Saturday, May 03, 2008


By Creature

Please watch this...

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Super Saturday: Obama wins Guam

By Michael J.W. Stickings

By... seven votes?

Looks like it. CNN is reporting that Obama beat Hillary 2,264 (50.1%) to 2,257 (49.9%).

No word on a recount, but it doesn't matter. Guam's four pledged-delegate total (eight delegates each with half a vote) will be split evenly between the two.

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Orgasms for everyone!

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Today's constitutional curiosity, from the BBC:

A woman from the governing party in Ecuador has proposed that a women's right to enjoy sexual happiness should be enshrined in the country's law.

Her suggestion has provoked a lively debate in conservative Ecuador.

Maria Soledad Vela, who is helping to rewrite the constitution, says women have traditionally been seen as mere sexual objects or child bearers.

Now, she says, women should have the right to make free, responsible and informed decisions about sex lives.

I'm all for that, but it's not clear to me what exactly such a right would entail.

Needless to say, "her comments have provoked a lively response -- mostly, unsurprisingly, from men," with one of her male colleagues snarkily "[accusing] her of trying to decree orgasm by law."

"Vela [has] responded to the criticism, saying she had never requested the right to an orgasm -- merely the right to enjoy sex in a free, fair and more open society. She explained that sex was a difficult subject to discuss in Ecuador and that what she wanted were clearer laws covering life, health and sexual education."

I'm all for that, too -- and that's a bit clearer. I'm not sure sex and sexuality should ever be a constitutional matter, but, in general, laws liberating women from sexual oppression -- in this case, historical oppression that continues to the present day -- ought to be welcomed.

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John McCain concedes presidency

By Creature

Yesterday on the campaign trail John McCain admitted to what we all already knew. It's about the oil, stupid.

My friends, I will have an energy policy that we will be talking about, which will eliminate our dependence on oil from the Middle East that will - that will then prevent us - that will prevent us from having ever to send our young men and women into conflict again in the Middle East.

Maybe he's just too tired to keep running, or maybe he's getting his inside and outside voice confused these days, but with straight-talk like this even Mike Gravel could beat John McCain come November.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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While you were looking the other way...

By Carl

...a brand new mystery has popped up:

A fast-spreading viral outbreak in China has killed 22 children, sickened nearly 3,600 others and caused panic among parents in an impoverished corner of Anhui Province, government health officials said Friday.

All of the fatalities, from lung problems and other complications, have been in children younger than 6, with a majority of them under 2.

The outbreak, caused by a particularly strong intestinal virus, enterovirus 71, or EV-71, has been spreading in the city of Fuyang, in east-central China, since early March. Provincial health officials, however, announced the outbreak only this week, raising questions about whether they had been trying to conceal it.

Two months. 22 dead. 3,500 others sickened.

Anhui province is the 9th most densely populated province in China, therefore the rapid spread of this disease is not surprising, from that aspect.

However, enterovirus 71 is, or rather is supposed to be, a fairly common & well-known virus, usually passed on within family units. The damage wreaked by e71 is usually confined to children in the form of hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD), and results in some neurological damage. Polio is an example of another enterovirus. It's usually passed on by touching infected feces and then a mucus membrane like an eye or mouth.

That's the scary part. It's possible, given the rapid spread, that the virus has somehow become an airborne pathogen, although the fact that this is happening in northern China, with
its recent water cleanliness issues, there's a simple contaminated drinking water problem.

Well, maybe "simple" is a bad word to use in this instance...

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)


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Friday, May 02, 2008

Hoosier endorsements

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Obama received the support of most of Pennsylvania's major newspapers -- actually, pretty much all of them except Dick Scaife's Hillary-friendly right-wing rag -- and it may or may not have done him any good. Hillary still won the state by over nine points in the April 22 primary, though Obama narrowed the gap dramatically over the course of the long campaign there -- and, I suspect, endorsements mattered. Without them -- and high-profile endorsements came not just from major newspapers but from such luminaries as Senator Bob Casey, Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney, and the two greatest Steeler RBs ever -- Hillary's margin of victory could have been far greater.


Today, Hillary picked up the endorsement of the state's largest newspaper, The Indianapolis Star, which, while acknowledging that picking one or the other was "a difficult choice," based its endorsement largely on Hillary's supposed experience: "Obama offers an attractive vision for the way things could be," but "Clinton offers a clear-eyed view of the way things are." Obama "speaks eloquently of hope and change" and "connects with voters," but Hillary "offers nuanced positions on how to address the war in Iraq, trade with China and economic expansion. Her depth of knowledge is remarkable."

I have no doubt that Hillary is a knowledgeable woman, but I'm not sure how her positions are more nuanced than Obama's. Is it more nuanced to have supported the war in Iraq than to have opposed it?

Regardless, it is this ongoing talk of Hillary's "experience" that bothers me. What exactly is experience? Is she more experienced than Obama because she was first lady for eight years? Does that really qualify as experience? True, she has been in the Senate longer than Obama has, but do a few extra years in the Senate qualify as significantly more experience? Or is experience, or what is being talked about as experience, merely longevity? Hillary has been around longer on the national stage than Obama has. So, it follows, she has more "experience." But, then, why not just vote for McCain and call it a day? He has been around longer than either one of them, and he certainly has more national security and foreign policy "experience" than either one of them.

Hillary talks up her experience, as do her supporters and endorsers, but what matters more than experience is judgement, as well as one's policy positions and vision for the future. It is simply not true, in my view, that Hillary is more "clear-eyed" than Obama is -- how are his views on race and politics, culture and economics, not "clear-eyed"? And while they certainly differ on the finer points of universal health care and on the idiotic gas-tax holiday, they're policy positions are, on the whole, rather similar. What it comes down to for the Indy Star, it seems, is "her experience and grasp of major issues." And yet her experience is overplayed and her grasp is no firmer than Obama's.

Anyway, a key Hillary Hoosier supporter is Senator Evan Bayh, long the leading Democrat in the state and a possible Veep pick should she win the nomination, but, as I mentioned yesterday, Obama has picked up the endorsement of another top Democrat in the state, former DNC Chair (and Clinton friend) Joe Andrew. Indeed, as the Indy Star's Matthew Tully points out, "it's been a rough few days for [Bayh]," what with Hoosier Democrats like Evansville Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel and Rep. Baron Hill (also a superdelegate) "straying from [him] on such a crucial matter" and endorsing Obama.

Tully reports that "[m]any state Democrats have privately complained about feeling pressure from the Bayh camp to support Clinton, or at least to not endorse Obama." Perhaps Bayh isn't as powerful as he once was, but his support for Hillary is still a key to her success in the state, as is the support of the likes of the Indy Star.

As I put it last week, though, Indiana is a state where Hillary should do well regardless. Much of the state is the "small town" world of John "This is Our Country" Mellencamp -- though Mellencamp himself has endorsed Obama. However, Obama is a senator from a neighbouring state, Illinois. While he should do well in Indianapolis and in the northwest, next to Chicago, she should do well everywhere else. The RCP Average is currently Clinton +6.2. The endorsements matter, I suspect, but it looks more and more like Hillary will pull out a victory next Tuesday.

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Hillary Clinton, the disingenuous populist

By Creature

Via Steve Benen's Carpetbagger Report we learn that Hillary Clinton has decided to throw the ludicrous gas-tax holiday idea into Congress' court. She thinks it's "important to get every member of Congress on record." She thinks we need to know if they "stand with the oil companies?" She wants to know, wait for it, if they are "with us or against us when it comes to taking on the oil companies?" Wow, talk about going all in.

As Steve points out: "Wait, with us or against us? Isn’t that Bush’s line?"

Yes, Bush's line, and Bush's Congress-bashing tactic as well. Doesn't Senator Clinton realize she needs to play nice with Congressional Democrats? Aren't a big chunk of undecided superdelegates sitting in Congress? Isn't this the only audience that matters for Clinton at this point?

Of course, as Steve also rightly points out, Clinton is playing to low-information voters in hopes of pulling out wins in North Carolina and Indiana thereby bringing home her "Obama is unelectable" point. However, what's really sad about this low-information tactic, a tactic that has worked for Republicans for many years now, is that Senator Clinton, who is by far the most high-information candidate left standing, has chosen this path as part of her appeal.

(Cross-posted at State of the Day.)

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Shell game

By Capt. Fogg

Hillary Clinton and John McCain agree, at least to the extent that they support a gasoline tax holiday this Summer. John is pandering to families with children, saying this will help them buy school supplies. Hillary is pandering to anti-corporate sentiments by saying this will take money from the deep pockets of the Oil oligarchy. Both seem to be pandering to the " not thinking too clearly."

Alison Fitzgerald at says that economists in general aren't buying it. A projected savings of $35, spread over the tax holiday isn't going to be very useful, and particularly when acquired a buck or two at a time. The retailers aren't likely to reduce prices very much and the overall ten billion dollar tax revenue will be directed back to the refiners and must of course, reduce the general revenue; a loss that will have to be made up elsewhere. All in all, it looks like a shell game to me and an Exxon Mobil game and a BP game and even a Citgo game.

Clinton is pushing the estimate of a $70 savings to consumers, but Ethan Harris, chief U.S. economist at Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., said families would save only about $18 a month. Burman estimated the total savings from Memorial Day to Labor Day at $28. Even if the savings actually materialized "it would be chump change," he said. An extra beer here and there, a couple of packs of cigarettes and there won't be much left for Johnnies new backpack.

But to a nation of chumps, conditioned to slobber like Pavlov's dogs at the phrase "tax cut," it may seem like a good deal. We usually do sit up and beg when a candidate offers to put a dollar in our pocket while sending us a bill for five bucks plus interest and fees. We'll take the nickels and dimes while the roads and bridges continue to crumble and our transportation system, already about the worst in the first world, gets worse and the war grinds on and on.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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A humorous critique of voting one's identity

By LindaBeth

A (humorous) reminder that women and black Americans (not to mention black women!) actually vote for who they think is the most qualified candidate -- shocker, I know. And what a f*cking insult that the media persists in insinuating they don't. And funny, no one appears to be asking white men voting for John McCain if they're voting their gender or race. Oh that's right, McCain gets to be an unmarked "candidate" while Senators Clinton and Obama are marked as sexed and racial "others."

(video not viewable in Canada, unfortunately)


(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Middle East muddled

By Carol Gee

The next President of the United States must decide, as has "The Decider" for the past 7 1/2 years, what to do in the Middle East. If I were the next POTUS, what would I do? My decisions, lame as they would be, couldn't possibly be any more disastrous than those of our current president (OCP). So why not play with some ideas in the dark, operating strictly from idealism and memory?

Resource People -- Decide which leaders have a sense of history as well as a clear vision for the 21st century. Do background checks for any trace of neocon leanings on everyone to be considered. Lee Hamilton, Sam Nunn, Bill Richardson, Madelaine Albright, President Carter and Chuck Hagel are names that come quickly to mind. Think tanks, such as the New America Foundation and others might be good resources for smart people with previous experience and who speak the languages.

The Military -- Priority Number One must be resetting towards readiness. Rename the missions from aggression to U.S. national security and military preparedness. Priority Number Two must be de-funding unneeded Cold War weapons systems. Priority Number Three must be rebuilding the Navy as a 2009 resource for national defense. Priority Number Four must be to reassign people in the armed services to purely military duties, and non-military personnel from other government departments to all other non-combat functions. Just because the military can do something does not mean it should be the ones to do it.

Realistic Geography -- The Middle East consists of several significant countries in addition to Israel, Iraq, and Iran. The attention alphabet must be expanded beyond the 'I's to include -- among others -- Palestine, Lebanon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Jordan, and the rich countries of the GCC. The United States can be very helpful and involved in ways that make much more sense that what we have been doing for the past few years.

Islam's Needs -- U.S. foreign policy must consider the rights of Islamic nations to self-determination. We need to cease and desist from occupations, illegal incursions and proclamations. The United States must learn to tell the difference between religion, politics, and the tactics of terrorists.

Energy Considerations -- Decisions must not be made based upon energy dependence on Middle Eastern countries. The United States must embark on a crash program of enabling non-polluting alternative sources of energy, saving petroleum reserves for lubrication. The transition must become a national project, as World War II was a national project to which everyone contributed.

International Sensibilities -- We must humbly reconcile with the family of nations. We should ask them what kind of help would be most useful, nation by nation. And we must learn to ask for their help with our needs as well. Reciprocity would not be a bad stance, for a change.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Goodbye, Deborah Jeane

By Carl

One can imagine all sorts of possible alternate explanations for
this story:

Florida police are investigating the apparent suicide of a woman they believe to be the so-called D.C. Madam, who was found dead in the Florida mobile home of the madam's mother Thursday.

The madam, Deborah Jeane Palfrey, was recently convicted on federal charges stemming from operating a prostitution service in the Washington, D.C. area with a number of high-profile clients. She was scheduled to be sentenced July 24.

Palfrey told ABC News last year she would never return to prison, after serving time in the 1990s for other prostitution-related charges. "I sure as heck am not going to be going to federal prison for one day, let alone, you know, four to eight years."

Local police responding to a call late Thursday morning discovered the woman's body in a storage shed to the side of the home, according to a statement released by the Tarpon Springs, Fla. Police. Hand-written notes were found nearby which "describes the victim's intention to take her life," according to the statement.

Our good friends over at Agitprop have been all over this scandal involving Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, as well as other high profile Washingtonians, such as Randall L. Tobias, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development and Harlan Ullman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who brought you the war you are currently tuned into.

Ironically, Tobias was Bush's first AIDS czar...

Now, notes are fine, but given that Palfrey was convicted and likely to be sentenced to jail just ahead of the Republican National Convention (not to mention the Democratic National Convention) in an election year, can you really rule out the potential for, well, a liquidation?

The rumours at the time of the Vitter revelations was that Palfrey's black book contained some pretty heavy hitting DC types, which sure sounds a bit higher on the food chain than a Presidential appointee, a Senator barely clinging to his job, and a conservative think-tanker.

The timing is more than suspicious, to say the least, although in fairness to Palfrey, her conviction was within the last fourteen days. It's possible that overwhelmed her.

Yea. A madam.
Convicted of prostitution... she'd never experience that!

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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Bye bye Deborah Jeane

By Capt. Fogg

(For more on the D.C. Madam's apparent suicide, see the AP and ABC. -- MJWS)

Many people believe the Comedian Lenny Bruce who died in 1960 of a drug overdose, was hounded to death for telling dirty jokes and creating biting social satire. His history of arrests for indecency is voluminous. Of course his humor is far less "dirty" than one hears on TV today and nobody was ever harmed by hearing "dirty words."

Some would like to believe that the rampant prudery of the 1950's, a time when one couldn't say "pregnant" or "hell" on TV and married couples like Ozzie and Harriet Nelson had to be shown sleeping in separate beds, is no longer with us in our era of rampant vulgarity, but of course the Values Vermin are as durable as cockroaches and still have plenty to say about wardrobe malfunctions, academic discussions of sexuality and about who may do what and with whom.

The arguments against prostitution are far too many to list or to argue against here. Suffice it to say that in America one can ask for a diamond ring, a steak dinner, or a night at the opera in return for amorous favors, but not 20 bucks, not 4,000 bucks, not a dollar. I won't even try to explain. I won't try to explain why someone like Deborah Jeane Palfrey could be sentenced to 55 years in jail for putting couples together to pursue their own further interests, sexual or otherwise, while Neil Clark Warren is above reproach for doing the very same thing. The answer would lead us directly into the foetid swamp of Christian morality where the light of reason, decency, and respect for humanity never shines.

Palfrey has been, since April 15th, awaiting sentence for various crimes stemming from the illegality of putting together consenting adults who might be expected to have a mutual interest in exchanging money for sex. The maximum sentence of 55 years is, for someone of 52 years, a life sentence and the life expectancy of a convict is less than that of a free person. Need I mention the quality of life in prison? It's no surprise that she seems to have killed herself; another sacrifice to the ravenous God we created; another victim of Christian love of punishment and contempt for freedom.

Meanwhile, people who rob and defraud others of billions, serve far lighter sentences. People caught frequenting prostitutes face disgrace -- sometimes. Sometimes they lose their jobs; sometimes their job of preaching morality is only enhanced. People who murder innocent people in their beds get to make a fortune, get to write and enforce laws that make us the largest jail-keepers in the world, and get to be president.

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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Nelson Mandela... terrorist?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Well, the U.S. says so:

Nobel Peace Prize winner and international symbol of freedom Nelson Mandela is flagged on U.S. terrorist watch lists and needs special permission to visit the USA. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calls the situation "embarrassing," and some members of Congress vow to fix it.

The requirement applies to former South African leader Mandela and other members of South Africa's governing African National Congress (ANC), the once-banned anti-Apartheid organization. In the 1970s and '80s, the ANC was officially designated a terrorist group by the country's ruling white minority. Other countries, including the United States, followed suit.

Yes, countries that supported the apartheid regime, or that did little or nothing to oppose it, let alone to try to bring it down.

Now, to be fair, the ANC wasn't exactly the most peace-loving organization in the world back then, and Desmond Tutu, among others, was a vocal critic of its efforts at violent resistance, but, lest we forget, it was fighting South Africa's brutal regime. And it was that brutal regime that called it a terrorist group and that imprisoned Mandela for 27 years.

If anything, the ANC is now far more corrupt than violent, but it is South Africa's ruling party, and has been since 1994. Condi Rice is right that "it's frankly a rather embarrassing matter" that current South African officials, such as its foreign minister, are on the terrorist list. It's worse, however, that Mandela is on it.

Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time, a statesman of historic grandeur. To the U.S., though, he's officially a terrorist. (Whether he ever was or not is another matter, and a matter of perspective. Is one a terrorist who resists with violence a regime such as the apartheid regime of South Africa? Or is that one not a hero and a patriot? If Mandela was a "terrorist," then so, perhaps, were many of the American revolutionaries. Lest we forget. Lest Americans forget.)

Let's hope this "embarrassing matter" is resolved swiftly.

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Key superdelegate switches to Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Hillary is expected to pick up the endorsement of John Olsen, the head of the Connecticut AFL-CIO, but the bigger story today is coming out of Indiana:

A leader of the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton has switched his allegiance to Barack Obama and is encouraging fellow Democrats to "heal the rift in our party" and unite behind the Illinois senator.

Joe Andrew, who was Democratic National Committee chairman from 1999-2001, planned a news conference Thursday in his hometown of Indianapolis to urge other Hoosiers to support Obama in Tuesday's primary, perhaps the most important contest left in the White House race. He also has written a lengthy letter explaining his decision that he plans to send to other superdelegates.

"I am convinced that the primary process has devolved to the point that it's now bad for the Democratic Party," Andrew said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press.

Bill Clinton appointed Andrew chairman of the DNC near the end of his presidency, and Andrew endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton last year on the day she declared her candidacy for the White House.

A superdelegate is a superdelegate, but this is a major pick-up for Obama:

-- Like Bill Richardson and Robert Reich, Andrew is a former Clinton appointee and friend of the Clintons.

-- He didn't just endorse Obama today, he switched his allegiance from Hillary to Obama.

-- As a former DNC chair, he is an influential figure in the party who could sway other superdelegates.

-- He's from Indiana, a rather important state at the moment. Senator Bayh, who supports Hillary, is the most significant Indiana superdelegate, but this (very public) endorsement is hardly insignificant.

-- He has made a point of arguing today that Obama has performed well during a difficult and challenging time: Wrightgate, the gas tax silliness, etc. On CNN a short while ago, he said that Obama has the "mettle" to be president.

Endorsements aside, though, we'll see what happens on Tuesday.


Update 1: According to Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, Obama is also set to pick up three Illinois superdelegates: Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, Illinois House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, and Cook County Board President Todd Stroger.


Update 2: Read Joe Andrew at HuffPo on why he switched: "I have been inspired... We need a candidate who will re-invigorate the economy and keep good jobs here in America. We need a candidate who will end the war in Iraq. We need a candidate who will provide health coverage for our 45 million uninsured neighbors. We need a candidate who will end our addiction to high-priced foreign oil by investing in renewable energy here at home. That candidate is Barack Obama."

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Faux populism: Hillary, McCain, and the gas tax

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Newsweek's Jonathan Alter hits it right on the head:

Hillary Clinton has now joined John McCain in proposing the most irresponsible policy idea of the year—an idea that actually could aid the terrorists. What's worse, both of them know that suspending the federal gas tax this summer is a terrible pander, and yet they're pushing it anyway for crass political advantage.

Clinton and McCain have learned a destructive lesson from the Bush era: as Bill Clinton said in 2002, it's better politically to be "strong and wrong" than thoughtful and right. The goal is to depict Barack Obama as an out-of-touch elitist. By any means necessary.

I could highlight a long debate among economists on suspending the gas tax, but there is no debate. Not one respectable economist -- and not one environmentalist or foreign policy expert -- supports the idea, unless they are official members of the Clinton or McCain campaigns (and even some of them privately oppose it). To relieve suffering at the pump, send another rebate check or provide tax credits or something else, but not this.

Obama is right not to sign on to this madness.

And why is it madness? Because it's "a crass ploy for votes" that would stuff the coffers of the oil companies more than they are stuffed already, stuff the coffers of Middle East despots more than they are stuffed already, worsen global warming, and, and, and... and all without really doing anything substantial for those at whom the pandering and posturing is directed, namely, the American people... er, voters.

Anything to make Obama look bad. Anything to look like a populist.

Even proposing terrible -- and potentially disastrous -- public policy.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Globalization, Clinton-style; or, how Hillary is denying the undeniable in Indiana

By Michael J.W. Stickings


Hillary Clinton loves to tell the story about how the Chinese government bought a good American company in Indiana, laid off all its workers and moved its critical defense technology work to China.

It's a story with a dramatic, political ending. Republican President George W. Bush could have stopped it, but he didn't.

If she were president, Clinton says, she'd fight to protect those jobs. It's just the kind of talk that's helping her win support from working-class Democrats worried about their jobs and paychecks, not to mention their country's security.

What Clinton never includes in the oft-repeated tale is the role that prominent Democrats played in selling the company and its technology to the Chinese. She never mentions that big-time Democratic contributor George Soros helped put together the deal to sell the company or that the sale was approved by her husband's administration.

Hillary is featuring the story in a TV ad being aired in Indiana. And, in response to these allegations, the spin is coming fast and furious: It wasn't Bill's fault, it was Bush's. Bill didn't know the jobs would be moved to China. Indeed, as she put it on April 12: "We've got to elect a president next January [sic] who's going to remember Magnequench," the Valparaiso, Indiana company in question.

As ABC's Jake Tapper points out, however, "[w]hat Clinton doesn't tell voters is that Magnequench was originally sold to Chinese interests during her husband's administration, which okayed the move despite concerns about national security and eventual job loss. Experts say the Chinese acquired the 'technical sophistication' that created the magnets [for precision-guided missiles] long before George W. Bush took office." Senator Evan Bayh, her most important Hoosier backer, knows this: "[He] now glosses over the outrage he once expressed at the Clinton administration's approval of [the] 1995 sale."

(Make sure to read Tapper's piece, which includes some excellent reporting.)

In other words, Hillary has been conveniently misrepresenting what really happened (see Bosnia, snipers). The truth, contrary to the spin, is that:

-- It was Bill, not Bush, who approved the sale.

-- There was no guarantee that the jobs would never be moved.

-- There was no transfer of intellectual property.

The fact that there was no transfer of intellectual property works in Bill's defence. It was bad enough that jobs were moved, but at least the secret technology wasn't.

But, for Hillary, the misrepresentation is obviously far more appealing than the truth.

Better to blame Bush -- and, I agree, he is a justifiably easy target -- for job losses in Indiana and to claim that military-oriented intellectual property was sent to China. And, of course, to present herself as the one who will fight to protect homeland manufacturing jobs from the nefarious forces of globalization (and those evil Chinese).

But, then, running on a lie is nothing new to her, is it?

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Do you hate the Clintons?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Over at TNR's The Plank, historian David Greenberg recently wrote that "the newfound Clinton-hatred is most assuredly not a product of the former president's purported negative campaigning against Obama. Quite the contrary, the idea that he has campaigned with particular negativity against Obama is itself the product, in part, of the Clinton-hatred coursing anew through the Washington establishment."

In other words, much of the opposition to Hillary from Obama supporters (Republicans, who admittedly hate all things Clinton, aren't at issue here) stems from deep-rooted hatred of the Clintons, not from how Hillary and her campaign have conducted themselves over the course of the current race for the Democratic nomination.

Which is just plain wrong.

Now, I'm not part of the Washington establishment, nor are most bloggers, but I do think there is a good deal of Clinton "hatred" out there, especially in the mainstream media establishment. Take Maureen Dowd, for example, or the way the Clintons are treated by the likes of Chris Matthews and Tim Russert. Even here, though, I'm not so sure "hatred" is the right word for it. In the case of someone like Matthews, misogyny seems to be at the root of his opposition to all things Hillary.

But what about the rest of us? Are we Clinton-haters? Have we lined up behind Obama because we just can't stand the Clintons? And is our criticism of how Hillary and her campaign have conducted themselves merely a reflection of our own deep-rooted hatred? Is there no more to it than that?

In response to Greenberg, Chris Orr sums up nicely the progression that many of us Obama supporters have gone through over the course of the campaign:

As recently as December, I was agnostic about the Democratic primary. I had leaned Obama earlier in the year, but had been disappointed by his (apparent) failure to generate any kind of meaningful momentum throughout the fall. I was entirely happy with what then seemed the extreme likelihood that Hillary Clinton would be the Democratic nominee. Over time that feeling has changed, and while I will still vote for Clinton in November if she is the nominee, I very much hope she is not. In part, this is because I have been impressed by Obama's performance, but equally it is because I have been depressed by Clinton's -- the idiotic and self-serving spin ceaselessly emanating from her campaign, the destructive post-facto lobbying to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates, and on and on. (Yes, Bill's South Carolina comments would show up on a comprehensive list of what disappointed me with his wife's candidacy, though it wouldn't be near the top.)

As recently as December, I made the case that Edwards was the best option for the Democrats. I had had my doubts about Obama -- too young, untested, too much hollow rhetoric (I thought at the time) -- and, besides, I had been a featured blogger at Edwards's One America Committee. It's not that I didn't like Hillary and Obama, it's just that I liked Edwards a lot more.

Otherwise, though, my experience mirrors Chris's. I thought a Hillary win was pretty much a foregone conclusion -- then again, I also thought a Romney win was the same on the other side -- and, for the most part, I was behind her. I even suggested a Clinton-Feingold ticket (and a Romney-Huckabee ticket on the other side, before it came out that the latter doesn't much care for the former). And I could point back to posts I'd written defending her -- with conviction -- against her opponents and their vicious smears (see, for example, here and here). Looking back through my old posts, I even said this about her last July: "I suppose I would describe myself as ambivalent about Hillary. If she wins the Democratic nomination, I will, of course, support her. But I'm not sure just how much I support her now. Certainly I wouldn't describe my support as "intense". At most, I admire and respect her."

But, well, things changed -- quickly -- and, after defending her after Iowa (and over the crying incident in New Hampshire), I endorsed Obama on Super Tuesday. And, since then, as many of you know, I have been critical, often relentlessly, of her and her campaign.

No, it's not Clinton-hatred, nothing of the sort. It's recognition of Obama's extraordinary qualities combined with disgust at how Hillary and her campaign have conducted themselves, especially since South Carolina.

I would still support her for president, of course, but, like many of her critics and opponents who have come to support Obama these past several months, it would take some time to get past my current repulsion.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Obama: "Reverend Wright does not speak for me."

By Michael J.W. Stickings

There has been a lot of reaction today to Obama's remarks on Rev. Jeremiah Wright in response to the latter's self-promotional publicity campaign. Obama discussed his former pastor at length in his brilliant speech on race and politics, speaking highly of him even as he distanced himself from his more outrageous comments, but, given what Wright has said in recent days -- given how Wright has taken advantage of the situation to threaten Obama's campaign -- it was time to speak decisively once and for all.

Make sure to read the entire transcript of his remarks. Don't rely on the snippets upon which the news media dwell. Here's some of what he said:

Yesterday, we saw a very different vision of America. I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle that we saw yesterday.

You know, I have been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ since 1992. I have known Reverend Wright for almost 20 years. The person I saw yesterday was not the person that I met 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but I believe that they end up giving comfort to those who prey on hate and I believe that they do not portray accurately the perspective of the black church.

They certainly don't portray accurately my values and beliefs. And if Reverend Wright thinks that that's political posturing, as he put it, then he doesn't know me very well. And based on his remarks yesterday, well, I may not know him as well as I thought, either.

Now, I've already denounced the comments that had appeared in these previous sermons. As I said, I had not heard them before. And I gave him the benefit of the doubt in my speech in Philadelphia, explaining that he has done enormous good in the church. He's built a wonderful congregation. The people of Trinity are wonderful people. And what attracted me has always been their ministry's reach beyond the church walls.

But when he states and then amplifies such ridiculous propositions as the U.S. government somehow being involved in AIDS, when he suggests that Minister Farrakhan somehow represents one of the greatest voices of the 20th and 21st century, when he equates the United States wartime efforts with terrorism, then there are no excuses. They offend me. They rightly offend all Americans. And they should be denounced. And that's what I'm doing very clearly and unequivocally here today.

Creature: "Barack Obama did what he had to do today. He told his former reverend off (for all the world to see, no less). It was sad, actually. Though the cynical out there will still say this was all politics and posturing by Obama, I don't think it was. Not at all. Politics would have been throwing Wright aside the first time around. Instead Obama made a valiant attempt at respect. It's a shame his former pastor wasn't having any of it.

Sullivan: "Cynics may scoff -- and certainly will. They will parse every nuance and try to paint Obama as another cynical, positioning pol. I don't believe it. He has more sincerity and integrity than the vast majority of politicians, more honesty, and more resilience in a very tough spot. And today, we found that he can fight back, and take a stand, without calculation and in what is clearly a great amount of personal difficulty and political pain. It's what anyone should want in a president. It makes me want to see him succeed more than ever. It's why this country needs to see him succeed more than ever."

Obama did what he had to do, and he did it well. His opponents, including Hillary, will continue to try to take advantage of the controversy for political gain. To me, however, Obama was clear and conclusive. He is obviously a man of incredible magnanimity, but, simply put, he has had enough.

And we do indeed need him to succeed more than ever.


Here's the clip:

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Clemens and McCready; or, Rocket Roger and the teenage country music starlet

By Michael J.W. Stickings

An update to my post from last night, at the end of which I said I was looking forward to what McCready had to say about her relationship with Clemens. Well, here you go:


From today's Daily News:

"I cannot refute anything in the story," a tearful but resolute McCready told the Daily News…

"Yes, I have known Roger Clemens for a long time," McCready said, reading from a prepared statement. "He's a kind and caring man. He's also a legendary athlete."

Well, okay, fine. Maybe he is "kind and caring," maybe he isn't. And he's certainly been one of the greatest pitchers ever -- though it's a bit early to start calling him a legend.

To get back to the matter at hand, though, have I mentioned she was 15 years old when the affair started?

Not good.

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Normally, I might agree with Obama

By Carl

From the AP:

Democrat Barack Obama dismissed his rivals' calls for national gas tax holiday as a political ploy that won't help struggling consumers. Hillary Rodham Clinton said his stance shows he's out of touch with the economic realities faced by ordinary citizens.

Clinton and certain Republican presidential nominee John McCain are calling for a holiday on collecting the federal gas tax "to get them through an election," Obama said at a campaign rally before more than 2,000 cheering backers a week before crucial primaries in Indiana and North Carolina. "The easiest thing in the world for a politician to do is tell you exactly what you want to hear."

I could go off in a direction that attacks Obama and point out how ludicrous it is for the "agent of change" who has voted for the Iraq invasion each and every time he's had the chance to vote on it,and "unifier" who has spent all campaign smearing arguably the most qualified candidate for President to talk about pandering, but that's not what I want to focus on.

No. Substance. Normally, I'm all for the gas tax, and indeed, have often thought it should be raised to cover infrastructure repairs and to encourage folks to buy smaller cars.

But here's a gas that impacts directly poorer Americans. Any increase that I've ever proposed has always included measures to try to get a rebate of the increase to those Americans who can afford it the least: the rural working class, who absolutely need their cars and can't afford an immediate purchase to trade up in mileage.

The idea behind progressive taxation is to shift the burden of taxes onto those who can best afford them. Taxes like the gaas tax are regressive: rich people don't drive anymore or less than poor people do.

And it's not like a sin tax, which while regressive, is avoidable with minimal expense to the person it impacts.

Too, Clinton attempts to balance the tax cut with a windfall profits tax, and you'll note the distinct silence from Congress as gas prices have skyrocketed and oil company profits have broken through the ceiling.

And this is the Democratic Congress we're talking about!

Obama is wrong here in that this is not pandering, but a recognition of reality: it's going to be hard enough to get farm workers to their jobs in the field, but this tax suspension will also help keep a lid on food prices, and how is that hurting America?

Once we've gotten past this summer, when sticker shock will have settled in and we can clear-eyed talk about what to do long term, then Senator Obama can introduce legislation to provide both environmental and economic relief to the American people.

In the meantime, he should let the lady speak.

(Cross-posted to
Simply Left Behind.)

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By Capt. Fogg

The excellent HBO miniseries John Adams concluded Sunday night with some ruminations by our second President about how the gritty history of the American revolution had, after only 50 years, been lost to the mythologizing processes of patriots and painters and poets. I'm not sure that he ever read Shelley's ironic poem of 1818, although he lived long enough. I'm sure however, seeing his classical education, that he knew that such things are eternal and ineluctable. Indeed, anyone with any kind of memory at all can see that the words and deeds of our current administration are lost to reinterpretation, redaction, braggadocio and denial in a far shorter period than a half century and eventually are reduced to ridiculousness.

If I still had a sense of humor about such things I would laugh at Flim-Flam George's latest attempt to blame the effects of his fiscal irresponsibility on the failure of Congress to solve our problems. They failed by looking the other way at Corporate swashbuckling, by bitching excessively about no-bid contracts to companies that pay no taxes and will not be investigated when billions disappear, by not taking the burden of inheritance taxes off the very, very rich and by ignoring a host of other really brilliant ideas like unrestrained spending and profligate borrowing, but of course I don't. I lost it some time ago and all I could wish for is to miraculously to survive the explosion of our sun just long enough to see the man vaporize into a wisp of plasma to be born by the solar wind into the infinite emptiness of the universe.

But I digress. The Bush Nebula is still Earthbound and the Occupation still awaits a definition of "victory."

"I've repeatedly submitted proposals to help address these problems, yet time after time Congress chose to block them,"

said the Sultan of Smirk today. Too bad they didn't block the "warpresident" entirely by impeaching him or at least keeping him from starting the war, but what we're seeing here, I fear, is the beginning of a tendentious falsification of history on a level not seen since the great Redactor put together the Bible.

Canonical History will be kind to George Bush, since it isn't really possible to be unkind in degree adequate to his stupidities, his iniquities and his weakness. Indeed, knowing this country and its love for self-ennoblement, he may be sneering down at us from Rushmore or gleaming at us from the face of a highly devalued Dollar before my grandchildren are old enough to be cynics. Some Parson Weems will emerge to write stories about his early honesty and there will be paintings of George the Brush Clearer and heroic marbles of the Commander Guy in his flight suit poking up through the desolate sands of post-apocalyptic America. Who will be there to laugh?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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National security items need continued scrutiny

By Carol Gee

The Bush administration's "Four Mikes and two Roberts" deservedly draw my regular scrutiny, and that of a number of important "big" bloggers, as well as an award winning NYT reporter. Scrutiny is mostly focused on government secrecy, national security and the rule of law. Today's post is a round-up of a few of the most interesting current news items, beginning with an excellent overview of the way these three issues come together: "Subsidizing Corporate Crime & Rewarding Constitutional Abuse, posted on by "dandelionsalad."

FDL Book Salon on a fine reporter's work regarding the rule of law: "emptywheel" writes on Eric Lichtblau's book, Bush's Law: The Remaking of American Justice. To quote:

Like a lot of people, I first really discovered Eric Lichtblau when he and James Risen exposed Bush's warrantless wiretapping program. . . Lichtblau reveals many new levels of details about the Administration's repeated use of paranoid levels of secrecy to hide the dubious nature of many of its counter-terrorism programs.

The Four Mikes -- Admiral Mike McConnell is the Director of National Intelligence. Former Judge Mike Mukasey is the Attorney General. Former U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff is the Secretary of Homeland Security. General Mike Hayden is the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The Two Roberts -- Former U.S. Attorney Robert Mueller was appointed to a 10 year term as FBI Director just a few days after the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Former College President Robert Gates is the Secretary of Defense, where Douglas Feith* worked during the earlier years of the administration.

These six men hold tremendous power over us all, for both good and ill.

Mike McConnell, Director of National Intelligence -- Since the first of last year, the DNI has been leading the charge for Congress to make changes to the laws governing government spying. [Previous DNI posts: DNI also has been known to distort the truth; power to the wrong people; and a McConnell Primer on intelligence]. But not everything has gone the Director's way recently. Legislation is stalled in the House of Representatives. From TPM Muckracker comes the headline "GOP Still Pushing Retroactive Immunity for Telecoms," by Paul Kiel - April 25, 2008. One of the illegal spying cases seems to be going against the government. Wired-Threat Level headlined, "NSA-Spied-On Lawyers Get Day in Court and New Yorker Profile. Another government loss in court is reported in this story: "Court: Government Must Reveal Watch-List Status to Constantly Detained Americans," By Ryan Singel, April 24, 2008.

Mike Mukasey, Attorney General, Dept. of Justice: [Previous AG posts: Mukasey admits lie (1) also lies (2); Mukasey and the Fourth Amendment; Mukasey and wiretapping (1) also (2) also (3)]. A letter to Congress claims that intelligence operatives can still legally use prohibited interrogation methods to thwart terrorist attacks. Glenn Greenwald at (4/27/08) discusses how Senator John McCain and the Military Commissions Act make this assertion possible. To quote:

That law pretends to compel compliance with the Conventions, while simultaneously vesting the President with the power to violate them -- precisely the power that the President is invoking here to proclaim that we have the right to use these methods.

. . . McCain supported the MCA knowing that the President retained virtually unfettered discretion to decree that the interrogation methods we were using that are widely considered in the civilized world to be torture could continue. . . despite his media-sustained reputation as a righteous, principled opponent of torture, much of these disgraces are the direct by-product of John McCain's work.

Michael Chertoff, head of Homeland Security: ". . . a fingerprint is hardly personal data" -- [Previous HSA posts: On surveillance (1); and (2); wrong people for Katrina; On torture]. Canadians seem to have a much more firm regard for civil liberties than what has emerged in the Bush administration. Chertoff wants to "share databases of international air travelers' fingerprints with the Canadians, Brits and Aussies." (Source: WaPo) At Firedoglake -- by Christy Hardin Smith (4/25/08), "Make Civil Liberties Concerns A Priority? Blame Canada!" To quote:

Poor Michael Chertoff, wanton god of safety, debonair trollop of anti-terror, and man with a mission that has no room for a regard for individual liberties and the rule of law, has run into a speed bump of sorts on his quest for power . . . Those wacky Canadians clearly didn't get the memo that staying true to your founding principles or holding fast to the rule of law and ethics are so 1776.

Michael Hayden, CIA Director: "CIA Stonewall: Agency Won’t Release 7,000 Documents Related to Torture Program" (4/27/08). Though General Hayden was the one who revealed the existence of the CIA interrogation videotapes, there is still a fierce battle to keep the torture program's details a secret. Douglas Feith had a hand in setting up the interrogation system. Berkeley is letting him go. Hayden is left with all the mess. TPM Muckracker reports, *"Feith Loses Teaching Gig," by Paul Kiel (4/24/08). (See also Think Progress on Feith's torture stance distortions.)

FBI -- Robert Mueller, Director: TPM Muckracker -- "The FBI's Hands Off Approach to Torture," by Paul Kiel (4/24/08). FBI wants widespread monitoring of "illegal" Internet activity by dandelionsalad's Anne Broache (4/25/08).

National Security does not take care of itself. Protection from attack and protection of constitutional civil liberties needs continued congressional, press and citizen scrutiny. With a concluding perspective with just a bit of helpful humor, Ryan Singel of Wired Threat Level wrote this great little story on 4/25: "Which Gov Agency Should Be Your Computer's Firewall?" To quote (Singel's links):

First the NSA says it needs to examine every search and email on the internet to prevent an e-9/11 attack, then President Bush signs a secret cyber-security Presidential Directive to make that possible, while the Air Force has set up a cyber warfare division where cyber-security is played like a game of Space Invaders.

Not to be left out on the cybarmegeddon! action, the Department of Homeland Security plans to spearhead a "Manhattan Project" attempt to secure the internet. But there's no way FBI chief Robert Mueller is gonna let DHS honcho Michael Chertoff have all the bits, so this week he told a House committee that G-Men need to be living in the tubes, too.

Trends could be improving in the civil liberties protection area. Some in Congress have dug in their heels regarding the laws. There have been some favorable court decisions. More and more secrets have been revealed. Neocons have resigned. And the cold light of day shines increasingly on the breaches and problems thrown up by the current administration. And this is the year that Democrats could get their chance at reform.

References: South by Southwest Label "Civil Liberties or security."

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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Fighting against breast cancer... and also against breast cancer campaigns

By LindaBeth

I don't remember exactly what brought this issue to my attention-- it may have been
this blog post I read, which prompted me to do some additional research. But I'm pretty irritated. And frustrated.

It's the Breast Cancer awareness campaigns and anti-breast cancer t-shirts that are being manufactured, bought and worn. Disclaimer: I am 100% in favor of fund-raising, awareness, education, what have you, about breast cancer.* That's not what this is about. However, the way advocacy is framed is just as important as the advocacy, for the "way you say it" speaks just as much as "what you say."

Why am I annoyed? The message of recent campaigns, advertising, and t-shirts are centered around the idea that we need to catch breast cancer early and research for a cure in order to save breasts. Silly me, I thought we fight against cancer to save lives. And if that weren't bad enough, the reason "the breasts" must be saved will make you puke a little in your mouth. Because men love 'em. Or in the sexuality-neutral terms of some of the tees, your sex partner enjoys them, or needs them to attain a sexual conquest status:

This tee is also interesting in how it appropriates a "sport" theme, used as a metaphor for sex that is wholly centered on what the male "gets" the female to do, especially considering the objectification of women in sport. Compare to this tee, also on a sport theme:

So, to recap, not only are saving the breast not the woman, the focus of the campaigns, but the reason for doing to isn't even about preserving the sexual pleasure that the woman's breasts give her, but is instead about their benefit to others, predominately to men -- not only your (presumed male) partner, but to the community of men at large. "We men" love "boobies," so we'll work real hard so you don't have to have them surgically removed. And we women should be "responsible" and look after them because the dudez love 'em. And we all know women should do things about their body because it's what men love. Not because, well, women might die!

I prefer this one:

Of course, the end message "look after your body" is correct, but the reason to do so is 100% absolutely wrong. It is an unfortunately and troubling result of how women's bodies are seen: as first and foremost for someone else's pleasure, as something to be looked at and not something that works, that does things, that has a functional purpose, and that gives the woman herself pleasure.

Rethink's "Booby Wall" starts off saying about it's call to upload images of your breasts: "this isn't Maxim... this is beautiful" only to be followed by "this is worth living for." Excuse me? Um, no, my breasts are not worth living for, my life is worth living for! Yeah, let's display all sort of breasts as examples of the beauty in the variety of breasts to prove that your breasts are important, valuable and worth living for. Gee, that sure sounds like an awesome initiative!

And no, this is not a case of Aw, just lighten up! -- Whatever will get people to fight breast cancer -- What's the Big Deal? No, sorry. This is the message women get ev-ry-where. And now when the issue is supposed to be about women's lives, we're appealing to save women's bodies?! Women's bodies are valuable regardless of what they mean to men and the male gaze, and women's lives are important regardless of their bodies. End of story.

Reasons we fight breast cancer?
Because it kills women.
Because it takes a chunk of your life away.
Because a woman losing her breasts can make her lose out on sexual pleasure.

The "because a woman's partner may lose our on sexual pleasure" is at the bottom of the list.

That "men like looking at as many breasts as possible and anything that makes them go away should be fought against" is not on the list.

In addition to my disclaimer above, an ending disclaimer. I am not criticizing men that are involved in breast cancer organizations whatsoever. Please keep it up! I am criticizing the way that action against breast cancer is framed, and I am not saying men involved are doing so with the motivations presumed by the campaigns. Instead, I think this tee better describes these men:

These campaigns rely on a sexist framework regarding the female body and what/who it is for, and they perpetuate such sexism in the design of their campaigns.

*Even though the way breast cancer has been produced in medicalization has a very gendered element to it, in the way that the comparative silence around prostate cancer and prevention is also quite gendered. I'll likely write on this in the future. But for now, ponder on why it might be that we encourage women to do self-breast examinations monthly -- and this is a common-knowledge thing--and we don't advocate men doing self-testicle exams. Even though considering the various tissue obstructions in the breast, it would be much easier to discover lumps in the testicles than in the breast.

(Cross-posted to Smart Like Me.)

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Clemens and McCready: Do you think he injected her in the ass with steroids?

By Michael J.W. Stickings

I'm no Bill Simmons, but both as a Jays fan and as a baseball lover, not to mention as a human being, I despise Roger Clemens. His record may show him as one of the greatest pitchers of all time, but, well, his record, not to mention his character, is tainted. And so, when he finds himself in trouble, whether it involves steroids or sex with an underage girl, I experience deep, profound Schadenfreude.

Many of you, I'm sure, know about the steroids issue. Did he or didn't he? Well, he probably did. (For more, see my post on his ridicule-worthy appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform a couple of months ago.) Seven Cy Youngs, zero credibility. That's pretty much where he stands now -- in terms of baseball history, his reputation, and the law.

But don't put your Schadenfreude away just yet. There's more -- and it's juicy. Here's the Daily News:

Roger Clemens carried on a decade-long affair with country star Mindy McCready, a romance that began when McCready was a 15-year-old aspiring singer performing in a karaoke bar and Clemens was a 28-year-old Red Sox ace and married father of two, several sources have told the Daily News.

Now, look, what two consenting adults do, well, that's their business (most of the time -- there are exceptions, of course). But, in this case, McCready was 15 years old.

Marcus Dixon, a good and decent young man, gets sent to prison in Georgia for statutory rape and child molestation for having consensual sex with a 15-year old -- but he was 18 at the time (and, in the end, he was freed following a favourable ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court and the law that put him in prison was changed).

So if this is true about Clemens -- and, of course, he is denying it (she's just "a close family friend," according to his lawyer) -- then what?

(For more, see ESPN, Yahoo's Big League Stew, as well as loads of reaction over at Ballbug.)


And poor Mindy McCready, who has been through a rough time of it in recent years, falling from the top of the country charts into drug use, various brushes with the law (including DUI, fraud, identity theft, and unlawful imprisonment), a suicide attempt, probation violation, resisting arrest, and jail time (she was released in December).

She is now, apparently, attempting a comeback. And, well, good luck with that.

As for me and my Schadenfreude, we're just looking forward to what she has to say about her relationship with Clemens. And to how this sordid story will play out.

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