton and then gave another of his wonderful trademark speeches that was just what his supporters needed to stay energized: " Nothing can stand in the way of the voices of millions calling for change."

And then Senator Clinton, the projected winner, gave her own speech, in her own voice, saying, "Last week I listened to you and in the process I found my own voice." Visually, it spoke volumes. It was just her and her younger supporters on the stage. Her speech was inclusive, much more like Obama's now, and less "I" oriented. What we know from the outcome/results part of the N.H. primary process is that each of the leading candidates has the ability to listen as well as speak.

One other person spoke last night, finally. For just a minute I switched from CNN, where I had been watching all evening, to MSNBC. My timing was perfect because I heard Chris Matthews speaking, head a bit lowered, saying,"I will never underestimate Hillary Clinton again." I hope he, and all the others who operated on their own agendas and assumptions, will remember that it is we the voters who will speak.

John Edwards made the best argument last night in favor of honoring the primary process, talking about "the ninety-nine percent of Americans who have not yet had their voices heard." All of us who have not yet gotten our turn to speak, will now get our chances, state by state, voting booth by voting booth. In quick order will come the Democratic primaries and caucuses in Michigan (1/15/08), Nevada (1/19/08), South Carolina (1/26/08), Florida (1/29/08). The consequences of holding primaries early -- in Michigan and Florida -- will be serious, because they are breaking party rules. Michigan will lose 128 pledged delegates and Florida 185 pledged delegates.

Then comes what used to be called the "Super Tuesday" (2/05/08) primaries and caucuses in Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah. And my own Texas votes on March 4, 2008.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Call it for Hillary

By J. Kingston Pierce

Wow, what a night! Against the recent odds--and despite the overconfident predictions of media pundits--
Hillary Clinton pulled out a win in the New Hampshire primary election, beating Democratic challenger Barack Obama by the narrowest of margins (39 percent to 37 percent). This throws the race back up for grabs, and makes those folks, like The New Republic’s Martin Peretz and Democratic consultant Donna Brazile, who had previously declared that former President Bill Clinton was a drag on his wife’s candidacy, have to rethink their positions.

So now Obama has a win in Iowa, and Clinton has one in New Hampshire. (John Edwards came in third, of course.) Given the strength of both the Democratic frontrunners, it’s possible that we’ll see more of these back-and-forth victories for a while yet. New Hampshire enjoys being a maverick, when it comes to choosing U.S. presidents, and it’s unlikely that other states, such as South Carolina and Nevada, will follow its lead slavishly.

Expect the same sort of unsettled contest on the Republican’t side. John McCain, who won tonight and also won New Hampshire against George W. Bush in 2000, is unlikely to be as warmly treated elsewhere. As far as GOPers are concerned, he’s on the wrong side of the fence regarding immigration legislation, and his Bush-lockstep approach to the Iraq debacle (he told an audience in New Hampshire last week that it’s fine with him if the United States remains in Iraq for the next century!) will turn off fellow Republican’ts who are tired of wasting lives and money in the cause of Bush’s bellicosity. And McCain’s woes only become greater if he actually has the chance to face the general voting public. His pro-war stance won’t endear him to independentss, who largely side with Democrats on the Iraq mess; and it will probably be those independents who once more hold the final cards in November. In other words, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee ought not to be folding up their tents just yet.

It’s a real horse race now.

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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McCain wins, Dems too close to call in New Hampshire vote

By Michael J.W. Stickings

We will have updates to come, but, for now, at 9:53 pm ET, this is what is known -- from CNN.

-- McCain has won the Republican primary over Romney. The latest count puts him up 38-29, a solid victory.

-- On the Democratic side, Clinton holds a narrow 39-37 lead over Obama, with Edwards well back in third.

Make sure to check back there, and here, for more. Kos is also proving regular updates on the Democratic vote.

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Tumblin' Rudy

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I am tempted to use the phrase "neo-fascist thug" to describe Rudy Giuliani. And, there, I just did. I can't stand the man, and so it was with immense satisfaction that I read Taegan Goddard's report that The Exploiter of 9/11, for that is what he is, and that is what he shall be called, has fallen to fourth place in Florida, this according to a new poll.

Rudy is conducting what may be called a cult-of-personality campaign. He gave up on Iowa -- and has given up on New Hampshire and South Carolina -- in order to focus exclusively on Florida and the other big states. It is a decidedly national campaign meant to capitalize on, and ride the wave of, his celebrity. While his rivals are kissing babies and doing the pancake breakfast thing in small towns in small states, democracy the Jeffersonian way, Rudy is promoting himself atop his self-made 9/11 platform.

And it seemed to be working, for a time, until Huckabee and his theocratic populism began to rise up seemingly out of nowhere, until the formidable Romney ground campaign (and massive spending) rolled into action, until a resurgent McCain began to play the comeback kid role in New Hampshire. Thompson has fallen back, and has not proven to be much of a candidate, but the other three have smashed Rudy's strategy, knocking him down to what looks to be also-ran status even in states he needs to win, like Florida. And, yes, the fact that he isn't much of a Republican, torture-loving thuggery and warmongering notwithstanding, hasn't helped. Republicans like their authoritarian father-figures, and their exploiters of 9/11, but even that may not be enough to keep his candidacy alive for much longer.

Not that I like Romney, McCain, and Huckabee, mind you, but it'll be good riddance once Rudy slips away into non-factorhood. He'll continue to make the big bucks playing up his manufactured mythology, of course, but I'd much rather have him bullshitting on the lecture circuit than pushing his weight around in the Oval Office.

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The desperate and pathetic lame-duckery of George W. Bush heads to the Middle East

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Keep checking in here for all the latest from New Hampshire -- we've posted a lot already, and there are many more posts to come -- but, lest we forget, the earth continues to rotate on its axis and revolve around the sun at the edge of the Milky Way. Which is to say, there are other things going on in the world, including the president's -- Bush's, that is -- lame-duck trip to the Middle East.

He left today, and what a good time it was to leave. With so much of the attention on the primaries, and with so much of the current political rhetoric directed squarely at this loathsome man and his loathsome presidency, what was there to lose? -- what is there to lose, in fact? Certainly not his own credibility, of which there is none left -- perhaps whatever is left of America's credibility, not that there's much left, so much having been squandered, so much having been blown to smithereens by this loathsome man and his loathsome presidency.

How amusing, then, to come across headlines like this one, at CBS: "Bush's Last-Chance Trip To The Middle East."

Last chance?

Last chance for what? -- to do what?

To travel the world from the comfort of Air Force One?

No, not quite -- presumably, this is the last chance for Bush to make peace in the Middle East. Or not quite. It won't be peace in Iraq, and it won't be peace with Iran, and it won't be to promote democracy in Egypt, Syria, or elsewhere, and certainly not in Saudi Arabia, a despotism of Bush Family friends. No, it is to be a deal over Palestine, a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yes, Bush wants his moment in the sun, just as Blair had his with Adams and Paisley at his side.

But Bush is no Blair and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict isn't Northern Ireland, and it's quite laughable to think that Bush is in a position to achieve a lasting resolution. A deal there may be, a deal for the cameras, hand-shaking all around, but any such deal would be hollow, a sham.

"President Bush is no longer trying to transform the Middle East from afar," declares Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), "he's trying to manage it in incremental ways by arm-twisting and jawboning leaders in intimate, private sessions." Alterman is an expert, the director of the Middle East Program at CSIS, but his declaration is riddled with absurdity. Bush knows nothing of how to transform the Middle East. He has been all talk, idealistic talk, meaningless talk, throughout his presidency. And he is heading to the region not to get anything done but to make it look like he's trying to get something done, yet another attempt to seem to be a serious leader, a figure of consequence, to grapple with his increasing lame-duckery.

"I think the president will face a tough act convincing the Arabs and the Palestinians that this administration is serious about getting heavily involved in the Israeli-Palestinian process and has an answer to the problems of either Hamas or Iran," contends the Saban Center's Bruce Riedel, another expert, a former NSC and CIA official. It is a tough act he is not nearly talented enough to perform, a "tough sell," as the AP puts it, he is not nearly credible enough to make. Simply put, he has done too much damage to himself, his country, the region, and the Muslim world to close a deal of any significant purpose. Is it any wonder his visit is being greeted with such anger and skepticism on the Arab Street?

And yet, with so many looking past him to his successor, and with a vote of some consequence today in New Hampshire, he is off to make still more of a mockery of his presidency. Here, to sum it up, is Steve Bell's fine cartoon in today's Guardian:

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Today's must-read: Al Giordano's "Damn you, Barack Obama" -- it lays out what we are seeing now

By J. Thomas Duffy

If you want to get a good handle on how a ripple of hope has grown into the Obama Wave, we have a "Must Read" for you.

H/T to Barry Crimmins, long a friend (first), fan, and advocate for the journalism of Al Giordano.

In a Crimmins post yesterday;

"To appreciate just how far ahead of the field, The Field's Al Giordano is, you have to go back and read his analysis of the current presidential race that he wrote for the Boston Phoenix approximately fifteen weeks ago. It's amazingly on the money, and I mean that in every sense of the word."

"On the money" is an understatement!

Read Al Giordano's Damn you, Barack Obama; Win or lose, Obama's small donors may have already brought a revolution in campaign financing

Visit (and bookmark) Al Giordano's The Field

Visit Barry Crimmins

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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New Hampshire talking

By Creature

The early story out of NH: the turnout. People are jamming the polls, ballots are running low, excitement is in the air.

Shakes: "Despite the myriad things to bitch about during this particular Silly Season, the number of people getting involved and showing some basic freaking concern about their country is not one of them."

I agree, who knew the American Idol generation could vote on anything other than a phone. Here's hoping Obama is more Kelly Clarkson than Talyor Hicks.

Stay tuned.

Update: I'm just catching up on Bill's attack of Obama today. Pretty brutal stuff. Stuff that perhaps should not be coming out of an ex-president's mouth.

Yglesias: "As Hillary's husband, you expect Bill to vigorously support her campaign. But as a former president and high-profile Democratic Party leader, you also expect Bill to not actually get down and dirty attacking other Democrats as unfit for office."

Obama may have changed the game, but Bill Clinton is breaking the rules.

Update II [8:00 PM]: Very early numbers, but the race on the Dem side is too close to call. Hill and Bill must be pleased.

Update III [8:30 PM]: It's over quick on the GOP side and the maverick reigns supreme. Go war!

Update IV: Mitt's on the TV talking about silver medals again and, you know what, he's doing OK [never mind, he's going on way too long]. He's now the optimistic, change candidate. Until, of course, it's time for another round of ads.

Update V: We get it, McCain, you tell the truth. The Mrs. just wants to know why the crowd keeps chanting Hacky Sack.

Update VI [9:31 PM]: No matter what happens tonight this is a big victory for Hillary. She was dead and buried this morning and now it's a race again (which is a good thing). I just don't know if I can stomach the whole comeback kid thing all over again.

Update VII: OK, maybe I follow this stuff too closely, but, Edwards, dude, seriously, I think you're great, but enough with the liver girl. It's getting ghoulish.

Update VII 10:33 PM]: Hillary did it. Wow. We are one step closer to a ceiling breaker.

Update IV: Hillary on the TV. She's learned an Obama lesson and put a whole bunch of kids behind her. No Albrights in sight. And suddenly she's a hopeful populist too. She is a quick learner.

I'm done and left a bit uninspired. Toto, we're not in Iowa anymore.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)


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By Creature

LAT: A balmy N.H. gives primary a boost

Mother nature's an Obama fanboy too. Yeesh.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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On the way to the evening

By Carol Gee

When the New Hampshire Primary election returns are finalized, it will be another big milestone in "Election -- 2008." The MSM anointed front-runners will have fulfilled the pundits' breathless predictions or not. With just a few days to recalibrate slumping campaigns, we who watch TV and read newspapers get caught up in the candidate gossip trivia of the moment. Were Hillary's tears real or not? Did Edwards take unfair advantage of her situation with a sexist frame of what a commander in chief needs. Did Obama gain or lose anything from this little drama?

Our editor at The Reaction, Michael, wrote a wonderfully insightful and useful analysis of the current situation from his vantage point in the U.K., where he is currently staying. He talked about the importance of the process so much better than I ever could in "Hillary's long and winding road," from which I quote a couple of his ironic bits of wisdom:

If [Hillary] does lose New Hampshire, though, you know where the media narrative will go: Obama is indeed unstoppable and Clinton is, alas, a hopeless also-ran who might as well get out of the way of the swelling Obama juggernaut. . .The media will have its story, and that will be that.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. New Hampshire hasn't happened yet, and a new Gallup poll puts Clinton and Obama each at about one-third support among Democrats. That's a tie is what that is, and there's a long, long way to go. It is now Obama who faces the challenge of heightened expectations and the risk of losing his hard-won momentum. The pendulum could yet swing back.

Meanwhile the Progressive blogosphere has no lack of definitive opinions, endorsements, important news and predictions with which to weigh in. (My guy was Senator Chris Dodd, so now I have to start completely over). Here is a little sample from my Favorites roster:

  • Rather devastatingly critical of Barack Obama, TxSharon on January 5 endorsed Hillary Clinton.

  • Hat tip to Buckarooskidoo for the link and a great post at Make it Stop! titled, "Holy Hyperbole!The link was to an International Herald Tribune story about Barack Obama's popularity in Germany.

  • "Hat tip" to betmo ( a Kucinich supporter), who first pointed out (Edwards supporter) Bluebloggin's biggie. deserves a round of applause for the (1/7/08) article, "Federal Election Commission has shut down. Yes, I had to read the headline twice also. To quote:

    With the primary season underway for the most important presidential race the Federal Election Commission has shut its doors. I kid you not. On January 1, 2008 the FEC went dark. This is truly amazing, infuriating and stunning that the MSM would miss such a crucial story during an election year. With the exception of the Washington Post’s recent article on December 22nd no one else in the MSM covered the shut down.

    . . . When the terms of three of the six-member Commission expired on December 31, 2007, the agency lost its ability to take any formal actions concerning elections. Because the FEC requires votes of four of its six Commissioners to decide any matter, one vacancy and the expiration of the three appointees, the FEC now has only two Commissioners. They are no longer functional.

    The duties of the FEC, which is an independent regulatory agency, are to disclose campaign finance information, to enforce the provisions of the law such as the limits and prohibitions on contributions, PAC’s and to oversee the public funding of Presidential elections.

Even more important than the FEC to the 2008 elections big picture is the actual voting process. I quoted from this important New York Times Magazine article of January 6, 2008, in my most recent post. It discussed what is wrong with the electronic voting systems of the various states. Today's quote is about what could be right if changes are made in time. Let us hope that New Hampshire voters have confidence that their votes will be counted correctly. Dixville Notch's 17 voters used paper ballots and we saw the counting. To quote:

Optical scanning is used in what many elections experts regard as the “perfect elections” of Leon County in Florida, where Ion Sancho is the supervisor of elections. In the late ’80s, . . . he bought the optical-scanning devices from Unisys and trained his staff . . . His error rate — has dipped as low as . . . three-thousandths of a percent.

More important, his paper trail prevents endless fighting over the results of tight elections. In one recent contest, a candidate claimed that his name had not appeared on the ballot in one precinct. . . The paper ends the discussion.” Sancho has never had a legal fight over a disputed election result. “The losers have admitted they lost, which is what you want,” he adds. “You have to be able to convince the loser they lost.”

That, in a nutshell, is what people crave in the highly partisan arena of modern American politics: an election that can be extremely close and yet regarded by all as fair. Not only must the losing candidate believe in the loss; the public has to believe in it, too.

It is well on the way to the evening and the process is in full swing, and I must trust it. At least the candidates and we will know the outcome before long. I have had the television off all day because I cannot stand it. I am in full retrench mode, trying to decide whom to support when my turn to vote comes in March. I love John Edwards' fierce liberal populism. I love Barack Obama's lovely story, his inspiring manner and his outstanding oratory. And I love Hillary Clinton because she represents my feminist dreams as I begin my seventh decade. I could have worse problems.

cross-posted at South by Southwest

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NH allocation rules


Most of the world's democratic countries elect their legislators by some form of proportional representation (PR). While Americans tend to think of proportional representation--if they think of it at all--as some sort of "foreign" idea, all Democratic voters and some states' Republican voters will be voting in "proportional" elections for delegates to their party's nominating conventions.

New Hampshire Democrats today will be selecting 14 district delegates and 5 statewide delegates. Each of the state's two US congressional districts elects seven delegates, via "proportional representation" to candidates winning at least 15% of the district's votes. The five statewide delegates are also allocated via "PR" among those candidates that win at least 15% in the state. (Quotation marks because the high threshold means it is hardly proportional, unless we understand "proportional" to mean "not block plurality.")

As with several list-PR systems around the world, there is a gender quota. In district 1, there must be four men and three women, while the gender balance is the reverse in district 2.

Most states have similar rules to New Hampshire's on the Democratic side.

If there was any information on the allocation rules for today's NH Republican presidential primary on the party's website, I failed to locate it. I believe it uses some form of "proportional" representation in a more limited sense, though most states that will be having upcoming GOP primaries use winner-take-all rules. Due to the winner-take-all primaries coming up, the Republican party could find itself with a large lead in delegates for a candidate with well under majority support. The Democrats' allocation system makes such a non-consensus result far less likely, no matter what happens the rest of the way.

Update: Fortunately, someone e-mailed me something from CQ that shows that the Republicans "proportionally" allocate 3 delegates in each congressional district, plus award three bonus delegates to the statewide plurality winner. So, in the GOP, there will be a substantial bonus to the leading candidate. (NH has its normal delegate total cut in half because it violated RNC rules by holding the primary so early.)

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Mixed messenger

By Capt. Fogg

George Walker Bush gave a speech yesterday at the Union League Club in Chicago. That, of course, is a club where it's been a tradition that no one of my ethnic background would have been allowed to join. Of course I have as much interest in applying as I do in furthering the economic rape of the United States by Mr. Bush's clients, but I digress. The revelation here is not that Bush feels at home in restricted men's clubs but that he's made a long overdue admission, carefully disguised as optimism, that the economy stands on foundations of Jello.
"We can't take growth for granted"

is as close to an admission of the rising doo-doo level as I've heard him make. Rising unemployment, plunging housing markets and the struggling Dollar were were tangentially touched upon by saying
“recent economic indicators have become increasingly mixed.”

I've never served on a Submarine, but I've seen enough movies to have an idea that when the klaxon blows it doesn't indicate a mixed message; something is heading downward very soon and I'm sure that isn't a violin I'm hearing.
“Many Americans are anxious about the economy,”

says the decider who seems as yet undecided as to whether to openly acknowledge that we have a problem for fear that someone might notice that he caused it. We will probably have to wait until what I will celebrate as his last State of the Union Address later this month to know whether he intends to ignore the invisible hand of the market and try to stimulate the economy, whether he intends to run out the clock, or whether he will just do the Bush thing and push for another regressive tax cut.
“People said, ‘Are you optimistic?’ I said, ‘Absolutely, absolutely optimistic. Do I recognize the reality of the situation? You bet I do.”

Said Bush to his base. I'll bet he does too but you'll have to give me a billion to one odds.

The Democratic response, according to The New York Times will likely resemble "a $500 across-the-board rebate, possibly to be returned to taxpayers in their paychecks through the payroll tax system, as well as a plan to restore the $1,000 per child tax credit to many low-income families that currently do not qualify for it." Who knows if that will help slow the downward momentum but it may help restore optimism outside the Bush bubble.

Cross posted from Human Voices

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