Saturday, February 16, 2008

A big Lone Star endorsement for Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The latest polls have Obama trailing Clinton in Texas by an average of about 10 points, with the hybrid primary/caucus contest (or "precinct conventions") set for March 4, but, on the plus side, Obama has won the endorsement of the largest newspaper in Texas, the Houston Chronicle. Some key points:

  • "The presidency of the United States is a powerful bully pulpit. The occupant of the White House must not only issue orders, but also inspire and advocate for all Americans. Of the two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Chronicle believes Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is best-qualified by life experience, skill and temperament to be the standard bearer for his party."
  • "Obama is both the epitome of the American Dream and well-positioned to reach out to an international community alienated by recent U.S. go-it-alone policies."
  • "Obama vows to reach out to independents and Republicans with a message of inclusion and cooperation. He offers a historic opportunity to elevate national political dialogue to a higher ground. Those who insist on vitriol and obstructionism would be marginalized."
  • "The passion and excitement that Obama has brought to the race can only stimulate more citizens to participate in the electoral process."
Let me examine the third point: I have been critical, in the past, of Obama's "unity" message. It is all well and good to reach out to independents and Republicans, but seeking compromise with the GOP can also mean selling out core liberal, progressive, and Democratic principles. After all, a few exceptions here and there notwithstanding, Republicans continue to support the disastrous war in Iraq, want to bomb Iran, support the use of torture, reject diplomacy and internationalism, advocate theocratic social policies, care little for environmentalism and even less for the climate crisis, promote tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, defend unbalanced executive authority, notably with respect to the conduct of so-called war on terror, including domestic espionage, and so on and so on.

It is one thing to reach out to disaffected Republicans, and there are many who simply no longer feel welcome in their own party, quite another to try to find common ground with a party that not only opposes core liberal, progressive, and Democratic principles but that is deeply and unabashedly partisan and, in some ways, rotten to its own core.

I trust that Obama would not -- as president -- sell out our core principles. I am confident that he would not. But it is nonetheless true that he "offers a historic opportunity to elevate national political dialogue to a higher ground," as the Chronicle puts it. What Obama offers, I believe, is a capacity for greatness that Clinton lacks but that America sorely needs.

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New York's primary problems

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The New York Times is reporting that the initial counting of votes in some New York City precincts on Super Tuesday "understated" Obama's support:

Black voters are heavily represented in the 94th Election District in Harlem’s 70th Assembly District. Yet according to the unofficial results from the New York Democratic primary last week, not a single vote in the district was cast for Senator Barack Obama.

That anomaly was not unique. In fact, a review by The New York Times of the unofficial results reported on primary night found about 80 election districts among the city’s 6,106 where Mr. Obama supposedly did not receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a respectable race in a nearby district.

City election officials this week said that their formal review of the results, which will not be completed for weeks, had confirmed some major discrepancies between the vote totals reported publicly — and unofficially — on primary night and the actual tally on hundreds of voting machines across the city.

In the Harlem district, for instance, where the primary night returns suggested a 141 to 0 sweep by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the vote now stands at 261 to 136. In an even more heavily black district in Brooklyn — where the vote on primary night was recorded as 118 to 0 for Mrs. Clinton — she now barely leads, 118 to 116.

The Board of Elections is blaming "human error," but, to me, this seems like a possibly more serious problem involving voting machines and the reporting of results. These are significant discrepancies, after all. Are accurate reports not being produced?

In the end, Obama may come out with an extra delegate or two, but at least the problem is being addressed.

Or not. Make sure to read The Brad Blog's take on this.

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Texas' turn in about two weeks

By Carol Gee

It will be primary time in Texas on March 4. The Democratic powers that be do not need pundits to tell them that Texas and Ohio will be make-or-break for Senators Clinton and Obama on that big day. This will be the time when Chairman Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy will pay off for all Democrats in the Lone Star state. His efforts at organizing will be very helpful with assuring good party participation as well as taking advantage of what is expected to be a high turnout at the polls.

Former President Bill Clinton is campaigning for his wife in Texas. According to, Friday was East Texas day. Texarkana folks heard about Senator Clinton's health care plan and those in Longview got his "solutions" speech. He was running late to Stephen F. Austin U. in Nacadoches where he focused on contrasting his wife and her opponent there. President Clinton wrapped up at 11:00 PM in Lufkin, emphasizing Hillary's experience and trying to blunt Obama's "Change" argument. Today, Saturday he will travel to Amarillo, Lubbock and Austin. With such distances ans a possible winter storm, he will undoubtedly run late today, too.

Memeorandum carried headlines with differing opinions about how hard Bill Clinton hit against Barack Obama yesterday. Take your pick:

  1. "Bill Clinton: Obama ‘Literally Not Part of Any of the Good Things’ From the 1990s" -- from Jake Tapper at ABC News.
  2. "Bill Clinton avoids attacks on Obama in East Texas" -- from Bruce Tomaso at The Dallas Morning News.

Midweek Senator Hillary "Clinton stumps in South Texas," reported the Bryan/College Station Eagle. Another story from the same source is an excellent analysis of why "Clinton focuses on wooing Texas' Hispanics." To quote:

Clinton. . . and Obama are in a tight race for Texas's 228 delegates. Hispanic support will be critical; Latinos could make up about half of Democratic voters on primary day.Clinton plans to stick to heavily Hispanic venues on her first swing in Texas, campaigning Wednesday in McAllen, Robstown outside Corpus Christi and San Antonio.

And in typically Texan fashion, there is also a bit of controversy, "A Texas Tiff Over the Dems Debate," set for Austin, February 21. It has been closed to the public, and the public is mighty upset. If I lived in Austin I would be among them. To quote:

The cry for tickets went up within minutes of the announcement on February 11, but organizers initially responded that there would be no general admission seats and tickets would be reserved for the University of Texas, the Texas Democratic Party, the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and debate broadcasters CNN and Spanish language network Univision.

The not-so-public debate prompted local media blogs to explode with angry and dismayed postings.

And it will be my turn in two weeks to cast my vote. We have taken all the little choose-your-candidate quizzes. I usually show up as an Edwards fan. I have visited the "where they stand on the issues" websites. There is very little difference between their politics, but Obama is a bit more liberal. I have listened to all the debates. Senator Clinton often sounds better there. I have listened to many of their speeches. Senator Obama is the clear winner there. I have read the opinions of my most trusted blog friends. They are equally divided and equally passionate about their choices. I have cussed and discussed politics with my dear "roommate," my spouse of 50+ years. We agree on the best choice. And it is not for any of the previous reasons. It is the same way most of you vote for your president, from the gut.

I will be voting for Barack Obama. He has the right instincts, the right vision, the right inclusiveness, and the right electability quotient. But if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, I will very happily support her just as forcefully. I belong to her older women demographic.


(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Barack = War In Iraq?

By Carl

By way of
Skippy, the inventor of Blogtopia, we have this remarkable story:

An undeclared $3.5 million (£1.8 million) payment from a corrupt Iraqi-British businessman has landed Barack Obama’s former fundraiser behind bars.

The payment, disclosed in court papers, is the first time that Mr Obama’s long-serving bagman Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a Syrian immigrant to the United States, has been linked to Nadhmi Auchi, the Iraqi-born billionaire who is one of Britain’s richest men. The relationship is a potential embarrassment for Mr Obama, who has made his opposition to the Iraq war a central plank of his campaign.

Why, you may ask? Here's why:

The Times has, however, discovered state documents in Illinois recording that Fintrade Services, a Panamanian company, lent money to Mr Obama’s fundraiser in May 2005.

Fintrade’s directors include Ibtisam Auchi, the name of Mr Auchi’s wife. Mr Auchi’s spokespeople declined to respond to a question about whether he was linked to this business.

Under federal election law, Obama is barred from accepting money from foreign nationals:

The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) prohibits any foreign national from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment.

Now you *could*, I suppose, make the case that a campaign loan is not really "contributing or donating," but that "spending" bit...that's going to be hard for O-Bombers to spin easily. Too, to be accepting funds from an Iraqi-born billionaire, who presumably would have some skin in any Iraq policy of an Obama White House, speaks volumes about the "sizzle, but no steak" meme of Obama's campaign, where it's easy to talk a good game, but hard to actually follow through and act in accordance with the grandiose "principal" you've set forth.

And in conjunction, this destroys an awful lot of Obama's "change now" planking that is supporting his pulpit: you can't really be for change if you've been benefitting from the old ways, is what he's claiming the Clinton campaign's flaw is.

Well, Senator? It looks to me as if you've been dipping your ladle into that same stew pot!

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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By Carl

The one
bulwark of sanity in the entire Bush Administration is leaving... and he's the last vestige of the Clinton Administration:

One of government's chief internal watchdogs resigned yesterday, as Comptroller General David M. Walker, an outspoken gadfly and frequent witness on Capitol Hill, announced his plans to lead a new foundation focused on U.S. fiscal responsibility.

Walker has led the Government Accountability Office, Congress's investigative agency, for a decade.

Walker was an outspoken critic of the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare spending -- issues on which the Democratic-led Congress, and Republicans before it, have had trouble building consensus.

This means George W. Bush will get to appoint a partisan comptroller who will be all over any Democratic presidency with respect to economic issues, a linchpin of the next four years as we struggle to steer a course through a depression.

On any number of occasions in the past, I've written admirably about
David Walker. He hasn't been afraid to call a spade a spade, going so far as to call America bankrupt, to highlight the problems facing returning Iraq invasion veterans, and to dispute the casualty rates the Pentagon has released.

In short, he's spoken up for solutions, when everyone else prayed the problem to go away quietly. And he managed to do all this with a hostile Congress and administration opposing him at every turn.

In fact, the only real black mark against Walker, the recent contract troubles within the GAO, even served a progressive purpose:
the first new governmental union in the past fifty years. In such fires, wise men make tools for progress.

His resignation takes effect on March 12. Had he not resigned, he could have served during Hillary Clinton's first term, as his term would end in 2013. The one saving grace is that the Democratic Congress will have a hand in naming his successor, who must be nominated by a bipartisan commission and confirmed in Senate hearings.

His is a shining example of what a political appointment should do, and demonstrates the depth of quality that was a hallmark of a Clinton administration, by recognizing problems, and finding the right people with the right answers.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Olbermann: "What else is this but fascism?"

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Keith Olbermann at his awesome best -- text here, video here.

Pay attention. It's important. It's about FISA, terrorism, and the fascism of George W. Bush. And here's how it concludes:

As recently ago as 2006, we spoke words like these with trepidation.

The idea that even the most cynical and untrustworthy of politicians in our history, George W. Bush, would use the literal form of terrorism against his own people was dangerous territory. It seemed to tempt fate, to heighten fear.

We will not fear any longer. We will not fear the international terrorists, and we will thwart them. We will not fear the recognition of the manipulation of our yearning for safety, and we will call it what it is: terrorism. We will not fear identifying the vulgar hypocrites in our government, and we will name them. And we will not fear George W. Bush. Nor will we fear because George W. Bush wants us to fear.

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Top Ten Cloves: Things about U.S. plans to shoot down broken spy satellite

By J. Thomas Duffy

News Item: U.S. Plans to Shoot Down Broken Spy Satellite

10. Only reason Bush gave authorization? ... Another opportunity to throw on the flightsuit!

9. Arlen Specter is making waves; Wants investigation of satellite, to be sure it isn't part of Bill Belichick and New England Patriots spying operation.

8. Grounding all astronauts around the time of the shooting ... Don't what them drunk and flying into the line-of-fire.

7. Plans call for shooting it at the angle so the debris will fall to earth, directly over Iran.

6. Mark McKinnon changing his mind -- now leaving McCain campaign not over Obama but for the shooting down of the satellite.

5. Thinking about outsourcing this to Blackwater, but fearful Blackwater will shoot down 17 innocent satellites.

4. After it's shot down, White House will suddenly claim that's where all its emails were stored.

3. Mike Huckabee has offered to loan the Navy Chuck Norris -- if that happens, satellite will shoot itself down, just so it doesn't have to deal with Chuck Norris.

2. Navy competing with Dick Cheney, who is going to be with his hunting buddies, at the Armstrong Ranch, taking shots at it.

1. How do we know this isn't just another Filipino Monkey scam?

UPDATE -- Bonus Riffs

Noah Shachtman, at Wired Blog Network: Experts Scoff at Sat Shoot-Down Rationale (Updated)

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Today is the day

By Carol Gee

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. It is also the day after Valentine's Day, and the day after Josh Marshall's 39th birthday. It is also the day after a new Declaration of Independence came from U.S. House Democrats.

Do you suppose this old ship of state can sail a new course? The key seems to be to call the bully's bluff. Do you remember how kids did that on the Junior High School playground? Our current president (OCP), has the level of development of an adolescent, so that must account for his decision to go ahead and go on his African trip. It clearly leaves us "unprotected from Those Who Want To Kill Us," as Glenn Greenwald puts it at his blog post today: Jihadis throw a wild bash over the Protect America Act — To quote:

When Democrats actually engage the debate and make their case unapologetically and with some passion, as they remarkably did yesterday, then journalists can and -- at least to some extent -- will convey the message. It's when they run away and hide and act defensively that their message does not get across. One can only hope, even while harboring substantial doubt, that having a taste of this success will drive them to crave more. Our country really can't afford to be bullied any longer by Ted Poe's fantasy jihadi parties and George W. Bush's "you're-all-going-to-die-unless- I-get-everything-I-want" threats.

What expires, if the law is not extended past tomorrow, according to the Washington Post, is the government's ability to compel the telecom companies to continue their snooping operations, protected from liability. However, the FISA court has the authority to compel them to continue, as I understand it. And any new targets popping up can be surveiled temporarily without a warrant from the FISA court. OCP has every tool required to keep us safe, according to House Intel Committee Chairman Sylvestre Reyes's letter to OCP sent yesterday.

The Age of Fear, as I characterize it, may be coming to an end. That does not mean that jihadi extremists are going away, or that we need not be appropriately on guard against attack. But we need not be afraid of the bullying tactics of Adolescent-OCP any more. He cannot back up his bluff as long as the Constitution prevails.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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A subliminal smear?

By Creature

I RedLassoed this clip a few days back, but never posted it thinking I was being a bit too critical of CNN and Jeanne Moos. However, after showing it to my office-mate, I'm thinking maybe I was a bit too hasty with my benefits and my doubts. So, here's Jeanne Moos doing a puff-piece on the candidates and their podium idiosyncrasies that has an "imagined" Osama/Obama juxtaposition that's a bit too FOX News like for my taste.

I embed, you decide.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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All's fair in lies and war

By Capt. Fogg

What a great thing it is that Joe Lieberman never found his way into the White House.

"We have to allow the president to allow the toughest measures to be used when there is an imminent threat to our country,"

he said yesterday.

"If we've got somebody that we think can tell us where a nuclear bomb is planted in an American city, then I want the president to be able to authorize that to be used."

Of course that's not the circumstance under which it has been used or is likely to be used and if that were the case an exception would always be made. No victim of US torture whether at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo or in our secret dungeons anywhere has ever had any remote connection with a nuclear plot and much of the extracted information has been dangerously false.

Lieberman I'm afraid, is just another scare monger and panic pimp for the fascists who have taken over our government. What we have used it for has been to develop a case for having arrested someone. As John Stewart pointed out the other night, we tried and executed Japanese officers who waterboarded prisoners and in fact we did attack Japan and we did nuke them and the torture was done in the name of avoiding their destruction.

It's just another way for pious, Sabbath observing Lieberman to express his sense of America's divine purpose to dominate; a purpose which transcends the morality of the religion he flaunts. It's just another case of his and the administration's opinion that whatever we do is OK because we, like the Japanese and the Germans, are at war. We're at war with anybody we pick up on the street for any reason. We're at war with anyone we say we're at war with and anyone who talked to anyone or might talk to someone or sent an e-mail to his uncle Al Schneider in Al Abama.

Terrorists terrorists! We're at war! And if freedom and justice and sanity and our very humanity gets trampled in the panic, so much the better. Isn't it time we started calling them what they have always been -- fascists? Secretly examining all our e-mail, our faxes, our phone calls, and torturing us if they "think" we might know something or someone, and punishing us if we object - it's terrorism - it's fascism -- what the hell else do you call it? Isn't it time we had the kind of guts
Keith Olbermann shows. Time to stop being the mewling cowards we're told to be and call them what they are?

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Old lies and new infamy

Guest post by Swampcracker

My first post on Monday, "Troop reductions: Make that lie #936," was a bit anticlimactic. I started my day as I start everyday, opening the morning headlines in my browser. Suddenly: "What the hell!" The bad news came sooner than expected.

First thing Monday morning, the top news story was about Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates supporting a pause in American troop reductions. According to The New York Times:

It was the most authoritative indication to date that the United States will maintain a large force [in Iraq] through 2008 and into the next presidential term.

The news threw me into a blue funk. Why? Perhaps it was this statement by reporter Thom Shanker: "His assertion... was something of a surprise."

Surprise, indeed! The administration had been alluding to pending troop withdrawals for months but never intended to reduce troop strength. It was merely part of a pantomime to assuage voter concerns about the conduct of a disastrous war.

Dear readers, you should know this pattern of lies and deception by now: The administration makes public noises that contradict its hidden agenda -- the persistent dodge and feint.

I have been watching this balloon fill with noxious gas for months: The administration had been playing games with troop announcements, trumpeting the homecoming of 20,000 troops, then concealing the number of troops rotating back to Iraq. President Bush claimed as recently as last month during his State of the Union address to Congress that 20,000 troops would be coming home.

Fat chance! I had always known that talk about pending troop reductions were empty and disingenuous. I knew the administration intended to throw more blood and bones at the war effort just to salvage its worthless legacy. How did I know? From friends and family serving in Iraq.

Suddenly, pop! The balloon burst, but not quite as I expected. How smooth! The announcement came not from Bush but from Gates. The Commander-in-Chief may lack credibility, but who questions the top brass of the military? This would fly; not even the most astute minds in media would notice the sham beneath the story.

Meanwhile, our men and women serving in the war will be condemned to yet another year of hell in a brutal, neverending war.

Maybe I should just enjoy my newly discovered hypertension and let the lying neocons get away with one more mendacity. No, not this time. I refuse to be suckered and remain silent.

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A key endorsement for Obama, a key dis-endorsement for Clinton

By Michael J.W. Stickings

1) NYT: "Representative John Lewis, an elder statesman from the civil rights era and one of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's most prominent black supporters, said Thursday night that he planned to cast his vote as a superdelegate for Senator Barack Obama in hopes of preventing a fight at the Democratic convention." (More from the AP here.)

2) Politico: "Two labor sources tell Politico that the giant Service Employees International Union [SEIU], which has been neutral through the primary, is on the verge of throwing its support to Sen. Barack Obama."

But I don't want to get too excited. It's awfully close in Wisconsin, and Obama is trailing Clinton by significant margins in both Ohio and Pennsylvania.

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Flip... Flop... Flip... Flop

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Sorry, I meant to post this a couple of days ago. It's from The Plank's Christopher Orr:

Matt Yglesias has a good post on the Arizona senator's ideological peregrinations:

After a generally conservative career, the John McCain who emerged in the 107th Senate really was a moderate Republican. According to the Poole-Rosenthal "optimal classification" algorithm, only Lincoln Chaffee, Arlen Specter, Olympia Snowe, and Susan Collins were less conservative among members of the GOP caucuses. But by the 108th Senate he'd decided not to run for Vice President on John Kerry's ticket, George W. Bush had been re-elected, and McCain decided to shift back far right en route to the nomination. Suddenly only Don Nickles, Jeff Sessions, and Jon Kyl were more conservative than McCain. And in the 109th Senate, only Kyl has been more conservative.

This is, of course, just the point Jon Chait made in his excellent cover story, which is here for any who may have missed it.

No wonder Ron Paul has looked so good, eh? The GOP race has essentially been a contest of shameless career opportunists and 180-degree flip-floppers: McCain, Romney, Giuliani, Thompson, even Huckabee some.

Whatever political self-interest dictates at any given time. No wonder the neo-Stalinist purificationists of the extreme right are hopping mad.

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He was against McCain before he was for him

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Mitt Romney, that is, who officially endorsed John McCain yesterday afternoon in Boston: "I am honored today to give my full support to Sen. McCain's candidacy for the presidency of the United States."

Big deal. What else was Romney going to do? Not support the presumptive GOP nominee? After all, Romney may be looking ahead to 2012 or 2016. McCain may not be a terribly popular choice among conservatives, but loyalty to the party is what seems to count most among most Republicans come election time, and it may eventually be Romney's turn to benefit from such loyalty -- and to reap the benefits from being a loyal party guy now.

So why did Romney endorse McCain? To heal the party and, as he put it in his appalling CPAC address, to unite the party early in preparation for the general election campaign against the Dems. He's simply taking one for the team, or at least making it look that way, while endorsing the winner -- hardly a courageous or risky move.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Choosing roads, not paving them

By Edward Copeland

Today marks the 20th anniversary of Robert Altman and Garry Trudeau's great HBO series Tanner '88. Revisiting it, I was amazed at how much of it relates to the current 2008 Democratic presidential contest. An excerpt:

A question asked in one focus group ("If ideas are his currency, let's see the color of his money") seems to be asked often today. At the same time, thoughts, usually voiced by the campaign's pollster Emile (Jim Fyfe), could be being said about the amazing rise of the candidacy of Barack Obama today. "More than ever," Emile says, "People want a leader they can believe in. A leader who can lift them up, who can cast a spell." Tanner '88 makes the case that the singer is more important than the song. "Leadership isn't about management," Emile says at another point. "It's about values." ... Perhaps the most striking story strand in relationship to issues going on right now is when they get to the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta and Tanner decides to challenge the apportionment of superdelegates on "principle."

To read the full post, click here

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Throwin' out a little love

By Carol Gee

On today, Valentine's Day, we ought to be thinking about finding common ground with our adversaries. But such a goal has many pitfalls. Today's post explores a few current news stories for what they can teach us about the politics of when to compromise and when to dig in and fight to the finish.

If the Iraqis can do it by Shia and Sunni finally beginning to find ways to stop killing and reconcile, you would think that we in the U.S. could find some way to join in finding a few positive common efforts. (Barack Obama is touching that very chord with his millions of voters). Juan Cole begins his current post with this amazing news about...

...the passage by the Iraqi parliament of three important laws. These included the annual budget, a general amnesty that will free thousands of mostly Sunni Arab prisoners in the teeming Iraqi security prisons, and finally a "law on the provinces." The action came in the wake of threats by powerful politicians to dissolve parliament if it could not do a simple thing like pass a budget.

If Democrats can do it, we will win in November. This business of finding common ground in the best interest of the party is an on-going challenge for everybody concerned. Our two candidates avoid disastrous splits through leadership and character. The party's Super delegates must also follow that same path or John McCain, who is compromising his principles in favor of allowing torture, will be the next president. It seems complicated but it is really simple. Everybody needs to follow the rules, both written and unwritten, to which all Democrats have long agreed. "Everybody" includes the 796 insiders discussed in last Sunday's Washington Post article. To quote:

So far, 213 superdelegates have publicly committed to backing Clinton and 139 have pledged their support to Obama, according to a survey by the Associated Press.

The potential for superdelegates to play a critical role has some party leaders worried that the situation could lend the appearance that the nominee will be selected by insiders rather than by rank-and-file voters.

That appearance is not helped by the fact that so many superdelegates have clear allegiances.

. . . The calculation of whom to endorse can be complicated: Superdelegates must think not only about their personal views but also about how their votes will be viewed by constituents, said [Harold] Ickes, who has chased their support on behalf of candidates since 1988.

Our current president (OCP) was throwin' out a little himself yesterday, though it had nothing to do with love. On the contrary, he was throwing out pure hyperbole, threat, intimidation and fear in order to be able to continue to spy on his fellow Americans. There is no room for compromise in the face of these lies and fear-mongering. Eric Lichtblau, at The New York Times, thinks the FISA law may lapse. There seems to be a good chance that brave leaders in the House will let that happen:

At a morning appearance in the Oval Office, President Bush pressed the House to adopt quickly a plan that the Senate approved on Tuesday to broaden the government’s spying powers and give legal immunity to telephone companies.

. . . Mr. Bush maintained on Wednesday that letting the broadened surveillance powers lapse “would jeopardize the security of our citizens.”

. . . Mr. Bush accused the Democratic-led House of needlessly prolonging the debate at the expense of the country’s safety.

“At this moment,” he said, “somewhere in the world terrorists are planning new attacks on our country. Their goal is to bring destruction to our shores that will make Sept. 11 pale by comparison.”

To stop an attack, he urged, Congress must act immediately to strengthen the eavesdropping.

In quicksand, throwin' out a little love won't make things better. John McCain's "partisanship" take on the FISA legislative battle is a perfect example of how the Senate Republicans hooked Democrats with the "finding common ground" argument that sunk them. A Democratic episode of dumb resulted in a terrible bill. NYT's Lichtblau concluded his story with this:

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the Republican presidential hopeful, weighed in on the debate. When Mr. McCain learned that the House had voted down a 21-day extension and that the powers were likely to lapse at midnight Friday, he said: “That’s too bad. That’s very unfortunate. It’s symptomatic of the gridlock of partisanship here in the Congress.”

To break the gridlock, Mr. McCain said, “people that are patriotic Americans need to sit down together and work this out.”

“It’s clearly an absolute necessity to protect this nation,” he said. “Unfortunately, we can’t seem to do that.”

You gotta love 'em for trying. Presidential campaigning is some of the toughest work in the world. It is a fascinating subject for all of us who watch and write about it at political blogs. I don't envy the grueling quests of Senators McCain, Clinton and Obama. There is quicksand everywhere for each of the three. What I love about it is that I live in America, where I am free to vote, to gripe, to extol and to criticize; the flawed Senate FISA bill is not yet the law of the land.

Happy Valentine's Day to you and to those you love!

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Obama got the hint

By Creature

With Wisconsin up next on the primary calender, Hillary is playing catch-up (suddenly not leaving delegates on the table matters), going negative, and grasping at slogans. Obama, on the other hand, pivots and builds. John Nichols from The Nation [via True Blue Liberal]:

When I talked with Russ Feingold last week about what the Democratic candidates for president should do to win Tuesday's Wisconsin primary, he suggested that both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton should go to the senator's hometown of Janesville and talk about trade.

Obama got the hint.

He blew into Wisconsin. He talked trade. He talked NAFTA. He sounded Feingoldian. Could an endorsement from Feingold be far behind?

Obama's message at the GM plant was a good one -- not just for the workers of Janesville and the other factory towns that will be voting in Wisconsin on Tuesday and Ohio two weeks later, but also for Feingold. The Wisconsin senator says he has not made up his mind regarding the Obama-Clinton contest, but he holds open the prospect of a pre-primary nod to one of the contenders.

Stay tuned.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Water, water... nowhere

By Carl

A few weeks ago, I posted a story about how the reservoirs out west, providing states like Arizona and California, might run dry by 2050.

The study was wrong. It could happen in the
next decade:
Climate change and a growing demand for water could drain two of the nation's largest manmade reservoirs within 13 years, depriving several Southwestern states of key water sources, scientists warn.

Researchers at San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography said Wednesday that there's a 50 percent chance that lakes Mead and Powell will dry up by 2021, and a 10 percent chance the lakes will run out of usable water by 2013.

2021. That's fourteen years away, but there's worse news.

See, a lot of energy generated in the west is from hydroelectric dams along the Colordao river, like the Hoover Dam which forms Lake Mead. As water levels drop, the power generated by the flows of water decreases. Estimates are that within ten years, 2017, water levels will have dropped sufficiently much that power could not be generated by the Colorado at Lake Mead in Arizona. Already, a drought has dropped water levels to below 50% of normal capacity for this time of year (that's before the snowpack run off).

Mead is on the Arizona-Nevada border. The design of the pipes are such that Nevada would physically lose water flow from the river and reservoir if it drops below a thousand feet in depth, a level it is perilously close to.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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What is John Edwards to do?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

John Edwards, it seems, is conflicted, agonizing over whom to endorse, Clinton or Obama. As ABC News is reporting, he may be leaning towards Clinton, though he "appears deeply divided" and may "ultimately stay neutral in the race". (Or it could be that he wants to endorse Clinton but is worried that Obama may be pulling too far ahead. I suspect his conflicted agonizing is genuine, however.)

I like Edwards a lot, even supporting him through much of the campaign, if not all that enthusiastically, but -- so what? His supporters have already moved en masse to Obama, and it's not at all clear how much weight an Edwards endorsement would carry at this point. Some, I suppose, particularly among progressives (that is, if there are any uncommitted progressives left), but it may be too late to make much of a difference. He may still want to "play a major role in the race" -- and Ohio and Texas, two states that could decide the race, are still to come -- but, simply put, he may have missed his moment. Yes, he meant a great deal to the race, as I argued here, but now is not the time to try to re-insert himself into it.

Basically, then, I think he should stay out of it. On this, I'm in agreement with Yglesias: "[T]he most reasonable course of action is to not endorse... [I]f he feels torn because there are things he likes about Clinton, but then there are other things he likes about Obama, then he should probably just say that." And then work clorely with whomever the nominee happens to be -- hopefully, the next president -- on the issues that matter most to him, like poverty and health care.

Edwards can still matter, just not right now.

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Hillary's smelling burning rubber!

Or: The Garlic was right -- Hillary has built her "Field of Voices"

By J. Thomas Duffy

We had a running inside joke, a former girlfriend and I, that whenever someone said something impossibly outlandish, way off the charts, something totally crazy, we would ask them if they could smell burning rubber, the acrid odor being the tell-tale signal of their complete dementia.

Well, don't look now, but Hillary Clinton must have a mountain of burning Firestones wafting up her schnoz!

Clinton Hears Voices from Beyond: 'Keep Going' --

"Speaking about her work in South Texas as an organizer for George McGovern’s 1972 presidential campaign, Clinton said two strong Texas women inspired her -- Congresswoman Barbara Jordan and Texas Governor Ann Richards.

Clinton said they taught her about courage and determination. Then she suggested that she is hearing from them even as her campaign struggles to compete after a string of losses.

"I can hear their voices saying, 'You keep going! You give the people a real choice about the future!'" she said at a campaign event.

Jordan was the first black woman elected to the Texas state legislature and served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1973-79. She died in 1996. Richards, a larger-than-life Governor, passed away in 2006."

Holy Cow! ... We don't need more political pundits babbling on television, swing open the doors and shepard in the ghost whispers!

We knew Rick Santorum was doing it, but Hillary?

This now has to have us revisit New Hampshire, where Hillary claimed to "find her own voice".

Was it her voice she found? Was it Jordan's or Richard's?

Actually, The Garlic had the scoop on this last month ... Or, you could say we had a "vision".

From our "Oh... people will come Hillary ... People will most definitely come ... The Results -- The Garlic's Weekly Poll":

"Not finding her own voice until January 2008, after all those years as First Lady, in the White House ... Running her campaigns for U.S. Senator ... It, kind of, makes you think about what she could have accomplished, earlier in her career, if only she had her own voice back then.

Hmmm ... Was it the crisp, cold New Hampshire air that brought it out? ... Could be a boon to the state, a, sort of "Field of Voices" kind-of-thing ... "If you build it, they will talk" ... People will come from all over, driving for miles and miles, just for the opportunity to breath in that Granite State air and find their own voices ... "

"Hillary, people will come Hillary. They'll come to New Hampshire for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for their own voices. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and their own voices they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in winter coats on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the voting lines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the election and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Hillary. The one constant through all the years, Hillary, has been elections. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But elections has marked the time. This field, this election: it's a part of our past, Hillary. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come, Hillary. People will most definitely come.

Screw the campaign, Hillary, and get your ass back up to New Hampshire!

The opportunity of your lifetime is waiting for you ... Your Field of Voices!

Think of the movie deal you could get ... You have a lot of big shot Hollywood pals ... Just have them front the money, pull out the old script of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (the movie, not the abominable television show), you rewrite it to contemporary times and release it as The Voices and Mrs. Clinton.

You could always go into voice-over work, but I don't know if they will mess up your vibe ... You know, the other voices you hear. You could get into some arguments with them, you know, what voice to use, or listen to, etc, etc.

Either that Hillary, or you better start hearing a boatload more voices ... Or better, how to throw those voices ... Hundreds-of-thousands of voices ... Voices that can follow voters into the voting booth, and whisper to those voters "Hillary Clinton ... Hillary Clinton ... Hillary Clinton ..."

Maybe, just maybe, you'll have a shot ...

(H/T - and thanks - to Joe Gandalman at The Moderate Voice.)

Bonus Hillary (or her voices) Riffs

Barry Crimmins: Cringe along with Clinton

Ron Fournier: ON DEADLINE: Chickens Come Home to Roost

Clinton Camp, Burnishing Her Experience Resume, Claims David Bowie Song "Changes" All About Hillary

(Cross-posted at The Garlic.)

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Thanks, Mr. Wilhelm

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, this is something of an embarrassment for the Clintons: David Wilhelm -- 1992 Clinton campaign manager, former DNC chair, current Ohio venture capitalist, and, yes, Democratic superdelegate -- has endorsed Obama.

Clinton has some big-time names behind her in Ohio, including Governor Ted Strickland and former Astronaut-Senator John Glenn, but Wilhelm could play a big role on Obama's behalf. (Though one wonders about his political instincts -- he backed Joe Biden, after all.)


In related news, Puerto Rico Governor Anibal Acevedo-Vila has also endorsed Obama.

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The case of the stimulating vibrator

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Good news for opponents of sexual medievalism:

A federal appeals court has struck down a Texas law that makes it a crime to promote or sell sex toys.

"Whatever one might think or believe about the use of these devices," said an opinion written by Justice Thomas M. Reavley of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, "government interference with their personal and private use violates the Constitution."

Similar laws exist in Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia -- all waiting to be struck down. Thankfully, at least this federal court upheld the Constitution and put liberty before theocratic moralism.

(For all your sex toy needs, by the way, check out The Countess -- scroll down for detailed reviews of sex toy sites and the various toys they sell, as well as for the handy blogroll.)

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All you need to know about John McCain

By Michael J.W. Stickings

From the NYT:

The Senate voted 51 to 45 on Wednesday afternoon to ban waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods used by the Central Intelligence Agency against high-level terrorism suspects.


The prohibition of harsh interrogation techniques is part of a wider intelligence authorization bill and would restrict all American interrogators to techniques allowed in the Army Field Manual, which bars the use of physical force.

The House has already approved the bill. Republicans, needless to say, oppose it, either voting against it or hoping for a Bush veto, which is surely coming. (Of course, Lieberman opposed it, too.)

But what about John McCain, presumptive GOP presidential nominee, who has argued passionately against the use of torture -- at least in theory -- not least because he himself was the victim of torture?

Like most in his party, he voted NO. Apparently, when it comes right down to it, he's fine with waterboarding.

Drum: "It's one thing to be against torture in a primary debate where you're trying to appeal to independents and crossover voters, but it's quite another thing to be against torture after you've won the nomination and need to appease a conservative base that's righteously pissed off and not afraid to let you know it... These are the voters McCain needs now, and these voters don't want a president who opposes state sanctioned torture of captive prisoners. So McCain doesn't oppose it anymore. Any questions?"

Nope. I think it's pretty clear what McCain is up to -- and just how much he's willing to sell out to the torture-happy goons that make up his party's base.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Déjà vu: cartoon violence (again)

By Grace

Two years ago, I blogged about the controversial cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed being published in Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten.

I wasn't pleased with it then because I thought it was disrespectful towards Muslims and their beliefs, and that it was irresponsible on the part of the editors to put it into print. However, I must also emphasize that I thought the violence that followed was overboard and unmerited and I do not condone any threats against the cartoonist or the publishers.

Last time, I received a lot of negative feedback and backlash over my comments because they were interpreted as being against free speech. Everyone's entitled to disagree with me (but no personal attacks, please). Believe me, I'm as pro-free speech as anyone else, but in the interest of keeping the peace, there is something called "self-restraint". But I digress.

That was then. One could argue that Jyllands-Posten did not have the foresight to anticipate the kind of controversy or world-wide protests and violence the cartoon would cause, and that would be fair. However, this time, they have no excuse.

European newspapers have reprinted the Prophet Mohammed cartoon in response to a thwarted assassination plot by against the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, in Denmark.

I understand the outrage towards wanting to kill an editorial cartoonist. His work was uninformed, but did not necessarily have any ill-intent. There's absolutely no justification for murder. However, re-publishing the cartoon is a foolish way to retaliate against the perpetrators and their supporters, and it's not just because they're dumping fuel on the fire.

The controversy over this issue had largely died down, but now, violence has flared up again. Call it a lesson stubbornly not learned. Since anger has been directed towards Denmark, they've put Danish embassy staff members' lives at risk. Their consulates in predominantly Muslim countries have had to close due to demonstrations and safety concerns (including those in Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran and Syria). The publishers knew this would happen, because events are unfolding in a similar, if not the same way as they did two years ago. It's completely irresponsible and thoughtless.

Muslim leaders in Denmark have denounced the plot on Westergaard's life, but are deeply unhappy that the cartoon has been re-published. Once again, they have to calm their congregations and reach out for an open dialogue.

The violence that has followed is still indefensible, especially where a peaceful discussion would be much more productive.

Want to call it free speech? Fine. It's a right and one that I deeply believe in. But by knowingly provoking violence and putting the lives of Danish government workers abroad in danger, the newspapers that have chosen to re-publish this cartoon have forgotten one very important thing: every right comes with responsibility.

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The Democratic epidemic of dumb

By Carol Gee

"The FISA saga continues," according to The Consortium Report. After caving in to the Republicans, Senate Democrats look pretty helpless and dumb the past few weeks. But they will have to get up and fight again. To quote:

. . . What follows will no doubt be a grueling battle in a conference committee between the House and the Senate. Among those on hand will (most likely) be the chairmen of the four committees (the Senate and House Judiciary and Intelligence committees) with jurisdiction over FISA, three of whom are philosophically much closer to the House bill than the Senate bill. At that conference, for all intents and purposes, one of several things can happen: The senators will accept the House language (unlikely), the representatives will adopt the Senate language (slightly more likely) or a new bill, using language from both bills, will emerge (quite likely). That bill would have to be passed by both houses.

. . . There are a few positive developments. House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers has
sent White House Counsel Fred Fielding a letter saying that the documents the administration has provided thus far do not justify retroactive immunity.

. . . Additionally, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy seems to be extremely upset about the treatment he and his committee have received from Intelligence Chair Jay Rockefeller and the Republican leadership–and as such he also have come into full support of Chris Dodd and Russell Feingold’s efforts. He will likely be part of the conference committee. Meanwhile, Dodd himself has
indicated that he’ll filibuster any bill that emerges from the conference committee if it contains the immunity provision. So there’s plenty more to come.

Only twenty-eight Democrats and Independent Bernie Sanders-VT voted against the FISA bill. After final passage of S2248 yesterday in the Senate vote list, 68-29, it is clear that the legislation is very different from that passed in the House. The bill will now have to be reconciled with the House Bill HR3773 (46 p. pdf) in the yet to be named FISA conference committee.

Today's post is an analysis of several elements of the political scene in the Senate that led to this extremely disappointing result. I have looked at Wikipedia which has a very useful chart depicting the 2008 U.S. Senate races. It lists who is up for election, who is retiring, who their potential opponents are - to date, and what their last race was like.

Twelve Democratic senators are up for election this year. The only races in question, in my opinion, are those of Mary Landrieu and Tim Johnson. Though it is not right, I can understand a vote based of the fear of electoral defeat. Both of them voted for the FISA bill that passed yesterday, as did the others up for reelection (in red) that do not face much opposition. There is very little excuse for a vote for this awful bill, if you are in a safe seat. I have included those candidates that have announced opposition:

  1. Mark Pryor of Arkansas has a Green party opponent. He voted for the FISA bill. Arkansas is generally a Red state.
  2. Joe Biden of Delaware. He has no opponents so far. He voted against the FISA bill.
  3. Dick Durbin of Illinois. Three Republicans, a Green and an Independent have announced. He voted against the FISA bill.
  4. Tom Harkin of Iowa. He has two Republican opponents. He voted against the FISA bill.
  5. Mary Landrieu faces a Republican opponent in Louisiana. Her last race was close. She voted for the FISA bill.
  6. John Kerry of Massachusetts. So far a Democrat and two Republicans will oppose. He voted against the FISA bill.
  7. Carl Levin of Michigan faces no opposition. He voted against the FISA bill.
  8. Max Baucus of Montana will face a Republican opponent. He voted for the FISA bill. Montana is not generally a Blue state.
  9. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey. Two Republicans and Libertarian want his job. He voted against the FISA bill.
  10. Jack Reed of Rhode Island is so far unopposed. He voted against the FISA bill.
  11. Tim Johnson of South Dakota has two Republicans who want his seat and his last race was tight. He voted for the FISA bill.
  12. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia has no opposition so far. He voted for the FISA bill, of course, as Chairman of the sponsoring committee.

Other Democrats voting for the FISA bill are not up for reelection this year, so there is absolutely no excuse for these affirmative or missed votes. However the names in bold voted with the other 60 to table the Judiciary committee bill, and in effect for the bill that eventually came to the floor, so at least they were consistent. The Democrats who voted for the final FISA legislation include Mikulski-MD, Nelson-FL, Bayh-IN, Nelson-NE, Salazar-CO, Inouye-HI, Carper-DE, McCaskill-MO, Casey-PA, Kohl-WI, Lincoln-AR, Webb-VA, Conrad-ND, and Whitehouse-RI. Senators Obama and Clinton did not vote either time.

What else went wrong? Senators Webb, Salazar, Whitehouse, Casey, Webb and McCaskill are freshmen, who maybe have not been around long enough to understand civil liberties and the Constitution, but that is a stretch for my credulity. Senators Webb and Whitehouse absolutely know better, though Whitehouse might have felt he had to vote for the bill because it included his amendment. Senators Kohl and Lincoln do not do much legislating. And Senator Conrad understands budgets, but perhaps not the Constitution.

For whatever their reasons, Senators did not do well by us with the renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Their feet need to be held to the fire once again in the next few days. "Scarecrow" at Firedoglake has some specifics and links about what to do next at the end of his excellent piece, "We Need a Constitutional Democratic Party." To quote (his links):

As Jane said yesterday, it's up to the House to stop this disgraceful bill. Sign the petition to tell them not to cave like the Senate did.

More from C&L, emptywheel, Glenn Greenwald, ACLU, and two Constitutional heroes, Feingold and Dodd.

Returning to the 2008 Senate elections, interesting Republican races include a whopping 18 races coming open. I think the chances are that Democrats could pick up seats in Colorado, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon and Virginia. I have included the currently announced candidates:

  1. Wayne Allard of Colorado is retiring. D- Mark Udall will be running.
  2. Larry Craig of Idaho is retiring. Four people want his seat (2-R, 1-D, 1-I)
  3. Pat Roberts, Ranking Member of the Intel committee, will be running in Kansas against a Democratic opponent. Roberts won handily last time.
  4. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky will be running. Two Democrats want to succeed him.
  5. Susan Collins of Maine will have a Democratic opponent.
  6. Norm Coleman of Minnesota will be in a very tight race that included 5 possible opponents.
  7. Roger Wicker, Trent Lott's Mississippi successor, will run for a full term against two Democrats.
  8. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is retiring, and two Republicans want to succeed him.
  9. John Sununu has two Democratic opponents in New Hampshire. He won by a narrow margin last time.
  10. Pete Domenici is retiring from his New Mexico seat. Rep. Heather Wilson and another Republican, as well as two Democrats, including Tom Udall, want the seat.
  11. Elizabeth Dole will be running in North Carolina. Three Democrats have announced for the race.
  12. Gordon Smith, moderate from Oregon, has three Democrats and one Independent as opponents.
  13. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina will have two Republican opponents.
  14. Lamar Alexander will have two Independent opponents in Tennessee.
  15. John Cornyn of my state of Texas will be running against a Democrat and a Republican.
  16. John Warner, retiring Virginia Senator, will watch Mark Warner (D) and Jim Gilmore (R) in battle.
  17. Mike Enzi of Wyoming might retire, according to my brother. So far there is no one in the wings.
  18. John Barrasso, elected to replace the other Wyoming senator who was deceased, has to run for re-election. No opponents have announced, so far.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Wednesday morning quarterbacking

By Carl

Interesting maps were created in the
primaries yesterday, despite Obama's victories:

1) Maryland -- Clinton won the fringing counties here, the ones closest to Pennsylvania and Delaware. Cecil County, at the corner of PA and DE, went almost 2 to 1 for Clinton, with similar margins in Garrett, Allegheny, and Washington counties. This feeds into my observation here yesterday that Clinton might still win this thing by picking up rural Pennsylvanians.

2) Virginia -- No surprises here: Clinton took every county west of the Shenandoah Valley, including Roanoke, except Montgomery (Virginia Tech), and neighboring Floyd counties. Obama's map was punctured by Clinton wins in Shenandoah, Warren and Page counties, all of which lay on or near the West Virginia border and include the popular resort town of Front Royal, which is kind of the Hamptons of the DC area, meaning outside of summer it is a working class community dedicated to providing services to the rich folks who visit in season. Expect Clinton to pick up Kentucky and West Virginia, too.

3) DC -- Again, no surprise. DC is a deeply urban area, and it was to be expected that a city kid would do well here.

It's quite conceivable that the final battle will be waged in North Carolina (May 6) and not Pennsylvania (April 22), which will pit Obama's urban and collegiate strengths against Clinton's working and poor strengths. Obama is at a distinct disadvantage in that one, since college finals will be in full swing, meaning Duke, UNC and NC State students and faculty will be focused on school. A similar dynamic was in play in New Hampshire, contributing to Clinton's win there. That Obama couldn't carry Roanoke county in Virginia should be troubling.

Too, there's only one more primary in the entire month of February: Wisconsin. Obama's momentum gets stopped without more victories to rack up, and Clinton will be nipping at his heels for debates in this time. If I was Maggie Williams, Clinton's new campaign manager, I'd be pressing that case very hard now, using McCain's apparent coronation last week as a selling point.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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