Monday, March 31, 2008

Primary battle wearing on you? It's wearing on me. A solution, if I may.

Senator Clinton, Senator Obama:

Stop it. Just... stop it. Right now. This is getting you no where.

Senator Clinton, your kitchen sink strategy has your approval rating at Bush-like numbers.

Senator Obama, attacking Senator Clinton betrays your earlier words about a different kind of politics.

Enough already. Distinctions have been drawn. There's nothing left to talk about, except...

Oh yeah. Senator McCain. Remember him? The presumptive Republican nominee? The one who's going to be the next President of the United States if you keep it up?

Senator Clinton, you said you're going to take your campaign all the way to the convention. Well, that's fine. Really.

Senator Obama, you have the lead in pledged delegates, popular vote, and number of states won. Well, goody on you. That does you absolutely nothing if you lose in November.

Let's talk about a radical concept which would benefit both candidates in the long term: stop campaigning against each other. To the extent which you even mention each other at all on the campaign trail, make it positive. Focus your attention on Senator McCain. Let the primaries play out as they will. Introduce yourselves to constituents in the remaining primary states and talk about what you'll do as President and how you're a better choice than Senator McCain.

Super delegates? Jockey for them all you wish. Just keep it on the down low. Don't attack super delegates who endorse your primary opponent. Congratulate your opponent and move on. There are more important things to talk about.

Keep your surrogates on a leash. No talk of Rev. Wright or Ms. Ferraro. Keep it classy. Pledge to support your opponent no matter who ends up with the nomination. Encourage your supporters to do the same. We should be together, not fighting.

What does this benefit you? Well, Senator McCain will have to fight a two-front war until the Democratic National Convention while you two will be campaigning both for yourselves and for each other. Let's even agree in advance that one of you will be the nominee and the other will return to the Senate. No joint ticket; leave that final element of surprise -- the running mate -- until the convention. Honestly, do either of you want to be reduced to that status? You have more power in the Senate -- period.

How about it? Can I get a witness?

Monday, March 24, 2008

The Great McCain vs McCain Debates

The DNC has come up with a great idea!
DNC Announces New Round of Debates as Senator McCain Squares Off Against Senator McCain

WASHINGTON, March 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --
The Democratic National Committee announced today that Senator John McCain will appear in a series of debates to be broadcast on The one candidate in this debate who could beat John McCain, is John McCain himself. As the two McCains square off, the American people will have the opportunity to hear the old McCain and the new McCain for themselves. McCain the Maverick, the come-from-behind phenom whose Straight Talk Express sped into New Hampshire eight years ago and knocked Establishment Candidate George W. Bush off his feet, has agreed to debate 2008 Republican Nominee McCain, the third Bush termer and pandering politician who will say or do anything to win and has no qualms selling out his principles to score some votes.

The McCain vs. McCain debates will be held over the coming weeks, with the first debate to be held today on Iraq. Fresh from a trip to Iraq and the Middle East in which McCain sought to burnish his foreign policy
credentials, the first spirited exchange is not to be missed as questions about the threat of Saddam Hussein, the ease of success in Iraq, true feelings about Don Rumsfeld and the strategy on the ground are posed. The additional debates will focus on other issues in this campaign. Additional details regarding specifics for the coming debates will be announced at a later time.
Check it out....

Friday, March 21, 2008

Update: ALL THREE Presidential candidates' passport files were breached.

This is bigger than I thought: Now, McCain's and Clinton's files were breached, as well:

March 21 (Bloomberg) -- Confidential passport files of all three presidential candidates were improperly breached by State Department employees, a department spokesman said.

The private data of Democratic Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Republican Senator John McCain were accessed in separate incidents, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said today.

``We're going to do a full investigation,'' McCormack said. ``We take very seriously the trust that is put in us'' to safeguard personal data, he said.

State Department officials are visiting the Capitol Hill offices of all three senators today in Washington to explain the incidents. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke by phone with Obama and Clinton to apologize and she plans to call McCain today, McCormack said.

As I said in my last post, this story is still developing. We'll see how it plays out.

McCormack cited an incident last summer when a trainee had unauthorized access to Hillary Clinton's passport file. It was part of a training seminar in which people usually ``are encouraged to enter a family member's name,'' McCormack said today in Washington. The individual was ``immediately admonished,'' he said.

The State Department also detected earlier this year that one of the people who accessed Obama's file also accessed McCain's, McCormack said. That individual was disciplined.

The State Department's inquiry began yesterday after a reporter inquired about the breach of Obama's records. After senior management researched the incidents surrounding Obama, they decided to check whether Clinton's and McCain's records also were breached. This morning, it became clear that they had, McCormack said.

They explain the circumstances behind Clinton's breach, but not behind any of the others.

On edit: I've decided it's too early to point fingers just yet. There are a few coincidences which seem to point to Clinton, but nothing anywhere near definitive, or even circumstantial. Sometimes I have to check myself to make sure I don't let my biases distort my view. This story is still developing, so I'll stick to the facts from here on out. My apologies for jumping the gun.

Obama's passport file breached

The US Department of State has fired two contractors and disciplined a third for accessing the passport file of presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

A spokesman for the department, Sean McCormack, said the cases were probably the result of "imprudent curiosity".

But he said it was not clear what the employees may have seen or what they were looking for.

A spokesman for Mr Obama suggested that the government could be using private information for "political purposes".

The BBC's North America editor, Justin Webb, says it is an extraordinary lapse in security which allowed temporary state department employees access to personal information on a man who is guarded by the secret service day and night .

Extraordinary indeed. Consider the timeline of the breaches:

8 January: New Hampshire primaries
9 January: First breach of Obama's records

19 February: Wisconsin primary and Hawai'i caucus (last day of Obama's February streak)
21 February: Second breach of Obama's records

12 March: Clinton campaign sends attack memo with the following text to reporters: "As voters evaluate you as a potential Commander-in-Chief, do you think it's legitimate for people to be concerned that you have traveled to only one NATO country, on a brief stopover trip in 2005, and have never traveled to Latin America?"
14 March: Jeremiah Wright's sermons capture nation's attention... and third breach of Obama's records.

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.

Consider further:

After the news broke Thursday that two employees of the State Department had been fired and a third disciplined for accessing passport records of Sen. Barack Obama, MSNBC noted a Clinton connection to the story. The network reported that Maura Harty, the State Department official in charge of the Bureau Of Consular Affairs during the first two breaches of Obama's passport, had served as an ambassador under Bill Clinton.

And further....

"That is one of the things we are obviously investigating," said Patrick F. Kennedy, head of bureau of consular affairs. "I have no reason to believe they did, but I am certainly not going to be dismissive of what is a serious and valid question. On the basis of fast work this afternoon [I don't believe they did]."

Patrick F. Kennedy? That's Patrick F. Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of State for the Clinton administration from 1993 to 2001. Also Chief of Staff for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

This story is still developing. There might yet be a revelation that doesn't point right at the Clinton campaign. Watergate, anybody?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Just listen.

If you have any questions on why I support Obama, this speech should answer them. Right here he says the things that people have been saying for a long time, but never to each other.

This man will be our next President.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Solution to Florida and Michigan

Barack Obama can bring an end to the impasse with Florida and Michigan with a simple compromise measure: seat Florida and Michigan's delegates as is under one condition: all of Michigan's "Uncommitted" delegates become pledged to him.  Given that Sen. Clinton was the only major candidate on the ballot, it only strikes me as fair that the people who showed up to vote against her have their votes count, as well.  Seems simple and fair enough, except for one problem for Sen. Clinton: seating Michigan and Florida "as is" only nets her a 44 delegate gain, which chops Obama's pledged delegate lead from 169 to 125.  She would need to carry Pennsylvania with 95% of the vote to overcome that lead (there aren't enough delegates in Pennsylvania for her to overcome his present pledged delegate lead), or else carry every remaining state (including Pennsylvania and all the way up to Puerto Rico) with an at least 64% of the vote.  That's with Florida and Michigan added to the tally.  Without them?  She has to win every remaining state with at least 69%.  In other words, Florida and Michigan don't aid her cause as much as she'd like us to believe, unless she insists on some "winner take all" standard for those states which hasn't been applied to any other state and she's not in a position to demand.  Absent that, adding Florida and Michigan moves her chances from just this side of impossible to... just this side of impossible.
Obama should agree to seat Michigan and Florida (with the one caveat I specified above regarding uncommitted delegates), then he should show this math to the press and call on Sen. Clinton to bow out gracefully.  If she won't, then the remaining superdelegates need to put this one to rest.  It's all over but the crying, but if I know Sen. Clinton, there's still a lot of that to be had.

Music break

My friend Katie Scovell has some new music up on her page. Click on the link and choose "Ode a Mon Frere". It's MySpace music, so I can't post it directly, sorry:

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Palast: Eliot's Mess and the $200 Million Bailout

The $200 billion bail-out for predator banks and Spitzer charges are intimately linked

By Greg Palast
Reporting for Air America Radio’s Clout

Listen to Palast on Clout at

While New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was paying an ‘escort’ $4,300 in a hotel room in Washington, just down the road, George Bush’s new Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, was secretly handing over $200 billion in a tryst with mortgage bank industry speculators.

Both acts were wanton, wicked and lewd. But there’s a BIG difference. The Governor was using his own checkbook. Bush’s man Bernanke was using ours.

This week, Bernanke’s Fed, for the first time in its history, loaned a selected coterie of banks one-fifth of a trillion dollars to guarantee these banks’ mortgage-backed junk bonds. The deluge of public loot was an eye-popping windfall to the very banking predators who have brought two million families to the brink of foreclosure.

Up until Wednesday, there was one single, lonely politician who stood in the way of this creepy little assignation at the bankers’ bordello: Eliot Spitzer.

Who are they kidding? Spitzer’s lynching and the bankers’ enriching are intimately tied.


Here’s what happened. Since the Bush regime came to power, a new species of loan became the norm, the ‘sub-prime’ mortgage and it’s variants including loans with teeny “introductory” interest rates. From out of nowhere, a company called ‘Countrywide’ became America’s top mortgage lender, accounting for one in five home loans, a large chuck of these ‘sub-prime.’

Here’s how it worked: The Grinning Family, with US average household income, gets a $200,000 mortgage at 4% for two years. Their $955 a month payment is 25% of their income. No problem. Their banker promises them a new mortgage, again at the cheap rate, in two years. But in two years, the promise ain’t worth a can of spam and the Grinnings are told to scram - because their house is now worth less than the mortgage. Now, the mortgage hits 9% or $1,609 plus fees to recover the “discount” they had for two years. Suddenly, payments equal 42% to 50% of pre-tax income. Grinnings move into their Toyota.


But there were rumblings that the party would soon be over. Angry regulators, burned investors and the weight of millions of homes about to be boarded up were causing the sharks to sink. Countrywide’s stock was down 50%, and Citigroup was off 38%, not pleasing to the Gulf sheiks who now control its biggest share blocks.

Then, on Wednesday of this week, the unthinkable happened. Carlyle Capital went bankrupt. Who? That’s Carlyle as in Carlyle Group. James Baker, Senior Counsel. Notable partners, former and past: George Bush, the Bin Laden family and more dictators, potentates, pirates and presidents than you can count.

The Fed had to act. Bernanke opened the vault and dumped $200 billion on the poor little suffering bankers. They got the public treasure – and got to keep the Grinning’s house. There was no ‘quid’ of a foreclosure moratorium for the ‘pro quo’ of public bail-out. Not one family was saved – but not one banker was left behind.


More at the link:

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Keith Olbermann Special Comment. Target: Hillary Clinton.

In truth, people have been noticing for some time, including this author, a racist overtone of the Clinton campaign, and it has come to a head with Geraldine Ferraro's remarks dismissing Barack Obama's success as some sort of affirmative action quota. Finally, we see the awful truth: the Democratic party, for whom black Americans have been the most loyal and consistent voting block, views that block with something between condescension and contempt.

Or perhaps not the Democratic party as a whole, but certainly the Democratic Leadership Council. The message from the DLC has been clear in this primary election: you may take a place at the table, but never at the head. I think, in their heart of hearts, black Americans have known this for some time, but it was always preferable to being relegated to the children's table by the Republicans.

This status quo is not, and should not be, acceptable any longer. Every opportunity which is open to white Americans should be open to black Americans, just as every opportunity which is open to men should be open to women.

Barack Obama got where he is not because he is black, but despite it. That Geraldine Ferraro cannot see that belies her latent racism (which she also cannot apparently see), and that Hillary Clinton tolerates it belies that while she may not approve of racism, it doesn't get her hackles up. It doesn't create the visceral reaction in her that it does in many others. A strong condemnation of Ms. Ferraro could have been her moment where she wins back the black community and re-establishes herself as a champion for all people, not just herself. Alas, she couldn't bring herself to even pretend to do that, placing herself below John McCain in terms of moral authority on racism. Think she can count on the black vote in the general election? Are you kidding me? After all this? John McCain will be able to speak to the black community and say, "This is what the Democrats really think of you; vote for the party of Lincoln." While he may not win all or even a majority of the black community, the Democrats will forever lose them as their most loyal and reliable voting base -- and they'll deserve to.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Admiral Fallon, CENTCOM/CC, resigns

(CBS/AP) The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East resigned Tuesday amid speculation about a rift over U.S. policy in Iran.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Adm. William J. Fallon had asked for permission to retire and that Gates agreed. Gates said the decision, effective March 31, was entirely Fallon's and that Gates believed it was "the right thing to do."
Fallon was the subject of an article published last week in Esquire magazine that portrayed him as opposed to President Bush's Iran policy. It described Fallon as a lone voice against taking military action to stop the Iranian nuclear program.
Separately, the New York Times reported that there was "no question" that Fallon's departure was prompted by policy differences with the White House, and with Gen. David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq.
The newspaper said senior officials in the Bush administration were unhappy with remarks Fallon has made about Iran and the pace of U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq.
Fallon was out of step with the White House almost from the day he took over the U.S. Central Command, reports CBS News national security correspondent David Martin. On his first trip to Iraq, he allowed a reporter for the New York Times to accompany him to a meeting at which he lectured Prime Ministrer Maliki on the need for political reform. A source close to Fallon says that earned him phone calls from Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Rice and National Security Adviser Hadley. Afterwards, Fallon said he had "two strikes against me" and lamented ever taking the job.
Martin reports there will be a lot of speculation that Fallon's departure clears the decks for war with Iran before the Bush leaves office, despite the fact that Secretary Gates twice called the notion "ridiculous."

The implications of Admiral Fallon's resignation are significant.  I've blogged before about the "500 year war" lunacy his chief enlisted advisor was spouting back when he was in charge of PACOM, but that impression of Fallon has always gone against conventional wisdom which said he was some sort of "lone voice in the woods" trying to hold war in Iran back.  If that's the case, then why was CSM Kinney off his leash spouting this nonsense to junior NCOs?
In any case, ADM Fallon's resignation means there are some tectonic plates shifting, and we should be on the look out for who his eventual replacement will be.

Hillary Clinton: Monster

Can you say, "riots in the streets"?

Somebody in the party please stop her. Please. Even in failing, she will irreparable damage to both the party and the nation.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Hillary Clinton, Not So Good on Genocide

Marc Cooper talks about the Clinton record on genocide, and how 38 year-old Samantha Power has more foreign policy cred in her left pinky then 60 year-old Hillary Clinton has in her whole body.


Power was rightfully awarded the Pulitzer for her finely written and downright horrifying book A Problem From Hell which, in macabre detail, describes the calculated indifference of the Clinton administration when 800,000 Rwandans were being systematically butchered. The red phone rang and rang and rang again. I don't know where Hillary was then. But her husband and his entire experienced foreign policy team -- from the brass in the Pentagon to the congenitally feckless Secretary of State Warren Christopher -- just let it ring.

And as more than one researcher has amply documented the case, the bloody paralysis of the Clinton administration in the face of the Rwandan genocide owed not at all to a lack of information, but rather to a lack of will. A reviewer of Power's book for The New York Times, perhaps summed it up best, saying that the picture of Clinton that emerges from this reading is that of an "amoral narcissist."

Former Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, who commanded the UN forces in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, tells us a similar story in his own memoir. General Dallaire recounts how, at the height of the Rwandan holocaust, he got a phone call from a Clinton administration staffer who wanted to know how many Rwandans had already died, how many were refugees and how many were internally displaced. Writes Dallaire: "He told me that his estimates indicated that it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify the risking of the life of one American soldier." Eventually, ten times that many would die. And our response? A handful of years later, at a photo-op stopover in Kigali airport, Bill Clinton bit his lip and said he was sorry.

Therein resides the richest and saddest irony of all. Samantha Power has actually lived the sort of life that Hillary Clinton's campaign staff has, for public consumption, invented for its candidate. Though not quite 40 years old, Power has spent no time on any Wal-Mart boards but has rather dedicated her entire adult life rather tirelessly to championing humanitarian causes. She has spoken up when others were silent. She took great personal risks during the Balkan wars to witness and record and denounce the carnage (She reported that Bill Clinton intervened against the Serbs only when he felt he was losing personal credibility as a result of his inaction. "I'm getting creamed," Power quoted the then-President saying as he fretted over global consternation over his own hesitation to act).


Friday, March 07, 2008

Samantha Power for National Security Advisor

What, she should be precluded from government service because she was mean to Sen. Clinton? She has one of the best foreign policy minds I've ever seen. Watching the linked BBC clip on YouTube, I have to say that while political gamesmanship is to be expected from the candidates, I would hope that the rest of us, who have a greater stake in the correct policy being implemented than we do in our preferred candidate being elected, could have an honest discussion on these matters rather than trying to simply "one up" our competition. But perhaps that's impossible in the middle of a campaign season? I should hope not; this campaign has been going on for over a year, and it will continue through the rest of this year. Are we to forestall honest discussion for two years out of every four year Presidential term simply because the politicians don't feel like being honest with us about their intentions?

Of course Sen. Obama is presenting best case scenarios in his campaign. It's a political campaign. It's certainly no different from what Sen. Clinton is doing with regards to health care. Does anybody actually think that the plan she's crafted for the purpose of her campaign will be the one she presents to Congress? Don't be naive. It'll be a starting point, just like Sen. Obama's Iraq plan. It'll get chopped up by experts until a plan which bears very little resemblance to the original plan is scrapped.

To my original point: if we're going to kick every talented advisor to the curb because he or she says something politically inconvenient or impolite is the height of absurdity. Advisors should, by their nature, be plain-spoken and occasionally impolite. An advisor who never says anything which offends anybody is a cipher and should have no place in the White House.

I'm upset about Power's resignation from Obama's campaign, because what she has to offer is too important for petty politics to take precedence.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why a U.S. - Russia alliance makes sense for America

Impressed with all the gee-whiz gadgets the American military has come up with over the years? Check out this Russian fighter, the Su-30MK:

I'm sure even the hawkish sorts in America can see the value behind being on the same side as the people who built this airplane. I imagine the time, resources, and ingenuity used to build it being put toward peaceful purposes, and I feel like there is nothing our two great nations couldn't accomplish together.

Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island: "No You Can't"

Hillary Clinton won the primaries in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island. Obama won Vermont. Texas caucus results are still pending, so we'll see how that pans out.

McCain secured the nomination on the Republican side.

Apparently Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island Democrats decided they liked what they heard from Sen. Clinton and wanted to see four years of this:

And this:

Or maybe they'd rather see four years of this:

Bottom line, though? I've done the math, and Obama had something like a 150 pledged delegate lead coming into tonight's contests. After winning three of the four states, Clinton has now sliced Obama's lead to... 130. Yes, she's cut Obama's delegate lead by 20 delegates (still pending results from the Texas caucuses). Tonight was an opportunity for Obama to finish Clinton off. He didn't, but she hasn't overtaken him, either.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

We need to rethink our place in the world.

Something has to give with regards to our military presence overseas. We continue taking on new obligations and we never release ourselves from the old ones. This is largely because we don't stay in a particular place simply because we like the view or because we're trying to protect an ally, but because we're looking to be strategically located so as to strike at an enemy at a moment's notice, or else to protect a precious resource.

Simply put, we spend over $400 billion a year on the current arrangement, and the bank's going to break before too long. At the same time, our economy rests on the positioning of our military might around the world to protect our dominance of world markets. In short, if we stay we risk economic collapse. If we go, we risk economic collapse.

Here's how we can protect our interests while scaling back our imperial policies. I'll throw some ideas out there, undoubtedly of varying quality or feasibility:

  1. Revise our status of forces agreements with friendly nations hosting our forces. It will require compromise on our part (namely giving more favorable economic positions to these friendly nations), but it will ultimately be the least costly. I propose giving full control, responsibility, and ownership of the military infrastructure we presently have in these countries to the host nations. In short, don't close down the bases: give them to the host nation. Develop trade and military treaties which give oversight of the region to these nations. If we empower them as partners and not client states, the imperial stench of our current policies will eventually begin to fade.
  2. Before turning our bases over to Korea, develop a four-way agreement with the United States, China, and North and South Korea to reunite Korea, guaranteeing economic and military autonomy and a "hands-off" promise from both China and the U.S. with regards to their internal affairs, but allowing agreements to be developed between the newly united Korea and any nation they choose. A united Korea will be a military and economic powerhouse in the region, and an alliance between Korea and the U.S. would be useful.
  3. Take the leash off of Japan and let them develop a viable military force. Not an imperial force, but allow them to take responsibility for their own defense. A combined alliance between Japan and Korea would potentially be enough to balance Chinese dominance of the region, especially if backed by an alliance with the U.S. -- as opposed to these nations functioning as neutered client states for the U.S. Balancing China is crucial, because they are showing signs of making the same mistakes we made in the past century.
  4. Develop a formal economic and military alliance with Russia. Turn the old Cold War paradigm on its head: instead of these two great powers competing and fighting proxy wars on foreign soil, have them work together in their respective halves of the world toward common interests, and ultimately peace in the world. Don't scrap NATO; redevelop it to meet post-Cold War needs. With the end of the Cold War, it makes the most sense for the U.S. and Russia to be partners, not two titans struggling for dominance.
  5. Ultimately, it should not simply be protection of U.S. economic interests we should seek. Rather, it should be a goal of world peace. There will always be nations who act out in aggression, but if the world's major powers begin working toward common cause and stop acts of aggression before they get out of hand, we can finally put an end to this process of perpetual war through all time.
What is perpetual war but the slow necrosis of our species? These proxy wars we fight with other world powers over depleting resources only consume ever more of those resources, driving up demand for those resources, and thus increasing the wars we fight. Lather, rinse, repeat. Our innovation goes not into developing alternative means to meeting our needs and wants, but into bigger and better ways to fight the wars over the resources upon which we have become dependent. We have to be better than this.

But peace can only be assured when all parties have a common stake in it. If we continue to build our illusion of "peace and prosperity" on the backs of the poor, then it will never be sustainable. If we continue to deny one another that which we desire for ourselves, then none shall have it at all. There is a better way, but we can only find it by working together rather than at odds with one another. We cannot find it by withdrawing behind our fences and into our communities, by shutting out our neighbors or denying their existence and inherent self worth, regardless of their particular race, religion, lifestyle choices, or political persuasions. In short, we cannot find it simply within ourselves; we have to find it within each other.

And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children's futures. And we are all mortal. -- President John F. Kennedy, June 10, 1963