Saturday, April 19, 2008

Fair pay

By LindaBeth

Yesterday, April 18, was "Blog for Fair Pay" Day, in honor of the fact that yesterday women finally caught up to what men earned income-wise in 2007. Yes, the gendered pay gap means women have to work almost 4 months more to earn what men do. And Angry Black Bitch reminds us it's even worse for women of color. Designating a day for recognition and advocacy of this is an important tangible reminder of the effects of inequality and sanctioned discrimination.

It kind of reminds me of Tax Freedom Day, the day that the nation has earned enough income to pay our tax bill. Funny, though -- (federal) Tax Freedom Day is April 23rd (although this varies by state, mine in New York isn't until May). That tends to make people pissed -- realizing they work 4 months just to pay their government taxes.

But women have to work an extra 4 months to equal what men are paid yearly for the same job, which is about the same amount of time "Americans" have to work to pay their tax bill. Thus, from a conceptual point, the difference in men's and women's pay is about the same as the amount of taxes paid by the "average" American. Think about that for a second. Or several.

Then write in your support for the Fair Pay Act -- and encourage others to do the same.

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Hillary hates us

By Libby Spencer

I'm not inclined to get that offended at Hillary's remarks berating progressive activists. The false representations of MoveOn's position are troubling but I'd bet there's not a living politician who hasn't privately expressed those same sentiments.

Of course they hate us. We've disrupted their cozy little lifestyle. Before the internets, activists were a nuisance but it took time to spread a message and the pols still had their private smoke filled rooms to retreat to, where they could express their honest views unnoticed and conduct the real business of "their people." Now the technology has allowed their every word to be instantly broadcast around the world and they have nowhere left to relax into their true personas.

The internet changed everything. Everyone knows it's the price you pay for holding public office, but living life in a fishbowl has a whole new meaning now that the older politicians are just beginning to grasp. I'm not surprised that it makes them cranky. Most people are creatures of habit and are discomfited by change.

(Cross-posted at The Impolitic.)

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It's her foreign policy, stupid

By Creature

Like Pam, I've consciously stayed aways from commenting on the Clinton campaign for the last few days. I was way too overheated after the debate to say anything constructive. While most people were justifiably upset at ABC, I couldn't get past Clinton's gratuitous piling on. Did she really need, on her own, to bring up Louis Farrakhan? Hamas? I didn't think so.

And, it wasn't just the piling on. Her foreign policy hawkishness also shone through during the debate and this is my main objection to a Hillary Clinton presidency. She's never repudiated her Iraq vote (and only reluctantly backtracked since her presidential campaign began). Not to mention she embraced the right-wing frame on Iran.

This brings us to today and to why I'm pissed off all over again. Here's Hillary, caught on tape speaking at a private donor function soon after Super Tuesday, trashing and the Democratic activist base.

“ endorsed [Sen. Barack Obama] — which is like a gusher of money that never seems to slow down,” Clinton said to a meeting of donors. “We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn’t even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that’s what we’re dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it’s primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don’t agree with them. They know I don’t agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me.”

There is so much excuse-making, blame-shifting, and outright lying here that I don't even know where to begin. So, I'll leave aside the bit about the "gusher of money" (Obama's money is not solely MoveOn money). Also, I will put aside the ridiculousness of the idea that the activist base--a base Hillary should respect, if not embrace--"dominates" and "intimidates" her supporters at caucuses (this is more sour grapes and excuse-making for poor organizing and campaigning). Finally, as hard as it may be, I'll ignore the outright lie that "MoveOn didn’t even want us to go into Afghanistan." (This has been debunked across the Internets today and is just not true. What's worse, this is a Karl Rove-invented lie. Yes, Karl Rove. Enough said.)

What I do want to focus on is this: "[T]hey are very driven by their view of our positions, and it’s primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don’t agree with them. They know I don’t agree with them." What specifically are the "national security and foreign policy" views that Clinton does not agree with? I suspect they are the same issues with which I started this post: Iraq and Iran; war and peace; belligerence and saber rattling versus rational, progressive diplomacy.

Hillary Clinton has always put herself in the "serious" camp. She's a Joe Lieberman Democrat. Her contempt for those who were right all along about the war, and who dare to question her on it, has been simmering under the surface for most of the last few years. Here we finally see what she says in private, as opposed to her scripted message.

I've been done with the Senator from New York pretty much since South Carolina, so words like these being revealed won't sway me. I do hope, however, that Hillary's words will sway some of her supporters who have overlooked her Iraq vote, who have given her the benefit of the doubt, who refuse to hold her accountable, to maybe take another look at the candidate they so vociferously support.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Four more years

By Creature

The "serious" Kenneth Pollack [NYT]:

In longer discussions on the subject, Mr. McCain often goes into greater specificity about the entities jockeying for control in Iraq. Some other analysts do not object to Mr. McCain’s portraying the insurgency (or multiple insurgencies) in Iraq as that of Al Qaeda. They say he is using a “perfectly reasonable catchall phrase” that, although it may be out of place in an academic setting, is acceptable on the campaign trail, a place that “does not lend itself to long-winded explanations of what we really are facing,” said Kenneth M. Pollack, research director at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

See, lying and conflating is perfectly reasonable (especially when you have a war, a surge, a never-ending occupation to sell). Mission McSame accomplished.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Friday, April 18, 2008

The job ahead for Democrats -- A Primer

By Carol Gee

Voters and elected officials are being called upon to lead in making the changes needed by its citizens to the government of the United States. It will be essential in November to elect local and national Democrats in large numbers and, most importantly, to completely change out the current administration. That means no substitutes, namely Senator John McCain.

Because the nation has a huge cleanup ahead of itself next year, it will be useful to remember the basics. Things could be much worse than you think, according to "Facilitatrix" at the Lucidity Forum. To quote:

So take up metaphorical arms and do what we need done to save us all. Winning an election isn’t going to make things magically better. But it’s a necessary first step toward unraveling our knots and cutting the puppets’ strings. Just don’t expect the superclass to give anything back without a dirty, ugly, bloody fight.

What do we need to do "to save us all," as this fine writer suggests? Party unity will be important, and it will come, I believe well ahead of the August convention in Denver. Meanwhile there are a few things upon which we can work. Each person who understands the nature and depth of a problem needs to contribute to its solution.

First we need to prepare for the fight. The Republican party will fight to the end because they have a great deal to lose. Democrats, if they listen to constituents who matter most, will work to diminish the stranglehold of the oligarchy currently in charge of the U.S. government.

In order to be successful everyone needs to stick to what is most important, avoiding unnecessary distractions. Mainstream media's tendency toward reporting the "horse race" aspects of election campaigns leaves out much thoughtful analysis. Regularly ask the question about Republican claims or spin, "What is the real deal here?

Learning what is actually true is essential to the effort. Voters and Super Delegates alike must stay well informed from reliable sources. Reading from objective foreign sources, from trustworthy bloggers, or from the best of the nationally recognized newspapers, is absolutely essential. You will not get enough of the truth from television news.

We all need to maintain a good level of hopefulness. Having faith in the election process is important for Democrats to maintain the confidence necessary to win. And there is no logical reason why we would not be able to take back our country from the destructive forces of oligarchy. A majority of citizens believe we are on the wrong track. They will believe in the rightness of the cause, and a Democratic set of solutions.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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What's wrong with this article? -- Marriage and Taxes, Part 2

By LindaBeth

Especially in light of my critique of "marriage"-centric social organization, check out this article from

"Study: Single parents cost taxpayers $112 billion":

Divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing cost U.S. taxpayers more than $112 billion a year, according to a study commissioned by four groups advocating more government action to bolster marriages.

Hmmm... what's wrong with this so far? (hint: it's something to do with the premise of the article)

Ok, I'll tell you.

    It implies that divorcees and parents who are unmarried are not "taxpayers."

    Thus, it positions those not divorced or single parents -- married people, single people (aka: not yet married), and married parents -- as the "ideal taxpayer-citizen."
And that's just the first paragraph.


Sponsors say the study is the first of its kind and hope it will prompt lawmakers to invest more money in programs aimed at strengthening marriages.

Could it possibly be that our social and economic structures heavily favor married parenting, and that's what needs to be investigated, rather than "strengthening marriage"?

Two experts not connected to the study said such programs are of dubious merit and suggested that other investments -- notably job creation -- would be more effective in aiding all types of needy families.

Which is good, especially since I heard on NPR recently (I can't find the show reference! aah!) that divorce and income are correlated (and ya know, "the sanctity of marriage," etc. is of utmost important to preserving "traditional" -- read: patriarchal capitalist -- values).

There's more:

Scafidi's calculations were based on the assumption that households headed by a single female have relatively high poverty rates, leading to higher spending on welfare, health care, criminal justice and education for those raised in the disadvantaged homes.

Right, because there's a natural connection between single mothering and poverty, apparently, so we need to fix the "single mothering" rather than, say, the "feminization of poverty" or the socio-economic structure that perpetuates single-parent (mother) poverty.

See, there are two problems here with our socio-economic structure:

    The assumption of two parents present and sharing a home. The model used to be male breadwinner/female domestic servant. Now, women are 'allowed' to have economic independence but continue to bear the homemaking burden.

    Women are paid less money, plain and simple.
So in a single-parent family where that single parent is a woman, she's doubly screwed economically.

At the end of the day, the article -- along with the study and those who commissioned it -- assumes the natural and neutral center of American life (ought) to be marriage and specifically, married-parenting. Further, they conclude that we should tell people how they should structure their networks of association in their life because it would cost less in government expenditures and because they are deviating from some sort of arbitrary "normal." Sure marriage is the norm in American society; that doesn't make it natural. It's still an arbitrary primary structure of social relations.

Sure sounds like life, liberty, and all that jazz to me!

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The United States Lacks a Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Area

By Michael J.W. Stickings

That's the title of a new report (pdf) by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the efforts of the Bush Administration to combat terrorism. Democracy Arsenal's Max Bergmann explains:

This GAO report may be the most damning condemnation of the Bush administration's counter-terrorism efforts. The report goes on to say that the Bush administration has failed to develop any plan to address the Al Qaeda threat. Worse, the report finds that Al Qaeda is now able to attack the United States and represents the "most serious" threat to this country.

In other words, Bush's anti-terrorism efforts have amounted to a massive failure. More, the so-called war on terror has been a failure. As much as Bush and the warmongers talk up the al Qaeda threat in Iraq, stressing that Iraq is the focus of the war on terror, very little has actually been done to deal with the ongoing (and real) terrorist threat both at home and abroad.

"It is really not a good thing to have incompetent people running this country," Bergmann concludes -- and what a massive understatement that is.

For more on the report, see Steve Benen, Spencer Ackerman, Digby, Kyle Moore, Cernig, Clammyc, and Emptywheel.

And make sure to follow this story closely. Bush, McCain, and the Republicans like to present themselves as the vanquishers of evil and the protectors of the American people. Once again, we see that the opposite is true.

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The clusterfuck continues

By Creature

Remember back in the good old days when we were told our troops would leave Iraq when the Iraqi troops could "stand up"? Well, here's the thing, those Iraqi troops, years and years later, don't do standing up very well. But, look on the bright side, they sure are good at cutting and running.

Next thing you know the GOP will be calling them Democrats.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

The comedic capacity of John Edwards

By Michael J.W. Stickings

So my old (i.e., pre-Obama) flame John Edwards was on Colbert just now, doing The Word.

Absolutely hilarious. Fantastic stuff.

I'll post the video when it's available. (If you find it, send me the link.)


Clinton was on earlier and was okay.

And now... Obama! Wow. And pretty funny, too: "Manufactured political distractions, you are officially on notice!"

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Debate points; or, Silly in Philly

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm with
Obama (and, at long last, my friend, co-blogger, and Clinton supporter Carl): No more debates! There have been 21 of them. What good would #22 do? What would it tell us that we don't already know?

There has been a great deal said and written about last night's awful debate, awful not so much because of the two candidates (although Obama seemed flat and tired, Clinton petty and desperate) but because of the appalling moderation of ABC's Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos.

It was "the worst of times," as The Plank's
Jonathan Cohn put it in one of the better evaluations of the debate. In another good evaluation, The Stump's Noam Scheiber, who found Obama "flat and off-balance for most of the night" and Clinton "generally on her game," called it "a huge missed opportunity for Hillary." Still, wrote Scheiber, "the real story of the night was the crazy gauntlet of questioning ABC put Obama through. The first half of the debate felt like a 45-minute negative ad, reprising the most chewed over anti-Obama allegations (bittergate, Jeremiah Wright, patriotism) and even some relatively obscure ones (his vague association with former Weatherman radical Bill Ayers)."

A negative ad directed at Obama? Quite so. But he generally did well in his defence while Clinton, as usual, pressed too hard to score points.


Now, it's not at all surprising -- or shouldn't be -- that Gibson and Stephanopoulos did what they did, emphasizing the politics of the horse race over the policy substance of the candidates. Policy is too hard and complex for many in the media -- consider, for exmple, Gibson's lame and inaccurate effort to press the capital gains tax issue -- while politics is all about who's winning by how much and, more broadly, the whole drama of it all. Obama's economic positions are policy; the fall-out from his remarks on working-class Pennsylvanians is politics. The media thrive on politics, and especially negative politics, which they blow out of proportion, which is what Gibson and Stephanopoulos did last night. Others do it, too, of course -- notably the disastrous NBC duo of Russert and Matthews, not to mention everyone at Fox News, where the politics is, as you all know, decidedly partisan.

Besides, by Debate #21, how much more policy can we take? -- so, yes, we media consumers and political junkes deserve some of the blame, too. Did we really want a debate on, say, the nuances of health care policy? I suspect not. We get taken in by the politics just as the media do, and many of us have been following the (negative) politics of the race right along with the media. I would argue, however, as many have, that Gibson and Stephanopoulos went way too far. Conservative hacks like Dave Brooks might defend them, but the consensus is clear (at least among Democrats).


Now Stephanopoulos -- whom, we ought to remember, worked for Hillary's husband -- has come out to defend himself (and his partner, too), and some of Obama's supporters have gone too far in attacking him, but it seems that his performance was worse even than his critics suggest. Worse because of this: "the unseen influence of Fox News' Sean Hannity was also on stage... In the debate last night, Stephanopoulos asked a question that mirrored almost word-for-word what Hannity pressed him to ask" on his radio show on Tuesday, just a day before the debate. Specifically, Hannity wanted Stephanopoulos to ask Obama about his alleged connections to the Weather Underground, a militant lefist group that existed roughly from 1969 to 1976:

Hannity: "Is that a question you might ask?"
Stephanopoulos: "Well, I’m taking notes right now."

In truth, Obama has been "friendly" with one of the Weathermen, William Ayers. That's it. And I thought his response to what was a reckless question designed to stir up controversy was excellent:

George, but this is an example of what I'm talking about.

This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago, who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis.

And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values, doesn't make much sense, George.

The fact is, is that I'm also friendly with Tom Coburn, one of the most conservative Republicans in the United States Senate, who during his campaign once said that it might be appropriate to apply the death penalty to those who carried out abortions.

Do I need to apologize for Mr. Coburn's statements? Because I certainly don't agree with those either.

So this kind of game, in which anybody who I know, regardless of how flimsy the relationship is, is somehow -- somehow their ideas could be attributed to me -- I think the American people are smarter than that. They're not going to suggest somehow that that is reflective of my views, because it obviously isn't.

The Republicans will no doubt continue to make a great deal of this, the party of negativity that they are, but Stephanopoulos's intention was obviously to score points of his own with a Russert-like "gotcha" question. And, again, what makes it far worse is that he was asking Hannity's question. In other words, in his capacity as debate moderator, for which he has been defending himself publicly, he was, in this case, acting as the mouthpiece for the Republican Smear Machine.

A leading right-wing ideologue and propagandist manufactures dirt on Obama and Stephanopoulos plays right along.

There's your media at work.

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If the sandal fits...

By J. Kingston Pierce

In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was tagged by right-wingers as a “flip-flopper,” based on the fact that as a U.S. senator he’d had to take so many contradictory votes over the years. This was supposed to show him up negatively in contrast against George W. “Stay-the-Course” Bush, who never seemed to learn anything from his mistakes.

Now it’s John “100 Years War” McCain’s chance to wear the flip-flopper label. The Carpetbagger Report’s Steven Benen, who’s been keeping track of McCain’s repeated flips and flops, has posted a list of the most egregious examples of his inconsistent statements and positions. Among the highlights:

McCain pledged in February 2008 that he would not, under any circumstances, raise taxes. Specifically, McCain was asked if he is a “‘read my lips’ candidate, no new taxes, no matter what?” referring to George H.W. Bush’s 1988 pledge. “No new taxes,” McCain responded. Two weeks later, McCain said, “I’m not making a ‘read my lips’ statement, in that I will not raise taxes.”

McCain claims to have considered and not considered joining John Kerry’s Democratic ticket in 2004.

McCain’s campaign unveiled a Social Security policy that the senator would implement if elected, which did not include a Bush-like privatization scheme. In March 2008, McCain denounced his own campaign’s policy.

In February 2008, McCain reversed course on prohibiting waterboarding.

On immigration policy in general, McCain announced in February 2008 that he would vote against his own legislation.

In 2006, McCain sponsored legislation to require grassroots lobbying coalitions to reveal their financial donors. In 2007, after receiving “feedback” on the proposal, McCain told far-right activist groups that he opposes his own measure.

McCain said before the war in Iraq, “We will win this conflict. We will win it easily.” Four years later, McCain said he knew all along that the war in Iraq war was “probably going to be long and hard and tough.”

McCain opposed a holiday to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., before he supported it.

McCain was against presidential candidates campaigning at Bob Jones University before he was for it.

Sadly, for somebody who claims to be such a straight-talker, this list goes on and on. You can read all of Benen’s examples here. And considering McCain’s willingness to say whatever people want to hear, we can only expect additional examples of his flip-flopping to be added to this list as the campaign continues.

READ MORE:McCain Opposes Earmarks--Except for the Ones He Likes,” by Steve Benen (The Carpetbagger Report).

(Cross-posted at Limbo.)

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By Carl

The major gripe among the blogosphere today: ABC News spent way, way too much time drilling Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama about their stumbles on the campaign trail instead of focusing on policy issues.

Bloggers at the liberal Daily Kos (which has a heavy Obama following) dedicated the most electronic ink against ABC’s Charles Gibson and George Stephanopoulos, the debate moderators.

One of the writers, Hunter, went so far as to say their handling of the debate was “so deeply embarrassing to the nation that it will be pointed to, in future books and documentary works, as a prime example of the collapse of the American media into utter and complete substanceless, into self-celebrated vapidity, and into a now-complete inability or unwillingness to cover the most important affairs of the nation to any but the most shallow of depths.”

Admittedly, I did not watch the debates last night (Go Rangers! Go Mets!), but how many debates have we had on the issues since December of 2007? 20? 30? 300?

Have any of them drawn any type of sharp contrast between the two candidates?

No. So what's the point?

The debate was clearly structured to try to draw some drama out of the proceedings, to put both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama on the hot seats about something and to let people see how they handle the stresses and strains of the campaign trail.

In that respect, it was a bit of an eye-opener, from nearly all accounts: Hillary Clinton handled herself like a pro, while Barack Obama could barely contain his frustration and contempt.

Guess maybe he knows now why a typical white person in Pennsylvania might cling to his religion and his guns, huh?

The only reasoned critique I've read of the debate comes from
Will Bunch:

You implied throughout the broadcast that you wanted to reflect the concerns of voters in Pennsylvania. Well, I'm a Pennsylvanian voter, and so are my neighbors and most of my friends and co-workers. You asked virtually nothing that reflected our everyday issues -- trying to fill our gas tanks and save for college at the same time, our crumbling bridges and inadequate mass transit, or the root causes of crime here in Philadelphia. In fact, there almost isn't enough space -- and this is cyberspace, where room is unlimited -- to list all the things you could have asked about but did not, from health care to climate change to alternative energy to our policy toward China to the deterioration of Afghanistan to veterans' benefits to improving education. You ignored virtually everything that just happened in what most historians agree is one of the worst presidencies in American history, including the condoning of torture and the trashing of the Constitution, although to be fair you also ignored the policy concerns of people on the right, like immigration issues.

Fair enough.

So let me ask the journalists involved, and the bloggers and even Mr. Bunch: what have you been covering for the past seven months?

How many blogposts, columns, news analyses, and prime-time segments have been devoted to any of the issues that Bunch delineates?

Not nearly as many about the debacle in Afghanistan over the past year, I'd wager, as have been written over Obama's "bitter" comment in just these past five days.

Even Bunch, later in his column, points out how many column inches have been devoted to Reverend Wright, and the Bosnia trip and Obama's foot-in-mouth disease... does anyone else wonder how an eloquent man can have so many "misspokes" and "inartful phrasings"? What kind of scam is Obama running on us?... but one wonders why so many column inches haven't been devoted to, say, the
PTSD problems of returning Iraqi and Afghani vets?

I picked that topic because, you know, Katrina and I at Simply Left Behind have both been all over it these past four years. I'd bet not many other blogs have been.

It's kind of disingenuous to whine about ABC's debate format when in fact, they are merely responding to the vox populi: all of us, myself included, have harped on these niggling issues at the expense of the larger stories around us.

For myself, I claim a lack of time and an interest in increasing my hit counter.

And so what does that tell you, all of you who are complaining about ABC's dismal performance? People aren't going to read about oil prices. People are going to read about Obama's bigotry and Clinton's prevarications.

End of discussion. Now shut the hell up about it.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Key Keystone endorsements for Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

mentioned yesterday that Obama had picked up the endorsement of Dan Rooney, Steelers chairman. (As you may know, he has also picked up the endorsement of The Boss, New Jersey's favourite son, Bruce Springsteen.) Well, the key endorsements continue to roll in. Three of Pennsylvania's largest newspapers, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Daily News, and The Morning Call (Allentown) have all endorsed Obama:

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

So forget all the primary skirmishing. Sen. Obama is every bit as prepared to answer the ring of the 3 a.m. phone as Sen. Clinton. Forget this idea that Sen. Obama is all inspiration and no substance. He has detailed positions on the major issues. When the occasion demands it, he can marshal eloquence in the service of making challenging arguments, which he did to great effect in his now-famous speech putting his pastor's remarks in the greater context of race relations in America.

Nor is he any sort of elitist. As he said yesterday in effectively refuting this ridiculous charge in a meeting with Post-Gazette editors, "my life's work has been to get everybody a fair shake."


Sen. Obama has captured much of the nation's imagination for a reason. He offers real change, a vision of an America that can move past not only racial tensions but also the political partisanship that has so bedeviled it.


Because political business-as-usual is more likely to bring the usual disappointment for the Democrats this fall, the Post-Gazette endorses the nomination of Barack Obama, who has brought an excitement and an electricity to American politics not seen since the days of John F. Kennedy.

Philadelphia Daily News

Contrary to Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign slogan, we believe Barack Obama is more likely to be "ready on Day One" to lead us in a new direction. Because of his experience.


As New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has said, Obama is a once-in-a-lifetime candidate who has the skill and eloquence to help us raise our eyes and our aspirations beyond individual, personal concerns, beyond religion or region or race or gender, beyond our well-founded fears to a shared destiny.

Most candidates claim that they will change the way business is done in Washington. Barack Obama has made us believe that, yes, he can.

The Morning Call

The Morning Call recommends that Sen. Barack Obama be nominated, and we offer three reasons.

The first is the quality of his campaign. It has surprised the experts by moving him close to the finish line against bigger, more established political machines and it has communicated his basic ideas well.

The second is his message of hope and change. It conveys a vision of the nation's future that is in tune with the tenor and consensus of most Americans.

And third, and most important for the Democratic Party at this moment in history, there is Sen. Obama's ability to inspire.

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Guilt by association pardon

By Creature

From TPM Election Central:

David Corn of Mother Jones and Hillary spokesperson Howard Wolfson went at it hard on the Hillary conference call today -- with Corn repeatedly demanding to know what Hillary thinks of the fact that her husband pardoned two members of the Weather Underground.

It's fair game. Right, Hillary? "Everything" is "legitimate" when you run for office. Right, Hillary?

I'm so fed up, all over again.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Which way for U.S. diplomacy?

By Carol Gee

State Dept. under funded and under staffed -- Who gets the money illustrates where the priorities have been placed by our government. National military defense has a far higher value to the country than international relations and peacemaking. The United States Department of State often people to do its work. It has had to hire contractors to provide security for State workers in Iraq and elsewhere. And some of the regular diplomatic worker slots have has to be filled with military personnel. Increased interdependence between State and Defense is more and more a fact of life. There is also a rising transfers of funds between the two agencies.

Interagency partnering with Defense Dept. is new -- Is this the forerunner to a kind of "Goldwater Nichols Act" reorganization of the non-military agencies? Tuesday on C-SPAN, the House Armed Services Committee Hearing on State and Defense Department Interagency Partnership was chaired by Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO). Testifying before the committee were Sec. of Defense Robert Gates, Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice, and Adm. Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. To quote The Washington Post story:

Presenting an unusual combined front against skeptical lawmakers, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice pressed Congress yesterday to extend and make permanent a set of initiatives to train and equip foreign security forces and deploy civilian experts alongside the U.S. military.

The programs, part of a proposed Building Global Partnerships Act, involve the flexible use of Pentagon funds for traditional State Department activities in foreign assistance -- an arrangement that Gates and Rice praised as an innovation in interagency cooperation but that lawmakers questioned as "ad hoc" and "stopgap."

. . . Gates and Rice said the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan underscore the need for more flexible spending authority that blends the strengths of both departments -- emphasizing the disparity between State's responsibilities and its resources.

Rice pointed out that the Foreign Service is about 6,500 strong, about the same as the number of musicians in military bands. Gates castigated Congress for not giving State "the resources or the power to be able to play the role as the lead agency in American foreign policy."

So far swords out-compete plowshares -- There is a huge disparity between what the U.S. currently spends on the military vs. what it spends on diplomacy. To quote the State Department's 2008 budget figures (Total: $11.949 billion):

The FY 2008 budget request for all State Department appropriations totals $10.014 billion, not including additional FY 2008 funding requested for the Global War on Terror. These appropriations fund the programs, operations, and infrastructure essential to conduct U.S. diplomatic and consular relations in more than 180 countries. They also support vigorous U.S. engagement abroad through public diplomacy and international organizations.

. . . For FY 2008, State requirements total $1.935 billion, including $1.882 billion for the full year of the extraordinary costs associated with operating the U.S. Mission in Iraq, including continued expansion of the PRTs.

Defense always wins appropriations competition -- The 2008 Budget of the Defense Department is somewhat larger (98.2%) than that of the State Department (1.8%). The President’s 2008 Budget for Defense (Total: $623.1 billion). To summarize from the OMB:

  • Provides $481.4 billion for the Department of Defense’s base budget—a 62-percent increase over 2001—to ensure a high level of military readiness as the Department develops capabilities to meet future threats, defends the homeland, and supports the all-volunteer force and their families;

  • Supports operations in the Global War on Terror by providing an additional $93.4 billion in supplemental funds for 2007 and $141.7 billion for 2008, including funds to accelerate efforts to train and equip Iraqi and Afghan Security Forces;

Truth about lack of security laid bare -- Once again, not enough civilians in the diplomatic corps are willing volunteer to go to the most dangerous places in the world. Amanda at Think Progress discussed the personnel dilemma that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been facing. Rice is considering making attendance compulsory. And she feels offended at the reluctance. To quote:

The State Department’s “looming crisis” stands in stark contrast to statements made by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during a House Armed Services Committee hearing today, during which she took umbrage at the suggestion that foreign service officers don’t want to serve in Iraq. She said that comments by diplomats who protested the forced assignments last fall were “offen[sive]” and “cast a very bad light on the foreign service.”

Culture wars, perhaps -- Is elitism the problem or natural and normal fear for one's own personal safety? Iraq has become the perfect illustration of what happens when military dollars always win out over diplomatic dollars. The areas of strife around the world, and particularly those in the Middle East do not have enough security for unprotected civilians to do their work effectively. TalkRadioNews put a slightly different interpretation on Rice's remarks:

Rep. Hunter caused a bit of tension when he criticized the “culture of the State Department.” Comments that he made were based on a “town hall meeting” where foreign service officers complained about the idea of being forced to accept high risk assignments in Iraq. He said thousands of military members serve willingly in Iraq and Afghanistan, but was disappointed that the State Department had a hard time filling 47 spots in the Green Zone of Baghdad.

This prompted a heated response from Rice who defended the Foreign Service and said that she has had more than enough volunteers to serve in conflict zones and that certain diplomats, already serving in high-risk assignments, were offended at such an attitude.

National security demands both swords and plowshares -- A year ago Foreign Policy in Focus' Lorelei Kelly authored an excellent background piece on the big picture issues regarding this question, "Unbalanced Security: The Divide between State and Defense." She closes with this:

Our nation sits at a crossroads. Today, both human security and state security must be seen as mutually beneficial, not as tradeoffs.

Advocacy organizations, academics and even the military itself have made the case that we must realign our understanding of national security in the post 9/11 world and allocate resources accordingly. Until our elected leaders decide to act, however, all the rhetoric about prevention, peacebuilding and civil society support are just good ideas with lip-service on top.

There needs to be a far better balance between military and diplomatic spending by Congress. Tuesday's hearing is good cause for optimism that, at least people are being forced to think outside the box. The military needs to be freed up to do its thing and the diplomats need the increased clout to do their thing. We do not need to do it this way for another 100 years. That is just crazy.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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The view from Olympus

By Capt. Fogg

I've long thought that the Olympic games differ from other professional sports events mostly in that they exploit the athletes with a quasi-religious fervor rather than paying them. The idea of "amateur" competition, as I see it, was a pretense used to keep working class people out of games meant for Edwardian gentlemen of leisure and inclination toward neo-classical, cthonic re-enactments. Of course today's contestants are scarcely that and hardly amateur, and they're there mostly to demonstrate the athletic prowess and by some atavistic extension the political status of their countries.

Despite the puzzling, faux-pagan Hellenic torch-running ceremonies, it's about politics and not about re-enacting ancient religious ceremonies of body worship and warrior training. So it's no surprise that Jonathan Alter writing in the current Newsweek would presume to use the opening ceremonies as a platform for chastising China. It's too bad for him, however, that we're not sitting on Olympus but in the laughing stocks and pillories of the world.

Yes, China could do something about Darfur, but criticism should come from a source not so well associated with supporting monsters and tyrants for our own causes as we are, a source not preening over "shock and awe" terrorism, the slaughter and displacement of millions, the toppling of democracies and a source second only to China in number of incarcerated and executed citizens.

It's all too easy for someone like Alter to pretend that Tibet was a free and independent nation after the 13th century or that the quasi-Buddhist religion that stifled, enslaved and impoverished Tibet and kept it in a state of stupendous ignorance and isolation for centuries was benign, but a country with a history like ours can only succeed in looking arrogant and hypocritical in justifying torture of terrorists while condemning it abroad. Imagine our reaction to China's bellowing at us for occupying and suppressing Puerto Rico and Iraq; our interference in Central and South America, Asia and even Iran. Imagine the giggles at China's biggest client state preaching about its "Global Irresponsibility."

Maybe it's time we just shut up for once and let someone else use the pulpit. Maybe if we want to influence that country we should end the buying and outsourcing spree. Maybe if we want to continue blowing hard about morality we should try practicing it.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Screw 'em

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This one pretty much speaks for itself. From HuffPo's Sam Stein:

In January 1995, as the Clintons were licking their wounds from the 1994 congressional elections, a debate emerged at a retreat at Camp David. Should the administration make overtures to working class white southerners who had all but forsaken the Democratic Party? The then-first lady took a less than inclusive approach.

"Screw 'em," she told her husband. "You don't owe them a thing, Bill. They're doing nothing for you; you don't have to do anything for them."

The statement -- which author Benjamin Barber witnessed and wrote about in his book, "The Truth of Power: Intellectual Affairs in the Clinton White House" -- was prompted by another speaker raising the difficulties of reaching "Reagan Democrats." It stands in stark contrast to the attitude the New York Democrat has recently taken on the campaign trail, in which she has presented herself as the one candidate who understands the working-class needs.

Hmmm... you think? Obviously, the word "hypocrisy" comes to mind, but, then, Hillary has made a revolting habit of resorting to such political expediency during this campaign.

While Obama's remarks were taken out of context and misunderstood by those who wish Obama harm (his opponents, such as Hillary) and by those who cynically pander to the mythical Heartland (the media, Republicans), nothing he said, or is alleged to have said as filtered through these distortional lenses, rises to the level of "screw 'em".

What Obama said was a lot like what Bill said in 1992. What Hillary said was simply offensive.

Not that I myself am offended by what she said. She was entitled to to her opinion and maybe she was right that her husband didn't owe Reagan Democrats anything (although he was president at the time, not a candidate, which makes it worse that his wife would advise him to "screw" a large segment of the population).

What is far more offensive (and characteristic) is how she has handled what has come to be known as "bittergate," that is, the hyped-up, media-driven controversy surrounding Obama's remarks. If she'd kept quiet, fine. Instead, she has been using and abusing his remarks, and the subsequent controversy, as a holier-than-thou weapon on the campaign trail, presenting herself as the red-blooded Heartland American running against a supposedly out-of-touch coastal elitist. She's been talking up guns and god, swilling beer and knocking back shots, and pandering to the very people she advised her husband to screw.

Obama understands what's really going on out there, you see. He gets it. And he speaks the truth.

Hillary may also understand what's going on out there, she may also get it, but, instead of speaking the truth and addressing the real problems facing working Americans (as she has in the past, I acknowledge), she's turning herself into a Republican in order to try to win at any cost.

Enough, Hillary, enough. You have no credibility left.

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Rocky XXI

By Creature

I am watching the debate, but no energy to live blog it. Atrios captures the first 50 minutes just right: "Aside from the lack of policy questions, so far this 'debate' has been played entirely on wingnut ground. If BillO and Sean Hannity hosted it the questions would've been the same."

It's been disgraceful. ABC should be ashamed. So much for the liberal media meme.

Update: It's over and the only thing I learned is that Hillary Clinton thinks running like a Republican is a good Democratic primary strategy.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Endorsements in Steeltown

By Michael J.W. Stickings

A contrast:

Hillary Clinton

Clinton went to Pittsburgh and cozied up to Dick Scaife and the vast right-wing conspiracy, securing the quasi-endorsement of a detestable media baron who sought to bring the Clintons down in the '90s and who has spent the past several decades seeking to destroy liberalism and the Democratic Party.

Barack Obama

Obama has secured the endorsement of another Pittsburgh giant -- a good, decent, and admirable one -- Dan Rooney:

Pittsburgh Steelers chairman Dan Rooney on Monday endorsed Democratic Sen. Barack Obama's presidential bid.

In a statement released by the Obama campaign, the 75-year-old Rooney said endorsing political candidates is not something he regularly does.

"As a grandfather and a citizen of this community, I think Barack Obama's thoughtful, strategic approach is important to America," Rooney said. "When I hear how excited young people seem to be when they talk about this man, I believe he will do what is best for them, which is to inspire them to be great Americans."

The Obama campaign said the Illinois senator and Rooney met Monday after Obama spoke at a meeting of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

"True sports fans know that you support your team when they are the underdogs," Rooney said. "Barack Obama is the underdog here, but it is with great pride that I join his team."

There's more from Rooney's statement at The Boston Globe: "This is not something that I do regularly but as I listen to the candidates in this race, I am struck that we continue to hear about the problems and the same challenges that we have been talking about for decades. Protecting jobs here in Pennsylvania, breaking our dangerous and costly addiction to foreign oil, making health care accessible and affordable – these are neither new issues nor new ideas. And yet we have failed to make real progress."

And at The Guardian: "Our country needs a new direction and a new kind of leadership – the kind of leadership, judgment and experience that Senator Obama has demonstrated in more than 20 years of public service, and in a particularly impressive way in this campaign. Senator Obama has rejected the say-and-do anything tactics that puts winning elections ahead of governing the country. And he has rejected the back-room politics in favour of opening government up to the people."

(Rooney's full "Dear Fellow Pennsylvanian" letter is at Scaife's rag, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.)

"When I think of Barack Obama's America I have great hope. I support his candidacy and look forward to his Presidency."

Another reason to love my beloved Steelers. Another reason to support Obama.

The contrast with Clinton is clear.

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Scared to death

By Michael J.W. Stickings

This is from a few days ago, but, given that the Obama "bittergate" controversy continues to rage on within the confines of the chattering classes (even as the news media have begun to move on), I wanted to link to a helpful post by Nico Pitney at HuffPo. What Nico points out is that Bill Clinton said similar things while running for the White House in '92. For example:

  • "The reason [George H.W. Bush's tactic] works so well now is that you have all these economically insecure white people who are scared to death."
  • "You know, [Bush] wants to divide us over race. I'm from the South. I understand this. This quota deal they're gonna pull in the next election is the same old scam they've been pulling on us for decade after decade after decade. When their economic policies fail, when the country's coming apart rather than coming together, what do they do? They find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them."
Now, this isn't exactly what Obama said. The essence of "bittergate" is that Obama was more explicit: People are economically insecure and scared to death and so turn to god and guns, racism and xenophobia. The point, however, is the same, and it's one that has been made not just by Clinton and Obama but by leading scholars and commentators on U.S. politics, including Thomas "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Frank. Indeed, it's a point that is well-understood by Karl Rove and his ilk: play to the culture of fear.

The conventional wisdom, of course, is that Obama said something crazy: How dare he insult the good people of the Heartland? (I addressed that here. In brief: He was speaking the truth, if over-generalizing and not making his point artfully enough.) Even smart reporter-commentators like Slate's John Dickerson found "so many problems with Barack Obama's comments about small-town America, it's hard to know where to begin."

Dickerson tries -- and struggles -- "to figure out if there were benign sentiments [Obama] may have been trying to express that just got mangled in translation." He notes that Obama has made "the anti-snob case" in the past, that the condescension he expressed in San Francisco was unlike the non-condescension he has experssed throughout the campaign: "It's plausible then that Obama got caught shorthanding his more complex view about electoral behavior rather than let slip a hidden truth about his view of the way small-town people live their lives." This is, indeed, quite plausible, and I think it explains Obama's controversial remarks.

But there's no need to struggle. "Ultimately, in trying to explain what Obama was thinking, I run out of string." But his explanation is a good and accurate one:

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, though, what Obama seems to have been trying to do is catalog the many ways politicians can play on voters made vulnerable by their economic conditions. They can play on the voters' heartfelt passions (guns and god) or they can appeal to their darker side (xenophobia and racism)... He wasn't expressing a sweeping view of the human behavior of small-town people. He was making a tactical point about how politicians appeal to voters at election time, but that tactical point about electoral behavior still relies on an unflattering view of small-town voters.

Now, is it wrong to express "an unflattering view of small-town voters"? Actually, I'm not sure Obama's remarks were so "unflattering," but there is much that is unflattering about small-town voters, just as there is much that is unflattering about big-city voters -- or about any voters, for that matter. I realize that there is a tendency to deify and worship "the people" in any democracy, and especially in the U.S., but "the people" are hardly infallible. And the point here is that "the people" can be, and are, manipulated by demagogues who appeal to the good, bad, and the ugly in the human soul, to the deepest longings and highest hopes of the demos, from the solitary individual right up to the collective mass. Every serious student of politics since Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle has known this.

Bill Clinton knows this, and so does Obama.

There are demagogues in America, just as there are demagogues in every democracy. Right now, at this time, the demagogues in America come dressed in Republican clothing. That's the way it is in 2008, that's the way it was in 1992, and, indeed, the Republican Party has been the party of demagoguery for a long time -- at least as far back as 1964.

Obama spoke the truth last week, just as Clinton spoke the truth when he was running for the White House. The truth may not be easy to handle, but being honest about about the state of American politics, and about what the demagogues are doing to "the people," is nothing if not admirable and courageous.

It's what genuine democratic leadership is all about.

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God, I hate (your) freedom!

By Capt. Fogg

That's exactly what Paul Broun is saying. You have religious freedom only as long as it's his God you and the government serve.

It makes one wonder whether the outcome of the Civil War was worth the price, that we have to listen to the crudely captious lies and confused rhetoric of Georgia Representative Broun preached on the House floor as though it were the dank cave of some hirsute and deranged religious extremist? Do I need to mention that he's a Republican?

We need, he says, to further illustrate the lack of separation between (his) God and the United States by
removing a comma in the Pledge of Allegiance. There should be

no separation or implied separation between nation and God,

said a spokesman, even though our founding documents forbid the establishment of state monotheism or indeed state recognition of any deity. Never mind that the Constitution forbids any religious test of any official -- ever.

Last year this enemy of freedom
supported legislation to honor a group trying to cram the Ten Commandments ( in their redacted Christian abridgements and without regard to the many sectarian variations ) up our collective colons in apparent obliviousness to their irrelevance in, and antithesis to Christian theology:

I commend the Ten Commandments Commission for their efforts to remind Americans that we are, in fact, "one nation under God."

We are not, nor have we ever been, nor are we allowed by law to be and if we are to flagrantly ignore this guarantee of our rights, how many others must we ignore to please the haters of freedom?

If I were stupid, dishonest, and deranged enough to be a Georgia congressman, I might introduce legislation stripping Broun of his office for his failure to preserve and protect the Constitution. As a private citizen who loves freedom, I would like to see him stripped of his citizenship and deported.

(Cross-posted from
Human Voices.)

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Bitter herbs

By Carl

But -- so the questions you're most likely to get about me, 'Well, what is this guy going to do for me? What's the concrete thing?' What they wanna hear is -- so, we'll give you talking points about what we're proposing -- close tax loopholes, roll back, you know, the tax cuts for the top 1 percent. Obama's gonna give tax breaks to middle-class folks and we're gonna provide health care for every American. So we'll go down a series of talking points.

But the truth is, is that, our challenge is to get people persuaded that we can make progress when there's not evidence of that in their daily lives. You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it's not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

-- Barack Obama, April 6, 2008, in response to a question about why he is not connecting to working class voters in Pennsylvania

Even in context, this is a very unpretty comment.

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Let's look at these people you so off-handedly poo-poo as "bitter" and unable to see progress, Senator.

First, they genuinely like the Clintons, because under the Clintons, they saw real progress. They saw their communities improve, their lives lift, their salaries start to climb. They felt more in touch with their government than at any point in the past 40 years, as if someone was listening. They saw progress: less crime, less teen pregnancy, more education, more intelligent governance. The Feds worked with communities to provide more, all while cutting spending and trying to shift the tax burden back on those who have gotten the most out of the bounty that is America.

I'm more fixed on the people themselves, because frankly, everyone did better under the Clintons than under the Bush I and Reagan administrations. Who are these folks? Who are these "bitter" people?

Their names are Ed, Flo, Sally, Herb, Jack, Red. They are the farmers that actually drive a tractor. They work the third shift at the cheese factory. They are the nurse practitioners at the local hospital. They ring your sale up at Wal-Mart.

That's if they're lucky enough to have regular jobs. Sometimes, they run the ski lifts in winter, then rush off to another job serving coffee at the Gas-N-Go so you can make it home awake from the mountain, or serve beer at the local tavern, Duffy's, to the visitors staying behind. In the summer, they pick up your trash at the mountain lake. They do odd jobs to make a few bucks here and there, and might hold a few part time jobs packing groceries or painting houses in the off-seasons.

They bowl, too, and while they chuckle that you bowled a 37... I mean, come on! If you throw a straight ball down the middle of an alley, you can't score less than 50!... they get that bowling isn't big where you grew up.

But it is for them. See, it's about community. Bowling brings the neighbors together.

So does church. Maybe not everyone attends every Sunday, but I'd lay long odds that the church is pretty full by 11, and that these folks still bother to get a bit dressed up in their "Sunday Finest".

They don't see religion as a crutch, as if religion was some drug you take when things get tough. If you truly believe that, one has to question your own "religion on a sleeve," your seemingly sincere protestations during the Rev. Wright debacle about him nearly being family. How troubled, then, was your adult life, Senator, that you needed that church and that reverend so often and so close by?

These folks view religion for what it is, a tie that binds their community: the church picnic, the ice cream social, the Christmas party. A place to celebrate births, weddings, and mourn those who pass from their midsts, whose loss truly is a painful subtraction from their community.

They pay the lion's share of taxes to this great and proud nation, and all they ask in return is a fair deal, a fair shake, an assurance that they won't get left behind because someone else gets ahead on their sweat and pain.

Those taxes paid for your education, Senator. They paid for enforcing the laws that allowed a man born of a white mother and a black father to be treated as equals to his white friends. They ask little in return, just your gratitude, and a highway without potholes.

Oh. And a fair chance at making a life for themselves, and leaving one for their kids. The same education that you got, give or take. The promise that the government will try to make their kids' lives better than their own.

They raise their flags on the Fourth, on Memorial Day, on Labor Day, and yes, on Flag Day, because they know that the flag represents something greater than just a bunch of fabric sewed together made of pretty colours. It means community. It means opportunity. It means all those myths that you find so quaint sitting in your drawing room in Chicago, sipping a brandy while listening to Shostakovich.

They believe in them and they wonder if you do, since you refuse to show even the smallest bit of respect for those myths.

And when things get tough for them, when the factory closes down or a fire or flood devastates their homes, they don't tuck tail and run, like some Senators I can think of, hiding behind a wall and sniping jibes at anyone who points out what a bonehead he was for saying what he said.

They dig a little deeper. They dig deeper into their hearts and their wallets and they make a path for themselves, and their neighbors. Do they get bitter looking around and seeing the CEO of ____________________ (fill in the blank) getting off with a slap on the wrist and a $100 million golden parachute for screwing with the law and a company's books?

Maybe a little, but they figure that's none of their business, that the government will take care of that problem and fix it.

Do they get frustrated when it happens again and again? Sure. But they aren't whipping out their Remingtons and polishing them on the porch like some metallic masturbatory orgy that somehow calms them. Those guns in small towns aren't for show.

Or rather, they are hoped to be for show, but when your 911 call is answered in the county seat, thirty or forty or a hundred miles away, you learn to make the call then do what you can for yourself until help arrives.

These folks are the volunteer fire department, donating what precious little free time, after stringing together a few part time jobs on top of the third shift at the factory, to training "just in case" and sadly "just in case" happens frequently enough.

Why do they do this? Because that's what neighbors do. Neighbors talk to each other and they learn to care about each other and that forms a community. Yes, they talk about guns, and they talk about NASCAR, and football and they talk about who's moved in, and are they nice, and they may get a little anxious when a stranger passes through, but they suck it up and go out of their way to welcome him or her in, and learn about that person. And if it turns out he or she fits in, they give the shirts off their backs.

I know this, because I was that stranger once. I've never seen this in the big city.

One final thing I'd like to point out, Senator. It's a biggie.

You claim to oppose the invasion of Iraq, even if you have never ever cast a single vote against funding the war or in favor of withdrawing one single solitary soldier.

Those soldiers, Senator, come from these folks. These families are, as Michael Moore puts it, "the very people forced to live in the worst parts of town, go to the worst schools, and who have it the hardest are always the first to step up to defend us. They serve so that we don't have to. They offer to give up their lives so that we can be free. It is remarkably their gift to us."

Forget the guns, forget the church, forget the taxes, forget the bowling. Forget the Presidency, Senator. You owe these people a lot more than your condescension, contempt, and contumelies.

You owe these folks your freedom, because even in a war that no one truly understands, they sent their kids off to fight, to try to win, to protect America in whatever sense this invasion serves that purpose.

For that alone, sir, your comments paint you an ungrateful bastard.

(Cross-posted to Simply Left Behind.)

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Who is condescending now?

By Edward Copeland

Why it's none other than Bill Clinton, continuing to do his own warped take on the mad scene from King Lear. Now, he calls young voters naive for clinging to the hope and inspiration they get from Barack Obama instead of embracing the platitudes, pessimism and politics as usual offered by his wife the way older voters have. As The Boston Globe reports:

Older voters gravitate to Hillary Clinton because they're too wise to be fooled by Barack Obama's rhetoric, former president Bill Clinton told Pennsylvania voters today.

Clinton's comments, to a packed high school gym about an hour north of Philadelphia, were one part presidential politics and one part legacy protection. His beef was with Obama's contention that many of the problems facing the country today were simmering long before President Bush took office seven-plus years ago.

"I think there is a big reason there's an age difference in a lot of these polls," he said. "Because once you've reached a certain age, you won't sit there and listen to somebody tell you there's really no difference between what happened in the Bush years and the Clinton years; that there's not much difference in how small-town Pennsylvania fared when I was president, and in this decade."


Last week, however, Clinton seemed to suggest that older voters might be more absent-minded than wise. Defending Hillary Clinton's faulty recollection of landing under sniper fire during a 1996 humanitarian visit to Bosnia, the former president said of her critics, "When they're 60, they'll forget something when they're tired at 11 o'clock at night, too."

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Just another day in the life and death of Iraq LXXXII

By Michael J.W. Stickings

American media attention was focused briefly, very briefly, on Iraq during and around the recent Petraeus-Crocker hearings on Capitol Hill, but, otherwise, the media are too busy sensationalizing every little development in the Obama-Clinton race to pay any sustained attention to the ongoing war and occupation, one that, according to the Republicans' choice for warmongerer-in-chief, could go on for, oh, another hundred years or so.

Blood is shed and people are dying, but -- by Zeus! -- there's Obama bowling! -- there's Clinton chugging a beer!

The war, you see, is just too complicated for the media. It doesn't make sense and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere. The initial shock 'n' awe, they got, but the nuances of religious sectarianism, well, not so much. It was fine when the U.S. was kicking ass, sure, back when victory was at hand, or so it seemed, but it's so hard to keep score now, and how can you follow a war, how can you know who's winning and by how much, without a scoreboard in The Situation Room? Just imagine John King with a magic map of Iraq, zooming in and out to give us all the latest death toll updates in real time. Ah, but there's that attention span, too -- and the media just don't have one, much like so many of their consumers.

But you know all this already, right? So let me just give you the latest -- from the BBC:

More than 70 people have been killed in blasts at three cities in Iraq, in one of the deadliest days there for weeks.

At least 53 died and another 90 were injured when explosives packed in a bus detonated outside a restaurant near a court in Baquba, north of the capital.

And 13 more were killed in a suicide bombing at a kebab restaurant where policemen were eating in Ramadi, which had seen a sharp decline in violence.

Three people were also killed in Mosul in the north, and another in Baghdad.

Of course, the media would prefer to wave the flag -- the American media, that is. They just don't know what to do with a war that has already been lost.

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